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Step-by-Step Guide to ripping DVD’s and playing them over iTunes/AppleTV

A couple of years ago my wife made me move my entire DVD collection upstairs into the loft room. It’s great up there – we have a projector and a 7.1 surround sound system. Its absolutely fantastic for watching movies. The only downside is that it’s at the top of the house, so it’s a pain in the backside if you have to break up your movies by putting the kids to bed, having dinner, or decide you want to raid the fridge. If you just wanna watch an episode from a box-set it’s a pain to go upstairs and get the DVD.

I’ve got an AppleTV downstairs so it should be easy to rip my DVD’s, and serve them via iTunes to the sitting room via AppleTV. And it turns out it really is simple. Here’s the recipe…

You will need to download the following software:

a) MakeMKV – to actually rip the movies (download link)

b) Handbrake – to convert them into a good format for AppleTV (download link)

Go ahead and download both of these, and install them (you’ll need local admin rights on the computer of course)

2. Ripping the disk.

1. With MakeMKV running, stick your DVD in the drive. MakeMKV will animate the drive picture while the computer identifies the disk and spins it up. Once that is done simply click the image of the drive in MakeMKV. MakeMKV will analyse the disk and show you in the top window all of the Titles on the disk, along with any associated Audio and Subtitle tracks.

2. Often a disk will have multiple Titles, but you typically just want to pick the biggest (for a movie) or the several biggest for TV episodes. Movies typically have file sizes of several gigabytes (e.g. Full Metal Jacket here is 5.2GB in size). Other smaller titles are used either for DVD “extras” or for clips used in the DVD menus. You can rip all of these if you want, but usually there’s no point. MakeMKV automatically ignores really small titles.

3. Having selected the Title, and (usually) deselected any of the Audio and Subtitle tracks you’re not interested in, the next step is to check the Output Folder where the ripped files will be put. You can change the default for this in the Preferences menu.

4. Finally go ahead and click the picture of the hard disk with an arrow on the right of the window where it says Make MKV. This will start the ripping process. A couple of bars will show you progress and estimated time remaining – but this will likely take a while: usually enough to get a cup of coffee!

Converting to iTunes format.

5. Open up Handbrake, and click on the Source button in the top left, and go and find the file you just ripped from DVD. Depending on the disk information and your preferences in MakeMKV this may be nicely named, or have an unhelpful name like Title01. If that’s the case, simply rename it to something more useful at this point. Note: you can also drag and drop a file to anywhere in the Handbrake window in order to select it as a source file.

6. As in MakeMKV you can save your default destination in the Options menu, but again – it’s worth checking the destination explicitly on the Handbrake main window.

7. Next, head on over to the right hand side of the Handbrake window. Here you can choose some helpful presets for file conversion depending on where you anticipate playing back your movies. Don’t get too stressed by the choices – these presets simply set all of the options on the other tabs to suitable values. What is suitable? Well that depends mostly upon on how you value trading off quality against file-size, and there’s no point going for a higher quality than your playback device can handle. If you don’t know what you’re going to be playing back on you can always just select “Universal”, but for my purposes I know my playback is primarily going to be “AppleTV 2″ so I pick that. Don’t worry though – this doesn’t mean you CAN’T play back on an iPad as well (say) and you don’t need to re-convert for that purpose.

8. The next step that I find myself doing is selecting any subtitles I want included in the final file. Unlike the basic rip from DVD where you can choose at playback time whether and what subtitles to view, for reliable subtitles on Apple devices you want them “burned into” the playback file itself. To do this, click on the “Subtitles” tab, and go an pick a suitable subtitle track on the dropdown below the Add button. Click on the Burned In checkbox so that the subtitles get added to the playback image itself. You then need to decide whether to have all subtitles or only “Forced” subtitles. The former is typically the case for a foreign language film, where you want the entire film to have subtitles. ”Forced Only” only includes subtitles where they are for portions of the film that are not in the main language. Having made your choice, hit the Add button to actually tell Handbrake to include the required subtitles.

9. At this point it may be a good idea to press the Preview button up top to check a small portion of the output meets your expectations. This is especially useful if you’re messing around with subtitles and have to choose the right options or tracks.

10. When you’re ready, press the Start button and Handbrake will do it’s thing showing you its progress in the status bar at the bottom of the window.

11. Because this step can take a long time (20-30 mins), you can often tee up several titles for conversion, and press the Add to Queue button, and Handbrake will make it’s way through converting them each in turn.

Adding the movie to iTunes and sharing it over your home network

12. Open up iTunes and go to the File menu, and either choose Add File to Library or Add Folder to Library. The latter is easier as you don’t need to do it for each movie you add, but it assumes you put all your movies in the same location (a good idea!).

13. Within iTunes also go to the File -> Home Sharing menu, and make sure Home Sharing is turned on. It’s this that will stream your files to the AppleTV.

Playback on your AppleTV

14. On AppleTV – simply go to “Computers” and pick the computer on which you have your iTunes serving the movies, and click through until you find the movie you want to watch!

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