I periodically find myself "cleaning" my iPhone -- removing old podcasts and apps, rearranging the screen icons -- in an electronic analog of how I de-gunk my wallet. (No dollar-off coupons in the iPod, though.) The only really unpleasant part of the process is dealing with stuff that everybody does but iTunes still refuses to support. Namely, ripping protected DVDsConceptually, this impediment remains more of a historical relic of Apple's "our way or the highway" philosophy than anything else. Consider that iTunes has recently removed DRM from its music files (though there's still an owner's signature embedded in all songs you buy, so think twice before sharing).
Add to that the new trend among movie studios to include digital copies, for easy transfer to iPod or PC, on their newer DVDs. (Isn't it interesting how all the passionate debates about DRM have faded now that the music industry has decided that there's money in them there unprotected files?)
Pretty soon, as older DVDs age out and/or Apple eases up further, the esoterica of DVD ripping will fade into the wayback machine. True, there's still a technical prohibition against ripping one's own DVDs -- you bought it but you're still violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act if you manipulate its bits. However, that's mostly unenforced; just don't put your vids up on a peer-to-peer network.
Which brings me (at long last) to today's tutorial, a step-by-step cookbook on how to rip DVDs to your iPod. (I first presented this material I presented last year, and have tweaked it here to reflect some updates.) Here goes:
Ripping a DVD to your iPod is a two-phase process: first, you decrypt the disc, then you down-convert the video file to fit onto your iPod. When I say "fit," I mean both in terms of getting a small file size that doesn't suck up a lot of space, and fitting the movie to the iPod's tiny screen.
DVD Decrypter is a free movie ripper. Click picture to see DVD-to-iPod conversion gallery.)
Let's get started. First, get a DVD decryption program. The best option is a free program called -- surprise-- DVD Decrypter. The original site was shut down several years ago. The program is currently available at a U.K. mirror .
I've posted a series of screen captures to walk you through the process. Step one is to launch DVD Decrypter, and point the program's "source" field to your DVD (usually in the "D" drive). It's important to determine which VTS file on the DVD contains the movie. (The other VTS files have those "bonus features," which no one watches.) Next, pick the right "mode" from the top menu. I found that I had to select "File Mode" from the mode drop-down menu, not "IFO mode," which is what most of the instructions on the Web tell you to do. To start the decryption process, simply click on the DVD icon at the bottom of the screen.
Now for fitting the decrypted program to your iPod's screen. I tried out a bunch of programs. The trial version of Xilisoft iPod Video Convert didn't work well for me, so I didn't spend the $30 to get the unlocked program.
If you have the Nero suite of music and video ripping, burning, and copying tools, you can use Nero Recode. It's fairly intuitive to use; since it's commercial software, there's a manual if you need help. It down-converted the 1.58-GB movie file it'd decrypted into a 639-MB iPod-ready video. Probably I could've compressed it further if I'd played around with the settings.
Videora down-converts your decrypted files to fit onto your iPod. (Click picture to see DVD-to-iPod conversion gallery.)
The best free-software option is to go get Videora. Its operation also is fairly intuitive. I'd suggest using the "power" mode. Set your video profile to "H.264 QVGA 768kbps Stereo/128kbps." The "Q" in QVGA stands for "quarter screen," which is the correct setting to down-convert to the tiny iPod display. When you're ready to let it rip, hit "Start Converting" in the lower-right-hand corner.
The final step is to launch iTunes. Locate the folder into which you've placed the iPod-ready video file. Import it into iTunes, and then synch up your iPod. Now you're ready to watch your movie, assuming it's a movie ripped from a DVD you bought and paid for.
What's on your iPod's playlist? Let me know, by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me directly at [email protected].
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Alex Wolfe is editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.com.