Open Thinkering


A DVD-ripping guide for educators: Part 1


One of the edtech questions I’m most often asked both on and off-line is a variation of How can I get a video into digital format to show on my projector/Interactive Whiteboard?

A while back (about 4 years now) I produced a guide on using a program called FairUse Wizard. That program’s still around, but it’s not what I recommend anymore. This first part of the DVD-ripping guide concentrates on converting a DVD into digital format.

You’ll need to download a free copy of the wonderful Handbrake. At the time of writing, version 0.9.2 was for OSX Leopard only and Windows users only, with version 0.9.1 for those on OSX Tiger. 🙂

Step 1

Handbrake 01 (click to enlarge)

Install Handbrake, insert the DVD you want to rip and open the program. You should see something similar to the screenshot above.

Step 2

Handbrake 02 (click to enlarge)

Click on the Source button and locate your DVD drive.

Handbrake 03 (click to enlarge)

Handbrake will scan your DVD the titles included. It will assume that the longest title is the main feature that you want to rip.

Step 3

Handbrake 04 (click to enlarge)

You should now see something similar to the screenshot above. As you can see, I’m using the eminently-useful-for-teaching-History film Schindler’s List as an example. You can click on the Browse… button to choose where you want the eventual ‘ripped’ file to go.

Step 4

Handbrake 06

In times gone by we would have used DivX or Xvid to compress our video. Nowadays, however, I recommend using H.264 – so make sure your settings look like those shown above. 😀

Step 5

Handbrake 05 (click to enlarge)

Handbrake compresses the DVD video using something called a codec (we’re using one called H.264). It’s similar to the process used when you compress an image to put on the Internet. Effectively, it’s doing that for each frame of the film. We need to specify how large we want the images to be and how much to compress them. This will determine the quality and filesize of the outputted ‘ripped’ video. We’re therefore interested in the options in the bottom right-hand corner, as shown in the screenshot above.

Option 1:

Handbrake 06

If you want your outputted video to look as close to the original as possible and don’t care about filesize, choose 62% on the Constant Quality slider and under Picture Settings choose the Anamorphic option.

Option 2:

Handbrake 08

If you can’t afford around 1.3GB of space for your film but are still interested in it looking good, choose 1000 kbps under Average bitrate.

Handbrake 09 (click to enlarge)

Once you’ve done this, click the Picture Settings button, make sure the Keep aspect ratio box is ticked, and choose 576 as the width for your outputted video.

Option 3:

Handbrake 10

If you’d like to burn your ouputted video to CD for safe-keeping, then enter 700 MB in the Target size box. The quality will still be acceptable (especially for Interactive Whiteboards) but not DVD-quality.

Step 6

Handbrake 11 (click to enlarge)

Now that the video options have been configured, click on the Audio & Subtitles tab. Usually the options should be configured as in the screenshot above – English soundtrack at 128Kbps. Obviously if you are ripping a foreign language film you will need to choose the non-English soundtrack and English subtitles!

Step 7

Handbrake 12

Now that we have configured both the audio and video and chosen where to save the outputted file, we can click on Start.

Alternatively, as each encoding session can take a couple of hours, it might be an idea to click on Add to Queue and then set several off at once to run overnight. 🙂

Step 8

Handbrake 13

You should see something similar to the above during the time Handbrake is working. Once the encoding has finished you will see the following satisfying message:

Handbrake 14

The file should be wherever you decided to save it when you clicked the Browse… button in Step 3.

Handbrake 15

You should now be able to play the file in Quicktime (which comes with iTunes). A better option, however, would be to download the free and Open-Source program VLC (which can play everything under the Sun!)

Handbrake 16 (click to enlarge)

Handbrake 17 (click to enlarge)

Comments? Quuestions? Reply below! 😀

4 thoughts on “A DVD-ripping guide for educators: Part 1

  1. Some of my Handbrake DVD clips are hard to hear— others are just fine. I have yet to find a way
    to increase the volume. (Yes, I have tried in Quick Time and in i-Movie—yes, I have a MAC.)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *