Handbrake

Danny Gorog
23 July, 2008
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While most users think about iTunes as a music jukebox application, it’s also well versed in managing your movies. Unless you want to re-purchase your movies in iTunes (something that’s still not possible in Australia) you’ll need a program that lets you convert your DVDs to a format that iTunes accepts.

That program is called Handbrake, and luckily for you (and me) it’s only a free click away.

According to the developers, collectively known as “Handbrake Devs”, Handbrake is “an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded DVD to MPEG-4 converter, available for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows”.

In plain English, Handbrake lets you convert a DVD to a file (of various formats) that can be played on your Mac, and other devices you may like to watch your movies on including Apple TV, iPods or the iPhone.

Using Handbrake is almost as easy as ripping a CD in iTunes. Almost, but there are a few tricks to bear in mind.

First, before you begin using Handbrake you’ll need to get Mac OS X to recognise your DVD — do this by letting Apple DVD player load. Once your Mac has recognised and started playing the disc, you can quit DVD player. Once you’ve quit DVD player you can load Handbrake.

When you load Handbrake it will ask you to select the Source you want to convert — just choose the DVD or a VIdeo_TS folder if that’s where your content is. In most cases Handbrake can convert video directly from a DVD, however there are some DVDs with copy protection that Handbrake can’t deal with. If your DVD has advanced macrovision copy protection, you’ll need to investigate another solution to actually “rip” the content from the DVD to create an unencrypted movie. Once you’ve done this you can use Handbrake to convert the file to an iTunes-compatible format to sync to your devices.

Handbrake comes pre-loaded with settings that alter the quality and file type, depending on your output requirements. In my testing, I used both the iPhone and Apple TV modes. Both produced good results. I did find however, that on some DVDs I needed to alter the picture settings (click on the Picture Settings button at the bottom right hand corner of the screen to turn it on) and turn on the Deinterlace mode. You can also set Handbrake to turn on Deinterlace mode at startup in the preferences, under the Picture tab.

There’s also full support for power users to tinker with their own settings, including the ability to choose variable frame rate encoding with detelecine filtering, a more flexible, “loose” anamorphic video setting and an MP4 optimisation for progressive web downloads.

Using my MacBook Pro, conversion happened in near real time. Once Handbrake has finished converting your movie, simply drag it into iTunes to catalogue, or use another media player, like QuickTime or VLC, to watch.

The latest version of Handbrake — 0.9.2 — also introduces some great features including Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC3) sound in MP4 files and multi-track audio support for Apple devices, however is only compatible with 10.5. An older version, 0.9.1 is available for users running 10.4.

Australian Macworld’s buying advice. Handbrake is a neat app that allows you to convert DVD content and add it to your iTunes library. It’s easy to use and comes with presets that means you can be converting your DVDs within minutes. On another planet, Handbrake might cost upwards of $50, but on Earth, it’s free.

Handbrake

Pros Free, Easy to use with presets, easy to customise
SRP Free
Manufacturer Handbrake Devs
Type Video Converter
Distributor www.handbrake.fr
Rating 4/5

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