Ripping DVDs Using Handbrake

On March 10, 2011, in Research, by Chris Prom

One of the most common needs we have is migrating AV materials from a fixed DVD formats into a ‘preservable’ format (ripping).  It seems that relatively few of our donors deposit .avi or other source files, but like to give us DVD’s.

The digital curation literature seems to have relatively little written on this topic, as it does for many acquisition-related issues.

Like Jason Fowler, we have had a great deal of success using Handbrake, and the recent version (0.9.5) seems to be the best yet.  This is software that just works and requires little instructions.  In fact, here is the entire ‘procedure manual’ that Angela Jordan and I wrote:

Ripping DVD’s Using Handbrake

  1. Open Handbrake. Load DVD into DVD-R/W drive.
  2. Under “Source,” select the appropriate drive.
  3. Select the Destination by clicking “Browse” and entering the end file location.  Put it on your desktop for copying to storage later
  4. Under “Video” set Container to MP4 file, Video Codec to “H.264”, Framerate to “Same as Source,” and Constant Quality to “RF:20” for a standard DVD and to “RF:21” for a BluRay disk.
  5. Under Audio Set Codec to “AAC (Core Audio),” Sample Rate to “Auto,” and Bitrate to “128.”
  6. Select Start.
  7. If more than one file needs copied from the same DVD, under the Source Title arrow, select the next file and select the “Add to Queue” tab.  Continue this process until all files are selected and in the queue.
  8. When the entire queue has been converted, Handbrake will let you know.
  9. Verify that the files were converted correctly by viewing them in VLC.
  10. If you notice any problems, consult with professional staff and adjust advanced settings.  Try to rip the DVD again.
  11. Copy the files to the e-records repository, using the separate instructions.

All of the settings above represent the default, and based on the videos that we have converted, have resulted in discernible video and audio quality as high as that in the original source file.

Evaluation Criteria:

  • Installation/Configuration/Supported Platforms: Has a standard installer for Windows, Linux, and MAC.  Installed easily and w/out issues.  20/20
  • Functionality/Reliability: In version 0.9.5, there were no problems in running the capture.  It did take a bit of time, depending on the power of the computer used, but the quality of the caputre seemed to be visually the same as the original source.  20/20
  • Usability: Very user friendly interface.  There are a few parameters to adjust, so it is not overwhelming to a novice, and we left all the default settings as is, and did a capture at same quality as original source, using industry standard mp4 container. H.264 video codec and AAC audio codece.  10/10
  • Scalability: There is a command line interface, so you can use it to process multiple source video files not on DVD.  10/10
  • Documentation: The manual  is easy to understand and follow, but not every option is explained.  The section on video settings is useful, since it tells you what to do to extract same quality as source, with reasonable file size and warns that amping up the settings w/out reason will not improve quality, only file size.  10/10
  • Interoperability/Metadata support: It would be nice if there an export setting option so preservation metadata could be captured. 7/10
  • Flexiblity/Customizability: See usability.  10/10
  • License/Support/Sustainability/Community: GPL’d. The developers are active.  Although their roadmap does not include target release dates, each release is about a year apart and they recently set up a git hub.  Also has a very active forum, since lots of people like ripping DVD’s 10/10

Final Score: 97/100

Bottom Line: Great software for an archivist.  It is incredibly user friendly, easy to use, and provides output that is of high quality.  If you need to rip DVD’s, this is the tool for you (warning, be sure not to circumvent any DRM restrictions, unless you want to break the Digital Millennium Copyright Act).



 
  • mark.shelstad

    No doubt there are other applications out there, but have had good success with WinX HD and Wondershare

  • gwynevans

    It seems to me that the text in the Functionality/Reliability section could do with a bit of editing – “captured site”, etc?

  • Chris Prom

    Thanks! It looks like I forgot to finish upating this section, which I had copied from a template.

  • Thewright1836

    I love wondershare and use it all the time, very informative post I missed the Audio codec in my last try using handbrake and will now try it again with your instructuions.. Thanks again