Friday, January 18, 2013

Digitalize DVDs with Handbrake for iTunes & ATV3

I love movies and have a bunch of movies (DVD & BR) at home. However I'm too lazy to insert the DVD or BR in the player, I prefer to use my Apple TV, select one of my movies and stream it from my server with iTunes.

In this post I'll document how do I digitalize my DVD movies, then other post for BR and other kind of movies that require a different process. I'm doing this because I stop to do it for a couple of weeks and I forgot (or have doubts) about some steps. So, maybe it is useful for you even if there are a LOT of pages and guides to do this.

This process is done in OS X but can also be done in windows. I use a Mac Mini with OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion), 2.3 GHz and 2 GB of RAM. It is not much but works great.

Step 1: (Optional) Rip the DVD

If I have to digitalize a bunch - let's say more than 2 - DVDs I prefer to rip them into my hard drive so I can push the movies in a queue and execute the process during the night. If you are going to digitalize just one, then go to the next step.

The software I use to rip them - in OS X - is RipIt. It is not free (cost $24.95) but worth it, you can download it from http://thelittleappfactory.com/ripit/. Maybe there are other options for free and also for windows (RipIt is just for Mac). Just google them, test them and let me know your comments.

The output of RipIt is a folder with extension .dvdmedia but Mac visualize it as a package file. It can be viewed as a DVD with DVD Player as any DVD in your drive. Is important to highlight that RipIt do NOT shrink your DVD, it will create a exact copy of your DVD in your hard drive.

RipIt is not perfect, sometimes it is not possible to rip a DVD. In those cases I use MakeMKV. It can be downloaded from http://www.makemkv.com/download/ and it is almost free. You can use it for free for a limited time, then you have to buy a license or uninstall and install it again. MakeMKV also works for Windows, so if you are using Windows use it instead of RipIt.

The output is not a .dvdmedia package file, it is a .MKV file which is a video format that contain several videos, subtitles and audios in one file. You can read more of MKV in Wikipedia.

Step 2: Digitalize the ripped DVD

In case you want to digitalize just one DVD - or if you skip the step 1 -, you can do this step with your DVD in the DVD Reader or Super Drive.

The tool I use to digitalize is Handbrake. If you don't know it, I strongly recommend it, it is the best tool I know to digitalize movies. I know there are many tools for this but, in my opinion, this is just great. Handbrake is available for Mac, Windows and Linux; it can be downloaded from http://handbrake.fr/downloads.php.

If the DVD is a Family or Kids DVD, then wait for my next post. I follow a different process because I like to add more features to my digital copy.

At home we speak in spanish so I like to watch my movies with english audio and spanish subtitles. If you don't need them, just skip the subtitles part.

So, the process is:

  1. Open the Source which could be the ripped DVD (.dvdmedia or .mkv) or the DVD in your driver.
  2. Select the preset High Profile. I used to select Universal preset because I may wanted to watch my movies in all my apple devices but High Profile works for iPad and iPhone with iOS 6 as well as Apple TV 3 and iTunes running on Mac or Windows; and has a great quality. It does not work for Apple TV 1 (maybe if it is jailbraked, I haven't check). If you only want to watch your movies in an Apple TV 3, *maybe* the preset Apple TV 3 is enough and better.
  3. (Optional) Select the subtitles in spanish. Go to the Subtitles tab and add the Spanish subtitles. Notice that these subtitles are stick to the image, they cannot be turned on/off because are Hard Subtitles. I'll explain in other post how to add Soft Subtitles, those that can be turned on/off. If you see more than one Spanish subtitles select the first one, the others could be for an extra or other type of subtitle.
  4. Test it. Click on the Preview Window icon (second at the upper right icon group). It will open a window with a section of the movie. Select the part and the duration you want. I recommend to view a segment where the actors are talking, so you can see the subtitles. The most common issue to fix is the interlace, which are the lines breaking the image. To know more about interlace, read this https://trac.handbrake.fr/wiki/DeinterlacingGuide#whatisit.
  5. (If needed) Fix the Interlacing. If you have it then click on the Picture Settings icon (first at the upper right icon group). Select Filters, move the switch to Deinterlace and select Slower in the Deinterlace menu. If there is not much Interlace you can select 'Slow' or 'Fast'.
  6. (Optional) Add to the process to the queue. If you are digitalizing DVDs ripped (not a DVD from the drive) you need to add the process to the queue so in the next step you can start processing the queue. Do not use the same File name for each queue item, if not the last one will overwrite the first one. Handbrake will warn you if that happen.
  7. Start running the queue. Each movie will be digitalized in 30 minutes or so, depending of your performance or movie size. So, if you want your movies digitalized early in the morning and you start around 12:00 AM, do not process more than 12 movies in the queue (30 or 40 min * 12 movies).


The output for each movie is a .m4v file per movie (you can also have it in .mkv but .mkv is not a playable format for apple devices by default).

Step 3: Add metadata

I like to know and see for each movie what are the actors, directors, plot, genre and cover. All these information is stored in the movie file in metadata fields and can be edited with iTunes manually but I use Subler (download it from http://code.google.com/p/subler/). Subler will get all these information from TheMovieDB and you can edit it before save it.

The process is:

  1. Open the .m4v file with Subler.
  2. Search for the information. Click on the magnifier glass at the upper right corner or press CMD+Shift+M.
  3. Select the movie title. Subler will search the movies that match with the file name. If the provided movies are not the one you are looking for, enter the movie title and press 'Search'. Make sure that 'English' or the language you want in your metadata is selected. Sometimes, the movie is not in TheMovieDB (1% of the times is not there), if that happens choose any movie to add the metadata fields, search the movie in IMDB or Goole it and enter the metadata manually.
  4. Select the cover. If the provided covers are not correct (usually never happen) or you don't like them, select None, if not, select Set as artwork. Check that some covers are not in English or the language you want, usually the first four covers are better.
  5. (Optional) Change the Name. If you want to see other movie title in iTunes or Apple TV then change the name. Double click or press enter and edit it. For example, I use to add '(Doblada)' to the end of the title if the movie is in spanish instead of the original language. Also, some foreign movies have the english title instead of the original in the foreign language, I also change that.
  6. Add the Comment field and change the Genre field. If one movie has more than one Genre iTunes will not organize that movie in different genres, instead of that will use a 'genre name' with all the genres. For example, 'Animation, Comedy, Horror' will be a genre instead of 3 different genres. To avoid this I add the Comments field and assign the value of the Genre field. Double click on the Genre field to select it. Click on the plus '+' button at the right bottom corner and select Comments. The Comments field will be filled with the Genre fiel values. Then change the Genre field to ONLY one genre that you have in iTunes. At the end of this post I list the genres I have in iTunes and how to search movies by other non standard genres.
  7. Save and Close. You can also press CMD+S and CMD+W when it is saved.

Step 4: Import to iTunes

To watch the movie in the Apple TV you need to have it in iTunes. So, just copy the movie to the folder 'iTunes Media/Automatically Add to iTunes' located in the iTunes Library folder, usually in the /Users/username/Music folder but you may have it in other location even in an external hard drive. I have a link or alias to that folder in a more accessible location.

Wait for a second or two to iTunes move it to the right place and you can watch the movie in your iTunes library and the Apple TV.

Genres and How to filter by non standar genres.

The Genres I have in iTunes or my standard genres are:

  • Action & Adventure
  • Comedy
  • Comedy & Romance
  • Documentary
  • Drama
  • Horror
  • Kids & Family
  • Music
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi & Fantasy
  • Sports
  • Thriller
  • Western


However, usually the movies has more than one genre and there are genres that are not listed above. So, I have in the Comments metadata of each movie the entire list of genres that movie has. Then, I have a Smart Playlist searching for each non standard genre and name that Smart Playlist with the genre. For example, the Smart List 'Crime' will contain all the movies with the genre Crime in the comments field. The Smart List rules are:

  • Media Kind is Movie
  • Any
    • Genre contains Crime
    • Comments contains Crime

Unfortunately these Smart List are not visible in the Apple TV yet (or I do not know how to view them) but I can open iTunes search for the movies and then play it in the ATV.

Next post I'll explain how I digitalize my Blurays and how to digitalize other kind of movies such as Kids Movies.
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