Wednesday, 8 February 2012

How:to Rip DVDs with VLC

If you don't have the VideoLan VLC media player, then you're missing out. It is the most versatile players and converters around; platform-agnostic, it runs on anything and comes with a stack of controls and features not usual in a media player...

...including a fantastic Convert/Save features which allows you to convert media between formats, including ripping DVD's. Note this may be illegal in some territories and we rely on your responsible behaviour.

I always start or end with VLC for media conversion. It's much more usable than command line tools such as Mencoder and ffmpeg.

For reliable results, make sure to run VLC versions 1.0 and up.

Ripping a DVD with VLC
  • Insert the DVD or mount an ISO-image you want to rip and start up VLC. 
  • From the Media menu, select on Convert / Save.
  • Choose the Disc tab.
    The default disc address probably isn't correct, so use the Browse control to point to the disc you want.
  • You can select the start position by selecting the title and only record a specific chapter on the DVD.  
  • You should check the 'skip DVD Menus' option as you will not be able to use them in the ripped file.
  • Audio track and subtitle tracks should be set to default -1. Ripping with a default sub-title track can be simple or a whole tutorial by itself. I'll leave it for now.
  • Select Convert/Save again to move on. 
The next Convert screen opens up the output options.
  • Select where you will want to select a location for the ripped file. You'll need an appropriate file extension suffixed to your chosen file name. Match this to your output format (next). If you don’t label it with a supported file extension it will default to .ps (Program Stream) file (a DVD formatted stream which may not match the actual output).
  • Under Settings, you need to choose that output format. There's a drop-list of standard formats is you use them un-altered. Otherwise you need to click the tools icon and work through the profile settings for the container (Encapsulation) Video, Audio and Subtitles.

    This can be a bit of a minefield; if you don't know what these things mean, do a bit of research but come back to VLC. It's much more usable than command line tools such as Mencoder and ffmpeg.

    The rule is, if in doubt, don't mess with the default settings. If you're confident, at least create a new profile and you can play around with settings all you want.

When you're ready to go, the Convert screen will take the source drive, destination file with appropriate extension and the profile. Hit Convert to start the process.
  • If your settings are good the disc will spin up and the rip begins; the play-position bar in the main VLC window will increment progress as it goes.
  • A successful rip will take a matter of minutes.
  • If you checked Display Output, this will slow things down.
  • If you are getting a rip in anything close to real-time (playing time) then your settings are probably wrong.
  • If the disc doesn't spin and there's no movement of the progress bar, then the rip isn't happening - you've chosen incompatible settings or disc location somewhere.
  • The process will slow down your system as the it uses a lot of resources.
  • You should be able to play the converted file with other media players assuming you have the right codec.
  • Depending on the conversion settings you may get lower quality compared to the original.
  • You can't increase quality over the original source no matter what settings you use.

With a bit of trial and error, you should be able to convert just about any standard commercial format to something playable on any media play. RC