Mac app for converting DVDs to iTunes

Q: I would like to know what you think is the best Mac software for copying DVDs into a user’s iTunes library?

– David

A: The short answer is Handbrake. The wide range of developers trying to capitalize on the popularity of DVD-to-iTunes conversion has spawned a confusing mess of aggressively marketed paid applications that work with varying degrees of success.

However, the Handbrake project remains completely free and open source and unlike many of the paid applications, the developers release regular, free updates to stay current with the latest features in iTunes and on Apple’s newest devices. Handbrake supports many advanced features for video encoding including support for closed captioning and subtitles, chapter markers, multiple audio tracks, surround sound audio support (for the Apple TV or computer-based playback), anamorphic encoding, deinterlacing and decombing and a multitude of other settings. Despite this, however, the application also includes a complete set of standard presets for virtually one-button encoding of video to different devices without having to worry about playing with the more advanced settings.

The only caveat to Handbrake is that for various legal reasons the application no longer includes the libraries for decrypting copy-protected DVDs. However Handbrake will transparently use the decryption libraries from the very popular VLC video player if the user has it installed on the same computer. No special steps are required to enable this—you merely need to have VLC installed on the same Mac that you’re running Handbrake on and it will pick up and use the necessary libraries. Windows users will have a few more challenges in this area, as the open-source decryption libraries are not readily available on that platform. In this case, often a second DVD “ripper” application is required to remove the copy protection before handing the DVD content off to Handbrake for conversion.

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