When ripping a DVD to a digital movie file makes sense

Mac DVD movie ripping: When I first wrote my article on How to rip DVD movies on a Mac I felt a little guilty, like I was sharing some information the movie industry doesn't want you to know. But then during this past week two things happened that made me glad I wrote that article.

First, I rented a DVD, and was unable to watch it initially because it was scratched, and the Mac DVD player couldn't play it. I took that "opportunity" (as they say at work, there are no "problems", only "opportunities") to test the Mac DVD ripping approach. I'm glad to say I was able to rip the DVD using HandBrake and then watch it. So, Lesson One is that DVD ripping is a way to get past the scratched, rented DVD problem.

Mac DVD ripping - A matter of convenience

Second, as I ended up watching several DVDs this past week, I began to realize how annoying it is to

  1. Find a DVD I want to watch,
  2. Take the new DVD out of the DVD case, trying not to break the case or the DVD,
  3. Take the old DVD out of the iMac,
  4. Put the new DVD in the iMac,
  5. Wait to get past all the legal mumbo-jumbo and ads at the beginning of the DVD, and
  6. Finally watch the video I want to watch.

"Wouldn't it be great," I thought (doing my Steve Jobs imitation), "if I could just watch what I want to watch, when I want to watch it?" -- especially when I already own a pile of DVDs.

The solution here of course is to rip all your DVDs to digital video files, which you can then manage much more easily than you can manage boxes and boxes of DVDs. In retrospect this idea is pretty obvious, because it's the same pattern we've used in the last decade to make music so much easier to listen to. The biggest problems with this approach towards DVDs are (a) it takes about twenty minutes to rip a DVD, and (b) the digital movie file is going to be pretty large, about 700 MB (compared to a song file that's maybe 4-10 MB). Other than that, it's exactly the same pattern.

Again, I'm not suggesting you rip DVDs as an illegal activity, but if you already own a DVD, and you just want to make it easier to watch that content that you've already purchased, well, I don't have a moral problem with that. ("Fair play", anyone?) (I also don't have a problem doing this when you've driven somewhere, rented a DVD, came home, made popcorn and a drink, only to find out the DVD is scratched and unwatchable.)

If you haven't ripped a DVD on Mac before, here's a link to my earlier "How to rip a DVD to an iPod/iPhone movie" article.