August 26, 2008

Media has become a centric part of our lifestyle.  As of recent, Apple has made it easy to collect, purchase, organize, and play media through iTunes. They’ve made it easy to access this content through the Apple TV on our High-Definition TV in our living rooms, and play it back in gorgeous 1080P resolution.  But what about your existing DVD collection?  Shouldn’t it get some of this attention as well?  Here is a guide on building your own digital movie collection, and making the most of iTunes and Apple TV.

Movie Theatre

To complete this process, you’ll need to arm yourself with your personal DVD collection, plenty of free time, Apple iTunes, and third-party application Handbrake. Oh, don’t forget a nice large external hard-drive to house these movies (typically 1.5GB each).

What you’ll be doing is inserting DVDs into your Mac, ripping them to your hard-drive with Handbrake, importing them into iTunes, and adding meta-data.


Step One: Move your iTunes Library to an external HDD

If you don’t want to or believe you have enough space on your internal drive, skip this step.

Connect your external drive to your Mac and create a folder “iTunes” on it. Launch iTunes and head to the preferences, when here, click on advanced tab then click “Change” to re-locate your iTunes library. Navigate to the iTunes folder you created on the external drive and set this as your libraries destination.

iTunes preferences

To complete the move of your library, click “Advanced” “Consolidate Library”. This will move your entire iTunes library to the folder you specified on your external drive, while leaving iTunes in a perfect state to continue using without making any further changes.

Step Two: Handbrake

Now that your collection has a nice storage tank to lie in, you can begin digitizing your DVD collection. Start a Google search for “Handbrake” and download the application. Once downloaded, install it.

Insert a DVD into your Mac, and launch Handbrake. You will be prompted to select the DVD location; this should show automatically. Click okay.

Now it’s time to select your ripping (or encoding) settings. My preferred settings for top quality media is H.264, 2500KBPS, 2-Pass encoding. The resulted file will end up around the 1.5GB mark, and encoding will take a while depending on what Mac you have. On a 1.83Ghz Core Duo MacBook, this process takes around 3 hours for an average length movie.

If you want smaller files and a quicker rip time, set up with MP4, 1-Pass Encoding, 200MBPS.

Step Three: Organinzing Your Collection

Once the encoding is complete, you can eject the DVD and place it back in its case. The movie is now stored digitally.

You should see the movie file on your desktop, double clicking this file will open Quicktime and allow you to watch the movie, but we want an organized collection, so open iTunes and drag the movie onto the “Movie” source pane. Doing this will move the movie into your iTunes Library – once completed, it’s safe to delete the original file from your desktop. That file is now safe inside your iTunes library.

Step Four: Adding Meta-Data

The final step is to tag the movie with the correct title, and add any other information to the file you’d like to. Typically I set the movie genre, and the Year is came out in – thats all the information I need on hand. Lastly, head over to Amazon and do an image search for “movie name”. You should be presented with a bunch of DVD images, copy one of these and paste it as the artwork on the movie file.

There is no final step, you’ve successfully imported a movie into your iTunes collection, tagged it, added art, and it’s now ready for consumption directly on your Mac, on your iPod, or via your Apple TV.

Alternatively, there are a few different steps you can take to conquer a few common questions to do things such as rip a section of a movie.


Q: Is there any way I can get rid of the ads at the start of a movie?

A: Indeed there is.  Not a specific option to choose when to start the rip from, however you can select which chapters you’d like ripped. For instance, the ads are typically located on the first chapter of the movie, so with a 20 chapter movie, I’d select chapters 2-20 for encoding leaving all the unnecessary ads out of my finished file.

Q: What if I just want to extract my favorite scene from the movie?

A: Simply select the appropriate chapter/s in from the chapter selection drop-down box. Only want movie chapters 12-15? No sweat, simply drop down the boxes and make this choice. When you hit start Handbrake will only extract this section of the movie.

Q: Is there any way to quickly prepare this movie to watch on my iPod?

A: If this is what you’re wanting to do, you’re in luck. Once your DVD is inside your machine, pop open Handbrake and hit the ‘presets’ tab in the top right hand corner of the Handbrake window. This will slide open another window where you should see the option called ‘HB-iPod.’ Click this then click rip, Handbrake will automatically change the settings to output an iPod friendly file.

Q: What does 2-pass encoding do?

A: 2-pass encoding is superior to 1-pass encoding. 2-pass encoding redistributes the available bandwidth which was determined by the bitrate setting and the quanitizer setting better. For example, a high motion scene may receive a greater share of the bandwidth than a low motion scene. All in all, this will ultimately distribute a higher quality finished file if you’re willing to give 50% more time that 2-pass encoding will take.

Final Words

I’ve currently imported 53 Movies into my iTunes collection, totaling 61.05GB. The hard work I’ve done in digitizing my collection will shine once my home media setup is completed with a HDTV and Apple TV.

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