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Handbrake is an OS X application that

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2006

Handbrake is an OS X application that will, among other things, rip DVD video to a files that will play on an iPod (how to). However, I’ve found that this takes an absurd amount of time…2.5 hours for a 1.5 hour-long movie (on a 1.67 Ghz Powerbook with 2 GB RAM). Are there faster options out there?

Reader comments

Michael StröckSep 18, 2006 at 11:38AM

Get a better Mac with more cores. Video encoding is insanely expensive, I’m not aware of anything that will get the job done much faster. The encoders are very well multi-threaded, so my 2.16GHz MacBook Pro can encode a DVD to H.264 of the same resolution in a little bit faster then real-time, with both cores at 100%. Getting a Mac Pro is probably the best solution :-)

jakeSep 18, 2006 at 11:42AM

my mac pro at work did gandhi, a 3 hr movie, in about 45 min.

Steven BlumenthalSep 18, 2006 at 11:53AM

iGandhi ?

Joshua SchnableSep 18, 2006 at 12:00PM

Perhaps this is obvious, but you could just let it run while you sleep. Unless you’re worried about your battery exploding overnight.

Mitch GroffSep 18, 2006 at 12:07PM

My MacBook (of the 2GHz variety) encoded four hourlong episodes of Grey’s Anatomy is just under 2.5 hours last night. This was using Instant Handbrake to go straight to the fiancee’s iPod.

Thomas RichardsSep 18, 2006 at 12:14PM

Also to note with all the suggestions of getting a new mac, that when it comes to encoding video there is no appreciable difference between a 2ghz MacBook and a 2ghz MacBook Pro since video encoding is almost solely limited by processor. Now a MacPro is, of course, a different story.

And finally, one last suggestion: buy your movies from the iTunes Store.

Most commentary about the new videos on the iTunes store compare it DVDs that you can purchase, but leave out the fact that to get DVDs you’ve bought onto your iPod or computer you have to a. Break the law (DMCA) and b. use up a lot of time and processing power.

Movies from the iTunes store look fine on standard definition television (different story if you have a high def tv) and are ready for the iPod with no extra encoding. Legal to boot.

Nick VanceSep 18, 2006 at 12:16PM

Some tips for encoding to save you time from personal experience and in the linked guide): don’t do two passes and use MPEG-4 rather than H.264. Both of those option approximately double total encoding time from single-pass MPEG-4 (or if you use both H.264 and do two passes: quadruple the time).

From personal experience: if you’re doing the encoding on anything less than a dual processor/dual core machine (that would be a PowerMac G5 or Intel Core Duo), leave it for a few hours/overnight… it’s not worth waiting around.

MaxSep 18, 2006 at 12:29PM

I have been playing around with this also this weekend. I found that Handbrake Lite seems to do it faster than the actual Handbrake program. Ripping was about real-time to the movie. And this is pretty much just for making iPod files and not much else.


The author of handbrake has also been testing a program called Instant Handbrake, but that seemed to take 6 hours to rip a two hour movie. But thats beta.

Hope this helps.

JonaSep 18, 2006 at 12:33PM

I’m using Handbrake a lot on a 2GHZ/2GB RAM MacBook and it’s been taking only 20/30mins to rip feature-length movies. I’m using MPEG-4 Video/AAC Audio and using the Target-size feature to spit out 700MB files.


Prior to this one-click setup I was using the two-part process of ripping with MacTheRipper and encoding with Roxio’s Popcorn 2. This took a lot longer.

joshSep 18, 2006 at 12:35PM

It was faster on my PC. The 1st gen Mini I have now its takes forever even for a 30min episode of HomeMovies.

I think the Lite comment is the best insight

BrianSep 18, 2006 at 12:37PM

…to get DVDs you’ve bought onto your iPod or computer you have to a. Break the law (DMCA)…

Copying a DVD for use, by you, on another medium, most likely falls under fair-use. It’s far from a settled legal question and it’s disingenuous to portray it as a fact.

PeterSep 18, 2006 at 12:39PM

I’ve never tried a whole DVD, and it doesn’t do the ripping part, but I’ve had some luck with iSquint.

undulatticeSep 18, 2006 at 1:06PM

Handbrake is probably the best DVD ripping and encoding tool on the Mac.
It’s also about as quick as anything else I’ve tried. Only way I’ve found to speed it up is with a new MacBook! ;-)

ChrisSep 18, 2006 at 1:17PM

Don’t rip in Handbrake. Rip in MacTheRipper, then encode in Handbrake. It is some (but not much) faster.

JasonSep 18, 2006 at 1:25PM

I second the iSquint comment. It still takes a long time, but about half as long. In other words, it rips in real time.

JasonSep 18, 2006 at 1:27PM

oops, I meant to say it “converts” in real time.

converts. Not rips.

reganSep 18, 2006 at 1:39PM

MacBook Pro in Handbrake doing target size 1.5gb takes roughly one hour or less. I’d also like to correct a previous poster who said to use Handbrake Lite instead. That’s well and fine, if you want iPod size movies only; Handbrake can rip into any size/format. I’ve found 1.5gb each is a great size for dvd quality with little to no artifacts.

Jonathan PowersSep 18, 2006 at 1:44PM

For my money, Handbrake is the single easiest way to rip a DVD to a single file. Period. I’m on a Macbook, and it usually takes about 75% the amount of time to rip the DVD than it would to watch it. IMO Jason, when you try all the other crappy options out there, you’ll realize that Handbrake is as good (in terms of simplicity) as it gets.

John ZeratskySep 18, 2006 at 1:50PM

I agree with Chris — rip in MacTheRipper, then encode in Handbrake. These are the settings I use: http://johnzeratsky.com/archives/000882.php

BroboSep 18, 2006 at 2:06PM

The term “Fair Use” refers to use for the purpose of commentary or criticism, or for parody, or for some educational end. The exception to an infringing use of another work that Fair Use makes possible certainly doesn’t apply to wholesale copying of an entire work for your own personal convenience — however unfair this might be. Fostering misunderstanding of copyright law makes changing it even harder.

Nathan HarrisonSep 18, 2006 at 2:09PM

I have to echo the previous sentiments about Handbrake’s ease of use and relative speed on my new Mac (a 2.0 Ghz MacBook with 1gb RAM). In my experience, a 2.5 hour movie ripped faster than playback time, finishing in about an hour and forty-five minutes.

Now, what took a little bit longer was dropping the resulting file into iMovie to play around with it (I’ve been trying to create a synched version of Brad Neely’s Wizard People, Dear Reader). My 1.5gb file ballooned up into a 30gb iMovie HD project; I definitely let that one import all night.

JeffSep 18, 2006 at 2:39PM

I third the Mac the Ripper/Handbrake solution, with some changes, though. When encoding for my iPod, I use Instant Handbrake. When burning a (backup) copy of a DVD, I’ll rip with Mac the Ripper and encode/burn with DVD2OneX. You can make full disk copies or just grab the main movie. It’s great for TV Shows on DVD as you can select the titles you want (so it’ll fit without compression) and take titles from different disks.

JeffSep 18, 2006 at 2:41PM

Oh, I’m on a MacBook Pro (2,16GHz, 2GB RAM) and a 2hr movie takes ~40-45min to rip/encode/burn.

Michael StröckSep 18, 2006 at 3:26PM

Jeff, that’s not terribly informative :-) Encoding speed is highly dependent upon codex and quality.

EmilySep 18, 2006 at 3:47PM

Re: fair use and Brobo’s comment:

I am legally permitted to make five copies of an album I own and give them as presents to my friends. Five. This comes from those three letter government agencies themselves.

Why does this not apply to DVDs? Or were you simply objecting to the use of the phrase “fair use”?

(Making a backup for one’s own personal use has always been permitted, has it not?)

TrippingBridgeSep 18, 2006 at 3:50PM

On my 12” PowerBook G4 (1.33 GHz, 768 MB) ripping a full disc with MacTheRipper takes 20-30 minutes and transcoding takes about 2x the length of the film. Transcoding a full-length feature is definitely an overnight job.

MacTheRipper is *the* tool to use to get the contents of a DVD to your hard disk. DO NOT TRANSCODE STRAIGHT FROM THE DISC!!! That /will/ take forever. (MacTheRipper is also the tool to use to create and then burn a playable copy of a DVD without unskippable ads and “FBI Warnings”, annoying copy protection, region codes, or UOPs — the things that keep you from fast forwarding or jumping to the menu whenever you want.)

My settings for MacTheRipper are Disable DVD UOPs, New Region All, Checked De-Macrovision, RCE Region Off, and Full Disc Extration (because I rip a lot of TV episodes and DVD extras).

Handbrake is my favorite tool for transcoding, but I’ll admit I haven’t tried many alternatives. Make sure your destination is an MP4 file because that is the standard.

I always transcode to H.264 because that is the new standard and has better compression that MPEG4. Not using H.264 because it takes longer means you are trading bigger files for faster transcoding.

You should always adjust your quality by average bitrate. Targeting a size all the time means you will be either getting files that are bigger than they need to be or you are losing quality unnecessarily. Average bitrate MP4s are just like variable bitrate MP3s: just do it unless you have a very good reason not too (like you are trying to compress a DVD down to a CD or fit it on you thumbdrive).

I’m pretty sure that broadcast quality H.264 MP4s are around 4000Kbps (4Mbps). I personally use 1000Kbps average because I can’t see the difference between it and the higher averages on the sub-30” standard def screens I typically watch on and disk space is at a premium for me. If you have the disk space I would recommend using 2000Kbps-4000Kbps.

You’ll have to experiment by transcoding the same movie a few times and just changing the bitrate to find what creates the right quality to size ratio for you.

I always use 2-pass encoding. It takes longer to transcode, but the result is a smaller, higher quality file than if I didn’t use 2-pass, all else equal.

I leave the audio settings at 128Kbps 44.1KHz AAC. It’s good enough for me, but you can always up the bitrate if you want. It won’t change the file size much compared to the video bitrate.

Finally, always check the “de-interlace the picture” option under Picture Settings. Most DVDs nowadays are already progressive, but for the ones that aren’t this also ups the quality of the final file.

Hope that helps!

Oh, and to make a seemless vid of a two-disc movie (Like the LOTR extended versions or all of Kill Bill) rip both disks to HD with MacTheRipper, then combine the two images with DVD2OneX (you’ll have to pay a couple bucks, but it’s totally worth it), then transcode the combined image with Handbrake.

FeaverishSep 18, 2006 at 4:14PM

I ripped a 2 hour movie (with two-pass encoding and about 80% quality) in about 50 minutes last night on my iMac Core Duo. The same process would take hours and hours on my old eMac.

Bryant FrazerSep 18, 2006 at 4:59PM

Making copies of media for personal use was probably legal — until the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed. Read that law carefully. It specifically prohibits circumventing any access-prevention measure (such as Content Scramble Scheme on commercial major-studio DVDs) that protects a copyrighted work. Shame on Congress for going along with it, but I don’t know of any reading of the DMCA that takes “fair use” into account — and it doesn’t even specify that you have to make a copy to break the law, only that you have circumvented the copy-protection measure! Seems to me that once you access that DVD with software that doesn’t respect CSS and/or region coding, you’re in violation of the DMCA.

Whether you’ll get prosecuted for it is a whole different story.

Pete AshtonSep 18, 2006 at 5:13PM

On my G4 tower (733MHz) a 40 minute TV program takes a good eight or so hours to encode. I’ve learned to live with it.

shorty114Sep 18, 2006 at 6:23PM

On my MacBook with the Core Duo, 1.83 or 2 GHz, I’m not sure which, takes a lot shorter than that to encode a 2 hour movie (e.g. The Bourne Identity). Maybe an hour?

What resolution are you ripping to? I was ripping to 320 by 240 (iPod resolution), so that may explain it.

jcSep 18, 2006 at 6:40PM

yep, iSquint is fast and decent.

VicSep 19, 2006 at 3:16AM

There has been several threads at the Handbrake forum about Handbrake’s horrible h.264 encoding speed on PowerPC Macs. Handbrake is not optimized at all for G4s and G5s, but it is highly optimized for Intel processors. It’s based on open source binaries and all the Intel optimizations were done by the many Windows and Linux programmers out there.

rgSep 19, 2006 at 3:35AM

It does about 45 min of video every 10 min of time on my Mac Pro. This is for converting DVD to iPod video.

BoazSep 19, 2006 at 7:51AM

I absolutely agree MacTheRIpper is a faster ripping tool.

Getting a new Mac surely helps — I “upgraded” my G5 2Ghz iMac to a Intel iMac 1.83Ghz; though I haven’t rip anything since the upgrade but even just iMovie HD & iDVD is working much faster, so I guess it’d be the same for MacTheRipper & Handbrake.

DaveSep 29, 2006 at 6:49PM

I’ve been using Handbrake for a few months, I have always used h.264 at 60% Constant Quailty (because I’m archiving my DVD to keep them away from my kids). The picture quality is usually perfect except when the sceen goes dark, a good example is the opening scene from Donnie Darko, as he rides hes bike down the mountain the road is all blotchy and the mountains look ugly, this happens a lot on dark sceens and is a nightmare (forgive the racist connotations) on Black actors in dark scenes (i.e. Blade).

What is going on, everyone keeps saying the Handbrake produces DVD quality files at these settings, this is far from DVD Quality.

TjLOct 03, 2006 at 8:07PM

I definitely agree with the MacTheRipper+HandBrake suggestions.

I was trying to rip from a DVD and it was estimating several hours (like 7) for a 1.5 hour movie.

MTR took about 30 minutes and then HB took another 30 or so. Maybe a little longer, I wasn’t watching all that closely, but waaaay faster.

chris brownNov 23, 2006 at 8:47PM

i’m running into a few problems over here.I have a few region 2 DVD’s and want to convert them to region 1, i’ve tried and simply can’t find these DVD’s in region 1 format so this is my only option, i’ve successfully used osex on a few to rip and then burn using toast, simple process, worked great, but i have a few newer ones that can’t be read by this app, it just quits as soon as i insert the DVD, so after a little research i decided to give mac the ripper a shot, seemed like it had ripped the disc fine so i then just did the same thing as before, opened toast and dragged all the .VOB files into the window and burned, but this time theres no audio only video and the chapters are not correct, its as though it’s just made it’s own mind up where the ‘cuts’ should be, ie:theres 8 VOB files but only 4 episodes, it’s cut the episodes on it’s own in a random spot.Is there an instruction or guide to burning with toast after ripping with mac the ripper anywhere please?
thanks alot CB

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