Best DVD Ripping Software: Mac & PC/Free & Paid
Quick update - we just did a revision of this blog for 2011 - check out our updated Best of 2011 DVD Rippers blog post here.
About once a month, I am asked to convert an instructional DVD into a MindBites lesson or series of lessons. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. In order to get files off of a DVD, you have to rip them, a process that involves decrypting, converting and compressing. To do this, you need a special program called a DVD ripper. When used right, DVD rippers are a video editor’s best friend. They can convert .VOB_TS files (native DVD files) into multiple video formats, such as MP4 and MOV, extract editable high-quality movie files, and compress them into suitable web-optimized files. However, there are way too many DVD rippers on the market and most of them are not worth a rip; most of them have limited options, complicated output settings, and unusable features to a newbie. To be able to rip successfully as a newbie or advanced ripper, you must use a DVD ripper with fundamental features including ease of use, speed, multiple output options and customizable settings. This article helps to understand the features of a good DVD ripper and at the end reviews 2009’s best DVD ripping applications for MAC and PC.
Before we get started, though, it’s important to note that we only rip DVDs when we are asked to do so by someone that owns the rights to the DVD material but, unfortunately, no longer has the original content files to upload as MindBites lessons. Ripping DVDs, in most cases, is a form of pirating digital content, which is something we take very seriously at http://www.mindbites.com/. There are reasons you might need to rip content from a DVD, but please respect the rights of the owners of that content. They don’t steal things from you, so unless they’ve told you it’s okay, please don’t steal things from them.
1. Ease of use
If the program has a stunning amount of features but they are hidden behind a dysfunctional user experience design, then you’re better off without it. It looks good and sounds good, but you can’t understand how to use any of it. Don’t be fooled into buying a product that isn’t user-friendly. Always take advantage of a product’s trial period to determine if it fits your workflow.
Let’s face it–if it takes over an hour to rip an hour of footage off a DVD, then it is not ripping fast enough. Consider the following as a rule of thumb: the time it takes to rip a DVD should be half the time of the length of the DVD. I had this problem with Cinematize–it ripped beautifully, but took forever! If you’re ripping multiple DVDs, you want a tool that rips quality at a fast rate.
3. Video format & codec options
First, ask yourself where the final video is going to be viewed: on the web, on an electronic device, on TV or on a DVD? Each device uses different video format and codec compression settings. A video format is a file that contains digital information. A codec is a compressor/decompressor that codes digital information into a suitable file size for playback. For example, a DVD uses a semi-lossy video format called MPEG-2 while a computer monitor streams smaller MP4 or highly-compressed MOVs. A good DVD ripping application would have the ability to choose from several different video formats (MP4, MOV, AVI, & MPEG-2) and codec options (H.264, MPEG-4, WMV). Do not purchase a DVD ripper that cannot rip for different viewing devices.
4. Frame size resolution & aspect ratios
When ripping a DVD, usually it is best to use the current frame size and keep the original aspect ratio. However, for online playback, it is necessary to change the pixel aspect ratio to square (1.0) pixels from the TV NTSC standard rectangular (.9) pixels. Without these options, your ripped media might look stretched or distorted. Since most DVDs are ripped to be viewed on a computer device, a good DVD ripper should have these options for output.
This is the key to ripping high quality videos. Bitrate is the amount of information that is stored in one frame of video. A low bitrate creates small files that are highly compressed while a high bitrate creates large files that are less compressed. Rule of thumb: To rip a high quality video choose a high bitrate (1000-3000 kbps), to rip a low quality video choose a low bitrate (500-800 kbps). Most DVD rippers have video presets with attached bitrates, but most are without custom setttings to change video and audio bitrates. A good DVD ripper provides control over variable bitrates.
6. Media selectivity
This is a great option if only a portion of the DVD is going to be used. Most DVD rippers can selectively rip chapters but others can even go so far as to rip a section of a chapter. DVDxDV Pro (for MAC only) is a great tool for ripping specific timecodes but it’s jinky interface and junky application is not worth the time it takes to do it. But, definitely choose a DVD ripper that can at least rip selected chapters off a DVD versus the whole DVD.
7. Batch conversion support
Obviously, if the DVD allows for segmented ripping, then it should also offer a batch compression feature. If not, then another application should be considered. Roxio Toast (for MAC only) is wonderful for selecting or deselecting multiple chapters to convert. In one session, it can handle ripping a batch of chapters without having to rip one at a time.
8. Conversion diversity
Conversion diversity is the total range of video files that the software can accept and convert into another video format. An author once gave us a folder of .VOB_TS files which are the files found on an authored DVD. We had to find a DVD ripper that could also convert these .VOB media files into editable .MOV formats for our own use. Luckily for us, Toast can also convert .VOB_TS files into any video format necessary. Not all DVD rippers can convert files; this is definitely an asset of great DVD rippers that makes them superior to good ones.
9. Encryption/decryption capability
Today, this is almost a given; most DVD rippers can decrypt, convert and compress. But it used to be that two applications were necessary to rip a DVD: one to decrypt the copy protection and remove region codes, another to convert and shrink the media into a suitable format. Now, most DVD rippers do both but one should not assume; always double-check.
10. Picture deinterlacing, cropping & scaling
Most DVDs are interlaced for CRT TV viewing. Interlaced video is not correctly displayed on progressive scan monitors such as a computer monitor. On computer monitors, interlaced video displays zig-zag, comb-like lines during scenes with lots of movement. In order to get rid of the combing effect, the media needs to be deinterlaced. A good DVD ripper will have a deinterlacing option. Cropping and scaling features enable 16:9-to-4:3 video conversions. If a widescreen 16:9 DVD needs to play on a fullscreen 4:3 TV, this option can convert the image and elimnates the need to use another program.
A good DVD ripper will have most if not all of the features I listed above. There are a plethora of them out on the market, but only a few meet my standards.
The best DVD ripping software of 2009:
1a. Toast 11 Titanium and 1b. Toast 11 Pro.
$80 and $130 respectively (on sale from $100 and $150); MAC only
The most robust of all the DVD ripping software I’ve come across to date–sadly only available to Macs. It can rip, convert and decrypt any DVD, any timecode, any chapter. It is a huge time saver and rips twice as fast as any other ripping application. Its speed surprises me every time by finishing fast and signalling it’s finished with a delightful little “ding.” Very refreshing.
$50 and $60 respectively; PC-only
The good people at DVDFab have created a product that rivals Toast - but for PC users. As a Mac user myself, I’m happy that there’s finally a PC product that is just as effective for ripping. It’s got a great user interface, very flexible settings, and is very fast. If you’re ripping DVDs (or Blu-Rays) on a PC, this is the program you’ll want to use.
$35 Both MAC and PC
Not sure how to pronounce, but it does just what it says; it rips DVDs. I don’t think it’s the most robust, but it works well, it’s fast, users seem to like it and it has a great price point. It even offers some basic editing functionality and a whole host of different file format/container options. Therefore it’s worthy of being in the top 5.
FREE! Both MAC and PC
The first ripping tool I ever used!; works well on both operating systems. And it’s free! It can rip and convert any DVD into any video format. I definitely recommend purchasing it above other programs. Only downside is that it does not rip uncompressed audio which means it has to render in Final Cut Pro and most non-linear editing programs.
FREE! Both MAC and PC
If you’re into free stuff, then you’ll love Handbrake. It’s a great program for what it is–free. It also has a simple user interface that makes it very attractive to newbie rippers.
Others worth checking out (PC)
Others worth checking out (Mac)
Hope this information was helpful, please feel free to share with us which DVD rippers you fancy (or not) by leaving a comment below!