I have a small, selective, collection of TV Series and a few movies on commercial DVDs I’ve bought from perfectly legal sources. They sit on shelves gathering dust and occasionally I watch something.
Thanks to quirks of history my DVDs are drawn from Regions 1 (USA), 2 (UK), and 4 (New Zealand).
Although my library of DVDs isn’t huge, it does represent a considerable investment of money.
By and large my collection now boils down to Voyager, Babylon 5, Xena, Battlestar Galactica, Futurama, and some Buffy.
Watching something involves locating the right box set, inserting the DVD in the player, sitting through endless and infuriating anti-piracy warnings, and of course, being in the same room as the DVD player and TV set.
Or it could involve checking to see which region the DVD is coded to and then playing it in my MacBook Pro, provided the regions coincide.
Often what I want to do though is sit or lie in bed and watch a movie on my iPad.
I think that if I lived in the US I could buy or perhaps rent these shows from the iTunes Store. Unfortunately in New Zealand there are no TV series at all available through iTunes, though there are some movies available for rent or purchase.
My cunning plan
And so I recently contrived a cunning plan to rip all my DVDs to files I could store on my Mac, or on an external hard drive.
I think that’s legal in New Zealand, though to be frank I’m not quite sure, and I really don’t care. I’ve bought the darn things and am not uploading them for sharing, nor am I selling off the discs. I just want to watch the TV Shows where and how I choose.
Rip DVDs with DVD Remaster
After some investigation and experimentation I bought DVD Remaster (just upgraded today to Pro), which comes with free software called Fairmount.
Insert the DVD in your Mac and Apple’s DVD Player pops open. Just ignore or pause it.
Next open Fairmount and it will create an image from the DVD. Something somewhere explains why this is necessary. I don’t recall the reasons; I just know it’s a necessary step.
Once Fairmount has started it’s work open DVD Remaster. Select the disk image as the Source, and set a location for the files to be saved to. Then press the Play button and ripping begins.
Ripping takes ages and works the computer reasonably hard. Eventually though there will be a bunch of files on the hard drive. Drop them into iTunes, or do whatever else you wish to do with them, such as saving to a hard drive.
Quirks and annoyances
Before you get underway just insert the first DVD and wait for DVD Player to open up and start working. Your Mac may display a warning about needing to set or change the region.
Be very cautious as you can’t just switch around between regions. You have 4 or 5 opportunities to change the region and then the drive locks to the last region chosen.
Sort out your DVDs by region and rip all of one region before starting on the next. Luckily we have a couple of spare older Macs that will soon be sold. Each is set to a different region, and I’ll be able to rip all my DVDs easily.
Each set of files was saved into an unhelpfully named folder. The names was along these lines:
EU_110398 - Track 1.m4v.
Although I went through and named each file something more like:
Voyager - Season 6 - Disc 1 - Track 1.m4v iTunes didn’t always pay any attention to this when I imported the files. I now have a bunch of tracks unhelpfully named
EU_110396 - Track 1 and the like. In fact, there are 6 tracks with that name, and similarly 6 others with
Track 2 at the end, and so on.
I’m just going to have to rename a large number of iTunes tracks.
My first screenshot shows the unhelpful names, while in the second screenshot I’ve manually changed the names.
Tracks that don’t rip
I started with the non-Pro version of the software. Thanks to a poorly worded web page it seemed there would be no cost disadvantage to upgrading later. In fact, it costs $5 more to upgrade than just to buy the Pro version from the beginning.
As I went through ripping DVDs some, like Babylon 5, wouldn’t allow me to select individual tracks. The software would only rip all 4 episodes into a single movie. That’s not such a huge deal.
But one Voyager disc would rip only 2 of the 4 episodes on the disc. I was simply unable to select the other episodes. After upgrading to Pro that problem disappeared.
German? No thanks.
The Voyager DVDs mainly want to default to ripping the German language version of the show. I’d ripped a couple of discs before I realised and had to go back and rip them again. Now, for each disc I insert, I have to choose the English version of each track. I was hoping Pro would save me that trouble, but it doesn’t.
Don’t fill up your devices
After recently accidentally filling my iPad quite full with movies I now don’t automatically sync movies. Instead I select only those I wish to add to the device. My movie collection is now around 53Gb; my iPad’s capacity is only 32Gb. Be careful what you sync.
I’m now maybe a quarter of the way through ripping my collection. Things are going pretty well, though it’s slow. Inserting and removing discs is tedious, as is the whole naming thing.
Thanks to my new AppleTV I can view anything from my library at any time on the TV. I can watch anything on my MacBook Pro, without worrying about region codes locking me out.
The iPad is still a bit of a problem, as it depends which files I’ve synced.
I recently bought Plex media server, after watching Don McAllister’s excellent instructional video about it. I found Plex befuddling though, in spite of Don’s best efforts, and just couldn’t make it work correctly for me. It may solve my iPad problem eventually, but in the meantime I’m just ignoring it.
I’ve watched a couple of random episodes of shows I’ve already ripped. I wanted to check how things were going, and also to enjoy a few minutes entertainment.
The files work well and look find on the TV. The shows I’ve looked at have been in the old, squarish aspect ratio rather than widescreen. I suspect that simply relates to the age of the shows, recorded in the late 90’s. I haven’t looked at the original DVD to confirm.
The wonderful thing though is being able to simply select an individual episode and just watch it. There’s no fumbling with discs, no silly DVD menu system to navigate, and best of all no FBI warnings to endure.
I paid good money for a TV show and now I can relax and watch what I paid for, without hindrance.
Let me pay to be entertained
Now I have one final request: please can we have TV Shows in the New Zealand iTunes Store? Please, someone, let me pay you to watch shows that interest me, independent of the increasingly irrelevant TV Channels.