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Converting Your DVDs for Your iPhone with Free Software

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In the first few post-iPhone launch days, there seems to be a bit of an epidemic. Many technology sites, particularly the iPhone dedicated sites, don't seem to be able to get out of pre-launch mode. I thought I'd give it a shot. Instead of moving with the herd, and throwing up 15 posts today about what my iPhone looks like out of the box, or what some other guy's iPhone looks like in it's dock, or maybe what it looks like when I run down the street with my iPhone in it's bag - I thought I'd try to write something that might actually be useful to those of you who are now at home with your iPhones.

One of the first things I wanted to know once AT&T decided to let me use my iPhone was how to get some of my DVDs converted so I could watch them on the phone. Not having any experience with video iPod or otherwise being a video encoding savvy individual, I found myself starting from scratch. There are, without question, countless ways to get from DVD to iPhone. The problem is, most of them are either costly or wrought with a myriad of incredibly frustrating problems. That's where Handbrake comes to the rescue.

After trying a variety of methods, we tried Handbrake and were shocked by the ease of use and quality of product that Handbrake turns out. Following is a very simple to follow tutorial that will have your DVDs on your iPhone in no time.

Step #1 - Download and Install Required Software

You'll need two pieces of software to get this done. One is Handbrake, the other is a DVD decrypting tool called DVD43.

It's worth noting at this point that DVD43 is a tool that decrypts copy protection on DVDs to allow the Handbrake software to access these DVDs. You need to be aware of the local laws in your area regarding software like DVD43. It may be illegal. In any case, the information in this tutorial is provided for transfer of your own DVDs onto your iPhone. Use of this information to rip rented, or otherwise unowned DVDs, is illegal and frowned upon by big people in high places.

Download Handbrake here:

Download DVD43 here:

Install both packages before moving on to the next step. DVD43 will require a restart in order to load it's driver into your system. When DVD43 is running properly, you should see a yellow smiley face in your taskbar (smiley face will be green if a DVD is in your DVD drive). If DVD43 does not start automatically, start it and check your taskbar.

Step #2 - Load DVD

Insert a DVD into your DVD drive, and start Handbrake. The first thing you will see is something like this:


Select "DVD" as your source, and click "Browse". Now you will need to select the source location of the DVD's video files. As shown below, these are usually found within the "VIDEO_TS" subdirectory on your DVD drive. Select the VIDEO_TS directory, and click "OK".


Step #3 - Setup Video Encoding

After clicking "OK" in step #2, you will receive an informational message letting you know that Handbrake is going to read information from your DVD, and that it can take a long period of time to do so. You'll agree, of course, and once complete the following screen should appear:


There screen above reflects the settings I had once I completed the following steps. Make sure you follow closely, as improper settings can result in video that cannot be shown on your iPhone.

Select a DVD Title

The default is "Automatic". This will encode the entire DVD, including previews, commentaries, advertisements, etc - which is most likely what you do not want. Instead, select from the dropdown the track with the longest time - as this is almost always the movie. In the example above, Bad Santa is clocking in at 1 hour and 39 minutes.

Choose a Destination Directory

Enter a location and filename where you want to save your iPhone movie. This should be self explanatory. As you'll be using MPEG-4 encoding, name the file with a .mp4 extension. Though, if you omit this, Handbrake should add it for you.

Choose Your Encoders
Video: A subsequent release of Handbrake will contain a specific iPhone profile, but for now, the iPod profile works just fine. Select the "H.264 (iPod)" encoder profile.

Audio: Select AAC (the other options don't work with MP4)
Enter Width/Height

You'll notice to the right of the Width/Height entry boxes, Handbrake displays the aspect ratio of the track or DVD title you are converting. One of the nice features about Handbrake is that it will automatically determine width or height given one of the two dimensions, based on the aspect ratio. As you'll want to take advantage of the full size of the iPhone's screen, enter 480 for width and 320 for the height. Handbrake will convert the movie to 480x320 while maintaining the native aspect ratio of the DVD.
Other Settings

Below the source and destination settings, you'll find an extended settings section with six tabs. For the purpose of this tutorial, you need only worry about the Video Settings tab.

Within the video settings tab, you'll only need to interact with one of two settings.

Avg Bitrate

You can specify the quality of your movie by setting the average bitrate. The maximum setting is 1500 kbs. I'm not sure what the minimum is, but I wouldn't recommend bothering with anything less than 500 or the quality will be unpleasant.

The bitrate, and thus quality, of your converted video directly affects the size in MB of the resulting file. As we're all working with 4-8GB of space on the iPhone, minimizing the size of the file while retaining good quality is usually everyone's goal.

In my tests, I've had good results with 750 kbps and even with 650 kbps. On the same note, 1000 kbps is noticeably better. Ultimately, you decide.

Target Size

If you don't want to make guesses about the Bitrate of your video or are more concerned about the final space of the video, and not in the mood to do long-run encoding tests, you can specify a target size for the video. If, for instance, you want your video to be 800MB in size, simply enter 800 in the target size and Handbrake will determine the matching Bitrate.

Encoding/Converting Your DVD

Once you've completed all the above steps, Handbrake is ready to convert your DVD for use on your iPhone. Simply click "Encode" and off you go. Handbrake will launch another informational dialogue, once you click okay, you should see a command window such as this one pop up:


That's it. Seriously.

Handbrake will chug away and convert your video. Once completed, it'll give you a pop up letting you know. After that, all you need to do is add the video to your iTunes library, sync to your iPhone, and you're all set.


iPhoneFAQ encourages readers of this tutorial to test the methods described above and offer suggestions, tweaks, improvements, etc. Thanks to rolfmaocopterzor (DVD to iPod HowTo) and the folks in #handbrake on for their assistance.

Circulated by Iphone News


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