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14 tools to rip, convert and stream video from DVD and Blu-ray

03 April 2012, Nick Peers

These days, more and more of us watch video in a variety of different ways. The ease and versatility of modern media can leave you looking at your old collection of videos and DVDs with some annoyance. While you can play DVDs on your notebook or desktop, you can’t insert them into your smartphone or tablet, and what happens if they get scratched or damaged?

Never fear, because we’ve put together a list of useful tools – many of which are completely free to use – to help you not just rip and capture video from archaic sources, but to access it from other devices too. You should carefully check your own country’s copyright laws before following this tutorial because even with Blu-rays, DVDs and videos you legally own, you may find you’re prohibited from making personal copies, even for backup purposes.

Let’s get ripped
The first thing you need to do is work out what format you want to store your ripped video in. If you’re simply backing up your DVDs, or you’d like to access them in the same way via their original menus and interface, then the best thing to do is convert them into a single ISO file.

Be warned that DVDs routinely consume 8GB or more per disc of drive space, so it’s definitely only an option if you have the space to spare. Windows users can use BDlot DVD ISO Master for free, but Mac users will have to pay $20 for the privilege: try the free trial of Mac DVDRipper Pro, which lets you rip up to five discs before a purchase is required. Both tools can handle copy protected DVDs (but not Blu-ray discs), while Mac DVDRipper Pro can also convert selected titles to MP4 format.

It's by far the best conversion tool out there, but you're limited to Apple-friendly formats.

Rip and convert
Things are much better – and free – if you simply wish to rip your video into a compressed format. If you’re a lover of all things Apple, including Apple TV, iPad and iPhone, then the best tool to use is Handbrake, which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. This can rip both DVDs and Blu-ray discs or convert from other video formats into the MP4/MKV container using H.264 video codecs or – in layman’s terms – a format compatible with all Apple devices. Encrypted DVDs may throw up an error about libraries, but just follow the prompts to download and install said libraries, and you should have no further problems.

Another free cross-platform tool worth looking at is MakeMKV. This beta allows you to rip both DVDs and Blu-ray discs (the latter will be free only while the beta lasts) to the MKV container format, with the disc structure – including menus and chapters – left intact.

If you’d like a wider choice of output formats coupled with a simpler – if less customisable – experience, then Windows users should take a look at Freemake Video Converter. Another freebie worth checking out – which is also cross-platform and again supports Blu-ray as well as DVD – is DVDx.

And what of your older analogue video collection? The simplest thing to do is use the software that came with your capture card or USB device, but if you’re looking for an alternative, then VirtualDUB or Windows Live Movie Maker should suffice if you’re running Windows.

VLC Media Player lets you browse your UPNP servers for content to stream.

Access from your mobile device
So, your media is backed up, and now you’d like to access it from another computer or mobile device on your network. A good choice if the media is stored on a computer’s hard drive is Plex: install Plex Server on the computer hosting the media content, and Plex Media Center on your other PCs and Macs, then purchase Plex 2.0 for Android and iOS if you want access from your mobile.

Plex is versatile – you can even configure it to give you access to your media over the internet – but it relies on you storing your media on a computer that’s always on when required. Far easier to store it on a central networked hard drive with a built-in UPNP media server. Then all you need is client software, such as VLC Media Player for your computer, Media Link Player Lite for iPad and iPhone, or aVia for Android.

So there you have it: all the tools you need to rip, convert and access your backed up media content from any device you own. Now you’ll be able to watch your favourite movies and TV shows from wherever you happen to be…

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