I decided earlier this week I needed to rip a DVD and looked around at the available options on Linux. I’m not overly experienced at doing this sort of thing, in the past I’ve always got the job done with applications like dvd:rip but not had a very satisfying experience. I’d heard a while back that the popular program Handrake had now released a Linux version with a GUI (Graphical User Interface) and it seemed a good idea to try it out. I have some Mac using friends who really like it and often tell me how good it is for ripping discs. There’s been a command line version of Handbrake on Linux for quite some time I believe but I never used it, I can handle myself pretty well in a terminal but it just didn’t appeal. Handbrake is licensed under the GPL and as such is completely free and open source software, with all these facts and endorsements ringing in my ears I figured I should take it for a spin, no pun intended.
Installing the program was nice and simple for me on Linux Mint 6. There are “.deb” packages built for Ubuntu on the Handbrake website so it’s simply a matter of double clicking to install, who says Linux has to be hard eh? Admittedly if you’re on a non Debian-based system it might be not be quite so simple for you. You can download the source code and build the application yourself which isn’t as daunting as it sounds or it’s possible some other distributions might have their own binary packages. It’s worth having a look around before you start I’d say. Once installed the application should just appear on your menu, for me it was in the MintMenu under “Sound & Video” so it’s likely to be in a similar place even if you’re using a different flavour of Linux.
Ripping It Up:
Upon opening the application for the first time you’re presented with a pretty nice looking interface, simple enough and not overcrowded but incorporating all the features you could need. One thing I did find strange is that the program didn’t automatically detect the DVD I’d loaded in my drive, instead I had to manually select the correct device. I’m using a Dell m1330n laptop and I only have one optical drive, the one selected was labeled “dvd” so I chose “dvdrw” from the dialog and then everything worked. I don’t know if this is a quirk of the program or a quirk of my hardware but once I’d figured this out it wasn’t too much hassle. I have to do this whenever I want to rip a new disc, it doesn’t auto-detect which would be a nice feature. I decided to test it by ripping an episode of Spaced, a British comedy series that I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it.
One thing I like about the Handbrake interface is the list options down the right hand side to quickly and easily target specific devices. I don’t have an iPod or iPhone but I do have a PS3 and being able to just select that profile and know the video will work on the device is great. I wish more applications worked as easily as this. You can also tweak the video and audio settings if you ‘re more of an expert and you know what you want, so it doesn’t limit you really but still has sensible defaults you can call up. One thing about Handbrake which isn’t great is the length of time it takes to actually rip a disc. It does produce very high quality rips with minimum fuss but you need to be patient, very patient. I only ripped a small section of the DVD I was using to test, about 20mins and it still took almost half and hour to complete. Once it was done I opened the mp4 file and it looked perfect I have to say, so perhaps good things really do come to those who wait.
I made a slideshow of whole process if you’d like to check it out
I really like Handbrake as you can probably tell by now, it does it’s job well without being overly fancy. It has all the features advanced users could need but still remains accessible for the average Joe. It’s not quick as I said, it takes it’s time in ripping discs but does produce great quality. My advice would be to start it up when you can afford to leave the machine alone for a couple of hours to work, perhaps at night. Especially if you’re doing a 3 hour epic like Lord Of The Rings or something, you’ll be in for a long wait if you sit there and watch it and you could probably grow a convincing Gandalf beard by the end. Overall I would recommend Handbrake as the best application of it’s type I’ve used on the Linux desktop, best of all it’s free in both the speech and the beer senses so there’s nothing to lose. Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments.
Thanks for reading.