Backing up/Ripping and Transcoding DVDs in Linux

Ripping and transcoding DVDs in Linux is very easy, but there are many ways of doing it. Personally, I prefer combining the command line tool dvdbackup with Handbrake. The reason I why I do this is to be able to rip a number of DVDs to my hard drive, and then to transcode them over night, or while I am at work. Moreover, both dvdbackup and Handbrake are open source software.

Step 1. Installation

First, dvdbackup may be installed through Synaptic, or by typing the following into the command line: sudo apt-get install dvdbackup

Second, you most likely have to install a CSS library to remove the copy protection. This may be done by adding the following unofficial repositories to your list of repositories (System->Administration->Synaptic Package Manager, then Settings->Repositories, and them on the “Other Software” pane):

deb lenny main contrib non-free restricted
deb-src lenny main contrib non-free restricted

You will most likely get an error message because of a missing key. Ignore this error message, or get the missing key through installing the package dmo-archive-keyring. Then you need to add the package libdvdcss2.

Third, Handbrake does not have an official stable release for Ubuntu at the moment. However, the nightly build has been working very well on my computer. To install this build follow these instructions. In short, add the following two repositories, and install the package handbrake-gtk.
deb lucid main
deb-src lucid main

Step 2. Ripping with dvdbackup

I use the command line tool dvdback up to make a copy of the DVD on the hard drive. The copy does not have any copy protection. To do this, start the command line, and go to the folder where you want the image to be stored. Then, type: dvdbackup -i /dev/dvd -M

dvdbackup - screenshot
dvdbackup – screenshot

I have experienced some problems with the name of the dvd drive, but /dev/dvd/ usually works. If not, find the right name under /dev or /media. As you might see from the image above, you could receive some error messages. Do not worry about these. They are ignored sectors that are part of the copy protection. Ripping a full DVD usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes on my computer.

3. Transcoding with Handbrake

Transcoding the movies and series from the DVD format (usually a VIDEO_TS folder with several VTS_**_*.VOB files) to a single video file is very simple. First, set up Handbrake the way you want. Personally, I do not include subtitles, select the MP4 file format, and use the “High quality” preset. However, you may play around with the settings any way you like.


HandBrake - Screenshot


Second, Select “Source” in Handbrake (see the screenshot above), browse to the source folder of one DVD, and click “OK”.

Third, Pick the “Title” you want to encode. give it a sensible name, select the folder where you want to store the transcoded file, and click “Add to Queue”. The longest title is automatically selected. For DVDs with movies, the longest title is usually the movie itself. For TV series, make sure that you add all the episodes on the disc to the queue.

Fourth, when you have added all the movies you want to transcode, simply click “Start” and let your computer do the job. On my machine (AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black with 4 GB RAM), transcoding a movie takes about 45 min to an hour with the hiqh quality settings. On an AMD Athlon X2 4850e with 4 GB RAM, it takes significantly longer.

The next step

When Handbrake finishes you will have a collection of transcoded movies and series. In future post, I will show how I manage these using another set of open source software.


Ripping and transcoding (copyrighted) DVDs may be illegal in some countries. In Norway, where I live it is not illegal to break “weak” copy protections like CSS (the copy protection used on DVDs). Distribution of copyrighted material is still illegal in Norway and most other countries, so please don’t do it.

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