Like the CD rack before it, the faithful DVD shelf used to be the focal point of many living rooms, but we all know how quickly technology moves on. These days we have Sky Movies, Netflix and Amazon Video and on-demand TV, so there’s a pretty good chance you haven’t actually visited that shelf for a good while now. Even Blu-ray – heralded as the future by the big movie studios – is still a physical format that, in some ways, is already outmoded.
Wouldn't it be great if you could have all your DVD movies and TV box sets on a hard drive so you can watch anything at a moment's notice? You could go one step further than a laptop or PC and store the videos on a NAS drive and watch them on your TV via a media streamer such as a WD TV Live Hub.
It makes a lot of sense to rip the contents of your DVDs onto a NAS or hard drive and stick the bulky cases in a box in the attic – or clear them out for good. Thankfully, there’s plenty of free software available to do just that, and as long as you stick to ripping discs that you legally purchased, you’re not doing anything wrong. Advanced users can rip Blu-rays into a same-quality MKV file using MakeMKV, then convert that using an application such as Handbrake. But we’re going to stick to DVDs and use the simpler Freemake, which does all the work with a few easy clicks.
Unlike in the past, Freemake is no longer bundled with toolbars or other software.
Step 2. The main screen of Free Video Converter has a range of options, from opening video and audio files to entering the URL of an online clip. Insert your disc, click the +DVD button and navigate to your DVD drive in Computer. Then click OK.
Step 3. The software will read the disc and give you a list of titles. These will include the movie itself and any included extras, so pay close attention to the lengths of each title to work out which one is the film – it will usually be first in the list.
Step 4. The next screen gives more information on each title. If you couldn’t decide which one was the movie, use the resolution, bitrate and audio details to make an informed guess. Click the audio details to choose the audio feed you want to rip.
Step 5. At the bottom is a scrollable row of output formats. For playback on a console or mobile device, click your manufacturer and choose your device; for PC playback we’d choose MP4 for maximum compatibility.
Step 6. Before you encode the file, use the dropdown lists to pick the quality you’d like. The software can upconvert to 1080p or 720p, stick with the standard DVD quality, or even shrink the file for mobile viewing. You can also rename the output file here. It's best keep the original resolution and frame rate, which is likely to be 720x576 and 25fps. Upconverting to a higher resolution won't add any detail.
Step 7. Once you’ve confirmed your choices, make yourself a cup of tea as you’ll have a bit of a wait while the software takes care of the encoding process. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to well over an hour depending on the power of your PC. When it’s done, click Show in Folder to access your new rip.
Step 8. That’s how you rip your DVD movie, but the process also works with TV box sets. This time, the import step produces six roughly half-hour episodes, plus one long track that appears to contain all six. DVDs will vary, and it’s up to you what you rip. We’ll tick the individual episodes.
Step 9. The next step will give you a thumbnail of each title to check you’ve got the right ones. If you need more detail, click the edit button to the right of each entry and press play – you’ll hear your drive whir up and the episodes will play.
Step 10. This time you’ll have to wait for all of your selected episodes to successfully complete, which can take even longer than a movie. When they’re done, each selected title will be an individual digital file ready to be enjoyed without the disc.
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