First Things First
Before we get started, you'll need a few things. First, you should download and install the latest version of iTunes on your Windows PC. Second, you'll need a copy of the software utility DVD43. Last, but certainly not least, you'll need HandBrake (v0.9.3 or above). Each of these software titles is a free download, and you can get the respective installation files using the following links:
You'll need iTunes to transfer encoded videos to your iPhone. DVD43 unlocks protected DVDs so you can encode them in a format the iPhone understands. The fantastic HandBrake takes care of the encoding. Install all three programs and be sure to reboot your computer whenever told to do so. Once everything is installed, you're ready to begin.
I would be remiss if I didn't take a moment to remind you that this process is intended for use with DVD titles you own; after all, you bought the DVD and you should be able to watch it anyway you please - including on your iPhone or iPod.
Now, let's begin.
Step 1: Insert a DVD
To begin, you have to select a DVD to rip. The reason I'm covering this obvious step is because of DVD copy protection. DVDs use a variety of protection methods to prevent owners from getting a movie off of a DVD and onto a PC; DVD43 "unlocks" the DVD so HandBrake can access the information on the disc and convert it to an iPhone/iPod-friendly format.
When you installed DVD43, an icon was placed in your system tray:
This icon alerts you when the DVD43 program has unlocked a DVD; if you place a protected DVD in your computer's optical drive, the face will turn from yellow to green, letting you know that the data on the disc is ready to be ripped and encoded:
NOTE: Non-copy protected DVDs may not cause the icon to change from yellow to green; if your disc isn't copy protected, you're good to go and can continue following the instructions below.
We're now ready to move onto HandBrake.
Step 2: Ripping & Encoding Video for the iPhone with HandBrake
Now that you've got a DVD movie that's ready to be ripped, run HandBrake.
NOTE: Windows Vista users must run HandBrake as an Administrator.
When HandBrake opens, you'll see the screen below or something very similar:
This is the primary interface for HandBrake, and from here you can select each of the options you'll need to rip and encode your DVD movie for the iPhone.
The first step is to choose the Source, or DVD. Click the Source button in the upper left-hand corner of the screen and select the drive letter that is your DVD drive:
On my system, the DVD drive is M:\ . I've placed the DVD movie X-Men in the drive. You can also select video files already on your hard drive to re-encode for your iPhone (the Video File and DVD/VIDEO_TS Folder options seen above are for this purpose), but for our purposes, select your DVD drive.
The main HandBrake screen changes to reflect your Source selection. In my case, drive M:/ (the DVD drive with X-Men) is selected. The \VIDEO_TS folder is where the video files on the DVD are stored:
The next step is to name the output file, or the iPhone friendly video file HandBrake will create from the DVD. In the Destination, File: field, type the folder in which you'd like the file stored followed by the name you wish the video file to have. I'll call mine X-Men iPhone and set it to be stored in the C:\iPhone Videos\ folder I created on my hard drive:
You can type the destination folder if you're comfortable doing so, or select any save destination you wish with the Browse button - your Desktop, a custom folder, the Videos folder in your User files, etc.
The next, and final, required step is setting the output format. HandBrake provides a number of output presets, including a tailored preset for the iPhone. Under the Presets heading, select iPhone & iPod touch; this tells HandBrake to use its default settings for encoding a video for playback on an iPhone:
You are now ready to begin the copying process. HandBrake will read the data on the DVD (the movie), encode the movie for playback on an iPhone or iPod touch, and write the new video file to your computer's hard drive. This process can take some time, more or less depending on the speed of your DVD drive, the processing power of your CPU, the amount of system memory (RAM) in your PC and other variables.
You can select specific settings and codecs for faster ripping time or higher video quality, but I'll touch on those options in the Customizing HandBrake section.
If you want to proceed with the default iPhone & iPod touch settings - which are recommended for most users - you're ready to begin.
Click Start in the HandBrake toolbar. A command window will open and provide you with the real-time progress of the encoding:
Now sit back, relax and wait for HandBrake to do its thing.
Step 3: Copy the New Video to Your iPhone
When HandBrake's encoding process is complete, you'll have a shiny new iPhone-ready video file in the destination folder you selected on your PC with the file name you've provided. In my case, the file is X-Men iPhone.m4v and it's located in the C:\iPhone Videos\ folder on my hard drive:
Sync your iPhone with your PC. If you manually manage the contents of your iPhone, with both iTunes and the Explorer window showing your new video file visible on the screen, drag and drop the new video file to the iPhone section of the Library column in iTunes. If you sync the contents of your iPhone with iTunes automatically, simply add the video file to your iTunes library by pressing Ctrl+O with iTunes open, selecting the new video file, and then syncing your iPhone with the iTunes library.
You should now see the new video ready for playback in the Videos listing in the iPod menu on your iPhone:
HandBrake is a powerful tool for encoding video. You can use it to copy DVD contents to your hard drive for playback without the disc in the drive, you can use it to archive DVD movies in case of damage or loss, and much, much more - far too much to cover here.
You can also use HandBrake's Picture Settings, and Video options to change how video is encoded, how large a video file you'd like to create (smaller files generally have less quality, but allow you to carry more video on your iPhone), and you can even select the codec you would like to use when encoding your video files:
For more information on how to customize HandBrake's output settings, have a look at the HandBrake Guide, an online manual which covers the different settings and functions of the software.
Selecting Specific Videos within a DVD
DVD movies are large video files stored on a DVD. These files are located and automatically selected by HandBrake when ripping and encoding an entire movie. But if you have a DVD with TV shows (there are usually between four and eight episodes of a show per disc) or other individual content you wish to encode, you can also use HandBrake to select only the content you want.
Episodes are usually shown as numbered titles on a DVD. If you insert a disc with episodic content, you can select the episode you wish to rip and encode from the Title drop-down menu on the HandBrake main screen (seen below).
Each episode is its own title. For example, with the first disc of the first season of Six Feet Under selected as the Source in HandBrake, you can see that each of the three episodes on the disc has its own unique number and time print:
If encoding the first episode, for example, you would select Title 1, which is 1 hour, 2 minutes and 46 seconds (1:02:46) in length. You then continue with the same process described above: select a destination folder, choose a file name and encoding preset, and click Start.
If you want to set more than one (or all) of the episodes on a disc to encode, use the Add to Queue button in the toolbar (rather than the Start button) to build a list of encoding projects to be performed automatically one after the other.
Many thanks to the folks at HandBrake for the countless hours they've put into this excellent (and free) software. Likewise to the people behind DVD43, another excellent freeware utility.
Although there are multiple free solutions for accomplishing this task, I've covered my favorite free DVD-to-iPhone solution above; if you have others you'd like to share, please feel free to write and give us your thoughts.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at iPhone Edition. If you really want to get your hands dirty, visit the forums at the HandBrake web site, an excellent resource for all HandBrake users.