How to encode DVDs to h.264 videos using Handbrake

With the proliferation of so many mobile devices such as smartphones, iPads, and tablets, playing a movie on DVD discs seem almost old school. Even at home, putting a dvd into a player one at a time to play a movie feels almost primitive when there are much more advanced options such as the Western Digital WD TV Live that can stream movies directly from a hard drive to a TV.

But how do you get that huge collection of DVDs into a format that is both media player and mobile device friendly? Most HTPC devices can play DVD folders or ISO files just fine but it’s not a good idea to transfer 5 gigabytes of DVD files to a mobile device even if the mobile device has a player software that supports playing DVD formats. That’s were h.264 or x.264 comes into play. According to Wikipedia, H.264/MPEG-4 Part 10 or AVC (Advanced Video Coding) is a standard for video compression, and is currently one of the most commonly used formats for the recording, compression, and distribution of high definition video.

Using h.264 encoding, you can create a single, portable file that can be played by all modern video players at about one fifth the size with no loss in quality. You can even compress to one tenth the size with little noticeable loss in quality. A seven gigabyte uncompressed DVD can compress down to 700 mb to 1.4 gigabyte making the files much easier to transfer to your mobile devices.

There are many paid and free options for encoding h.264 video but why pay for something when you can get perfectly good results with free software. There are three free options to choose from. FairUse Wizard has a limited free version that only allows 700 mb files. Super is another option. But I found Handbrake the easiest to use and it has no file limitations.

Before you proceed, you should be aware that if you only want to play DVD files in a home media player, there is no need to spend the time to convert the files to h.264 files. The re-encoding process is time consuming taking about 2x real time on a dual core computer so a two hour movie will take about four hours to re-encode. But if want portable movie files, proceed to the next page to learn how to encode DVD files using Handbrake.