I was looking for a good freeware program to convert DVDs on the Mac so that I can play them on my 3rd generation iPod nano.

While there are a few choices out there I ultimately went with Handbrake from Version Tracker as it was easy to use and free! I’ve put some screenshots below in an attempt to try to walk a new user through the necessary steps to convert a DVD to something that the iPod nano would be able to play.

Screenshot #1 – The Source window

Select the source that you want to convert

When Handbrake fires up it prompts you to select the source area which contains the movie you want to convert. Once you have navigated to the folder containing the movie just hit the Open button and you will be taken to:

Screenshot #2 – Handbrake’s main window

The main window of Handbrake

1. The first time that you run Handbrake there will be a different default conversion preset than what can be viewed on an iPod. The first thing that I did was to change this to the iPod Low-Rez preset. The iPod Hgh-Rez preset will also work, but obviously makes larger videos and on the test runs I did, I really couldn’t tell the difference between the two.

2. So now that I have the iPod Low-Rez preset selected (or the iPod High-Rez if you want the better quality) you can hit the little gears button on the bottom right and then..

3. Select this preset to be the default. Now this is all totally optional, but since I knew that I was mainly converting things for the iPod nano I just set a new default so that I had one less step to do!

4. The next thing that I do is to change the default location and name of the movie. Handbrake makes a pretty good guess as to where to put it and what to name it, but since I’m such a control freak I take over here. You could leave it as is defaults though.

5. The next thing to do is to pick the title off the DVD that you actually want to convert. In most cases this is Title 1, but you can tell by the length of the title.

6. You also have control as to which chapters you would like to convert. For test runs I would choose just the first chapter so that I didn’t have to sit through a two hour conversion to see that I borked it, but in most cases I would just convert all chapters. One advantage would be to skip the credits if you were so inclined I guess.

7. One other completely optional thing is to select the Audio and Subtitles tab and choose the audio streams and whether or not you wanted subtitles (which would be burned in).

Last – Hit the start button and go grab a cocktail!

Screenshot #3 – Audio and Subtitles menu

Handbrake\'s Audio and Subtitles menu

1. You can use this drop down menu to select the audio stream that you want.

2. Here you can select the subtitles that you want. Remember that these will be burned into the pictures and you cannot toggle them off once you select them.

And that’s pretty much it. If you are at this screen just hit the Start button and you’re good to go. I wouldn’t suggest messing with the advanced tab unless you really want fine grain control, and the chance of having to do this multiple times since you tweaked the wrong parameter!

Happy converting!

The main Handbrake website – http://handbrake.fr/

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