Copying DVDs to the iPad

I love my iPad2 on long flights. Other than during takeoff and landing, I will often have it on the whole time. And while I have lots of “apps” for work and amusement, when it comes right down to it, I watch movies more than anything else while flying.

I could purchase movies from iTunes but, with our moderate DVD collection at home, there’s plenty there worth watching again. The only problem is getting the movie into the iPad2.

So, here’s what I do:

  1. “Rip” the DVD to my Windows PC;
  2. Review, edit and/or delete what was ripped; and finally,
  3. Transfer the movies to the iPad.

Before you ask, yes, this is legal.

We purchased the movies on DVD but it is the movie we bought, not the plastic DVD. We can watch those movies on our big TV, on a Windows PC or on the iPad2. The rules, protections and procedures surrounding DRM (Digital Rights Management) are all about letting you look at what you purchased — without giving or selling it to others, true — but you did purchase the right to watch the movie. So as long as you aren’t giving away or selling copies, you can copy (transfer) the movie to a different media and watch it from there.

That’s what I’m doing. I’m transferring the movie to iPad “media” and watching it there during the flight. Perfectly legal since it’s my copy of the movie.

So, in the first of these three steps, I “rip” (copy, transfer, whatever word you prefer) the movie from DVD to my Windows PC with a program I bought for that purpose, WinX DVD Ripper. There are lots of programs available for doing this. I don’t know how this one stacks up against the others but, for my needs, the capabilities and the price were adequate.

Depending on the DVD and other factors, copying a movie to the PC’s hard drive takes about half the viewing time and consumes from one to nearly two gigabytes. (Yes, you’ll need a lot of free space if you want multiple movies.)

To rip a DVD, I first start WinX and then ready the DVD. WinX will bring up a menu of what’s on the DVD. Generally, I look at the durations and, if it’s over 10 minutes, I rip it. Less than that and it’s a preview or something else I generally don’t care to watch.

I tell WinX that I want the rip’d copy to go to the E:\Common\Personal\Videos\iPad\ folder (my disk has two partitions, C: and E:) and that I want the video output format for “iPad”. After double-checking the settings for which tracks and associated audio I want, I click “Start” and the ripping commences.

I go and do something else while the ripping is in progress. Generally speaking, I don’t do anything else on the PC during this time. I want it to “hurry up and get done” so I don’t distract Windows by trying to surf the net, etc. while ripping is in progress.

As far as the different audio tracks are concerned, these are where you’ll find different languages and also, perhaps, a “director’s” or commentary track. But these are usually not marked with any identification in the WinX list of alternate audio tracks. Instead, you will have to guess.

My practice is to rip everything multiple times but with a different audio track, and then play them back (on the Windows PC) enough to decide which to keep and which to delete. Note that, if you don’t care about these additional audio tracks, you can just ignore the option and WinX will “do the right thing.”

Once ripped, it’s time to review and annotate (or delete) what was ripped. I do all this in iTunes.

Launch it — you don’t need the iPad plugged in yet — and click File -> Add Folder to Library and point to the directory you set earlier in WinX with the rip’d videos.

Then, click “Movies” in the left-hand strip of iTunes. You should then see the list of rip’d movies.

Before starting to review them, first set the iTunes playback to a separate window: View -> Video Playback, checkmark in Separate Window. With this setting, you can watch a small portion of a film but then close that window without causing iTunes to exit.

As you view each video, you can make the keep/delete decision. (Delete is obvious starting with a right-click on the video in iTunes.)

Annotating each (kept) movie will be a real boon after it has been transferred to the iPad. To annotate a movie, right-click it in iTunes and select Get Info. In that view, click the Info tab and change the Name field — this will be displayed in the iPad so make it as telling as possible. “Blues Brothers: Movie” as opposed to “Blues Brothers: Concert”, both of which were on the DVD I ripped (with two selections marked in WinX), will prove to be helpful in the iPad later.

Once you have everything annotated and the unwanted videos deleted, you can transfer what’s left to the iPad.

Plug your iPad into the PC’s USB connector and allow iTunes and your iPad to sync.

Once sync’d, you can select the movies in iTunes and “drag and drop” them to the iPad (also in the left-hand strip). Copying will take a while. You’ll see the progress in the top-middle of the iTunes window. Wait for it to finish.

Once the copy to iPad is complete, you can disconnect the iPad from the Windows PC in the usual way and unplug the USB cable.

On the airplane and after they announce it’s OK to turn on your electronics, the movies are in the “Videos” collection. The annotations previously made in iTunes will help you identify which “Blues Brothers”, movie or concert, you want to watch.

Since airplanes are noisy, I bought some noise-cancelling earphones. In the past, I’ve had over-the-ears versions for maximum effect but, after reading the reviews on the Audio-Technical ATH ANC3WH ear buds, I decided to give them a try. And I will report I’m very pleased with their performance and, with the reduction in carry size, they are a much better option.

Don’t forget to keep your seat belt fastened in case the flight encounters any unexpected turbulence!

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