Encoding video and DVD for the iPad

So the question is, what’s the best way to get movies and DVDs onto the iPad so you can watch them on the go? I know a lot of people want to go with free tools and there are plenty of them out there, but sometimes you get what you pay for. A lot of those free tools install all sorts of mysterious codecs, haven’t been updated in a year or conflict with your current audio and video drivers. I tried a slew of them and in many cases they have their place, but for the most part I shy away from them.

My conversion tool of choice is the Xilisoft bundle of Video Converter Ultimate and DVD Ripper Ultimate. I got these in a holiday bundle with DVD Creator and Audio Extractor and they have been staples of my movie conversion process.

I wrote quite a while ago that almost all of my DVDs are actually ripped with AnyDVD and CloneDVD. This is to get the files on the drive in either an ISO or a flat file copy of the disk. Once I have them copied I switch over to Xilisoft to convert it to MP4.

Video Converter Ultimate really does convert from anything to anything. You can take an AVI, WMV, FLV or RM (just to name a few) and convert it to whatever you want. For me, that’s MP4. Unlike so many other apps, Xilisoft has plenty of premade profiles for different versions of the iPad as well as iPod, iPhone and Apple TV. I use the standard MPEG format and it works great, but you can squeeze out whatever performance tweaks you want. I’ve never had a movie not play once it’s been converted.

And the process is quite fast. Xilisoft uses all available cores on the machine plus hooks into the video card to make use of CUDA or ATI to speed things along. For a standard TV episode it will take less than 10 minutes to have the file ready. For a full length movie it’ll be done while you have a quick snack.

I also use Video Converter Ultimate to switch from MKV to MP4. My machine seems to have trouble with that format and obviously it won’t play on my iPad. I just drag all the files into the converter, select iPad (MP4) and walk away. It rips through them one after the other until they’re all complete.

Video Converter Ultimate can also be used to repair videos. I’ve had plenty of files where you can’t jump forward. Either the keyframes are missing or the video is damaged somehow. A quick convert and all the problems are gone.

The DVD Ripper Ultimate works in the same way. I can batch process dozens of DVDs at the same time or multiple episodes from a TV series and convert them at the same time. I did this for Dexter not too long ago. I ripped each disk, which is the quicker part, then loaded them all into DVDRipper and let it convert them all one after the other. It just goes down the list and makes an MP4 file out of each one.

Even on my 4-Core AMD machine it goes through them pretty quickly. I’ve even set this to work overnight with dozens of disks I was converting. I set them up Friday night and Saturday morning they were all done. It was a full 15 hour batch job that it completed without any issues.

Another reason free isn’t always the best is that tools like these rely on multithreading and multi-core processing which you don’t always get in free tools. Plus Xilisoft is updated every couple of months so driver updates are maintained and new profiles get added.

I think my total cost was $80 which is just a little more than a standard set of boxed movies. And for the price you can convert everything you have to a digital copy and play it from anywhere. The original goal was to take every DVD and make it available to be streamed through the house, both to my Mac Mini and to the iPad. It’s been working flawlessly. I now have terabytes worth of movie files and I’m adding more all the time. I think this is one of the best software programs I’ve ever bought.

If you play with a lot of media and have DVDs lying around the house, I would highly recommend investing in a copy.

Xilisoft DVD Ripper Ultimate
Xilisoft Video Converter Ultimate
Xilisoft Media Toolkit Ultimate Bundle

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