Creating DVD images

[Editor’s note: The MPAA and most media companies argue that you can’t legally copy or convert commercial DVDs for any reason. We (and others) think that, if you own a DVD, you should be able to override its copy protection to make a backup copy or to convert its content for viewing on other devices. Currently, the law isn’t entirely clear one way or the other. So our advice is: If you don’t own it, don’t do it. If you do own it, think before you rip.]

It seems that our readers can’t get enough information about ripping DVDs. One who wishes to remain anonymous inquires about these discs and their flexible nature.

Is there a software program to take the information on a DVD and put it in a file on your computer that can be played like it was being played directly from the DVD itself?

Yep. How you go about it depends on the kind of DVD you’re talking about.

If you mean a data DVD, you use Disk Utility, which is found inside the Utilities folder inside the Applications folder. Just launch Disk Utility, insert the disc you want to copy, select it in Disk Utility’s list of volumes, and choose File -> New -> Disk Image From “nameofdisc” (which is the name of the disc you’ve selected).

In the Save dialog box that appears, choose DVD/CD Master from the Image Format pop-up menu and None from the Encryption pop-up menu. Click Save and an image of the disc will be created and saved to the Desktop. You can now eject the real disc, double-click the image, and your Mac should treat the image as if it were the real disc.

Should is the operative word here. There are a handful of game discs that won’t respond to this treatment. The idea being that in order to play the game you have to insert the disc before the game runs. Without it, sorry bub, you’ve fallen prey to the game’s “no substitute for the real deal” copy-protection scheme.

If you mean video DVDs, we’ve covered this countless times. There are tools such as HandBrake (in league with VLC) and RipIt for making copies of commercial DVDs. These tools remove the copy-protection and allow you to make archive copies of the DVDs you own (in truth, they also allow you to make archive copies of the DVDs you don’t own, but doing so earns you a one-way ticket to hell).

These tools will also make copies of the unprotected video DVDs you’ve created, but you can use other tools to do the job. The free MPEG Streamclip can import the VOB files from your DVDs and convert them to other formats. Roxio’s $80 Toast Titanium 10 and $50 Popcorn 4 can too.

Or, you can use Disk Utility to create a disk image, as explained earlier. When you do and double-click the image, you’ll see a window that contains a Video_TS and Audio_TS folder. Just launch DVD Player, choose File -> Open DVD Media, navigate to the Video_TS folder, and the interface for the video will appear. Click Play in that interface and the video plays.

Use Google to search for DVD converting utilities and you’ll encounter a rash of tools for doing that job. In many cases, this is the same tool sold under different names. I would avoid them as they’re often advertised via spam, which tells you something about the integrity of their creators.

For more information, see our DVD Ripping FAQ and Ripping Your Unprotected DVDs.

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