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DVD to iPad: How to Copy Movies For Playback on iPad

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The iPad screen is perfect for viewing movies, but why did Apple make it so difficult to import your movies? (Okay, the answer is obvious: to make you buy movies from iTunes!) James Kelly takes away the complexity and shows you how to easily convert your DVDs to digital files that are fully compatible with the iPad with no software purchases required!

The iPad comes with a minimum of 16GB of storage space—plenty of room for a user's music collection, numerous apps, and photos galore. And if you're lucky enough to own a 32GB or 64GB version of the iPad, you've got even more room. Since the iPad's release, owners of the device have always had the ability to view YouTube videos, and purchase movies and TV shows from iTunes. The iPad has an outstanding viewing screen that's bright, vivid, and doesn't give you eye strain from squinting.

Given that the iPad lacks a DVD drive or a USB port for uploading files, there does seem to be one big question, however, if you want to watch DVD movies you already own: How do you get your existing video collection onto the iPad? (And when I use the term DVD movies, I'm referring to any video content that you have on DVD, including home movies, television series, and so on… I'll just use the term movies to keep it simple.)

There are third-party apps that allow you to do this—one of the most popular ones right now is AirVideo. First, you use third-party software to rip (convert) your DVDs to files that are stored on a computer in your home. Then, after purchasing and installing the AirVideo app on your iPad (and a matching application on your home computer—the home computer software is free, by the way), you log in with a username and password, and AirVideo connects to your home computer via the Internet and plays a movie on your iPad screen. The movie isn't actually stored on your iPad, so it takes up no storage space—a nice benefit to using AirVideo.

But AirVideo does require an Internet connection, so if your iPad isn't finding a WiFi signal (or 3G signal) at a particular location, there'll be no movie watching for you.

The quality of the image is also an issue—when you rip your DVDs, often the software reduces the image quality to save on file size. If you override it and rip the DVD with the highest quality, AirVideo can often stutter and pause as it downloads the large video over a WiFi or 3G connection.

AirVideo is nice, and I've used it for a while…but no more. I've now found a much better way to watch my movies with almost no loss of quality and absolutely no pausing/stuttering of the image.

This process isn't any big secret—the steps to do it can be found all over the Internet. But it's a multipart process, and much of the online explanations are either overly technical or not complete. The rest of this article details the process for Windows users. If you are a Mac user, it's an even easier process that does not require the first step of using DVD Shrink, so just watch for the note in a few paragraphs that explains what you need to do.

The process I'm going to describe in this article uses two pieces of software that run on Microsoft Windows. I'll talk about this specifically later in the article and what Mac users can use as a substitute.

A standard 2-hour DVD movie (not Blu-Ray) takes more than 3.5GB of storage space. The process I'll describe helps reduce that size quite a bit without losing quality, but even after following these steps, you'll still find a 2-hour DVD movie reduced to somewhere around 0.75GB to 1GB in size. For those owners of a 16GB iPad, you may find you only have enough storage space left for 5 to 10 movies at best if you don't wish to delete photos, music, or apps.

The steps I'm describing in this article are for converting DVD movies that you own—let's not violate any laws here by ripping movies that you've borrowed or rented. Digital copyright laws are fairly strict and I do not believe in piracy. So please… if you choose to follow these steps, stay legal and only convert DVD movies that you own. Okay, I'm off my soapbox.

Convert a DVD to a Digital File

The first step is converting a DVD movie to a collection of files that will be stored on a computer's hard drive. For this step, I'll be using a free application called DVD Shrink as seen at http://www.dvdshrink.org/ (see Figure 1).

After downloading the application, double-click the setup file and follow the instructions to install DVD Shrink. After the application is installed, double-click the icon (or select it from your Programs listing) and run DVD Shrink. When the application opens, a screen like the one shown in Figure 2 appears.

Insert a DVD movie into your DVD drive. If your DVD Player software runs, close it down. After the DVD movie is inserted, click the Re-Author button on the toolbar and double-click the drive letter under the DVD Browser tab, as seen in Figure 3.

After double-clicking the drive letter (in my walkthrough, the drive letter is E:), a listing under the DVD Browser tab appears showing the various components that make up the DVD movie. Expand the window a bit so you can see the Size column for each component, as shown in Figure 3.

Click a component to view it in the Preview window in the lower-left corner of the screen. Most likely the movie will be the largest file in the Main Movie category. In Figure 4, it's the 4,362MB file named Title 1.

Click the component(s) you wish to convert for viewing on your iPad and drag it into the middle left part of the screen under the DVD Structure section. A window like the one in Figure 5 pops up as it's scanning the movie. Just let it run until it's completed.

After the scan is complete, the movie appears under the DVD Structure window as seen in Figure 6.

Next, click the Backup button. A screen appears like the one shown in Figure 7.

Use the Browse button to create a folder on your hard drive where you want to store the temporary backup files. I've created a folder titled DVDtoiPadWalkthrough on my C: drive. (Later, after you've converted your movie to the .m4v format and transferred the file to your iPad, you can delete the two folders created in the Backup process—VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS.)

Save the backup files to the folder you created (again, in my example it is c:\DVDtoiPadWalkthrough). Click the OK button to start the backup process and you're 33% done.

An Encoding screen like the one shown in Figure 8 appears—this could take a while depending on the length of the movie you're converting.

When the Encoding process is done, take a look in the folder you created, and you'll see two new folders titled VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS as shown in Figure 9. These are the backup files that contain the video and audio of the movie you are converting.

Remember the location of these two folders, especially the VIDEO_TS folder. You'll be using that folder in the next part of the process.

Feel free to remove the DVD and close down DVD Shrink. Next, I'll show you how to use the files created by DVD Shrink to create a single file that will be playable on your iPad.

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