A Guide for Ripping TV Shows on DVD

Main contents:

01 : Introduction
02 : Software needed
03 : Ripping
04 : Audio compression and setting up video files
05 : Video compression
06 : Final steps

Extra contents:

07 : Making the process more efficient
08 : Multiple audio streams in one file
09 : Subtitles
10 : Good sources for additional information


TV shows on DVD are a wonderful product that the entertainment industry has offered consumers. It's great to be able to watch old favorites again and again, to see episodes that you never caught on TV, and to enjoy the multitude of extras that generally are included on these DVDs.

However, one limitation with TV shows on DVD is that you have to load the actual DVD to be able to watch. Sure, that sounds like an incredibly trivial matter if you are at home and you have all of your DVDs on a shelf close to your DVD player. But suppose you are going on a business trip and you might want to watch some of the episodes in the hotel on your laptop. Or maybe you'd want to watch on your laptop during a flight. Or maybe during your break at work. In each case, you would have to have all the DVDs that you potentially would want to watch with you.

What this guide will explain is one way to create computer files of the episodes on your DVDs. These files can then be placed on your laptop so that then as long as you have your laptop with you, you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want without needing to have the actual discs with you. What is explained in this guide is certainly not the only way to be able to do this (and perhaps not even the best way for your specific wishes), but it is a way that I think will work quite well for most people.

Note that in the Unites States (and many other countries), ripping DVDs is illegal. Yes, it is protected as fair use to make a personal copy of copyrighted material that you own. But in order to copy the files off of a DVD, you have to circumvent the CSS encryption of the DVD, which is illegal under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998. I find this to be a troublesome restriction on fair use because if you have purchased the DVDs, you should of course be able to watch the property that you have paid for however you want. Yet, the law is the way it is.

Also note that I am in no way condoning piracy of these DVDs here. I can understand how some people might feel that the music industry deserves all of the piracy that it faces for charging $18 for 50 minutes of music. But with DVD season sets of TV shows, $35 for more than eight hours of video, plus all sorts of extras that fans love, is an incredibly sweet deal, and there is no reason not to buy these sets if you enjoy the material that is on them.

And so, with that all stated, here we go...

Software needed

(Note that newer and potentially better versions of this software might be available. This guide was just developed using the versions listed here.)

SmartRipper 2.41
BeSweet 1.4 (the link is part way down the page)
BeSweetGUI 0.6 (this link is similarly part way down the page)
DVD2AVI 1.77.3
VFAPI Reader 1.04
VirtualDub 1.5.10
XviD 1.0.1

You will need to decompress/install all of this software. Make sure that all of the files from BeSweetv1.4.zip are in a directory called "BeSweet" that is in the BeSweetGUI directory. Reboot your system, too.


Put the DVD you want to rip in your DVD drive and start up SmartRipper. If a message comes up about no ASPI-Adapter, you should be able to just ignore it. SmartRipper will try to unlock the files on your DVD. If it fails, quit out of SmartRipper and start playing the DVD with a regular DVD playback program (i.e. PowerDVD, WinDVD, etc.). This should unlock the files. Quit the player and start SmartRipper again. It should load up fine now.

For Rip-Method, select Movie. In Settings (for Movie), make File-Splitting be max-filesize and make max-filesize be, say, 3000 MB (plenty of space for an episode). Have the following four Options checked, but no others: Unlock drive, DeMacrovision, Create Directories, and Fast Error Skip. Back in the main window, under Title - Program Chain - Angle, try to find the episode that you want to rip. SmartRipper should default to the main video clips, and based on the order of those clips and on the time lengths of the clips, you can probably determine which clip you want. Select it.

In the Stream Processing tab, make it so that the only streams that are checked are the video, the main audio that you want, and possibly additional audio (such as for commentary tracks). For each of these streams, select demux to extra file. Then, click on the folder icon at the bottom of the window. Select where you want to save (probably the root of a drive) and type a name to be included in the names of the created files (probably no spaces in this name). (Make sure that if you are ripping multiple episodes from the same DVD, that you change this name before each rip.) Okay, you should be set then. Click Start and rip away.

Audio compression and setting up video files

Open up BeSweet GUI and use the wizard. Using Windows Explorer, find the folder where all your ripped files went, and drag and drop the audio track(s) onto BeSweet's window. Next. Select MP3. Next. Select 96 and no FRC presets. Next. More Options. MP3 tab. Select cbr and have Add Error Protection be checked. Output tab. You'll want only four boxes checked -- LFE To LR channels: -3db, Dynamic Compression: Normal, Normalize to: 100%, and HybridGain (in OTA). Setting the sampling rate should not be checked. Close. And finally select Go to compress the files. (I think CBR mp3's are just easier for compatibility and such, and I think 96kbps is quite acceptable for TV show quality sound.)

Open up DVD2AVI. Hit F3 (open). Find and open the video file you ripped. Click OK. Hit F4 (save project). Type in a name and save. Open up VFAPI Reader. Click Add Job. Find the .d2v file you just created with DVD2AVI. Open it. Click OK. Click Convert.

Video compression

Compressing the video is the most computationally intensive portion of this process and can take some time to be completed. It also is where you (essentially) decide the size and quality of your final file. What I will recommend here is having the video of a standard 23 minute TV show be compressed to a size of 74000 kilobytes, which, when you add in the audio and overhead, will result in a final file size of about 89 MB. I provide some discussion about compression at this level and why I recommend it below.

Open up VirtualDub. Click Open Video File in the File menu and find the file created by VFAPI Reader. Open it. Click on the Audio menu and select No Audio. Go to Video, Filters and select Add. Select deinterlace then OK for Blend fields together. Select Add again. Select resize. Leave the dimensions at 320x240 but change the Filter mode to Precise bicubic (A=-1.00) and click OK. (Make sure that deinterlace is the first listed filter. Also, if you are getting large black bars in your final video file, you should add the crop filter as well. There are other guides that do a good job of explaining how to use the crop filter. It generally does not seem to be needed with TV shows, though.) Click OK again.

Go to Video, Compression. Select XviD and Click Configure. The default settings are generally good. The Profile @ Level should be AS @ L5. Click more. Make it so that Packed bitstream is unchecked. Click OK. If you are compressing a cartoon, Select Advanced Options and have Cartoon Mode be checked. If you are not compressing a cartoon, make sure that Cartoon Mode is not checked. In the main XviD Configuration window, choose Twopass - 1st pass for Encoding type. Click OK and then OK again. Hit F7 (save as AVI). Check the Don't run this job now... box. Give the file a name and Save.

Now go back to Video, Compression, Configure. Select Twopass - 2nd pass for Encoding type. Enter your Target size or Target bitrate (click the button to switch between size and bitrate). Here is where you would put in that size of 74000 for a 23 minute video file. A bitrate of 440 would give about that same video quality for files of different lengths. Click OK and again OK. Hit F7. Check the Don't run this job now... box again and click Save. Hit F4 (job control) and begin the compression by clicking Start. When the compression finishes (which might not be for a while), you can exit out of VirtualDub.

Final steps

Open up VirtualDubMod. File, Open Video File and open the compressed video file that you just created. If you see a warning about BFrame Decoder, just ignore it. Go to Streams, Stream list. Select Add. Open the compressed audio file that you created. Click OK. Under Video, select Direct stream copy. Hit F7 (save as). Type in the final name that you want for your video file. Uncheck the Don't run this job now... box and click Save. If you have other audio tracks, go back to Streams, Stream list. Delete the current stream and Add the next stream. Follow the steps as before to save the file.

And that is it! Your new file(s) should be ready to play away on your laptop. If you created the file(s) on a different computer than your laptop, you will need to install XviD on the laptop as well for playing. Then, load up Winamp or Windows Media Player or many other media players and enjoy!

Making the process more efficient

If you are planning on ripping more than one episode, and particularly if you are planning on ripping multiple episodes from the same disc, there are some steps you can take to make the ripping/file creation process more efficient. It might not be a bad idea to follow the process described above for a single-episode rip once or twice just to make sure that everything works okay, but once you have the hang of it, I would suggest following some of the tips mentioned here.

If you are ripping more than two episodes from the same disc, I would recommend making a duplicate of the entire disc on your hard drive before taking out the individual episodes. To do this, in SmartRipper, choose Backup as your Rip-Method. Then click Start and find something else to do while it rips. When SmartRipper finishes, click the folder icon at the top right of the main window and find the folder that SmartRipper just created. Switch the Rip-Method back to Movie and then just follow the ripping steps from above, for each episode that you want. The reason for duplicating the disc first is that the episodes can be ripped out of the hard drive duplicate much more quickly than they can be ripped off of the original disc.

With BeSweet it is possible to conduct batch processing of a large number of audio files that will all be compressed in the same way. If you have several audio files that you have ripped from your DVDs, just drag all of them onto the opening screen of BeSweet and then proceed according to the steps above. The compressed audio files will be created without any more input being needed from you. Unfortunately, with DVD2AVI there is not any sort of batch processing, but with VFAPI Reader, you can add several jobs before clicking Convert.

Recall that in the VirtualDub steps above, we added both the 1st pass and the 2nd pass to job control and then ran those passes in batch mode from the Job Control window. With VirtualDub, we could actually add a long list of items to job control to then all be run from the Job Control Window. If you are compressing muliple video files, you can go through all the steps above for the first file up until you have added both passes to job control. Then, rather than hitting F4, select Open to start over with a new video file. Now go through the steps with this new file. Keep doing this for all the video files that you want to compress. When you finish, hit F4 and then click Start. All of your compressed video files will now be created without any more input being needed from you. It's probably best to start this process before you go to bed or before work, as it could take a potentially very long time.

Another way to make using VirtualDub be more efficient is to make use of the ability to save processing settings. If you have several files that you want to compress using the same settings, first set up one of them (with the filters, compression settings, and no audio) and select Save processing settings from the File menu. Then add both passes to job control. If you open the next file and select Load processing settings, the settings that were saved with the previous file will be put in place with this file, and you will not have to manually set them. You will still need to go into the compression settings to switch between the first and second passes, but you will not need to take time with the other settings.

Note that job control can be used for batch processing with VirtualDubMod as well.

Multiple audio streams in one file

Something that many people might be inclined to try to do, particularly with DVD sets such as The Simpsons that include great audio commentaries, is to put mutliple audio streams in a single file. In fact, this is one of the main things that I was interested in when I was first trying to figure out how to rip TV shows on DVD. There is a good guide for doing so here. It appears that VirtualDubMod has the functionality to add multiple audio streams as well so that it can be used instead of Nandub for this.

While files with multiple audio streams are supported by many players and while there are plugins to add multiple audio stream functionality to other players, having these streams does decrease how portable the files will be. With my preferred method for video playback (which, admittedly, is rather customized), I actually could not quite get playback of these files to be convenient for me. If you ever purchase a portable digital video player, such files might not be supported by it as well. As such, what I would mildly suggest is having multiple files, each with its own audio stream, rather than one file with all the streams. This, of course, will use up more hard drive space because you will end up with duplicate copies of the video portions of the episodes. However, in my humble opinion, it is worth it for the portability, but it depends on what exactly your wishes are.


With some TV shows on DVD, such as Seinfeld with its Notes About Nothing, you might find it valuable to be able to encode subtitles into the video. The software needed to do this is VobSub. After you install it, you can run VobSub Configure to extract the subtitles that you want. Click Open. Now browse for your DVD (or, even better, if you have made a duplicate of the DVD on your hard drive, browse for it). You'll want the VIDEO_TS directory. Change the "Files of type" to be .ifo, and you should see several .ifo files. The one that you will want to open will have the same number as the title that you ripped from in SmartRipper had (for example, Title 3 in SmartRipper would imply something like VTS_03_0.IFO).

Now browse for a folder to save to (probably the folder that your other ripped files are in). Select the program chain (which will be the same program chain that you ripped from in SmartRipper) and make it so that the top right box only contains the subtitle(s) that you want. Clicking OK will start the subtitle extraction. When finished, click OK and then OK again.

When you are compressing the video, to include the subtitles, you will need to add the VobSub filter. It should be in VirualDub's Add Filter list. Choose it from the list, then open the subtitles file, then select the subtitles you want from the top middle box of the Filter: VobSub window. Click OK and then when you compress the video, the subtitles should be included in the file.

Good sources for additional information

Digital Digest

Discussion about video compression

With compression at the level mentioned above, you will not have flawless video. There will be some subtle artifacts that you will be able to notice when watching. However, in order for a video file to not have any such artifacts, it would most likely need to be at least twice this size, and you will start to run out of hard drive space pretty quickly if you are copying many, many episodes from all your DVDs at such a level.

Alternatively, you might consider creating smaller video files. Compressing to a size of 42000 kilobytes will actually give you somewhat decent quality video, although there will be many more artifacts than with a size of 74000 kilobytes.

74000 kilobytes is a compromise between quality and size whose exact value was chosen for a somewhat unrelated reason -- burning backups to DVD-R -- that seemed worth considering when deciding on the compromise. Generally, half hour TV shows do not have more than 25 episodes in a season. With these DVD sets, it is often the case that you will want two final files for each episode -- one of the regular episode and one of the episode with extras like informational subtitles and commentaries. 50 files of 89 MB will just barely fit on one DVD-R (there will be about 70 MB of space left). So, video compression to a size of 74000 kilobytes should make it so that you will be able to backup each complete season that you rip to a single DVD-R, and hence why this exact level is recommended for the compromise.

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