Creating DVD Excerpts on Mac OS X

This tutorial was current as of July 28, 2010. Please take the time to leave feedback, corrections, and suggestions in the comments at the end of the page.

What’s the Catch?

The tools and methods described here for utilizing copyrighted material under the doctrine fair use doctrine can just as easily be used for illegal violation of copyright. Know that the law is changing, that technology is changing, and that how the two go together isn’t always clear. When in doubt, ask your legal department. You can find additional resources relevant to the University of Texas at Austin and its policies elsewhere on this blog.

How?

There are many programs available for “ripping” DVD video. I recommend HandBrake, which is free to download, and runs on Mac and Windows.

What follow are directions for using HandBrake to extract excerpts from DVDs on Mac OS X. DVD ripping is equally possible on Windows or Linux, but the exact steps and programs will be different.

What Do I Need?

For the process outlined below, you will need:

  • An Apple computer with a DVD drive running Mac OS X version 10.5 or newer
    Do I already have it?
    Click the  in the upper left corner of the menu bar.Click “About This Mac”.
    A small panel should appear that lists a version number of the form “#.#.#”.
    The first number should be “10”, the second greater than 4.

    “About this Mac”

    Where can I get it?
    All new Apple computers ships with the latest version of Mac OS X. If you are using an older Mac, upgrades are available. It is probably best to contact your IT department.
  • QuickTime Player version 10.0 or newer
    Do I already have it?
    Click the Finder icon in the Dock at the bottom of the screen to open a new window.Select “Applications” from sidebar on the left.
    Make sure that “QuickTime Player” is found in the Applications folder, and double click it to launch it.
    Once the application loads, click “QuickTime Player” → “About QuickTime Player”.
    A panel should appear listing version 10.0 or newer.

    “About QuickTime”

    Where can I get it?
    QuickTime Player is available for free from Apple at http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/.
    You can also install QuickTime by updating your mac: Open the  menu and click “Software Update…”
  • The DVD Player application
    Do I already have it?
    All recent Apple computers with DVD drives ship with DVD Player installed. You can find it in your Applications folder.
    Where can I get it?
    The DVD Player applications comes pre-installed with Apple OS X.

    DVD Player icon

  • HandBrake version 0.9.4 or newer
    Do I already have it?
    HandBrake does not come pre-installed on new Mac computers. If you have already installed it, you should find an icon like the below in your Applications folder:

    Handbrake icon

    Where can I get it?
    HandBrake is available on the HandBrake project homepage: http://handbrake.fr. Open the “Download” page and choose the download that is right for your system. Newer Macs with Intel processors require the 64-bit version. Older Intel Macs may require the 32-bit Intel version. Macs with PowerPC processors require the PPC version. Ask your tech if you are unsure about which version you need.
    When the download is complete, you will find a disk image (.dmg) file in your downloads folder. Double click to open it.
    A Finder window should appear with a HandBrake application icon. Drag this icon to your Applications folder to install.
    Eject the disk image by dragging it from your desktop to the Trash.

    “Handbrake” → “About Handbrake”

    Note that to use Handbrake you will need to install VLC (see below) first.

  • VLC Player version 1.1.1 or later
    Do I already have it?
    VLC does not come pre-installed with Mac OS X.

    About VLC

    Where can I get it?
    VLC is available for free online at http://www.videolan.org/vlc/. The application can be installed in the same way as Handbrake: drag the VLC icon to your Applications folder.
  • Sufficient hard drive space to store video files, no less than 1GB recommended
    Do I already have it?
    It depends on how much video you’ll be ripping and how much of your hard drive’s capacity is already filled by other files. No less than 1GB of free space is recommended.
    Where can I get it?
    Click the hard disk icon on your desktop.From the menu bar, select “File Menu” → “Get Info”.
    A small window will appear with information on your hard disk.

    “Get Info” for a Mac hard drive

    In the general section in the “Available” section you will see how much free storage space you have left on that drive. It should be at least 1GB.
    If you are running out of space, you may need to delete unused or outdated files to make space. If you are using a school computer, my first recommendation is to contact your IT department. They’ll know what to do.

An Overview of the Process

Video data is stored on DVD discs in sections called “titles”, which are further subdivided into “chapters”. If you have ever used a scene selection menu on a DVD, or used the chapter forward or back buttons on a DVD player remote, you already have some idea of how DVDs are divided into sections.

In order to extract a specific portion of a DVD, we need to know which part of the DVD — in which title and in which chapter (or which range of chapters) — that portion appears. To find this information, we will watch the video in DVD Player and note the title and chapters at the beginning and end of the section that we want to extract. This information will be used by Handbrake to determine which parts of the DVD — as opposed to the whole disc — need to be ripped, saving us a great deal of hard drive space (possibly gigabytes) and time (possibly the better part of an hour) when ripping the video.

Once we have our title and chapter information, we will configure Handbrake to extract the video in a high-quality format that QuickTime, Apple’s video playback software, understands and can trim. Once we have ripped the section of the DVD that we want to a video file on our computer, we will open it up in QuickTime and trim away excess footage at the beginning and end, leaving only the exact portion that is needed.

A Quick Guide to Technical Terms

to rip (video, audio, a disc)
To copy from a disc, such as a DVD or audio CD, to your computer’s hard drive. This process involves both reading data from the disc, converting it to a format that desktop computer programs understand, and writing a file with the converted movie data to your computer’s hard disk.
title (of a DVD)
A major section of DVD video. Typically DVDs contain separate titles for episodes of television a series or other thematically complete units.
chapter (of a DVD)
A minor section of DVD video; a subsection of a title. Chapters typically contain a scene or act. DVDs often include a menu (often called the “scene selection” menu) that allows the viewer to choose a chapter to skip to when playing the DVD on their televisions. Most DVD player remote controls also include buttons for skipping back or ahead a chapter.

Step By Step

Find the Title, Chapter, and Offset Positions of Your Excerpt’s Start and End Points

  1. Insert the DVD into your computer’s DVD drive.
  2. Once the DVD loads, open the DVD Player application. This may happen automatically, or you may be asked if you want to watch the DVD when you insert it.
    If the application does not launch automatically, open the Applications folder in Finder and double click the DVD Player icon.

    DVD Player icon

  3. If the DVD plays automatically in full screen, press the Escape key to enter windowed playback mode.
  4. Find the starting point of the scene you want to extract in DVD Player. Find the scene any way you like: by using the DVD’s scene selection menu, the forward and back buttons of the DVD Player application, or by using the application’s menu.

    A standard DVD chapter selection menu.

    If you know which scene the clip you need appears in, try selecting that scene from the DVD’s chapter menu and then using the DVD Player applications finer-grain controls to find exactly the part you want.

    The remote in DVD Player windowed playback mode

    The seek bar displayed below the video in DVD Player. The Length of the track represents the full length of the DVD title (in this case, 1 hour and 14 minutes), not the length of the current chapter. Click anywhere on the track to skip to that location.

  5. Note the title, chapter, and chapter offset time at the starting point.
    1. Open the “Go” menu, and look in the “Title” submenu.
      Note the title number with the ✓ check mark beside it.

      Finding the current title in DVD Player's menu

    2. Open the “Go” menu, and look in the “Chapter” sub-menu.
      Note the chapter number with the ✓ check mark beside it.

      Using the menu to find the current chapter in DVD Player

    3. Note the chapter time offset on the DVD Player remote control. If the title time offset is displayed instead, click “CHAPTER” on the LCD-style display.

      DVD Player windowed mode remote showing time offset from the start of the current chapter. This will prove useful later.

  6. Repeat the above process to find the chapter and chapter offset of the endpoint of the video excerpt you wish to extract (the title should be the same).It is very unlikely that you’ll need to jump between DVD titles for a single clip, and this tutorial doesn’t cover it.
  7. At the end of the process, you should have a title number, a chapter number, and a chapter offset (HH:MM:SS) for both the start and end points of your clip. Note that for many clips, it is common for the title and chapter numbers for the start and end points to be the same.
  8. Quit the DVD Player application.

Launch and Configure Handbrake

  1. Launch Handbrake

    Handbrake icon

  2. Select the DVD as the input source. You DVD will most likely have a different name, but will appear as a disc.

    Selecting a DVD as the input source in Handbrake

  3. Set the source and output settings.
    1. Select the proper title from the drop-down box.
    2. Select the chapter of your start point for the beginning chapter, and the chapter for your end point as the ending chapter (“through”). These will very often be the same for shorter excerpts.
    3. Click the “Browse…” button to choose a place to save your video clip.

    Handbrake input and output settings

  4. Select the proper video settings.
    1. From the “Format” drop-down, select “MP4 File”.
    2. For “Video Codec”, select “MPEG-4 (FFmpeg)”.
    3. Under “Quality”, select “Constant Quality” and move the slider all the way to the right (100%).

    Configuring video encoding in Handbrake

  5. Select the proper audio settings.
    1. For “Track 1”, select the desired audio track. If you are not sure which track you want, use the track that is chosen automatically. If your disc has audio in multiple languages, make sure that you’ve chosen the audio that you want to present.
      Typically, multilingual audio tracks will appear annotated with the relevant language in the drop-down menu, as in the picture below.

      A Russian-language audio track selected in Handbrake

      If your disc has multiple audio tracks in the same language, you will likely want the track with (2.0 ch) in the title, which indicates stereo sound, as opposed to (5.1 ch) or (2.1 ch), which indicate sound tracks for various surround sound systems that is of little use on most classroom multimedia systems.

    2. For the “Audio Codec” of “Track 1”, choose “AAC (Core Audio)”.
    3. For the “Mixdown” of “Track 1”, choose “Stereo”.
    4. The “Source” setting of “Track 2” should be “None”.
    5. Double check your settings against those pictured below.
      Note that the name of the track you’ve selected may not exactly match the one pictured below.

    Configuring audio ripping in Handbrake

  6. Select the proper subtitle settings. If your disc includes subtitles and you want to include them in your video clip, you’ll need to configure them here.
    Note that unlike a DVD cued up in a standard DVD player, you won’t be able to change whether subtitles are displayed once you’ve created your except clip. Note also that some DVDs, and especially VHS-to-DVD releases of foreign films like the copy of War and Peace used in this tutorial, have subtitles that are drawn on the frames of the picture, and hence can’t be disabled.

    Configuring subtitle ripping in Handbrake

    Other films may have multiple subtitle tracks, in which case you may use no subtitles (“none”), or one of the tracks labeled by language:

    Selecting Russian-language subtitles in Handbrake

    Selecting English-language subtitles in Handbrake

  7. Click the green “Start” button to begin ripping. Handbrake will show a progress bar and estimated time remaining (ETA) at the bottom of the window.
    You can continue to use other programs that don’t require the DVD drive while Handbrake is working, but be careful not to bump your computer tower or jostle your notebook while the disc is spinning. As some parts of Handbrake’s work require significant system resources, I recommend that you take a break from the computer and allow the process to finish.

    Handbrake shows a progress bar at the bottom of its window while ripping

  8. When the process is complete, Handbrake will show a pop-up message.

    Ripping completion message in Handbrake

  9. You should find that Handbrake has created a video file in the place that you specified.

Trim our video clip in QuickTime

  1. Open the clip created by Handbrake in QuickTime. If double-clicking the video file’s icon does not open it in QuickTime automatically, try opening QuickTime and dragging the file to QuickTime’s icon in the dock.

    QuickTime 10 icon

    Your video should appear as below.

    The video file opened in QuickTime 10

  2. Trim the end of the clip. We can use the chapter time noted before if and only if the entire clip is in one chapter.
    1. Select “Edit” → “Trim” from the menu to begin trimming the clip.

      Finding the trim menu item in QuickTime

    2. Yellow handles will appear at the beginning and end of the seek bar.

      Using the trim feature of Apple QuickTime

    3. Drag the yellow handle on the right side of the seek bar to trim off the section of video after the endpoint of the excerpt you need. The time offset will appear above the handle as you drag it, and the video player will show a frame from the point where the handle is located on the seek bar.

      Trimming off the end of a film clip in QuickTime

    4. Release the trim handle and click the yellow “TRIM” button to trim the end of the clip.
  3. Repeating the process above for the beginning of the clip, trim away excess video before your excerpt.

    Trimming the beginning of a film clip in QuickTime

  4. Choose “File” → “Save As…” from the menu to save your trimmed clip.
  5. In the save dialog, choose the format “Movie”

    The QuickTime Save dialog box

  6. QuickTime may take up to a few minutes to save your clip, depending on its size.

    Saving the edited video in QuickTime

  7. Your video clip is now ready for playback on any computer with QuickTime installed, Windows or Mac, as well as for embedding in presentations.

A Few Notes on File Sizes

Video files, by their nature, are some of the largest files that you are likely to use on computer. The Handbrake settings described above are designed to balance ripping speed and output quality, and produce video clip files that are close to the quality of DVD played directly from disc.
I recommend that you delete the files created by Handbrake (but not the files exported from QuickTime) just as soon as you as sure that you’ve trimmed your clip correctly.

Next Steps

For a companion tutorial on using video clips in Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, see this post’s companion piece on video embedding.

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2 Responses to Creating DVD Excerpts on Mac OS X

  1. Aaron M says:

    Excellent work, and still useful. The process for getting libdvdcss is now a bit more complex, I had to compile it, but everything else works the same

  2. max says:

    Awesome tutorial. Extremely helpful and valuable. Thanks!

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