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I have some old DVDs that I created myself years ago using Adobe Premiere.

They are standard movie-format DVDs which play in any DVD player.

What is the SIMPLEST way to get the video out of the DVDs and into a single big AVI or MP4 file... without having to become an expert on DVD formats, VOB files, etc?

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The simplest way would be to hire someone else to do it for you. – Flimzy Jul 1 '11 at 4:11

Handbrake is a fantastic tool for ripping DVDs, or converting any video format into any other format. I use it to rip my DVDs onto my hard drive for long-term storage, then convert them into something smart-phone friendly and watch TV on the train.

EDIT- removed some text here, as I'm sure the DVDs you made yourself aren't copy protected.

Obligatory screenshot:

Handbrake for Windows

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Don't let the myriad of settings put you off, the presets work just fine. – Cam Jackson Jul 4 '11 at 23:23
On the other hand, Handbrake is a great way to get yourself started in the world of video encoding. I used Handbrake for my first DVD rips, and after about a year of encoding I now feel entirely comfortable with the myriad settings. Altogether, Handbrake makes a great learning experience. – Lukasa Sep 26 '11 at 18:39

you can try AutoGK:

AutoGK screenshot

Although the development is discontinued, it still works fine.

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I'm assuming you're looking for an answer for Windows, although your question doesn't actually say this.

But for Linux, I've had good luck with dvd::rip. It does a good job if your requirements are simple--and it sounds like yours are.

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I wrote VidCoder, an alternative UI for HandBrake that is significantly easier to use. Open it up, click on the DVD, choose your output folder and away you go. You don't need to install HandBrake and it has all of HandBrake's presets.

VidCoder main screen

I switched around the workflow so that all the encoding settings are tucked away in their own window, and you get the queue in the main window: basically what you'd want to focus on when ripping a lot of DVDs with the same settings.

A few little bonuses are that you can pause an encode and you get instant previews of any size changes or cropping that's done.

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