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I'd like to rip my DVD collection both to free up some shelf space in my living room. I have a PC hooked up to my television, but it has very little disk space, so I'd like something I can view over my (wireless) network. Am I best off going with copying the VIDEO_TS folder or converting to AVI files or MPEG4? If I convert to MPEG, what is the minimum resolution I should use?

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Copying the VIDEO_TS folder means you copy the entire MPEG-2 coded video from your DVD to your hard drive. MPEG-2 is old. It takes quite a lot of space. So that's really the one thing you probably shouldn't do if you care about hard drive space.

Which codec? DVD ripping software exists abundantly. Converting to MPEG-4 gives you two options:

  • MPEG-4 Part 2, this is what's best known through the "XviD" or "DivX" codecs. It's not the latest and greatest, but it gets the job done and offers greater compatibility with legacy devices. Plus, you can burn them as raw files onto a DVD and watch them on any recent DVD player.
  • MPEG-4 Part 10 (also AVC or h.264), this currently offers the best file size vs. quality ratio. It takes a while to encode, but it definitely pays off. You can save quite a lot of space in comparison to, for example XviD.

Which software? As always, if you want to rip DVDs to either MPEG-4 Part 2 or h.264, I suggest the famous Handbrake, free, open source, cross-platform. With h.264 selected, you can choose to rip your video as .MP4 or .MKV container. Choose whatever you like better. MKV is the most widely used container these days for h.264 video.

Settings: When encoding, you need to play with the settings. Encoding takes time, and you might want to start out with the presets ("High Profile", which offers the best quality).

Resolution: What resolution you use will depend on your TV. Remember though that video DVDs offer a maximum resolution of 720 × 576. There's no "magic conversion" that will provide you with a 1080p video from a DVD. Just go with the native resolution and don't scale the video. It will hurt your quality, because you're re-encoding an already-encoded video when you're ripping it.

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