How to Use Handbrake in Mac OS X

Apple’s range of portable video media devices has expanded massively over the last few years. The iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad all feature powerful video playing capabilities, while the Apple TV allows you to watch iTunes content via your television. The iTunes Store features a wide range of video content to purchase and download, but sometimes you want to add video to your iTunes Library from other sources, such as your DVD collection or digital video files in unsupported formats.

This is where Handbrake comes in. This powerful freeware Mac OS X application allows you to convert video from DVDs and a comprehensive range of digital formats into a media file that you can then transfer to your portable Apple device. In this article, we’ll take you step by step through using handbrake to prepare video material either from a DVD or another digital file so that it will play on any Apple product.

Using Handbrake to Convert a DVD to a Video File

Firstly, we should note that Handbrake does not possess the ability to convert material from a commercial encrypted DVD without the free VLC video player also being installed in your Applications folder. Once both programs are on your Mac, follow these steps to create a video file from one of your DVDs:

1.) Insert the DVD. If the OS X DVD Player is set to begin automatically upon insertion of a DVD disc, you will need to Quit that application (⌘-Q).

2.) Open Handbrake by clicking on it in your Applications folder. You will be presented with a screen like this:

Handbrake application screen when first opened.png

3.) Navigate to the DVD using the Finder Sidebar, click on the VIDEO_TS folder on the DVD and click on Open:

Using the Handbrake Source Menu to Navigate to a DVD Folder.png

4.) Handbrake will scan the DVD to find video files that are present. Usually it will default to selecting the longest file in the assumption that it is the main feature. You can use the Title drop-down menu in the Source section to choose individual movie files such as DVD extras, or you can elect to convert individual Chapters of a film. In this example, we have chosen to convert the music video that is included as an extra on this DVD:

Using the Handbrake Title Menu to select a Movie File.png

5.) Handbrake can convert DVD files to a multitude of video formats. Helpfully, the developers have included a selection of Presets configured to give the optimum results for Apple devices. These can be accessed by clicking on the Toggle Presets button on the top right of the interface. In this example, we have chosen the ‘Apple Universal’ Preset:

Selecting a Preset in Handbrake.png

6.) You can rename the resulting file and choose its destination on your hard drive by clicking and typing in the Destination field:

Renaming a video file in Handbrake.png

7.) To begin converting to your selected format, press Start in the top left of the interface. Handbrake will begin the conversion process. Depending on the length of the original video, the chosen Preset and the power of your CPU, this process may take some time to complete. The modern Intel range of processors in Macs dating from the last few years are far quicker at video conversion than earlier models, and any CPU from a Core 2 Duo on will handle the process with ease.

You can Stop or Pause the conversion at any time. When the process is complete, Handbrake will present you with this pop-up window:

The Encoding Complete window in Handbrake.png

8.) The resulting Apple-compatible video file is waiting on our Desktop, ready to be dragged-and-dropped into our iTunes Library and transferred to a portable device:

Handbrake Encoded Video File on OS X Desktop.png

9.) Handbrake can batch-process several video files in one go if you for instance want to convert several features from a single DVD. At step 7 in the process above, press Add to Queue and repeat steps 3-7 for each file you wish to convert, then click Start. The Queue window will open to show you all of your selected files:

Handbrake Queue Window.png

10.) For advanced users, Handbrake features a plethora of options for you to tweak:

Handbrake Settings Window.png

When you are first starting out with Handbrake, though, we recommend sticking with the in-built Presets.

How to Convert Video Files from One Format to Another with Handbrake

Handbrake can also be used on a wide variety of pre-existing digital video files to convert them into an Apple-compatible format. To convert a file, simply navigate to it using the Source Dialog Box as you would a DVD’s VIDEO_TS folder and press Open:

Navigating to a file on your Hard Drive in Handbrake.png

Then proceed to follow steps 4 to 8 as outlined above to convert the file.

Handbrake is an essential tool for any movie fan using a Mac and portable Apple players to enjoy their video content. Make it a part of your Applications folder today.

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