A few months ago I noticed that my DVD collection had grown to about 40 or so titles, which isn’t a lot but it’s not ‘just a few’ either. I also noticed that I rarely watch the DVDs, which violates my minimalist principles. Why not, I asked? No immediate answer occurred to me and the thought escaped (although it was a thought that seemed to recur periodically).
The other day I rented a couple of DVDs from the local Blockbuster. It was a Friday night and Becky and I were staying in. I picked two movies that were clearly distinct. So we watched one, which turned out not to be so great. The other one, which was about Bob Dylan, was one I really wanted to watch. But I knew the reality: I would never watch it within the 1 week deadline.
What a waste of money and effort.
But then I remembered that I had a computer program called Handbrake (free, open source program for Windows, Mac, or Linux). Handbrake allows you to ‘rip’ (i.e. copy) DVDs. Is this legal to do for a Blockbuster video? Perhaps not, but this is not a post about what’s legal. This is a post about how to make your life easier.
So I ripped the DVD to my hard drive (where it took up 1.5 GBs of ‘space’) and returned it to Blockbuster. I didn’t want to watch it on my computer so I imported it into iTunes, which is set to automatically sync to my AppleTV (which is connected the sleek flat panel TV in the bedroom). Now I was ready to enjoy my movie. Sure enough, halfway through watching it, the phone rang and I had to abandon my viewing. But a few days later I finished watching the movie without fanfare. That’s when I realized why I never watched my DVDs.
Watching DVDs is a huge PAIN IN THE ASS!!!
If you own an AppleTV then you know what I’m talking about already. On the AppleTV you just call up the video you want to watch. If you get interrupted you pause. If someone else comes along and watches something else in the meantime you can still go back to your movie and it will remember where you are. There are some DRM issues with the AppleTV that I’m not going to get into because this isn’t a post about DRM. It’s a post about ripping DVDs to make your life more convenient.
When I ripped the Bob Dylan movie (“I’m not there“) the only thing that got extracted was the movie itself. The FBI warning intro (the one that can’t be fast forwarded through) was gone. So were all the annoying previews. All that was left was the movie itself, and the chapter markers. So I went from a physical DVD with 4.6 GBs of information, to something that took up no space and had only 1.5 GBs of information.
Ripping the movie took about 1.5 hours, but it wasn’t a process that I had to administer so it was only mildly inconvenient. Actually watching a DVD the way the manufacturer envisions it is vastly more inconvenient. And that, my friends, is why we never watch our DVDs, even though we allow them to take up space in our homes.
So, guess what I’ve been doing with those DVDs that were on my shelf?
Yep, I’m ripping them to the newly installed 1 Terrabyte hard drive on my MacPro desktop computer. And when I’m done I’ll give away the DVDs or donate them to some charitable institution. Incidentally, I deleted the Dylan movie from my hard drive after I watched it, mostly because I didn’t think it was worth keeping. I don’t mind paying for DVD movies or renting them. But I do mind very much the constraints that they impose.
Thanks to Handbrake, I won’t be operating under constraints like that anymore.