How To Use Ubuntu To Convert DVDs To MP4

 The legal position for ripping DVDs is very clear in western countries although in the United Kingdom the law keeps changing.

You cannot legally convert DVDs to a digital format if the DVD has copyright protection. 

Not all DVDs, however, have copyright. For example, school plays and weddings are often filmed by a professional and distributed on a DVD. It is highly unlikely that there is anything stopping you from legally converting the content on the DVD to a digital format.

This guide, therefore, shows you how you can convert DVDs to MP4 and other formats. This process is commonly known as ripping.

To rip a DVD you will need to install the following software:

To start with open a terminal window and type the following command:

sudo apt-get install handbrake

This will install the video decoding software for converting DVDs to MP4.

Now type in the following line of code to install the restricted extras package which installs all manner of codecs

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras

During the installation, a blue screen will appear with a license agreement. Press tab to highlight the option to accept the agreement

Finally, install the libdvd-pkg which installs a library which enables you to play DVDs within Ubuntu

sudo apt-get install libdvd-pkg

During the installation, you will be asked to accept an agreement. Press tab to select the OK option.

At the end of the process, you may get a message saying that you need to run another apt-get command to continue installing the package.

If you get this message type the following command:


sudo dpkg-reconfigure libdvd-pkg

Let the installation finish and run Handbrake either by pressing the super key to bring up the dash and searching for Handbrake or by running the following command in the terminal

handbrake &

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How To Rip A DVD Using Handbrake

How To Rip A DVD Using Handbrake
How To Rip A DVD Using Handbrake.

Insert a DVD into your disc drive and within Handbrake click on the source button in the top left corner of the screen.

In the bottom left corner of the screen you will see a dropdown called "Detected DVD Devices".

Choose your DVD player from the list and click "OK".

A scan will take place to import information about the DVD. 

Handbrake has 9 tabs:

  • Summary
  • Picture
  • Video
  • Audio Defaults
  • Audio List
  • Subtitle Defaults
  • Subtitle List
  • Chapters
  • Tags

The summary tab shows details for the DVD that you intend to rip along with the settings.

To change the output format click the "Format" dropdown and choose between the available options.

Enter a file name for the converted file as well as a location.

In the top right corner you can choose between normal and high profile. You can also choose a preset for encoding the DVD in the best format for certain devices such as iPods and Android tablets.

You can choose to encode the whole DVD or between a range of chapters. You can also optimise the output for putting the final video on the web and there is also iPod 5G support.

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Configure Video Settings In Handbrake

Handbrake Video Settings
Handbrake Video Settings.

The "Picture" tab isn't particularly useful unless you want to crop the video's dimensions which is highly unlikely.

The "Video" tab however lets you choose the video encoder and determine the quality of the final output.

The encoders available will be as follows:

  • H.264
  • H.265
  • MPEG-4
  • MPEG-2

You can also choose between a constant and a variable framerate. Whilst there is a choice in most situations you will want to choose a constant framerate.

Other settings include the ability to choose the quality, choose a profile and choose a level. The defaults suffice in most cases.

If you are converting cartoons however and you use the H.264 encoder then you will notice that there is a Tune option called "Animation" and this is probably better than the default option.

The best way to get the most out of Handbrake is with trial and error. Try a number of different settings and see what works for you. Different DVDs will work better with different settings.

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Configure Audio And Subtitle Settings In Handbrake

Handbrake Audio Defaults
Handbrake Audio Defaults.

A DVD may be encoded in different languages and you can choose the languages you wish to use on the "Audio Defaults" tab.

You can select individual languages by clicking the add or remove buttons.

By default the AAC encoder is selected for ripping the audio from the DVD. It is worth adding a second encoder for MP3 in case the machine playing the ripped file isn't capable of playing AAC encoded files.

The "Audio List" tab provides a list of the selected encoders. 

The "Subtitles Defaults" tab lets you select the languages to use for subtitles. It works in the same way as the "Audio Defaults" tab.

If you don't want subtitles choose "None" as the selection behaviour.

The "Subtitles List" tab will show the chosen languages.

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Naming Chapters And Provide Tags For Your Video

Tag Your Video
Tag Your Video.

The "Chapters" tab has a list of all the DVD's chapters. You can name each chapter to make it more memorable when you are playing back the video.

The "Tags" tab lets you provide information about the video such as the title, the actors, the director, release date, a comment, genre, description and details about the plot.

When you have finished adjusting the settings for your video you can start the ripping process by clicking on the "Start" button at the top of the screen.

The process can take a while depending on the length of the DVD you are encoding.