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DVD & XviD to iPod Conversion Guide - Jeffery Patch

DVD & XviD to iPod Conversion Guide

Converting DVD’s to Mpeg-4 for Video Enabled Ipods

Apple has been nice enough to allow users to purchase their $29 version of Quicktime Pro that will convert any video readable by Quicktime into a compatible H.264 format for new video enabled iPods. Unfortunately this does not produce quality video in a timely manner for most users. It works decently for creating video to be viewed on the iPod screen, but many users are purchasing the new product in order to view video on TV’s. If this is the case, Quicktime Pro’s H.264 conversion is not only painfully slow, but the quality is not very good due to the video being scaled down to 320×240 or below.

For converting a DVD to the iPod I recommend using MacTheRipper (MTR) and HandBrake. MTR is not required, as HandBrake can convert the video directly from most DVD’s, but I’m paranoid and feel that this puts too much strain on my DVD drive. I prefer to use MTR to first copy the contents of a DVD onto my hard drive, and then let HandBrake takeover.

Mac The Ripper is pretty simple. Put a DVD in your drive, start it, and click go. It takes about 15-30 minutes depending on the size of the DVD and the speed of your computer.

HandBrake Window


Once that is completed, open HandBrake. When it starts, it will ask if you want to use the “Detected Volume” (a DVD in your drive) or browse for a Video_TS or Image. If you used MTR to rip the disc to your hard drive first, choose Browse for the VIDEO_TS folder. Navigate to where you saved the contents of the DVD, and open the VIDEO_TS folder. Then select “Choose”.

HandBrake will take a few seconds or so to scan the disc. Once you are at the main window, choose the title that contains the actual movie from your DVD. Typically it is the longest one.


Average bitrate (kbps) is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. If you are planning on watching this on a TV set, I recommend 1000kbps. From my tests, it seems to yield good quality at a reasonable file size. You can go higher or lower if you desire. The higher the bitrate, the better quality your video will be. If you encoding a visually stunning like the Matrix or Star Wars, you’d probably want to increase the bitrate to 1500kbps or higher. The max the iPod can handle is 2500kbps.

Select 2-pass encoding. It will take a little longer, but HandBrake will give the video a second pass and the quality will increase.


File format should be set to MP4 file and Codecs should be set to “MPEG-4 Video / AAC Audio”

You can then browse to where you’d like to save the .mp4 file once it is finished.


I haven’t tested this but it should be easy enough.


Select Language 1. Typically the first audio track will be a 5 channel surround sound track in English. I don’t think the iPod can output surround sound so change it to a 2 channel English version if it is available. Some DVD’s only come with surround sound audio so if so you’re stuck with that. The result should be the same but you will save file size and time if you just select the 2 channel track.

Leave Language 2 as None.

A sample rate 44100Hz is fine.

Setting the bitrate to 128kbps should be fine for the majority of users, but if you are a real audiophile you can set this higher. Lower is ok as well if you want to save space.

Picture Settings:

This part will vary from disc to disc based on the aspect ratio of the movie but the idea is the same.

handbrake Video window

When playing back mpeg-4 video, Apple advertises that the iPod can display video up to 480×480. This is misleading and confusing. First of all, most video is not square. Movies on DVD are typically widescreen and TV shows are in a 4:3 ratio most of the time. You can always purchase a fullscreen version of a movie, and some TV shows are shot in widescreen so you’ll just have to check.

The reality behind how the iPod handles mpeg-4 is not that it requires video to be 480×480, but instead it can display a maximum of 230,000 pixels (480×480=230,000).

So pull out your handy dandy calculator and figure out what your video’s pixel count is. I chose the movie Anchorman to use as an example and it’s resolution is 720×480 which equals 345,600 pixels. A bit too much for the iPod to handle.

Click the down arrow on the width parameter a couple times and do the math. You want to highest number of pixels possible, but under 230,000. For this movie, it was 624×336 which equals 209,664. HandBrake will automatically choose the aspect ratio if you have the check box selected.

That is about all you have to do in this window. Some users suggest Deinterlacing the picture if it is TV show, but I could not tell a difference when trying it out on Arrested Development.

Click close and go back to the main window. Once there, click RIP and be patient. On my Dual 2.0 G5 it takes about 20 minutes to convert a half-hour episode of Arrested Development, as as I write this, Anchorman is about halfway through it’s first pass and it’s only been about 20 or 30 minutes. It says that the ETA is about 3 minutes, but I know that it will take much longer than that. For some reason HandBrake doesn’t calculate the remaining time left very well.

Once it is done, all you have to do is drag the resulting .mp4 file into your iTunes library, and then into your iPod. You can set the tags for the file in iTunes if you like to better organize it.

What about converting Xvid files? For this I recommend using ffmpegX. Once it is installed it is pretty simple to use. Drag your Xvid file to the big place where it says “Drop file here”. Make note of the Video aspect ratio. It varies from video to video.

On the Target side, click the drop down menu for To and select “.MP4 mpeg-4”.

Head over to the Video tab and look at the Video Size. My file’s aspect ratio was 512×336 which is well under the 230,000 pixel count required, but for some ffmpegX automatically set it to 16:9 which will shrink the video to 512×288. This would look pretty funny. I chose 3:2 which is 512×336. It won’t need to resize the video at all which is a good thing. If you don’t need to resize your video, you can select one of the Autosize presets if it matches your video size, or go down to Unconstrained and type in the aspect ratio of your video.

Once you are finished with that click on the Audio tab. I prefer at least 128kbps. You can leave the Sampling to 48000Hz or go down to 44100Hz if you like. My file is already at 48000hz so I’m going to leave it there. The less work it has to do the better. The filesize and quality difference is probably negligible.

After that I recommend going to the Options tab and selecting Two-pass encoding. This gives you better video quality but takes a little while longer to encode.

After that just click Encode and wait.

Converting Xvid files to Mpeg-4 for the iPod is much faster than converting it to H.264. I encoded a 20 minute episode of American Dad in about 9 minutes and a 45 minute episode of Wanted in about 28 minutes. Not bad ‘eh? The file sizes are pretty close to the original Xvid versions, which is fine with me since I bought the big bad 60gb iPod.

I hope this solves some of the issues that people have been having with getting video on this sucker. Everybody seems to be focusing on H.264, but I feel that Mpeg-4 is better suited for task.



  1. Ken on April 16, 2006 at 8:33 am

    Thanks! I really appreciate you writing this guide! I just switched back to Apple after 12 years and was afraid I’d be out in the cold getting my huge video collection to work!

    I still have terabytes of video to slog through, but thanks to this I can do it much more easily! Thanks again!

  2. MIcah on June 6, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks for this! It was very helpful.

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