Mac Video Guide: Handbrake, MPEG Streamclip & All The Rest

We have covered Handbrake and MPEG Streamclip in some details so now it’s time to recap briefly what you want to do and what you need for Mac video (apps recommended are generally in ALL CAPS with LINKS are at the end):

I want to have my DVD movies on my Mac so I don’t need to carry my DVD’s everywhere?

If you have the room on your hard drive and you don’t need a lot of movies on there, you can simply use MAC THE RIPPER to copy YOUR store purchased DVD’s to your Mac. It’s very fast and takes just a few minutes. Then play then using VLC or with DVD ASSIST, play them through FRONT ROW and APPLETV.

(DVD Assist is a helper app that fools FRONT ROW into thinking VOB files are the actual DVD’s).

MEDIACENTRAL is another choice (@$30) that is FRONT ROW-like, I found it too Windows like for my taste but it might be the easiest solution for many people who just want to “see” and play VOB files.

Sure, Mac the Ripper is nice but the files are HUGE (5GB or more), can I have something smaller that offers me the same or nearly the same resolution?

Instead of MAC THE RIPPER, convert using HANDBRAKE. It will take much longer but you end up with a MPEG4 H.264 file that you can open & watch using ITUNES, QUICKTIME, FRONT ROW, APPLETV or MPEG STREAMCLIP.

Most of my movies convert fine using HANDBRAKE but a few are giving me problems, what’s up?

Mostly the problems stem from some studios (mostly Sony/Columbia, I believe) who purposely introduce errors. It’s all rather pointless as real counterfeiters who makes duplicates to sell are certainly not slowed this by but consumers who want to back up their own DVD’s are the ones most annoyed … well, at least it’s not more computer crippling spyware.

There are some things to try. Use MAC THE RIPPER and try ARC COS (in MODE). Unlike most normal conversions which take a few minutes, this may take up an hour or longer with MAC THE RIPPER stopping to tell you there are errors and if you want to keep going. Hopefully it will eventually work. Now that the VOB file is now on your Mac, you can play via VLC or use MPEG STREAMCLIP to convert to H264 MPEG-4. Then you can view using QUICKTIME. If you want to view using ITUNES, FRONT ROW, IPOD or APPLETV, you might need to use LOSTIFY to change the “metadata” so they can “see” it.

Alternatively, sometimes, you can just copy the VOB files off from the DVD disc. Open and look for the largest set of VOB files. Drag a VOB file off (something like VTS_01_1.vob) – if you don’t get the “You Don’t Have Permission” error message, it will start to copy. Once you have the entire movie off on your hard drive, again, for viewing, all you need is VLC or MPEG STREAMCLIP. Or look through the first two answers above on converting to play in QUICKTIME, or FRONT ROW.

Is there a way to combine “TS” files?

If you feel up to it, try NULL PACKET STRIPPER. It’s a java app and really intended for more advanced users but no time like now to become an advanced user 🙂

What if I just want to make a backup of a retail DVD?

Use MAC THE RIPPER to make a copy onto your Mac, presuming you don’t have any problems, then buy a copy of ROXIO’s POPCORN – easiest way to get it back onto a DVD. If you prefer to back up movies on your blank DVD-R’s, POPCORN is well worth the money as it is by far the easiest way.

I want to put it back on a DVD but I want to do it myself without buying POPCORN?

There are some other ways but the simplest solution is if you have it as an MPEG-4 (H.264) file, you can import into iMovie and then send to iDVD. Depending on the quality of your source, you will lose some resolution but it might be acceptable.

I have copied the movie onto my Mac using MAC THE RIPPER – I would like to edit it.

MPEG STREAMCLIP will open and let you edit VOB files. Then you can export in about 25 formats including H.264 MPEG-4 for viewing with QUICKTIME. If you want to view using ITUNES, FRONT ROW, IPOD or APPLETV, you might need to use LOSTIFY to change the “metadata” so they can “see” it.

I have copied the movie onto my Mac using HANDBRAKE – I would like to edit it.

You have two choices, MPEG STREAMCLIP if the edits are not extensive (like a TV show conversion, how many times do you need to hear the theme song & opening credits?) or IMOVIE if you want more extensive edits (Starwars: Phantom Menace without Jar Jar, or adding your cat into the movie, Sahara which would make it ten times more interesting).

Then you can export in about 25 formats including H.264 MPEG-4 for viewing with QUICKTIME. In IMOVIE, your output choices are more limiting, if too limiting, output to DV (for minimal resolution loss) and then bring into MPEG STREAMCLIP for a wider selection of outputs. But check to see if the resolution loss is acceptable to you.

How do I get files from my own DVD recorder, DVD camcorder disc or a non-store DVD into my Mac?

MPEG STREAMCLIP. Open, edit and convert. From a camcorder, you can of course still use IMOVIE.

How do I use my Mac as a DVR (Digital Video Recorder)?

Easiest solution – buy EYETV. They offer you every possible video format out:


Depending on your output format, you are set to watch immediately on your IPOD or MAC or of course, you can bring into MPEG STREAMCLIP or IMOVIE for editing (see EDITING ANSWERS above).

While, it has few extra features, IRECORD is available to you to use as long as you have a cable box with firewire out. The law requires them to give you a digital box with firewire out – though you do need to be a digital customer. It’s outputs aren’t as numerous but MPEG STREAMCLIP comes to your rescue allowing you to edit and/or output to dozens of formats.

If you have a firewire box, you can also use IMOVIE to record – you cannot get rid of the clips pane but if you plan on doing a lot of editing, it’s already there in edit mode with no importing or converting necessary.

Can I save internet videos to my desktop?

Safari is the easiest way to go. Go to the site such as YouTube, then WINDOW>ACTIVITY. You should see a whole bunch of files but the video file should be the LARGEST file there and most likely the one still “increasing” in size as it’s still being sent to temporary cache. When it is completed, if you double click on it, it is usually marked GET_VIDEO and it will start to download. After it has completed downloading, you need to add .flv to the end of the file name. You can now open it in MPEG STREAMCLIP and convert it to a format QUICKTIME can open such as MPEG-4 or H.264.

You can add the FLV component to watch in QUICKTIME. You need to download PERIAN (see end for links).

Sometimes when you double-click, you will get a page of “code” (it takes a couple minutes to load – don’t despair! Wait for it). Just do a SAVE AS (PAGE SOURCE) – add the .flv file tag and again, view in QUICKTIME with the FLV component from PERIAN or view & edit in MPEG STREAMCLIP.

You can also try PODTUBE if the above method is unsuccessful.

If you really, really, really want it and you cannot pull it down – try SNAPZPRO to record exactly what is being played on the screen – it’s commercial software but offers a lot of tools.

Can I set up my Mac as a video server?

Easy answer, locally – with APPLETV, no problem (along with DVD Assist or LOSTIFY) to make all your files readable. Then launch FRONT ROW and move about your house.

Next easiest solution is SLINGBOX and SLINGBOX TO GO – locally (upstairs) or at anywhere you have broadband internet.

If you want a full fledged video remote server … well, as soon as I get mine working, i’ll let you know 🙂


So, there you have it – nearly all the apps are free and most are very reasonably priced for the ease of use, especially POPCORN and EYETV. You can nearly have it all with some work.

Be sure and check out our earlier tutorials on HANDBRAKE and MPEG STREAMCLIP.

For some MPEG-2 advanced services, you probably want to break down and buy the MPEG-2 component for Quicktime, will speed up a lot of decoding and playback.

You might also want to upgrade to QUICKTIME PRO ($29) which gives you more AV controls.

You should also consider adding the EL GATO TURBO.264 USB stick which speeds up H.264 encoding.

And the Mac All Star Video Software LINKS

OPEN SHIIVA (essentially subplanted and far superseded by MPEG STREAMCLIP)
FLIP4MAC (To open Windows AVI/WMA files in QT & other apps)



Filed under Apple Mac, Computing, Film, Gadgets, Internet, Media, Retail, TV

9 responses to “Mac Video Guide: Handbrake, MPEG Streamclip & All The Rest

  1. cmjsn

    Thanks–great summation of options and links for in depth review.

  2. weirdsci

    You can view movies ripped with Mac the Ripper using Apple’s DVD Player. In DVD Player imply open the file titled Video_TS and it will play as if using the original DVD.

    (METROXING – That’s good to know. I think I tried it years ago and haven’t tried recently since I rip to MP4 mostly but good to know! Thanks.)

  3. This is the most detailed review on Handbrake I’ve seen online, thanks.

  4. Nice article! As a hardcore AppleTV fan, I’m enthusiastically converting media to AppleTV format as fast as I can. If you want to get a good deal on an AppleTV, go to Apple’s website, and then click on “Store” and then scroll down to click on “Special Deals”. They are offering factory-reconditioned AppleTV’s for $249!

    A few additions to supplement your article:

    NULL PACKET STRIPPER is too much work to combine files. I use Catenator (an Applescript). It works fine using drag-and-drop. I used to use “Split & Concat” but I think it’s not Tiger-compatible. It gives me a lot of math error messages now, after many years of faithful service.

    Lostify is not needed to make a file “visible” to iTunes. iTunes sees all MP4 and M4V files just fine, but only as “Movies”. Use Lostify to make your TV-show files more AppleTV-friendly… to stamp a file as a “TV Show”, add the Show (Series Title), Episode Number, the Description and possibly the Season Number. AppleTV uses no other data at all from Lostify.

    After doing all of this, drag your file into iTunes, highlight it, choose “Get Info”, select “artwork”, delete the old artwork image. Then, fire up Google, search for the show in question, and then click “Images” at the top of the page. Find an image that is around 500 pixels high (for best quality results) and then drag that image directly from your web-browser into iTunes’ Get Info image window. AppleTV will thank you.

    This works even better (but slightly differently) with groups of television shows, such as every episode of a particular season. Drag them all into iTunes, select ‘em all and then choose Get Info. Off to the right, there’s a small “Artwork” field. Drag your jpeg into that field and then click “OK”. After a delay while the artwork is imbedded inside each file, then AppleTV will display the entire season’s worth of shows perfectly (if in reverse order, due to a goofy design-decision by Apple).

    The Turbo.264 is perfectly nice for dinky “SD/Standard Definition” TV shows, but its size-limitation of a maximum of 800×600 is severely limiting if you have a lot of high-definition 720p or 1080/i/p files to convert. AppleTV’s can handle larger sizes than that, and very impressively.

    VisualHub is the premier software for optimizing high-definition files to match the exact size-limits of the AppleTV, using the built-in presets. THIS is why we have AppleTV’s, frankly. VisualHub is worth paying for, and its de-interlace function is superb for cleaning up those nasty ripped DVD’s with jaggy lines during rapid movement.

    My dream would be for VisualHub’s interface and controls to work with the Turbo.264’s hardware. I’d never use anything else for file-conversion to AppleTV format.

    In addition to your existing list: Toast 8 is the best way to convert videos directly from your TIVO over the network into a Mac-friendly format.

    To add text metadata to MOVIES:

    I use to look up short descriptive text that AppleTV will display while browsing through lists of movies. I copy that text, click the movie file in iTunes and Get Info. I then click the “Info” tab at the top, and then paste the text into the COMMENTS field.

    To add text metadata to TV SHOWS:

    I use – They seem to have the most comprehensive collections of episode guides. As an example, I’ll type “Mork and Mindy Episode Guide” (without the quotes) into Google and then look that the results to find’s link. Why? Because has a terrible interface for finding specific episode guides. Google finds it right away.

    Then, I’ll drag my TV episode files into Lostify, with the intention to add the episode descriptions to Lostify’s DESCRIPTION field.

    Once you are at’s list of episodes, click on the first one, which brings you to the specific page for that episode. Look for the “>” button off to the right. That brings you directly to the next episode. I mention this because it’s a great way to add descriptions to LOTS of TV show episodes, one right after the other.

    (METROXING: Great additions – thanks.)

  5. Antonio

    Didn’t see if it’s mentioned, but Drive In, from the Flip4Mac people, is a great dvd imaging app. I actually like the idea of working with a DVD copying program that’s on the “up and up”, And, it produces complete imaged copies in the original resolution. The organization and ability to download artwork for each title, works well.  Lots less demand on my Powerbook battery, too, as well as a cooler running machine. It only takes about 15 minutes to image a complete DVD with all the extras! Compared to the hours of compression and burning with other covert apps, this is a big plus for me. And…I like Telestream…this is just the beginning of Drive In….plenty of ideas and features that can be added. They have demonstrated a loyalty to users of their products by listening, and implementing requested features…..before DI, problems with rippers were just dead ends….no support there. The Front Row access is a bit of icing on the cake, too…you simply use DI to mount the disc’s and then they are available in FR

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  8. Chad

    I just edited some VOB files with MPEG StreamClip, and wish to put them on a DVD playable on a regular DVD player, not only a Macintosh or other computer. How do I do this? MPEG StreamClip does not have a convert/export to VOB. Is there another software program out there that would do this? Thanks!

    (MET: If you have a Mac, just use iMovie to output to iDVD and then just follow along – it will convert any MPEG-4 to MPEG-2/VOB).

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