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Oh My Tech!: Getting movies on your mobile device

Published March 29, 2013 10:54 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As I write this, I'm in a state of dread.

I'm about six hours away from packing into a minivan with three other adults, two teen-agers, a 2-year-old, and a dog for a 14-hour road trip to Seattle.

A 14-hour trip to Hell more like it.

If I hear just one family member suggest singing show tunes while I'm driving, that person gets shoved out of the van on the way to Boise.

Normally on a much shorter road trip, I would tell my wife and kids to put down their phones, look out the window and enjoy the view of the country. Or I'd say to them, "We should engage in a family discussion. What are your thoughts about Roe v. Wade?"

Not this time. Did I mention this is going to be a 14-HOUR drive?

Fortunately, God — or whatever higher power you ascribe to — invented the computer tablet and smartphone. On an arduous journey like this, I pack those devices to the gills with movies, TV shows and games — whatever keeps mouths from uttering, "Are we there yet?" for the hundredth time.

Yes, you could buy movies through iTunes or your particular phone manufacturer's video service. But you probably have a ton of films on DVD already that you could convert and transfer for free. Why pay again just to have a mobile version of the same movie you already own on disc?

Here's the best methods to consider to transfer a copy from disc to your mobile device:

Apple iOS devices • If you have a more recent DVD or Blu-ray movie, in many cases, it comes with an extra free digital copy that you can load on to your mobile devices. If so, it will say "Digital Copy" on the box.

That means inside the case is a code written on paper that you can input into iTunes to unlock the digital code necessary to then import it to your device. It's as simple as that.

This is not to be confused with an Ultraviolet digital copy of a movie that is now being included with newer DVDs and Blu-rays. That is a digital version of the movie that lives in the cloud. The problem with this version is that you play the movie by streaming it to your phone or tablet. If you're on a road trip, you would use your 3G or 4G data to do that, and that would eat up your monthly allotment of data in a hurry. So don't use Ultraviolet versions for the road.

If your DVD doesn't have a code for a digital copy, you can still convert the movie and put it into your device (Blu-ray movies are a little tougher to do, so we'll leave them alone for this column).

The go-to software converter to use is Handbrake. The biggest advantages with Handbrake are that it's free and it does a stellar job of converting video.

But first, you need to install another piece of software that will break the DVD's copy protection. If you are using a Windows machine, download the free DVD43 and install it. It will automatically defeat the copy protection while Handbrake does its thing. You also can try the free version of DVDFab or AnyDVD, which costs money. For a Mac, install the VLC video player. (Search Google for these names to find where to download them). Mind you that defeating copy protection of a retail DVD actually violates the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, so take that into consideration.

Next, install Handbrake. Launch it and insert the DVD into your computer's drive. The program automatically will find the disc and the main video file.

On the right-hand side, choose the device for which you're making the video. From there, Handbrake automatically picks the file format and the video and audio bit rate to best encode the movie. You have the option to change those settings if you want to make the file size smaller for space considerations or bigger for better quality video.

Then just select the destination for your video file to go to and click the "Start" button. Depending on the power of your computer, the conversion should take around 20 minutes or so.

Once the conversion is complete, launch iTunes. In iTunes, go to "File" in the upper-left-hand menu, then click on "Add File to Library." It will call up a dialogue box. Find the movie file you just converted, highlight it and click the "Open" button. It will automatically copy that movie file into your iTunes folder.

Then you just sync your device to iTunes, and the video is copied to your device under the "Movies" section of your video player.

Android • Transfering Android devices is a little trickier because different handset manufacturers use different software to transfer files. But all have one general method involving connecting your device to your desktop computer via a USB cable and then dragging and dropping the file to a folder in the device either called "Movies" or "Videos."

In the case of a Samsung phone, for example, you can connect the phone to your computer via a USB cable. Then you either use Windows Explorer for a PC or a free program called Android File Transfer for a Mac to drag and drop the movie file into the device's "Movies" folder.

It also depends which video player app your Android device uses on whether it can play certain video file formats. Check with your phone's instructions to determine what types of videos it can play.

If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at ohmytech@sltrib.com, and he'll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.






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