Updated HandBrake Encodes More Than DVDs

HandBrake, the tool many people use to convert their DVDs to forms playable on other devices--including iPods, iPhones, Apple TVs, and on Macs via the QuickTime Player application--is being updated to convert not just DVDs and Video_TS folders, but many other kinds of video as well.

The still-in-development edition of the software, version 0.9.3, is available via a "snapshot edition" download page. (The developers warn that this is a pre-release version and is bound to have bugs, so downloaders beware.)

Previous versions of HandBrake couldn't encode videos from QuickTime or AVI movie files. But with the version 0.9.3, you can use any of a variety of source files and convert them to MP4, MKV, AVI, or OGM files. HandBrake's presets pane remains, so you can easily choose a specific device--iPod High-Rez, QuickTime, Apple TV, or Xbox 360, for example--without having to muck with arcane video and audio settings (though this power still remains). As always, you can't use HandBrake to encode videos purchased from iTunes or videos on Blu-Ray discs.

Beginning with version 0.9.2 of HandBrake, the program does not strip DRM from DVDs by default -- the program's developers removed libdvdcss, the open-source library that performed this job, from the application. However, it's easy to restore this capability: just download the open-source VLC 0.9.x media player--which does include the decryption library--and install it in your Applications folder. When you attempt to convert a protected DVD, HandBrake will ask if you'd like to decrypt it using VLC's copy of libdvdcss.

The news of this release will likely interest those who've previously used Techspansion's US$23.32 VisualHub to perform these kinds of non-DVD conversions. Although the latest version of HandBrake doesn't perform chores like stitching together separate videos as does VisualHub, it does provide far more control over video and audio conversion settings, alternate audio tracks, subtitles, and chapters.

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