Software Review: Handbrake
With DVDs going the way of the dinosaurs, the need for DVD based software has decreased dramatically. Handbrake may be a very important exception.
What is Handbrake?
Handbrake is an application that basically has one major purpose….first and foremost, Handbrake says, its that it is a media transcoder. The only time I have ever used it for anything, however, has been primarily for ripping DVDs.
The creators of Handbrake would seem to disagree with me:
HandBrake is a GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded video transcoder.
HandBrake is not a ripper. It converts video, it does not rip it byte by byte. It does not crack the latest DVD copy protection schemes hatched by the studios.
It converts video from nearly any format to a handful of modern ones—that’s it.
The interface strikes a delicate balance between form and function, although it looks more like the function side won out. While I can’t complain….As soon as I opened it up I immediately was met with the “Source” pop-up window, asking for my DVD or video file that needed to be transcoded/ripped. While the interface isn’t gorgeous, like the Metro UI for Windows or the interface for some Apple apps, it gets the job done and it’s fairly easy to figure out even for newbies. While I would probably have to walk my parents through the interface once or twice before they understood what to do, the average user should be able to figure it out pretty quickly.
Ripping DVDs and Transcoding
To be perfectly honest, the one and only use I have ever had for Handbrake is for ripping copyrighted DVDs. No matter your opinion on the legality (I only ripped DVDs that I already owned and wanted to watch without having to pop in a DVD every time) I still have never used it for anything else. For transcoding movies or tv shows, Vuze does a much better job.
For DVD ripping, the job is OUTSTANDING. I have rarely ever run into a problem while ripping a DVD. The only time that I have run into a problem is when I have a scratched DVD….which is more my fault than the software….but, the software does sometimes hiccup. If the DVD is scratched, Handbrake will do one of three things: It will freeze, it will spit the DVD out and say that its unreadable, or it will go ahead an try to finish encoding anyway. The last option is the most frustrating because a lot of times you don’t find out that the DVD was scratched until you go to watch the movie. The movie will either skip, play the same scene over and over again, or the file won’t open because it is corrupted. I have had luck, however, opening damaged media with VLC.
Hands down, it is the easiest option that I have found that can rip a copyrighted DVD.
For “transcoding” software, the offering of codec options is somewhat barebones. It offers some useful options, such as the ability to transcode to iPad, iPhone, AppleTV, and even Android, but I would like Handbrake to take this even further, like Vuze. How about options for Xbox or Playstation? Roku? I would love for the creators of Handbrake to try to take every possible device that they can think of and throw it in here. It would really be an awesome app if it became the VLC of transcoders.
Overall, aside from the slightly clunky user interface and the lack of codec options, Handbrake is mainly made for one thing, and that one thing it does extremely well. While I would like it to be prettier, the function of the application is the best thing about it and I would be completely frazzled without it. I remember searching for ripping options before I found Handbrake, and I haven’t looked back.
I give it 3.5 out of 5.