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Convert DVDs, ISOs, and AVI Videos to Play on Your iOS Device

If you own an iOS device,  you know that by default it only plays certain video formats. You probably have other video formats in your collection you’d like to add, and here we look at how to convert them to play on you iOS device.

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There are a few different ways you can go about getting your videos converted to play with your iOS device. There’s no shortage of Commercial & Shareware products for this, but we’ll use free and Open Source software (mainly Handbrake). We’ll look at the basics for converting DVDs, ISO, and AVI video formats that aren’t compatible with your iOS device to the iTouch friendly MP4 / H.264 format.

For this article we’re using iTunes for Windows, an iPod Touch 4th Gen running iOS 4.1, and Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit.

Rip DVDs & Convert to MP4 / H.264

First we’ll look at ripping a DVD using DVDFab then converting it using Handbrake. If you haven’t done so already download and install the latest version of DVDFab and Handbrake for PC (links below). The DVDFab HD Decrypter is always free, even after your trial period has ended. Also, for best results for removing copy protection from newer DVDs is to make sure you have the latest version of it.

After you’ve downloaded and installed both apps, pop your DVD into the drive, and for this part we’re going to use the Main Movie feature in DVDFab 8 to get only the main movie and not the extra features.

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After DVDFab is finished removing encryption and pulling the DVD files, open Handbrake and select Source then DVD / Video_TS Folder.

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Then navigate to the location of the ripped DVD and click OK.

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Now on the left side of Handbrake you’ll have a list of Presets to choose from…select iPhone & iPod Touch.

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The Presets will choose the final output settings that are appropriate for the iPod / iPhone. You can further tweak the settings as well to get your video how you like it. Make sure and select a destination for the final output file, for Container make sure it’s set to MP4, and H.264 for the Video Codec (which it should be by default).

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After you have the video settings how you like them, click on the Start button at the top.

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While the video is encoded, a command window opens so you can follow the progress if you want. The amount of time it takes will vary between system hardware and the size of the DVD. You’ll probably want to find something else to do or run it at night as it could take several hours to complete the conversion process.

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After the conversion was finished of LOTR Return of the King, the file size was 1.71GB which is much smaller than the original DVD format. 

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For a full tutorial on this process, check out How to Convert DVD to MP4 / H.264 with HD DVDFab and Handbrake.

Move Video to iTunes

Now move the converted file into your Movies collection in iTunes…and sync with your iOS device.

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Now on your long trip, you can kick back with your iOS device and watch your favorite movies.

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You’ll also be able to pull up the menu and navigate to a specific chapter of the movie.

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Convert ISO Files to MP4 / H.264

If you’ve converted DVDs to an ISO image we can use Handbrake to convert them to an iOS friendly format as well. Open Handbrake and select Source \ Video File.

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Then navigate to the location of the ISO file you want to convert.

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You might get the following warning message telling you there is no destination set, just click OK.

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Then browse to a destination for the output file.

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On the right menu in Handbrake for Presets select iPhone & iPod Touch.

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It will default to H.264 / MP4 and you can just click the Start button, or go through and make further adjustments to the output file.

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Here you can see the output file is only 448 MB which is a lot more manageable than the original 4 GB ISO file, and it’s now compatible with your iOS device.

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Drag the converted file into iTunes and sync with your device.

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There you are! Now you can watch your converted ISO files on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.

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Convert AVI Video Files to MP4 / H.264

Some of you might have a lot of AVI files from ripped DVDs, downloaded videos, or home movies and want to play them on your iOS device. We can use Handbrake for this too. Click Source \ Video File and browse to the location of the AVI file you want to convert.

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Again, under Presets select iPhone & iPod Touch.

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Go in and tweak the video settings if you want.

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After you have your video settings and destination configured, click on Start. Again, you’ll see a command prompt window come up so you can monitor tasks and progress.

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Once the process was completed we ended up with a 380 MB file which is down from the original 672 MB file.

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Again transfer it over to iTunes and sync it with your device as shown above. Here we can see the quality is decent, but keep in mind when converting from an already compressed video file, quality will take a bit of a hit.

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All of the settings we selected in Handbrake work great for Standard Definition video, however, you’ll want to tweak the video levels if you have HD content. Especially with the new iPhone / iPod Touch as it has a much nicer display than previous versions. In our tests we noticed iTunes would like to freeze up at times while syncing converted files to our device. If you’re not a fan of using iTunes you might want to check out one and iTunes alternative like CopyTrans Manager.

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In future articles we’ll be taking a look at how to convert other file formats to work with your iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

How about you…What software and methods do you use to convert video files to play on your iOS device? Leave a comment and let us know.

Download Handbrake

Download DVDFab

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 10/11/10

Comments (6)

  1. Joanna

    I love ‘Kung Fu’.

  2. David Jones

    I’ve never heard of an iTouch. Is that a new product from Apple similar to an iPod Touch, or a cheap Chinese copy?

  3. Dakoon

    @David Jones : I think that may be one of those rubber dolls Chinese business men keep in the closet. Only it has an Apple sticker on its forehead.

  4. Wayne

    I followed these instructions with newer versions of the software… DVDFab8 and Handbrake 0.9.5. The resulting movie (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows) resulted in a lot of artifacting. In fact there was significant degradation of the movie to make it improssible to enjoy on my 21″ monitor. Might be playable on the iPad or iPod though. However I am looking for the ability to show the same movie on computer monitors, iOS devices and high definition televisions (via AppleTV2).

    When I encoded it, I chose Apple Universal. Does anyone know which settings to tweak in Handbrake to improve quality?

  5. Wayne

    Never mind, I think I figured it out… Now only 600 more DVDs to convert.

  6. Heidi

    Wayne – what did you do to fix it?

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