Sunday, January 18, 2009

Elgato Turbo.264

I am slowly working toward a hard drive based media center. The latest acquisitions include a 1 TB Western Digital hard drive which will be connected to an Apple Extreme; this will store all the music and videos and will be connected by ethernet to our Apple TV, whose 160 GB hard drive is nearly full.

But the real subject of this post is an interesting simple co-processor on a USB stick by Elgato.

If you own an old, relatively slow Mac, as I do, then ripping DVDs is slow and tedious. The Elgato Turbo.264 makes this an almost realtime process (but note that with the latest speedy processors there isn't going to be much difference).

The DVDs (which, of course, I own) were first ripped to the computer's hard drive using Mac the Ripper, an open source application easily downloaded. This puts all the contents of the DVD in a folder but this then needs to be converted to the right format for the Apple TV. I only convert the main feature (if I really want to see the extras, I still have the DVD). This takes up around 1GB of storage space per movie and the Elgato device speeds things up to around 2 hours (Handbrake, excellent open source software, takes maybe 3-1/2 times longer).

The screen capture of Elgato's elegant software controller is shown above, ripping Narnia, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Earlier I ripped Fargo, a superb movie for the collection, which cost me a bargain $4 (Canadian) at Calgary's HMV store. (Note: Narnia has a particularly insidious copy protection device built into it and the ripping failed, so this one will require more research)