If you need to access a video or audio files for reasons that fall within current fair-use and/or DMCA exceptions, here are some tools you can use to access this content. However, a word of warning, many of these tools require trial and error, as well as some patience. There are lots of barriers in place to keep people from accessing copyrighted material even when they need to access this content for permitted reasons. Make sure you read through my copyright/fair-use disclaimer and educate yourself on these issues before you begin this process.

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Downloading Online Video/Audio Content for Offline Use

There are many different websites online that will grab online media content for you. There are also some useful browser extensions that can be installed into your web browser. (I’ve primarily tested these in Firefox.) Here are some options:

Offliberty is a website which operates as a downloading tool. You provide the URL and Offliberty will help you access the media files for offline use.

Video Download Helper
Video Download Helper is a browser extension for Firefox and Chrome.


  • There are many other websites and browser extensions similar to Offliberty and Video Download Helper. There are also a range of platform/website specific tools (for example, YouTube specific downloaders, subtitle specific downloaders, etc.). You may want to do a web search and try different options.
  • None of these options working? See recording video on your screen/console for situations when you can’t create a clip using the above tools.

Creating Media Clips from a DVD

If you need to access content that is only available on a DVD or a BluRay, there are different kinds of software you can use to pull files from the disc and create a clip. Not all of these will work on all computers. Also, remember the fair-use information you were given above. Breaking the Digital Rights Management (DRM) on a DVD is only permissible in particular circumstances.

Be warned! The technology and skills needed to do this are constantly shifting. Yes, some copies are permitted via fair use or fall within current fair-use and/or DMCA exceptions. However, that doesn’t mean the media will be easy to copy or clip! DRM protections on media are constantly being updated and reinforced. You need to be patient and leave yourself adequate time for troubleshooting and option testing.

HandBrake (Windows, Macs)
Highly Recommended – Handbreak will rip and convert video from nearly any DVD format (DVDs, not BluRays). However, you need to know a few important things:

Handbreak no longer comes with “libdvdcss” files. These are critical files that your computer needs to read/rip encrypted DVDs. You must work around this by installing libdvdcss on your own. How you do this varies between Mac/PC and changes regularly. Try the following:

    • For everyone: Handbreak works in tandem with VLC Media Player (which has libdvdcss installed). Make sure you have VLC installed, restart your computer, and see if that helps.
    • PC Users: Try this How to Geek tutorial.
    • Mac Users: Things are getting complicated for us these days. Try the How to Geek tutorial. If that doesn’t help, try MakeMKV (see below) or check with your teacher.

Handbrake can generate .mkv, .mp4, and .webm files at various levels of resolution and audio quality. For beginners, a .mp4 file at 1080p is a solid starting point that will work with most video editing software.

Handbreak doesn’t automatically read BluRays, but there are workarounds. See MakeMKV Make sure you have VLC installed and then install Make MKV. Next, you’ll need to open the MKV file in Handbreak and convert it.

MakeMKV (Windows, Macs)
Highly Recommended – MakeMKV can read most BluRays (and may also work on many DVDs). Similar to Handbrake, make sure you have VLC installed first and then install MakeMKV.

Heads up! Ripped BluRay files are massive. Typically 20-50 GB each. You need serious storage capacity to rip these files. Once you’ve ripped the file you can size it down to something more manageable in Handbreak. For beginners, I recommend sizing it down using Handbreak’s Matroska presets (H.265 at 1080p is a good one). This will generate a .mkv file. You may still need to convert it to a .mp4 to work with your video editor. (See below for EmmGunn’s useful converting tools.)

MacDVDRipper Pro (Macs)
If nothing is working for you, this might be your best/cheapest backup option. The trial version of this tool comes with 5 free DVD conversions. If you’re thrifty, this is probably all you’ll need for our class. If you think you need more, the program costs $29.

Roxio’s Toast Software (Macs)
Another paid option. This one’s popular with Mac users but not cheap. Toast Titanium is currently $99.

There are many other options out there. The Lifehacker website is a particularly useful resource for tutorials, tips, and reliable software. You may also want to do a web search and try different options.

Additional Tips/Useful Things

Do you need to make a smaller video clip from a large video file? Need to convert a video file to a different format? Need only the audio or video on a file?

Handbrake isn’t just for ripping DVDs. It can also be used to convert or downsize many types of video files.

EmmGunn’s Video Toolbox
Highly Recommended! – EmmGunn offers a small package of very useful software for converting video files, adding/editing subtitles, etc. You can download the software individually or as a bundle. MP4Tools converts .mkv files to .mp4s. MP4Tools and MKVTools can be used to burn-in subtitles. SUBTools can be used to create or edit subtitles. The full software suite is $9.99. Each individual program is $4.99.

Heads up! One advantage of the EmmGunn tools is that they allow for “pass through” file conversion. I’ll try to avoid getting too getting technical here, but this is a key difference from Handbrake’s process. To convert in Handbreak you need to re-record the file each time, making a copy of a copy. The “pass through” process avoids this. It can be quicker and can preserve file quality.

QuickTime Player
Quicktime has been discontinued, but it can sometimes still be found on Macs and PCs. Quicktime will allow you to quickly trim and copy video files.

Use Your Video Editing Software
Need to cut up a large media file and make smaller clips out of it? Your video editor will do this for you. Many of them have a dedicated work area where you can make/store these clips. See creating/editing your own videos for more information on this type of software.

Having problems working with DVDs or BluRays?

Remember everyone’s computer setup is a bit different. If you run into problems, there are tons of resources and tutorials online. Do some web searching and see if you can find the solution that works best for you.