Yes, he was mistaken. You would have to convert to a compatible format, see link below
If you have a big collection as you say it could take some time, so do it in stages.
Do I need to convert the files to a different format?
Yes, if you wish to play them on an TV device.
If so, what format
Most people use H.264/AAC/AC3 compressed content. H.264 provides moderately high quality in a relatively small file size. The AAC audio makes the file compatible with QuickTime/mobile media devices. AC3 passthrough allows you to retain DD 5.1 audio compatibility if the TV playback is connected to an appropriate decoder/speaker array.
what converter software should I use
That is up to the individual user. I generally use HandBrake when higher quality is desired and the Turbo H.264HD hardware accelerator/converter when speed is more important than quality.
will the quality still be DVD quality when viewed on a big-screen TV?
That will depend on the settings you use. The H.264 codec can be used with a wide range of data rate settings. Slower settings produce small files with less quality while high data rates should reproduce the original visual quality at the expense of a larger file size. Generally speaking, you can use a data rate about half that of your original MPEG-2 data rate and still maintain a level of quality approximating the original DVD.
Is this going to be ridiculously time-consuming?
It can be depending on the settings and method used. Most people employ a single pass, constant quality conversion strategy and batch process their files. This means the files can be converted automatically while you sleep, are at work, or otherwise not actively using your system. This strategy is most efficient in terms of time and quality while a multi-pass strategy is probably more efficient in terms of file space.
I was hoping that purchasing an Apple TV might be a good solution for me, but if the files won't play in iTunes, then they won't play via Apple TV onto my HDTV, right?
VOB files are not natively supported by either QT or mobile devices. Such files can only be played in QT/iTunes if 1) you have installed the QT MPEG-2 Playback component, have added hardware software or hardware support for AC3 playback, and 3), in the case of iTunes, have placed the content in an MOV file container so it can be imported/managed by iTunes. If you insist on playing the VOB content, a better approach would be to extract the main Title VOB set as a VIDEO_TS folder and use either the DVD Player or Front Row for playback. Unfortunately, this means your computer must be directly connected to your HDTV or projector. In this case, most users would use a dedicated Mini (or similar platform) as the media player.
Is this going to be ridiculously time-consuming?
h264 encoding is extremely intensive work for the computer - unless you have a very powerful machine you are probably looking at real time encoding speeds or longer. On an 8 core 3GHz Mac
Pro I can usually encode SD video 3-4 faster than realtime (faster if I compromise on settings) using something like Handbrake.
If you already have a collection of VOBs on disc then you potentially don't need the optical discs and could just run a batch of these through something like Handbrake using AppleTV presets.
Really great answers, thank you! I have Handbrake and Mac the Ripper, so it sounds like between these two programs, I can accomplish what I want.
I thought I had two further questions based on new info in the answers here, but those were answered by a quick browse through the online Handbrake user guide. One was about the conversion rate, and it looks like 20 is what I should select for high-quality video for viewing on my TV.
The other was about batch files, and very quick browsing showed me the queue.
Very cool, people, thanks! I'm ordering the Apple TV today, and will look forward to an ever-diminishing collection of DVDs as I put them all onto hard drives! YAY!
.vob files are the highest quality output files for DVD that you can get. This means you have "cloned" a DVD 1:1, whereas other file formats that require encoding (such as MP4 etc) inevitably lead to a loss in quality. Also, it takes 8-10 minutes to clone a DVD movie but at least 30-35 minutes to encode the same movie into a format Apple TV will recognize. .
I had the same idea as you. I have 200 + DVDs and one day had the bright idea to clone them all, get rid of the boxes, and go in for a device which could play them on my HD TV. I thought of Apple TV as the first choice. However, Apple TV does not support .vob files so that choice was out.
My recommendation is to store the .vob files on a hard drive (like western digital my passport 1 or 2 TB) and then use a media player (such as Playstation 3 or Western Digital WD TV Live) to play them on your TV in full HD.
Much better quality than anything Apple TV will give you, and with the added advantage that you can view standard definition DVDs in full HD (upscaled by your media player).
Try this, and you'll see a huge difference in quality.
I have the same issue and WAS looking into buying the apple TV. Seems it should be able to play any format with added plugIns or something. That would make it more compatible. I have over 1000 DVD's that ae already ripped onto my media server (XLobby.com) but I want to aswitch to Mac as my XLobby is getting old... It would be great if I could write my own app... One of the great features of my XLobby is subtitles! I dont want to have to compress everything... I do have the WD TV and it works GREAT but has no features compared to the XLobby and even though the GUI *****, it's still way better..... I'll keep looking!
The way I used was a platform called Popcorn Hour.
It's a media server that supports almost all file types. It will auto find Fan art, cover art, synopsis etc. also categorize and set up a great network jukebox GUI. It's the best I've found for the price. Roughly 400 US.
Check it out at Popcornhour.com, I purchased the c-300 without the built in blurry drive.