Oneof my new favorite programs is HandBrake. It's a really nice video conversion/encoding program that runs on most operating systems - Windows, Mac, Linux. The best application of the software, I think, is if you want to convert DVD's that you own to a digital format.
HandBrake has several encoding templates that you can use to encode your videos to meet your technical needs. For example, you can use preset templates for the Apple TV (if you want to optimize for streaming your video wirelessly to Apple TV) or iPod (if you want to convert your DVDs so that you can watch the digitized videos on your video iPod). There are a bunch of other templates too.
You can also just use the normal template to encode your DVD's to MPG4 files. If you read my post a while ago about creating a computer-based home media center (the main idea was that you could digitize your DVD's and play them from your computer), this program would be a great addition to that setup. The normal template encodes to the standard DVD resolution (720x480).
- depending on how much juice your machine has, the encoding process can take a long time. On my 1.8GHz Core Duo with 2GB of RAM, it takes about 4 hours to encode a DVD, with 2-pass encoding
- the file sizes can start to add up. Two hours of video will take up around 1.25GB when using the normal template.