Q&A: Soundtrack from DVD

Q I have been given a favourite recording, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, on a DVD (as a movie). Can I import just its audio track into iTunes and thus to my iPhone, or play the DVD on a car audio system?

A Before going any further, you should check the licence terms for your DVD. If it is a commercial product, the chances are that doing anything other than playing it would breach its copyright. Furthermore, since the failure of the recent attempt to relax restrictions on the copying of audio CDs, even that failed legislation did not cover movies on DVD.

If you are permitted to ‘rip’ and process the movie, it is surprisingly difficult to strip out its audio content. Unless it comes with special audio tracks – which is unusual – both audio and video are trapped in specially encoded form, and usually copy-protected. iTunes cannot access either, nor can you play the DVD in an audio CD player, as CDs and DVDs have very different physical formats.

One approach might be to rip the DVD to hard disk using one of the standard tools such as Mac the Ripper. Separating the audio out of the files can then be quite complex, but a particularly good solution is Cinematize or its Pro version, which will help you identify and strip out the audio that you want.

A much cheaper and quicker answer is to visit the iTunes store and locate the album that may have been made from the movie soundtrack, which will have been professionally edited and runs no risk of infringing licence agreements.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 26 issue 7, 2010.