I'm not sure how you people can watch movies and TV shows on those little screens, but you sure are doing it! Every time I turn around on the bus or in the airport, somebody is watching video on her iPod. (If she's supercool, she's watching it on her new iPhone.)
It's easy to buy videos designed to view on those little screens, of course, but if you want to get your own DVDs and Web movies onto your iPod or iPhone, you'll have to dive into the wide world of video converters.
The first thing you should know is that most commercial DVDs are copyright-protected and to break that copyright protection is a legal violation in many countries, including the U.S. None of the software on CNET Download.com will "crack" encrypted DVDs.
The second thing to know is that iTunes itself is a decent converting tool. Simply select a file from your video list, right-click it, and choose "Convert Selection for iPod" to create an MP4 movie. If you're dealing with Web video or DVDs, however, you'll likely need another conversion tool. Also, in my experience, iTunes conversion is mighty slow.
The iPhone and most video iPods support two basic video formats: MPEG-4 (.mp4 and .m4v) and MOV (QuickTime). The truth is that converting video files is all a matter of managing free codecs, and many programs will accomplish the same goal, but I've found a few interfaces and functionalities that I like.
The most user-friendly tool I've found for ripping a DVD into an MP4 file for the iPod or iPhone is the free Plato DVD to iPod Converter. Simply hit Open, select your DVD location, and hit OK. You'll have an iPod-ready video before you know it.
An excellent bare-bones option for converting video formats is the slightly confusing Kate's Video Converter. It includes everything you need to transform video into MP4 or MOV files, but you may have to experiment a bit to find the codec you need.
One of the more interesting video converters I've seen recently is CinemaForgeLite, a tool for grabbing Web movies from sites like YouTube and transforming them into iPod-ready video files. A simple wizard walks you through the process, or an advanced interface lets you customize settings like frame size and bit rate. It seems to work best on YouTube and major video-sharing sites.
What do you use to convert movies for your iPod or other portable digital video player? Tell me about it in the comments.