Backing up DVDs

By | January 25, 2005

I didn’t realize backing up my DVDs using Linux could be so easy. Time consuming as hell, but fairly easy.

Dvd::rip is a front end to a big pile of libraries that do the good deeds. One of the key libraries is transcode, but there’s a lot of other great software underneath the covers that a lot of talented open source developers have contributed to the cause. While dvd::rip presents enough options to make your head spin, you can back up one of your DVDs to a pretty good quality AVI or MPG file with just a couple of mouse clicks. Okay, maybe ten or twenty clicks, but I’m going to tell you which ones.

If you prefer to install from rpms, the rpm you want for dvd:rip is perl-Video-DVDRip. I installed perl-Video-DVDRip-0.50.18-0.lvn.2.2 on my FC 2 system and it works just fine. I tried to use a newer version 0.52.2, but ran into a problem with a dependency I couldn’t resolve.

Fortunately, I quickly found on the web a well-written, albeit somewhat outdated, tutorial for using dvd:rip and transcode written by Moritz Bunkus. This tutorial provided a lot of background info that helped me to quickly understand why the various options had the effects that they did.

I ended up going with XviD4 compression to an AVI file. Depending on the complexity of the video and quality of the audio, I chose targeted sizes of anywhere from 700 MB to 1.4 GB. I may try compressing some other files with an MPEG 2 codec. I also used a “smart deinterlacing” filter. That cut the encoding speed in half, but it seemed to significantly improve the quality of the final video.

Here’s the speed path through dvd::rip for a basic ripping and encoding with no subtitles:

  1. Create a new project and give it a clear name
  2. Move to the RIP Title tab and click Read DVD table of contents
  3. Select the largest entry (other entries are individual scenes, previews, trailers, interviews, etc.) and click RIP selected title(s)/chapters(s)
  4. Make prank phone calls for 45 minutes
  5. When ripping is finished, move to the Clip & Zoom tab. Yes, it’s normal for the images to be upside down and backwards.
  6. Unless the third image is cropped poorly, leave this tab as is. The default preset will have converted a normal 720×480 DVD video to 640 x 336
  7. Skip to the transcode tab
  8. Change video codec to xvid (xvid setting currently defaults to XviD4) and make sure 2-pass encoding is selected (slow, but worth it)
  9. Change deinterlace mode to smart deinterlacing
  10. Determine the final size and quality in one of the following ways:
    • If you want to copy the video to a CD, set Target Media to the number of CDs you want to use. Look at your CD-R blanks to determine how much each can hold.
    • Specify an exact Target Size. If you are encoding only a part of the video, check the Use Range box. I often do this when testing different algorithms on small bits of the video.
    • Enter an exact bitrate. Click manual to overide the bitrate generated by the previous two options.
  11. In the Target Track section, click MP3 and change the sample rate to 192 kbps. Change quality to 2.
  12. Click Transcode. If you had chosen to multiple Target Media (i.e., multiple CDs), click Transcode & Split.
  13. Go to sleep. Actually, this step took about 4 hours on average on my machine

Obviously, there are a lot of other options, but the above steps are a pretty good compromise for video quality, audio quality, file size, and encoding time. You might want to try out other deinterlacing options (choose none if you’re sure you don’t need it) or antialiasing options if there are a lot of sharp, high contrast transitions in the video. If you want to keep the Dolby digital and surround sound and are willing to use more space for audio, stick with AC3 over MP3.

If you want to do a quick test encoding, set the range to a few hundred or so frames somwhere in the movie where something interesting is happening. You will have to disable Use PSU core. Click the Yes radio button next to Preview window. Click Transcode. You will send a window pop up and the encoded video will start to play as it is encoded. Depending on the options you chose, the video could be close to real time. If you want to hear the audio too, click View AVI after the range of frames you specified have been encoded.

If you want to backup your newly encoded video to a CD, move on to the Burn tab. You can use a lot of other tools to accomplish this, but dvd::rip makes it pretty convenient.

I think I started backing up my DVDs not a moment too soon. The first one I backed up had a weird glitch 2/3 of the way through. The problem seemed to be in the vob files on the DVD, since it reappeared no matter how I tried to encode the video. The glitch is just barely apparent when playing the DVD with a regular DVD player. I ended up having to split the encoded video into two files. The next two DVDs I tried were fine.

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