spaceship no future

Foil The Man by ripping DVDs

FlaskMPEG in action!  Also, Photoshop in action! Remember when the DeCSS scandal first erupted, and everyone’s favorite argument was that DVD piracy was impractical due to the huge size of DVD movies and the outrageous cost of writable DVD media? Currently, that argument still holds insofar that:
  • The MPEG-2 compression format used in DVDs, though high-quality, yields rather large files—about 4GB for a couple hours of video.
  • Current writable DVD media averages about $40 a pop—more expensive than most retail DVD movies.
  • The MPEG-4 compression format, though visually inferior to MPEG-2, compresses at a far greater rate—generally, a full-length movie can fit on a single CD, with acceptable to good visual quality.
  • Some French guy named Jerome Rota hacked Microsoft’s MPEG-4 codecs so that anyone with the right tools can use them to encode video files. For some reason, he named his hacked MPEG-4 codecs DivX ;-) (No relation to that crappy DivX DVD rental stuff Circuit City was trying to pull last year)
  • CDRs are cheapy cheap.
The upshot is that, assuming you have a reasonably fast Windows machine with a DVD-ROM drive, you can rip and burn movies with relative ease. You need: And here’s the crash course:
  1. Install everything, and clear out some disk space.
  2. Use DVD Decrypter to rip the movie from your DVD.
  3. Convert the ripped video to DivX :-) format using FlaskMPEG. Getting the settings right is a matter of trial and error, but try this for starters:
    Use Decode Audio Mode and choose 44,100 KHz
    Select PCM compression for audio
    Select DivX ;-) low motion for video
    Set keyframe to 1
    Set destination size to something smaller than the default, say, 640 x 400
  4. Wait. Wait a long time. On my 600 MHz Celeron overclocked to 900, converting a 30 minute episode of Cowboy Bebop took about an hour and a half.
  5. The resulting file should be pretty small, but you will need to further compress the audio to get it smaller. Use VirtualDub with the following settings:
    Set video to direct stream copy. With this setting, the video stream will basically be ignored by the program, since we’re only processing the audio at this step.
    Set audio interleaving to 500 ms before video start and interleave audio every 500 ms
    Set audio compression to DivX ;-) Audio at 64 kpbs, 44 KHz
    If the video was originally using 48,000 KHz audio, set audio conversion to convert to 44,100 KHz
    Set audio to full processing mode
  6. Save the AVI and wait again. This part shouldn’t take as long—on my PC, this step takes about seven minutes for a feature length movie.
  7. Try to play the video, and if it works, burn it.
That was perhaps not the best of all possible introductions to ripping DVDs, but fleshing this out would be a wasted effort when excellent guides already abound. In particular, I suggest checking out the guides and FAQs at Doom9’s MPEG Palace. Sample FAQ:
What is the best Bitrate for a movie?
Are you looking for an easy way to piss me off big time? I can’t stand questions of this kind.
Hazel will follow with the moral arguments for and against ripping digital media.