Monday, August 27, 2007

How To Copy DVD Movies

There may be many reasons why you'd want to make a copy of a DVD. One thing is DVD discs don't last forever. They get scratched and damaged even in normal use and even if you leave it alone a DVD will deteriorate over time. It's hard to find accurate data but most sources agree that in real life CDs and DVDs won't last as long as the manufacturers would have you believe.

Anyway, if you're reading this, chances are you have a good reason to want to know how to copy a DVD. So let's get on with it.

Copying a DVD - The Problems

Different formats. Most commercially produced movie DVDs are in fact DVD-9 discs which contain more data than the standard DVD-R disc can hold. Thus direct copying is typically impossible because the movie simply won't fit on the writable DVD. The solution is to "transcode" the movie making it smaller. There are various applications that can do that (more on this later).

Copy protection. Most commercial DVD movies are encrypted, scrambled and otherwise protected to prevent anyone from copying them. For a long time the most popular solution was to use a program called DVD Shrink, which could both decode the video, compress it to fit on a DVD-R and burn a DVD (with help of other programs). However, DVD Shrink hasn't been updated for a long time and can't handle modern copy-protection mechanisms. There's still a way though.

How To Copy Any DVD Movie

1. Download and install AnyDVD. It's a driver that will remain in background and transparently decode any DVD you put in your computer. Other programs will see the DVD as if it had no copy protection or encryption, making it easy to copy the disc. It also has many other features but the best part is that AnyDVD is updated regularly so it can recognize most protection schemes and remove them.

2. Copy the DVD using any software you want. There are many possibilities -
  • Nero Recode, part of Nero 7 software pack. Very easy to use and well known in the industry, but it's a commercial application (with a trial version available).
  • DVD Shrink (+ some tutorials that explain how to copy DVD movies). With the encryption neutralized, DVD Shrink can again copy any disc, plus it's freeware. Note that you will need another application to burn the copy; DVD Shrink can use Nero and some other programs to do this automatically. You can find details on the site.
  • Clone DVD (+ a tutorial). Another popular application written by the same people who made AnyDVD. This one is shareware.
It doesn't matter which of these you use to copy DVDs - all will work. However, some may be faster or more easy to understand for you. For example, I like the interface of Nero Recode but I've heard CloneDVD is more stable and the DVDs created with CloneDVD work better in home DVD players. It's your choice - you can try some of the applications I mentioned or find something else entirely.

That's the basic stuff you need to know about how to copy a DVD. Well, there are other types of DVDs (like games or data discs) that you might need to backup, but that's a topic for another post ;)

How To Burn iTunes Movies to DVD

Today I saw an interesting post on a forum about how to to burn protected iTunes movies and TV shows to a DVD. That would allow you to view the videos on your own home DVD player and TV.

The trick is getting rid of the "Digital Rights Management" protection of iTunes movies and converting them to a file format that can be used by DVD burner software. As the author of the post said :
What you need to do just two steps:
1. Remove DRM from iTunes purchased movie/TV show to unprotected WMV formats;
2. Burn the non-protected movie to DVDs.
It occurs to me that even the first step could be very useful if you simply don't want to depend on iTunes for viewing your purchased & downloaded videos and have no intention to burn them to a DVD. Personally I prefer to view my videos in the BSPlayer video player (though I use an old version that has no adware and useless features).

Anyway, here's the link to the tutorial - how to burn DVD - iTunes movies. The instructions are a bit sketchy, but you should be OK.

Not Enough Space Available?

When I was just starting to learn how to burn DVDs, I wanted to burn a small collection of video clips to a DVD. When I had set up the DVD project and added the files (see How To Burn DVD-Video for instructions on how to burn movies and videos to DVD), I hit the "Burn" button... and what do I see?"There is not enough space available for the recording process"? Hmm.... I was sure the blank DVD had enough space. Actually, the error message says there is not enough space on the hard drive for the temporary files that Nero Vision creates during the burning process.

Here's how to fix that -

Solution 1 - Free up some space

The error message tells you which folder/drive is the problem, so you can try and see if you can delete some unnecessary files from that disk. In my case this wasn't an option since my C: disk contains mostly installed programs and system files.

Solution 2 - Set a different folder for temporary files

If you have another disk/partition with more free space (5 GB recommended), you can configure Nero Vision to use that instead. To do that, click the "More" button on the bottom of the Vision's window.

Then click "Configure".

In the "Application Settings" window select the "Folders" tab and click the button near the "Temporary files" box. Now select a new folder for the temp. files and click OK to save the changes.

Now you know how to burn a DVD even if there's not enough space on your primary hard drive.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

How To Burn DVD - Video

Today I'm going to tell you how to burn DVD Video - because, well, movies are the most common thing to store on a DVD. I'll explain how to take a video file and burn it to a DVD disc. You will then be able to view the DVD in (pretty much) any DVD player.

I've intentionally kept the tutorial as simple as possible, so you should have no trouble following along.

Get The Software

Personally I use the Nero software suite for all things related to writing CDs and DVDs. I've been using it for years and so far I'm completely satisfied with the features it offers. In particular, Nero Vision is the application that I'll be talking about in this tutorial. It can turn any video file in a DVD movie that you can view on most stand-alone DVD players.

Get Nero 7 here (click on "Downloads" to get the free trial version. It's about 173 MB).

(By the way, if 173 MB is too much for your Internet connection, check out this software - DVD Copy Pro. It doesn't have nearly as much features as Nero and doesn't offer a trial version, but the download size is nearly 20 times smaller and it can still burn a movie to a disc.)

When the download is complete, launch the downloaded file and install Nero. The installation is straightforward - just click "Next" and "OK" a lot. Note : you might want to opt out of installing Ask Toolbar, though.

Launch Nero Vision

You can launch Nero Vision by clicking Start -> Programs -> Nero 7 (Premium) -> Photo and Video -> Nero Vision or, if you're using the classic Start menu, click Start -> Programs -> Nero 7 (Premium) -> Photo and Video -> Nero Vision.

The Nero Vision window will open. If you've just installed it, a "Tips" window will pop up (you can close it safely; there's also an option not to show tips) and a trial version message may appear (close that, too).

Start a New DVD-Video Project

Just click where the glossy-green PhotoShoppy arrows tell you to :)

Set Video Configuration

Now you can set the quality of the DVD Video to be created. This is an optional step - your DVD should work without changing anything here.

By clicking the "More" button on the bottom row you can open an additional toolbar. Click "Video Options" to set video configuration.

On the "General" tab set the video mode that matches your country. You can leave the SmartEncoding as is.

The DVD-Video tab lets you configure the video quality. While it might be a bit counterintuitive, the first thing to check here is the encoding mode. The default is "Fast encoding" which can lead to worse quality; you can set this to High Quality at the cost of longer encoding time.

The "Quality setting" is best left alone unless you know what you're doing. If set to "Automatic", Nero Vision will select the video quality according to the amount of space on your blank DVD. If you set this manually there's a possibility the video won't fit on the disc. Sample format and bit rate can be used to fine-tune the size and quality of the video (don't touch them for now).

Click "OK" when done.

Add Video File(s)

Back in the main window, click the "Add Video Files" button, navigate to the video you want to burn on the DVD, select it and click "Open". Most popular video formats (AVI, MPG, WMV) will work fine.

Nero Vision will import the video (this may take a few moments) and display an entry in the list to the left :

You can add more than one video this way - just click "Add Video Files" again. If you want to remove a video, select it by clicking on its entry and click the "Delete Titles" button.

Select Menu Format

(When this window opens a message will pop up, telling you how you can get more menu templates by clicking a link, blah blah blah. You can check out the link or close the message box immediately - doesn't matter.)

Since this post is about how to burn DVD in the simplest way possible, I won't go into detail about creating and editing menus here. You can leave these settings to the default values, which will produce a simple menu automatically. You could even select "Do not create a menu" if you've only got one video file to burn to the DVD.

Anyway, make sure you check the horizontal blue bar at the bottom of the window - it shows how much space is used/available on the DVD. The red line corresponds to 4.7 GB (the size of a typical DVD). If the bar crosses it, the video probably won't fit on the disc.

Click "Next" to continue.

Preview the DVD

In this window you can use a virtual DVD-player to see how your DVD movie is going to look like. Play around a bit if you want and go on to the next step by clicking "Next".

Burn The DVD

Almost done! It's time to finally burn the DVD. Click on "Burn To" and select your DVD-writer from the list to start.

This window also shows some summary info about the DVD-Video project you've created.

When you burn a DVD, Nero Vision will first encode your movie in the correct video format and then write it to the disc. Depending on the length of the video, the quality settings you've selected and the speed of your computer, the encoding can take quite a while. Encoding a full-length movie took some 3 hours for me and I've got a pretty fast PC... An important part of learning how to burn DVD is thus to be either very patient or to leave the PC running overnight ;)

That's it!

If all goes well, Nero Vision will eventually finish writing the DVD and display a message box notifying you and asking if you want to save the log. Just click "No".

Congratulations! You've burned your first DVD! Now you know how to burn DVD discs and create video DVDs that can be played in any DVD player.

There's a lot of techniques and tricks I didn't mention here because it would literally take a whole book to explain everything there is to know about burning DVD's. Now that you're familiar with the essentials, it should be easier to move on and try more advanced stuff. Maybe I'll write some more tips later, too. Cheers! :)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Burning the (DVD) Discs - Intro

I've had a computer for years and burning CD and DVD discs is pretty much a trivial, everyday task for me. I know how to burn a DVD - but it wasn't always like that. It started a long time ago - I can't really remember when - with sharing small games and pop-music of dubious quality. I had an old & quirky CD-ROM that looked like it was going to fall apart but worked surprisingly well (I think it's still somewhere in one of my desk drawers and it might even be in usable condition). Then I had two CD drives which was kind of cool and mostly useless at the same time :) ....

Erm, anyway. At the "good old days" (some 5 years ago that is) learning to burn CDs was a trial-and-error stuff for me. It can be similar with DVDs nowadays since it can be very hard to find both simple and effective instructions on how to burn DVD movies and other exciting multimedia stuff.

Therefore, I intend to post some useful tutorials to make someone's life a bit easier :)