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A case for text-based DVD rippers

By Rui Lopes on July 08, 2008 (4:00:00 PM)

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At a time when graphical DVD rippers and encoders propose to make the backing up of your movies just a click away, a text-based application may actually be the best tool for the job.

I've tried graphical rippers such as AcidRip, dvd::rip, thoggen, and RippedWire, with varying degrees of success. However, I've also had my share of headaches. Most times, any crashes or problems I experienced were related to the graphical components of the application or the desktop. It's not pleasant (to say the least) to leave your computer eating electricity all night, only to find in the morning that the ripping and encoding of a DVD failed because of an error purely related to GTK+ or Qt. It's even more frustrating when you realize that most of these applications are front ends to command-line programs. For instance, AcidRip is a wrapper for MEncoder (not that MEncoder doesn't need a front end), and RippedWire sits on top of HandBrakeCLI. Once you click the Go button, the application basically becomes a giant progress bar, hogging your desktop and system resources.

undvd

After having trouble running a GUI-based ripper/encoder on my fresh install of Arch Linux, I stumbled upon undvd. Its only core dependencies are lsdvd and MEncoder, so I decided to give version 0.3.1 a try.

Being a command-line application, undvd installed in the blink of an eye. Running scandvd.sh with a DVD loaded in the drive provides you with a simple screen that shows you the titles available on the disc, and basic instructions on how to watch them using MPlayer, or rip them. After that, scandvd.sh will exit. After deciding upon the title to rip, run undvd.sh, specifying a few, simple parameters. For instance, to rip and encode the first title of a DVD, together with an English audio and subtitle track, you can run undvd.sh -t 01 -a eng -s eng.

A more complex example rips the second track of a DVD (with a French audio track, without subtitles), forcing one-pass encoding. It assumes the DVD is encrypted (and requires libdvdcss to read) and rips straight from the optical disc, using a picture-smoothing filter and Xvid compression:

undvd.sh -t 02 -a fr -s off -1 -u -n -f -x

The result (in both cases) is an AVI file of surprisingly good quality. Other options include forcing two-pass encoding, selecting a target size for the AVI file, and video scaling.

undvd rips and encodes the titles to the folder from where you called the application, so beware of disk space issues. The default is for undvd to dump the entire DVD to disk, after which you can remove it from the drive. undvd then rips and encodes from the ISO image on disk. This protects the DVD from overuse and eliminates failed operations due to read errors. However, you can also rip directly from the DVD or from a folder.

I'm usually a nitpicker when it comes to lack of options, but my first encounter with undvd managed to make me a believer. The interface is simple but effective, and pressing the Enter key a couple of times -- or writing a short string of arguments -- is more practical in my book than navigating through tabs and checkboxes.

h264enc and xvidenc

Shortly after discovering undvd, I came upon h264enc and its siblings, xvidenc and divxenc. The author describes h264enc as an interactive script and defends the advantages of a bash script over a GUI application in his informative FAQ. h264enc does basically the same job as undvd (it also uses MEncoder), but it allows for more fine-tuning of the encoding options. The beauty of h264enc is that you can make the ripping/encoding process as simple or as complicated as you want. You can pass through as few menus as possible, or you can take your time tweaking the options. Forty-one quality presets, including presets for portable devices like Apple's iPod, make your life easier.

The man page shows you everything you need to get started. Running h264enc -scan scans the DVD for information on chapters, audio, and more, and presents it to you. After that, you can run h264enc with the necessary parameters to your liking. For instance, to rip the second track of your DVD again, type h264enc -2p -p hq. This makes a two-pass encoding with the High Quality preset. h264enc then shows a series of interactive menus where you can choose your DVD drive, the video track to rip, the audio track, chapters, angles, and so on. You can also choose postprocessing filters (such as deinterlacing, noise removal, and image sharpening) and define the video bitrate, target size, audio codec, and more. If you're in a hurry or confused, simply choose the defaults. h264enc encodes the files to the H.264/MPEG-4 Part 10 standard, using the AVI container by default. You can choose other containers, such as Matroska Multimedia Container (MKV), Ogg Media (OGM), and MPEG-4 Part 14 (MP4). You can also store your settings for a particular job in a file, thus creating your own presets. Storing different settings for different jobs allows you to create batch jobs, which is a great feature to have at hand.

The quality of the final product varies according to the quality of the original video and the settings you choose. After some experimentation and following the advice of the FAQ, I achieved excellent results. Using three-pass encoding with a Very High Quality preset and a target size of 1400MB, for example, gave me a video file practically indistinguishable from the original DVD in terms of picture quality.

Conclusion

I use undvd for most tasks, and h264enc when I need more control over the output (for extreme high-quality rips, or movies with low image quality). Still in the realm of text-based applications, you also might want to consider RipDVD and HandBrakeCLI as sound alternatives. HandBrakeCLI in particular supports multiple CPU cores -- something most other rippers and encoders don't do. Although HandBrake isn't as easy to use as h264enc or undvd, a recent article may help with that. dvd::rip also supports multiple CPU cores, as well as the ability to set up a cluster to increase processing power.

These applications show that a command-line based workflow, in the context of common desktop tasks, still has its place, especially when you want power and simplicity.

Rui Lopes is a Portuguese Web designer and filmmaker who has a wide range of interests in the technology field.

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on A case for text-based DVD rippers

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A case for text-based DVD rippers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 216.162.218.13] on July 08, 2008 06:20 PM
I think you need to distinguish between DVD rippers and encoders. Rippers generally just decrypt the VOB files. vobcopy is an excellent command line tool for this. It is not clear to me how having multiple cores can improve the ripping process since the limiting factor is the speed of the DVD. With regard to encoding, there are many tools which allow you to re-encode the files into different formats like ffmpeg, mencoder etc. I believe that many tools you describe in the article are combination rippers and encoders which are wrappers for other tools.

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Re: A case for text-based DVD rippers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.96.149.124] on July 09, 2008 05:11 AM
I agree, the author didn't make this clear. I prefer `vobcopy` or `dvdbackup`. In fact, I dislike programs that recode videos because they lose quality. If I want to split out a particular movie title into a single file, I copy it with `dvdbackup` or `vobcopy`, extract it with `tcextract`, and then mux it with Matroska.

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Windows rippers under WINE

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.151.148.225] on July 08, 2008 06:28 PM
DVD Fab Decrypter works fine under WINE.
DVD Shrink works too.
Only DVD Rebuilder (the free version) doesn't, so high compression rates cannot be achieved this way.

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Re: Windows rippers under WINE

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 65.171.234.176] on July 08, 2008 07:27 PM
Yeah; I keep both of those around simply because they work on a wide range of DVDs that Free Software utilities tend to choke on. That's not an indictment against Free utilities, but a recognition that the Windows devs may be staying on top of changing DVD copy-protection schemes. For most things, though, I try to use the Free and open-source tools.

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A case for text-based DVD rippers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.83.60.203] on July 08, 2008 06:45 PM
As the author of undvd, I might mention that since version 0.3.1 mentioned in this article undvd has received some improvements with respect to scaling, bitrate, and filesize calculation. All of this happens internally, but basically it's a lot smarter now with the choice of these parameters based on the dimensions of the original dvd video, and user options. It also does autocropping. And there is a dry-run mode to see the dimensions and filesize of the video file before encoding.

As for multicore support, it depends on the encoder being used. x264 does support it, and so whichever one of these wrappers you use (which is what undvd is), you'll benefit from it.

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A case for text-based DVD rippers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 35.10.42.67] on July 08, 2008 06:45 PM
And since sourceforge.net/acidrip doesn't exist, where does one get lsdvd?

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A case for text-based DVD rippers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 146.235.0.16] on July 08, 2008 08:42 PM
For Linux you can't do better than h264enc and xvidenc. I have tried all the other and they don't work worth a sh*&. I pair them up with DVD Fab Decrypter running in WINE and I'm off to the races.

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A case for text-based DVD rippers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 84.69.194.160] on July 08, 2008 09:44 PM
Acidrip was always meant to have a text engine, but my the time I got around to looking at actually doing it, the front and back end had become too inter-twined. Would've been great though.

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A case for text-based DVD rippers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 203.193.200.157] on July 09, 2008 01:09 AM
Meh, as "simple" as that looks i think i'll stick to my dvd::rip gui, thanks.

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A case for text-based DVD rippers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.168.92.199] on July 09, 2008 01:57 PM
K9Copy should be on here, its fantastic.

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A case for text-based DVD rippers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 172.21.34.158] on July 10, 2008 06:47 AM
Thoggen worked just fine for me. if you had troubles with it better post a bug report (http://sourceforge.net/tracker/?group_id=124800&atid=700637), how else should the issue you had with it be fixed.

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