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Get Thoggen, and leave your DVDs at home

By Nathan Willis on March 29, 2006 (9:00:00 AM)

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Thoggen is a new DVD ripper/backup-tool for Linux that encodes video into the free Ogg Theora format. Unlike its rivals, Thoggen is easy to use, and its built-in support for the Theora codec instead of the patent-restricted MPEG-4 and derivatives makes it worth looking at.

On its surface, Thoggen is a DVD backup and extraction tool (i.e., "ripper"). You use it to make a copy of the video titles on your DVD, either because you worry about damaging frequently played discs, because watching compressed video from the hard disk is faster and less power-hungry than watching it from a DVD drive, or perhaps because you simply need portability. The thought of carrying every episode of "Arrested Development" wherever you go is certainly appealing, but even slimline DVD boxed sets get cumbersome on a daily commute.

Some DVD extractors are limited to pulling content off of a disc as-is, leaving you with a set of gargantuan .VOB files. Others that take the next step, encoding the video in a space-saving compressed format. Most of these utilize a variant of the MPEG-4 Part 2 codec: XviD, DivX, 3ivx, et cetera.

The trouble is that MPEG-4 is patented, and in order to use it legally you need a license, even if you've jumped every other legal hurdle Hollywood throws at the public these days -- I mean content like public domain, unencrypted DVDs. Certainly there are people out there with nefarious ends in mind, for whom such issues make zero difference, but what about the rest of us? Well, thanks to Thoggen, we have a tool to extract and repackage DVD video in a royalty-free, patent-free format.

Ogg fans will remember Theora as the free (BSD-licensed) derivative of the On2's VP3 codec, donated by On2 to the Xiph.org foundation in 2002. Theora is actually a superset of the old VP3, rewritten to take better advantage of the Ogg container format and as a result be more flexible. Xiph.org, home to development of the Vorbis audio codec, releases "reference implementations" of Theora as the libtheora library. It currently stands at 1.0 alpha5.

Many free software players support the codec, including mainstays VLC, MPlayer and Xine. Support in commercially available players is less common, although the RealNetworks-sponsored Helix Player does support Theora, and a package of DirectShow filters is available for Windows.

Let there be oggs

To use Thoggen, grab a package from the project's site. The current release is 0.4, and it's available as source code, but the download page has links to binaries for some older releases, so it is worth checking to see if new binaries appear there as well. I had no trouble compiling the source. The program relies on GStreamer and libdvdread3; be sure to check the dependencies.

Once installed, Thoggen is simple to use. Thoggen detects DVD drives on your computer and, if you have more than one, lets you select which one to extract. From the selected disc, it presents you with a checklist of the available title tracks.

Here there is a shortcoming, in that you must decide which titles to rip without benefit of their names. Most CD rippers handle the analogous situation by connecting to an online database like freedb.org, but there is no such site for DVD content.

After you choose which tracks to rip, Thoggen will bring up a simple options page where you can select language tracks (if available) and set your output video options. You have your choice between multiple picture sizes, the ability to crop the picture, and the option to set either a video quality parameter or to restrict the output size. Last but not least, you can choose to add a title tag and specify the name of the output file.

Once you are ready, click OK. Thoggen handles the rest of the configuration details, and brings up a preview window so you can keep an eye on the ripping progress.

Do one thing and do it well

Thoggen is not perfect, of course. Several times when testing it, the ripping process kept churning long after the encoding was finished -- a known bug in this release. And that encoding process is CPU-intensive and very long. The Theora implementation used is far from optimized, and at full DVD resolution, encoding can slow down to the single-digit frames-per-second count, meaning several hours are required.

That said, I still recommend Thoggen. For one thing, I can't heap enough praise on the interface. Simplicity is the watchword, and Thoggen gets it just right, presenting the user with the appropriate choices and working out the necessary details itself. Transcoding video is complicated, but Thoggen manages to make it simple. A lot of other apps could learn a lot from its design decisions.

I also like the fact that Thoggen uses Theora; this is good for users because Linux distributions can ship it, and good for the ongoing development of the codec as well. Detractors may say that free codecs like Vorbis and Theora are bound up in a "chicken and egg" dilemma: the older codecs are better performers because everyone uses them, and everyone uses them because they are better performers.

Maybe so. But Thoggen is the best and easiest to use DVD video extractor out there, and that alone is reason enough to use it; the fact that it uses a free, patent-unencumbered codec is immaterial to users. But by virtue of being an excellent application, it will accelerate both adoption and development of the codec. And then everybody wins.

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on Get Thoggen, and leave your DVDs at home

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Wow....just Wow!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 30, 2006 01:57 AM
First Ogg, then Ekiga, Now Thoggen.

*shakes head*

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context is everything

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 30, 2006 12:47 PM
Since name-of-app (or name-of-codec, etc) complaints are common, and frequently trollish, I'll limit myself to this short rantish reply:

"Familiar" is not the same as "obvious." Names of software aren't *quite* like the names of cars, but consider why outlandish car model names aren't that big a deal. If someone mentions that they drive a Tahoe, you don't have to be very familiar with that name to figure out they didn't come to work transported by a town, a lake, or a ski resort. Names that don't seem to convey much (and don't, except for some word association -- which might not be the association the makers intended) are perfectly adequate, and totally appropriate, when talking about cars, *because the context makes them so.* If someone doesn't know that by "Aztek" you mean a hideous botch of a Pontiac-branded automobile, you can parse it for them. Car brand names are chosen for any number of reasons, but not usually to convey the idea that it's a passenger conveyance. (See the Coneheads movie for a deadpan listing of the name origins of the / Lincoln-Mercury Sable.)

Seemingly outlandish names for apps, codecs, and programming languages operate the same way, or at least nearly so. Nearly, because the name of software *can* be a clue to its purpose or function, as in the cases of Outlook Express, Quark XPress, Delphi, Oracle, Kai's PowerTools, The Sims, Doom, C, Pascal, Perl,<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.net, WinAmp and ICQ, the meaning of each of which is of course immediately obvious.

[<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:) ]

The "funny name" problem is one that gets a lot of bile (or shaking heads, as here) in the world of free software, and it seems like the folks who despise playful, clever or odd names aren't into being convinced; so be it, the other side is just as stubborn. But for most users (at least of free operating systems, I don't have a Windows machine here to compare) it's no problem at all. When I open up what I consider the easiest menu to reach on my (funny named) GNOME desktop -- that is, the upper left menu -- I see a list of choices, incluing one called Graphics. That lists the (funny named) application The GIMP, but the menu listing actually says "GIMP Image Editor." Hovering the mouse over it for a second, a descriptive tag appears: "Create and edit images or photographs." That series of clarifications at least borders on heavy-handed! Most of the other items in the Graphics submenu have similar tags; I wish I could say they all do, but I'm guessing -- since I'm too lazy to check -- that KDE uses a different approach to this descriptive tagging, because the KDE-centric apps in this list don't pop up those clues, but I think they do under KDE. Stupid inconsistencies!

Programs need names, and their creators have motivations of various strengths for creating programs and for naming them. Some are more straightforward than others; straightforward is fine, but it's not the most important thing in the world. Closed-source software names are often no more indicative of their functionality (as in my tongue-in-cheek list above), and even when they are, the relationship still takes a lot of background for it to seem intuitive. "PageMaker" and "PhotoShop" didn't mean anything in 1980 to even the hippest personal computer user, even if a time traveller could have gotten the idea through in a pinch, and pitched those as plausible names for the programs they're now attached to. Others have made that argument better than I even want to bother trying here, so I'll leave it that that.

And what about Google? A misspelling of a mathematical term indicating a number that is (for earth-person purposes) close to infinity. It conveys nothing specific, but (to me at least) it's a cute, pleasant word somewhere between inoccuous and intriguing. Like Ogg Vorbis. in fact, and like Thoggen, perl, and many of the other frequently derided open source project names. And since many websites really *are* apps these days, there are easy targets like Yahoo!, Friendster, and Orbitz.

[Aside: In the late 70s, SNL stretched "With a name like 'Smuckers,' it's got to be good" into "With a name like 'Death Camp,' it's got to be good." That made me laugh, but Thoggen is easily pronounceable and without any obvious negative imagery, at least to English speakers. It's not "Death Camp."]

timothy

p.s. But I hate "Ekiga" too -- not sure how to pronounce it, and not sure I want to know. What if it's "eh-KEYE-jhzuh"? It's nearly "Death Camp," as a name, even though the app is cool.


   

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Too Slow

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 30, 2006 12:51 AM
The project website says "The current release should work fine, albeit slow, for most people" and they're not kidding. Thoggen is much slower than a tool like <a href="http://v2v.cc/~j/ffmpeg2theora/index.html/" title="v2v.cc">ffmpeg2theora</a v2v.cc> Still, a great interface compared to alternatives like AcidRip or dvd::rip.

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Resolution loss ??

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 30, 2006 03:04 AM
Usually re-encoding with compression = loss of Resolution.

Is there another route that will preserve the original resolution (PAL/NTSC)?

I have 1920x1200 on my desktop screens and I dont want to lose any valuable resolution when ripping / encoding the original material.

Should I just stick with MPEG-2 VOBs (size is not an issue, I have plenty of disk space available). What do others use for this situation?

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Re:Resolution loss ??

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 30, 2006 03:24 AM
You monitor's resolution is irrelevant. Do you have a library of HD DVDs? I don't think so. Maybe you need to see how low TV standards currently are?

Compression doesn't mean losing resolution. Simply compress with a losless format.

If size isn't an issue, just create<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.iso files and have the whole dvd available on the HD.

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Re:Resolution loss ??

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 30, 2006 04:34 AM
Is there another route that will preserve the original resolution (PAL/NTSC)?

I have 1920x1200 on my desktop screens and I dont want to lose any valuable resolution when ripping / encoding the original material.


Considering that DVDs are encoded at a maximum of 720x480 (or 720x576 for PAL) you are not going to "lose valuable resolution" since you're already scaling up to fill your 1920x1200 monitor anyways. Higher resolutions are only available on HD media which is basically non-existent at the moment.

Recoding is indeed a lossy process but it won't change the actual resolution of the picture at all unless you specify you want to scale it down--your recoded video will come out at the same 720x480 it comes of the original disc.

The lossy part is in the artifacting that comes out of the recode. you'd notice basically no difference in "talking head" shots or other scenes that are mostly static imagery, but in other cases it might be momentarily distracting (fast action scenes, scenes with a lot of darkness or large areas of mostly the same colour--particularly on a monitor with the brightness and contrast set at extremes). I'd describe it as "chunky blotches" that flash into view.

I wouldn't waste your drive space saving ISOs or full-sized VOBs of all your movies except for movies that you're passionate about, or movies that would be prone to the artifacting caused by more aggressive compression (a lot of Disney-style cel animation or any Star Wars movie basically). Your DVD-sets of favourite TV shows aren't worth wasting the space, even if hard drives are cheap.

#

DeCSS?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 30, 2006 03:46 AM
And will it handle CSS-encrypted commercial DVDs? I didn't see libdvdcss as a dependency, or is that built into GStreamer?

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Re:DeCSS?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 30, 2006 05:41 AM
<nobr> <wbr></nobr>../thoggen-0.4/README

Requirements:
.
.
libdvdcss2 >= 1.2.8 required for encrypted DVDs

#

Re:DeCSS?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 31, 2006 04:05 AM
Yes, Thoggen will handle CSS-encrypted DVDs *IF* you have libdvdcss installed. For me, it "just works", it's completely transparent. Thanks to the modular architecture of gstreamer, Thoggen will automatically use libdvdcss when available<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-)

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no subtitles for you!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 30, 2006 04:16 AM
Have to wait for it to support subtitles<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:(

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Works well

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 31, 2006 01:19 AM
I've used this to take my movies on the road for the last several months. It works well. My favorite feature is that I can copy the contents of my DVD the HDD and then easily rip from there if I choose to. My DVD drive is loud and I don't like to leave a disc in there spinning for long periods of time.

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What kind of compression can we expect?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on March 31, 2006 06:14 AM
I know the compressed DVD size will vary depending on many factors, but in general what kind of space are we taking about for the final compressed movie?

I am not familiar with OGG/THEORA so I would like some idea of the space savings by using this approach.

Some example sizes whould be helpful.

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It's available on Ubuntu breezy...

Posted by: Administrator on March 29, 2006 07:49 PM
Works like a dream<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

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