dvd ripper

Ripping DVDs to MPEG4 with K9Copy

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I've blogged about K9Copy's DVD rip and copy abilities in the past, but I only just noticed that it has added one step rip to MPEG4 support. After taking it for a test drive I'm very pleased with the ease of use and plan to use it for most of my ripping needs in the future.

Up until now dvd::rip has been my ripper of choice, but I recently received a stack of DVD's for Father's Day and kept getting errors during the ripping process. I reinstalled some of the libraries, but the issues still persisted. During my search for a replacement I decided to fire up K9Copy, thinking that I could potentially rip to the hard drive with it and encode with dvd::rip. That's when I noticed an MPEG4 button.

A dvd::rip Tip

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After my previous post on dvd::rip, I continued to experiment with batch processing that would allow me to have titles from multiple DVD's in the queue at the same time. Fortunately, the method didn't take long to discover and before long I was up and running more efficiently than I ever had been before. Here's how I did it.

dvd::rip Revisited

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In June I wrote an article comparing DVD ripping programs that run on Linux. At that time dvd::rip was my second choice, mostly because of its ugly interface. Now that it has an updated GUI I decided to go back and give it another try. And I'm glad I did because dvd::rip is my new favorite ripper.

Featured Article

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Search for a DVD Ripper

Linux App Finder's first multi-page article is now available. Check out Search for a DVD Ripper for reviews of some of the top GNU/Linux alternatives. The goal was finding the best app for converting the main movie of a DVD to a single file playable on any computer. As a bonus I threw in a few apps targeted at creating DVD ISO's for burning back to a rewritable disk.

Search for a DVD Ripper

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Conclusion

While I've given away the ratings already, I thought it would be useful to summarize my final thoughts. What I found over the course of writing this article is that while there is no one clear app for everyone, Linux offers many useful tools to do the job. And it's an easier job than you might expect.

The keys areas for most apps to improve is in creating a single click rip and transcode, better default settings that don't have to be changed by most users, and fixing the known bugs. If more work is put into these three areas then GNU/Linux DVD rippers will finally reach their potential.

I chose K3b as the best DVD ripper because of its clear and attractive interface and its ability to get the job done quickly with minimal fuss and configuration. dvd::rip adds the subtitle feature that is missing from K3b, but goes a step farther to be the only app I found that includes a cluster mode to harness the power of multiple machines on your home network.

If copying a DVD from one physical disk to another is your method of choice then I would look no further than K9Copy. It's simple, easy, and effective.

My final app mention is Thoggen. Its beta status clearly showed during my tests, but the idea and organization of the program makes it a strong future candidate, particularly if you are a Gnome user.

Search for a DVD Ripper

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DVD's are great and I've spent more money than I care to count on them, but if you are like me and have more movies than you can remember, a few TV series spread out over too many discs, or a desire to watch in whatever way is most convenient, you start to wish for a better way to watch. For many of us that means moving our DVD's to hard drives so we can watch them where and when we want. It sounds reasonable and should be straight-forward, but for many it's still a mystical art that takes knowledge and patience.

Today makes the first full length review on Linux App Finder, and I'm please to report that ripping a DVD to your hard drive has never been easier, and you if you are a KDE user you might already have one of these programs installed and not even know it. Eights apps were compared on their ability to rip and transcode a DVD, with a special focus on ease of use. A ninth, Drip, was originally going to be included in the review, but it had missing dependencies in Debian unstable and I was unable to install it.

Search for a DVD Ripper

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dvd::rip

dvd::rip is another ripper with a Gtk based GUI, however it still hasn't made the transition to Gtk2 in the stable release. Fortunately the website lists that the unstable release addresses this deficiency, however, I tested with the 0.52.7 version that is the most recent in the Marillat repository, so I was unable to evaluate the new interface.

A two step program, dvd::rip took slightly more than 5 minutes to rip my DVD and roughly 3.5 hrs to complete the transcode which ranks it as the second fastest in my round-up. It's worthwhile to note that the two quickest apps both used transcode for their back-end.

Other than the GUI, one of the first thing you'll notice is the need to set Preferences prior to ripping a DVD. I'm not sure why it doesn't default to the user's home directory, but it doesn't so you need to set it manually. The developers really should change this so the default is at least usable. Another feather in dvd::rip's cap is that it is very easy to determine if the needed support programs are installed and/or correctly configured. Each tab in the Preferences window also displays the status of any helper programs that are needed. Installing all of the Suggested and Recommended programs in Debian should have you covered.

One really cool sounding feature is Cluster Mode. I did not take the time to set it up for my test, but it is definitely worth looking into if you have a lot of DVD's to transcode or need to do them quickly once you start. For an activity as compute intensive as ripping and transcoding video, having the ability to use multiple computers on your home network can drastically improve your performance. Couple that with dvd::rip already being one of the fastest with just a single computer and you have a real speed demon on your hands.

As with AcidRip, I'll do the step-by-step assuming default settings. I had to make a couple adjustments on my system though. DivX4 is the default codec, but it did not run so I switched to DivX5 instead. I also notice some slight clipping of the file so I set the presets to No Modifications on the Clip & Zoom tab.

dvd::rip RIP Tab

Select the desired title from the DVD and rip it.

Step-by-step (with default file size and options):

  1. Set Preferences.
  2. After completing the Preferences, select New Project from the File menu.
  3. Type in a Project Name in the Storage tab.
  4. Select Read DVD table of contents from the RIP Title tab.
  5. Select RIP selected title(s)/charter(s).
  6. Switch to the Transcode tab.
  7. Click Transcode in the Operate section at the bottom of the window and wait for it to complete.
dvd::rip Transcode Tab

Choose video codec, file size, and audio preferences.

As you can see, there are a few more steps that are needed than with AcidRip. Along with the better default preferences that I mentioned above, a one click button that rips and transcodes would be useful and would dramatically simplify the ripping process.

Despite my dislike for dvd::rip's current appearance, it has the right combination of features, ease of use, and performance. Because of this I decided to give dvd::rip a break and not count it's GUI against it because of the impending redesign. The plan to update to Gtk2 is enough to solidify it's number two position with a four star rating and a second place finish.

Search for a DVD Ripper

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K3b

If you are like me, you didn't even realize K3b was capable of transcoding. I knew that you could rip an iso image for burning, but I never suspected I could create an AVI as well. Being a featured KDE app, K3b uses the Qt toolkit for its GUI. I used version 0.12.15-2. Since K3b is such a widely distributed app, it should be available from any distro's packaging system, and you may have it installed already.

How was the performance you ask? Very fast I'd say. In my test K3b was the fastest of them all, coming in under 3 hrs for the transcode.

Step-by-step (with default file size and options):

  1. Select your DVD drive from the folder tree on the left. The longest movie sequence will be automatically selected. This is usually the main movie, however you can change it if you wish.
  2. Right click the selected title and choose Copy.
  3. Choose your destination directory and click Start. It took about 6 minutes to complete on my computer.
  4. After the ripping stage is complete select Encode Video from the Tools menu.
  5. Select the DVD ripping file you just created and a filename for your movie. I left everything else as defaults.
  6. Click Encode and wait for the transcode to complete.
K3b encoding video

K3b encoding video.

Much like the K3b's primary existance as a CD/DVD writer, it's ripping and transcoding modes are very easy to use. I did run across a bug during the video ripping stage, but it didn't appear to cause any problems with the end result. When preprocessing the DVD, the calculation for percent complete is off and results in the percentage running significantly over 100% (i.e. >10,000%). One caution on this app is a message that appear saying K3b is currently looking for a maintainer, so it is unclear whether bugs like these are actually being fixed right now. If you are interested in this kind of work yourself and want to be involved in a great project it looks like a good time to contact the team and see if they still have an opening.

K3b default file size is a single 700MB file. A handful of other options are available from a drop down list. Many of the other rippers work in a similar fashion. The only reason I mention it here is to note that you can select whatever file size you want, even if it isn't on the list, but you might not realize it at first glance. Choosing --- from the CDs dropdown box will allow you to manually enter a custom file size. This option should really be marked with something more intuitive.

Another feature of note is K3b's support for an AC3 pass-through mode in case you want to maintain surround sound audio. The default is using MP3 compression, but AC3 mode is a good option if you really want Dolby Digital output. Hopefully we'll see an MPEG surround sound standard soon, but until that comes, keeping the AC3 track is the way to go.

K3B is my new favorite DVD ripper and the one I'll be using from now on. The one feature it is missing is support for subtitles. If you don't care about that though, K3b is the easiest and fastest of all the apps I tested. I rate it at 4 stars for DVD ripping, although I consider it a 5 star program for CD/DVD writing. Only its bug during the DVD ripping stage and lack of subtitle support kept it from being a 5. It would also be nice if the rip and transcode pieces could be combined where all of the options are selected up front.

Search for a DVD Ripper

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DVD Copiers

I included K9Copy and xDVDShrink in the chart above even though they don't transcode because I wanted to point out some options for maintaining a full DVD structure and truly copying a DVD (for personal use only of course). K3b also contains this functionality. This section does not contain full reviews, but should provide enough information to get you started.

If you already use K3b, it's likely you'll just want to stick with it, but if you want a single function app that easy to use then K9Copy should be right up your alley. There's not much you can do to mess up this one. Three steps are all you need.

K9Copy Title Selection

Select the desired title and soundtrack from the DVD.

Step-by-step (with default file size and options):

  1. Open the DVD
  2. Select the tracks to copy
  3. Start the copy
K9Copy ripping DVD

K9Copy ripping the DVD.

That's it. It doesn't get much easier. If you do want to burn the iso back to a DVD then what do you use? Why K3b of course. K9Copy has an option to integrate with K3b for the burning process.

xDVDShrink is a little more involved, which is why I prefer both K9Copy and K3b over it. In addition to a standard preferences page, xDVDShrink makes you enter options into a console at runtime. I'm not clear why these settings needed to be separate, but it's very annoying.

Search for a DVD Ripper

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Linux App Finder's first multi-page article is now available. Check out Search for a DVD Ripper for reviews of some of the top GNU/Linux alternatives. The goal was finding the best app for converting the main movie of a DVD to a single file playable on any computer. As a bonus I threw in a few apps targeted at creating DVD ISO's for burning back to a rewritable disk.

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