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.
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.
Step-by-step (with default file size and options):
- Set Preferences.
- After completing the Preferences, select New Project from the File menu.
- Type in a Project Name in the Storage tab.
- Select Read DVD table of contents from the RIP Title tab.
- Select RIP selected title(s)/charter(s).
- Switch to the Transcode tab.
- Click Transcode in the Operate section at the bottom of the window and wait for it to complete.
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.
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):
- 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.
- Right click the selected title and choose Copy.
- Choose your destination directory and click Start. It took about 6 minutes to complete on my computer.
- After the ripping stage is complete select Encode Video from the Tools menu.
- Select the DVD ripping file you just created and a filename for your movie. I left everything else as defaults.
- Click Encode and wait for the transcode to complete.
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.
I'm currently in the process of writing a comparison of available DVD ripping programs for GNU/Linux. I picked the best contenders that I'm aware of and compared their features and ease of use. The goal was finding the best app for converting the main movie of a DVD to a single file playable on any computer and the winner is a surprising one (at least to me since I almost didn't include it). As a bonus I threw in a few apps targeted at creating DVD ISO's for burning back to a rewritable disk. Hopefully it will be ready to go within a week. Keep an eye on the News RSS feed for an announcement.