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GNU/Linux Desktop Survival Guide
by Graham Williams
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DVD Backups and Duke Boxes


Debian Packages: ogmrip thoggen video-dvdrip transcode vcdimager mplayer-686 subtitleripper mencoder-686 acidrip ripmake vobcopy

TODO: Review handbrake-gtk and handbrake-cli

First, a warning. There are legal issues around our rights when we purchase a movie on DVD. It would seem reasonable that having purchased a movie on DVD we, the owner, have the right to watch that movie however and wherever we choose and to have a backup copy in case of accident. In some countries, this right might also actually be the law, despite what commercial self interests might have us believe.

Making a copy of our own DVD, perhaps for backup or for a creating a hard disk duke box (using a networking digital media appliance like the LaCinema or MviX devices), is simple with the right tools. Because of uncertainties around the legal issues some of the required packages for Debian might only be available from a special archive (by adding the following to /etc/apt/sources.list using the editsources command of wajig):

deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org sid main

A variety of tools have been developed for processing DVDs. Many of these tools use the very sophisticated transcode package underneath, whilst providing simpler graphical user interfaces that use sensible defaults.

My preferred DVD backup tool is acidrip (Section 28.2.1). It provides a clean, simple and self documenting Gnome GUI for backing up DVDs and supports subtitles. It can be used to generate an avi file, which is generally quite good quality. This can be converted to svcd, if wanted, using ripmake (Section 28.2.5), or to a DVD using the tovid package and its GUI tovid-gui (see also Section 28.2.7).

The Gnome based arista is an alternative (31 May 2010).

Another very good backup tool is OGMRip (Section 28.2.4), a Gnome application for ripping and encoding DVD into the open standard DivX/OGM files (with filename extension ogg) using a wide variety of codecs. Specific titles are extracted from a DVD, producing good quality with support for subtitles.

An even simpler tool that works well if we don't need subtitles is thoggen which will extract the video encoding into an ogg container.

Another simple tool to backup a single title from a DVD and to resize it to fit on a 4.7GB DVD+RW for storage is dvrequant (Section 28.2.3).

A command line tool to help backing up a DVD to an avi file is ripmake (Section 28.2.5). This provides a simple to use command to read a DVD and to covert it to an avi file for viewing on a computer or into svcd format for burning to one or more CDs perhaps for use in consumer VCD players (svcd tends to be of lesser quality). Ripmake builds a script file that attempts to capture default values used in processing the video with transcode, and you could fine tune the script file if you wanted.

Dvdrip (Section 28.2.2) provides a tab-based GUI interface to transcode, with the idea of progressing through the tabs for each step of the process of creating your avi file.

A simple script from the Internet (mencvcd) also provides a one stop shop for backing up a DVD as SVCD. The underlying command line tools (Section 28.2.5) provide direct access to the same functionality.

In the event that you have lost or damaged the original DVD you can create a new DVD from your video files using tovid. See the recipe at http://tovid.sourceforge.net/howto.html for details. Tovid (Section 28.2.7) can be used to build a DVD iso image from any video format to burn to a DVD for playing in a consumer DVD player. This ia also a great way to transfer your digital home videos to DVD.

With these tools you can make backup copies (in numerous compressed video formats) of DVDs that you own and for your personal use. You can copy the video onto your hard disk for archiving and watching directly, keeping the original in a pristine state. You'll need lots of disk space though (a DVD movie contains up to 9GB and converting needs further disk space).


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