Video Part 7 - DVD2Xvid

by Paul Arnote (parnote)

Can I copy my DVDs?

Before I get into talking about the DVD2Xvid program, it’s only fitting that we discuss this hot topic, one that has spawned many heated debates and arguments. The law is quite ambiguous. In the U.S., there appears to be significant conflict between the “old” copyright law and the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) amendment to that copyright law regarding fair use by consumers and circumventing access controls. According to the writers of the amendment, the DMCA does not trump traditional use of copyrighted materials, as has been previously established by law and the courts.

Although the Hollywood movie studios and the MPAA would love for you to believe otherwise, it IS perfectly legal (in the U.S., anyways; check the laws for your region of the world) for you to make a backup or archival copy of your legally purchased DVD movies for archival purposes. But that’s only if you are a U.S. citizen, and if you go by the U.S. courts rulings regarding copyrights and your rights to make a personal, private archival copy. That archival purpose could include creating a copy on your home media server’s hard drive, eliminating the disc-swap-dance involved with watching the movie as it is presented on the DVD drive.

The DVD disc producers even go to great lengths to prevent you from making that legal archival copy, with copy protection schemes that have become quite elaborate and tricky. Presumably, the movie studios claim that the copy protection schemes are needed to prevent piracy, which can be quite troublesome to the bottom line when it comes to home video sales of a title. For many movies, the revenue from home video sales can provide huge relief for a movie that had lackluster performance at the box office. It’s also the reason why so many recent box office releases find their way to home video within a few months of the film’s original release.

I doubt that there will ever be any way to eliminate piracy, and it seems that more money is spent on trying to eradicate piracy than the piracy itself costs the movie studios overall. While those committing piracy should be prosecuted, going after and prosecuting/persecuting the average home consumer who makes an archival copy of copyrighted media for their own personal use is NOT the answer. Nor is going after the authors of software to circumvent access controls the answer, since it tends to do more to stifle innovation and competition.

Whatever the case, we won’t settle the issue here, in the pages of The PCLinuxOS Magazine. At least you have some idea of the ground this debate covers.


The whole idea behind DVD2Xvid is actually pretty simple: take a DVD, and rip that DVD to an *.avi file, encoded with the Xvid video codec. The choice of Xvid is an outstanding one, since the Xvid codec offers really good compression and very good quality, as well as the ability to vary the quality from passable to excellent. Many Xvid encoded files will also play back on set top Divx-capable players, so you can rip your archived DVD movie, burn it to a blank CD, and play your copy. This will allow you to leave the original in a safe place, so it doesn’t get damaged. DVD2Xvid is available in the PCLinuxOS repository.

When you first start up DVD2Xvid, you will see the screen above. For my “test run,” I chose the animated feature “The Brave Little Toaster” as the DVD title that I was going to rip.

If DVD2Xvid does not immediately find your DVD title, click on the “File” button at the very top of the window and point DVD2Xvid to the directory that contains your DVD’s VIDEO_TS directory. You will also need to select the output file name and directory. Here, I chose to name my file the.little.toaster.avi, and to store it in my /home/parnote-xfce/Recordings directory. Clicking the button next to “Select Outfile” will open a “File Save As...” dialog box.

Next, select the title on the DVD that you want to make into an Xvid endoded AVI file. All of the titles on the DVD will appear in the drop down listbox. Typically, the longest title on the disc is the feature film. To be sure you have selected the correct title, select the “Preview” button on the right to play the selection in a pop up MPlayer window.

Under “Picture quality settings,” select the options you want to use when transcoding your DVD title to an Xvid AVI file. Select the video bitrate you want to use. The default value is 1000 kbps. Here, I selected 1200 kbps, from the drop down listbox. Select the level of “Motion search algorithm” you want to use. While “0” is the default value, selecting a higher value will make motion search between frames much more sensitive, although higher values will slow the transcoding process. I have found the default setting to work just fine, for my needs.

I have also selected “2-Pass encoding,” which will give me a much higher quality image, despite taking twice as long to encode, since the movie is scanned twice—once to study the video and learn how to optimize the video, and a second time to record the video using the optimizations learned on the first pass. I’ve also selected the “Autoaspectoption,” so that the aspect ratio of my video matches the movie’s aspect ratio as it is on the DVD. Finally, I’ve also selected the “Cartoonoption,” since the title I am converting is an animated feature.

In the next section, “Audio encodingoption,” you can select the options for the audio portion of your transcoded video file. You can select two soundtracks for your video file. For the first one, I simply selected “Standard sound.” I opted to have no second soundtrack, hence the “without” as my selection in the second soundtrack list.

For “Encodingoptions,” I’ve simply selected to “copy” the sound from the DVD to my AVI file, and it is the default setting in DVD2Xvid. You can also choose AC3 or faac as the audio codec. If you select one of the alternate audio codecs, you can also select the audio bitrate to use to re-encode your audio. Since I have elected to copy the audio, I cannot change the audio bitrate.

Finally, you can select subtitles to include in your AVI file. I have chosen to not use subtitles. “Without subtitle” is the default value. However, should you want to include them, you can select the subtitles from the DVD in the drop down listbox.

Under the “Time settings” section, you can select to advance or delay the audio-video sync, if you are having problems with the audio syncing properly with your video images. Enter either a positive or negative number into the “Modify time-line” box, and the audio will be either advanced of delayed by that number of milliseconds.

You can also record portions of a DVD title. Enter the start time where you want to start recording in the “Start by” fields, followed by the end time in the “Stop by” fields. The three entry fields represent hours, minutes and seconds.

Once you have all of your settings as you want them, click on one of the buttons at the bottom of the window. The buttons at the far left and far right of the screen should be quite obvious. Selecting the “Append” button will add more “jobs” to the batch processng list.

After you select the “Start” button, the main DVD2Xvid window will disappear, and the above window will take its place. This window will show you the progress of the transcoding process. Since most of the information in the window has German labels, you will probably be most interested in the “Groesse” (Size), “Restzeit” (Remaining) and “Encodiert” (Encoded) information. The Remaining label will display an approximation of how much time is remaining for the current phase of the encoding process to complete. The Size label will display an approximation of the final file size, which really isn’t accurate until you get into the second pass of a two pass encoding. The Encoded label will tell you how many sectors have been encoded, along with the percentage of the current phase of encoding is completed.


DVD2Xvid is a handy tool to have, especially if you have a home media center. For example, my transcoding of “The Brave Little Toaster” from a DVD to an Xvid encoded AVI file, stored on my hard drive, ended up weighing in right at 900 MB in size. This saves a LOT of space, when you consider that copying a DVD to your hard drive will often take up anywhere from five to ten GiB of space.

Certainly, I could have made the transcoded video’s file size even smaller, by selecting a lower video bitrate, along with re-encoding the audio to another codec at a lower bitrate. I have (and have seen) other videos encoded at video bitrates as low as 500 kbps, and even they were quite watchable—although the quality loss does start to become quite noticeable once you select video bitrates under 800 kbps.

The use of DVD2Xvid is easy and straight forward, and makes the job of creating digital backup copies quite simple.