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DVD Ripping and Decryption Guide: A FairUseTube Primer

In a welcome ruling to vidders and amateur remixers everywhere, the Library of Congress recently made an exception to the prohibition in the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) which made it illegal to break the copy-protection on DVDs. It is now completely legal do decrypt DVDs and rip them to your computer for the purpose of using footage from motion pictures in noncommercial remix videos (a practice commonly called "vidding"). Vidding includes things like Anime Music Videos (AMVs) and other similar types of music videos common on YouTube, which the Library of Congress strongly implied in its ruling constitute fair use. Prior to the ruling, it would have been illegal to break the copy-protection on DVDs and rip them to your computer, even for purposes which are otherwise fair use under US copyright law.

In celebration of this ruling, this site now offers the following guide on how to decrypt DVDs, rip them to your computer, and convert the footage into a format which you can import into common video editing software for purposes of noncommercial remix.

Note: This guide is only for Windows users. For Mac users, the best program to use for both decryption and conversion is Handbrake.

Before You Get Started

You will need the following freely available software:

  1. DVD Decrypter - This program decrypts the most common form of DVD copy-protection* (called CSS) and rips the DVD to your computer as a single VOB file. Because of the vaugeries of US copyright law, it is now legal to use the program to rip DVDs for noncommercial remix purposes, but it is not actually legal to distribute or host the software itself on a US-based website. However, you can download the program from a British website HERE.
  2. AVIdemux - Available for download HERE. This is the best and easiest to use program I have found for converting DVD format video into AVI files, which can then be imported into most types of video editing software.

*Note: While DVD Decrypter will successfully decrypt 90% of the commercial DVDs out there, there are some DVDs it will not work with. In addition to the regular type of CSS encryption, some more high profile movies will also use fake bad disc sectors (essentially deliberately inserted disc errors) which will thwart DVD Decrypter and cause it to crash with a disc-read error. Though there may be others, the only program I have found that will successfully rip those kinds of DVDs is the commercial program DVDFab, which is not free and you will have to pay to purchase it.

Step 1: Decrypting and Ripping the DVD

  1. Install DVD Decrypter and insert the DVD you want to rip into your DVD drive.
  2. Run DVD Decrypter and click OK on the box that pops up alerting you about region coding. It should then bring you to a screen that looks like this:

  3. We need to make sure your options are set correctly. Go to Tools > Settings and click on the "IFO Mode" tab. The following options should be checked. The most important are that file splitting is set to "none," "Select Main Movie PGC" is checked, and that it is set to remove both RC and RCE protection. After setting those options, click OK.

  4. Back on the main screen, select Mode > IFO I. Click through the region protection alert screen again. It should now look like this:


    All the chapters of the main movie should already be selected, though if you are ripping a DVD with multiple episodes of a TV show you may have to select which ones you want under the Input tab.
  5. Next click on the "Stream Processing" tab, and make sure "Enable Stream Processing" is selected. To reduce the final file size, uncheck everything except the video channel and the main English audio channel. Make sure the radio button below the list of available channels is set to "Direct Stream Copy" rather than "Demux" (which would split the audio and video into separate files). Leave the "Map to" setting on the default. It should now look like this:

  6. On the left-hand side of the main screen under "Destination," click on the folder icon and specify a directory to save the ripped files to. I recommend using an external hard drive with plenty of space, since it will be a pretty big file.
  7. Click the big DVD > Hard Disc icon and let 'er rip! Depending on the specific DVD and the speed of your computer, it should probably take about 20 minutes to rip, and the output file should appear in the specified directory as VTS_01_1.VOB.

Step 2: Convert the Video File to AVI

Now that you have ripped the movie to a single VOB file, you need to convert it to something your video editing software can work with. To do that, we will use Avidemux.

  1. Run Avidemux, and drag and drop the VOB file into the main window. Click yes when it asks if you want to index the file (this is crucial or it won't work).
  2. On the left side of the main screen, change the "Video" drop down box from "copy" to "MPEG-4 ASP (Xvid)". (Note: At the time I wrote this article, XVID was the standard video format most people used to rip DVDs. Now, you might want to rip it in x264 format, also known as MP4-AVC.)
  3. Change the "Audio" drop down box to "MP3 (lame)."
  4. The "Format" drop down should say "AVI." At this point everything should look like this:

  5. Under video, click "Configure." This should bring up a window for configuring the XVID codec, which is the compression method the final video will use. The only settings you need to worry about are on the "General" tab. Set Encoding Mode to "Constant Quantiser (Single Pass). (I find this generally works best for the best quality footage as long as you're not too worried about file size. If you were going for a small file size, it would be best to set it on "Video Size (Two Pass)," which allows you to specify a target size.) Then set the Quantiser slider to somewhere in the 2-4 range. Four is usually sufficient, but for maximum quality I am going to set it to 2. Also make sure "Pixel Aspect Ratio" is set to "Custom 1:1." The settings should now look like this. Click OK to save the XVID Configuration settings.

  6. Under video, click on "Filters." This should bring up a window like this. There are lots of filters you can play around with, but the only ones we're worried about are crop and resize.

  7. We now need to crop and resize the video so that it is in the proper aspect ratio (the ratio of width to height). It is important to do it in this order: crop and then resize. Double-click the "Crop" filter. This brings up a window which will allow you to crop out the black bars at the top and bottom of the video, making the movie fill the entire screen. Move the slider to the right until you can actually see the movie, then adjust the "Top" and "Bottom" boxes by clicking the arrows until both black bars are completely highlighted green, like this. Then click OK.

  8. Next, double-click on the "MPlayer resize" filter and make sure it is set to "Lock Aspect Ratio."  If your DVD is in widescreen format, select 16:9 in the Source dropdown box (if it's fullscreen select 4:3). For both widescreen and fullscreen DVDs, the Destination dropdown box should be set to 1:1. Make sure the box next to "Round to the Nearest Multiple of 16" is checked. The resize dimension values should then be set automatically. For Resize Method, the default setting of Bilinear should be fine, though the other two settings will produce sharper results at the cost of longer rendering time and more video artifacts. Incidentally, if you want to upscale your footage to HD resolution, you can do that at this stage by moving the slider so that the width reads "1280," for 720p resolution. For now, I am going to keep it at DVD resolution, so it should look like this. Then click OK.

  9. Close the video filters box, and then click the "video" option at the top of the window. Click on frame rate. The program should automatically detect this, but in case it doesn't, for movies, the frame rate should be set at 23.976, and for TV shows it should be set to 29.96. If you are using a DVD from outside the United States, it may use the PAL standard of 25 frames per second, which you can select from the drop down box. After you check the frame rate, click OK.

  10. Under the Audio settings on the left side of the window, click Configure. The settings I normally use are Channel Mode: Stereo, Bitrate Mode: CBR, Quality: 2, and Bitrate 192. Then click OK.

  11. Again under the Audio settings, click Filters. Set Mixer to "stereo," and leave the other settings alone. Click OK.

  12. You should now be ready to run the video conversion. Do this by clicking the floppy disk "save" icon at the top of the screen, select your output directory, and type in "MovieName.avi." Then click the save button and off you go. The full conversion process will likely take several hours for a feature length film, depending on the speed of your computer. Note that the timeline sliders at the bottom of the main screen allow you to select "in" and "out" points so you can only render part of the full film if you want, which you might want to use to render out a short test clip to make sure everything looks okay before spending hours rendering the whole movie.

Congratulations! When the render completes, you will have successfully ripped the movie to an AVI file, which you can then import into your video editing software.

A Few Further Notes

  • Once you have converted your DVD to AVI format, Windows Media Player may not be able to play the XVID format if the XVID codec is not installed. If you try to play the video in Windows Media Player and you hear audio but only see black, that means the video codec isn't installed. The best way to take care of this is to install the Combined Community Codec Pack, which will allow Windows Media Player to play pretty much every type of digital video format there is.
  • Some video editing programs, especially older versions of Sony Vegas, will not recognize the XVID codec and won't let you import the video into your timeline. To fix this, you need to trick the program into thinking the video is encoded with the similar DIVX codec by changing the FourCC codes in the video's metadata. While this sounds complicated, it is actually extremely simple to do. Just download AVI FourCC Code Changer, run the program, open your final converted video file, and change both fields to "DIVX" (exactly like that, all caps with no quotes). I know first-hand that trick works to get XVID videos to work with Sony Vegas Movie Studio 8, though I don't know if any other programs have that issue.

Last Updated on Friday, 20 July 2012 00:11


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