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Re-Using DVDs -- Extracting video and audio (3/2006)
(Mirazon Cinematize 2 and InterVideo DVD Copy 4)
by Douglas Dixon
DVDs are not just for playback anymore. DVD discs are not only a convenient way to play and share your videos, but now you also can use them as your video archives -- you can extract clips from your DVDs to re-use in new presentations. New DVD software applications allow you to directly combine portions of several discs into a new DVD, or extract segments as video files to edit into new productions.
So let's look at a couple of new alternatives for re-using content from DVDs, now including direct extraction to formats for portable players including the Apple iPod and Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP):
- Mirazon Cinematize 2, a DVD movie clip extractor for Mac and PC that cleanly copies the original MPEG-2 video from DVDs.
- InterVideo DVD Copy 4, a disc copy tool for merging and copying DVDs, and also extracting content.
As discussed in the sidebar, there are more and more options for this kind of re-using of DVD content, also available in DVD burning suites, video editing tools, and DVD authoring tools. And just to be clear, we're talking about working with un-protected DVDs here -- discs like those you have created, and not commercial Hollywood DVDs with copy protection.
DVDs were designed as a delivery format, with the video and audio aggressively compressed after the final editing, and then intermixed together into a collection of big VOB files. As a result, while the content of a DVD is nicely optimized for real-time playback from a spinning disc, it's not at all convenient for editing. However, today's faster computers and better software make it feasible to work with the compressed MPEG-2 video format used on DVDs, so it's now reasonable to grab video out of a DVD as just another clip to use for a new editing project.
Some video editing tools allow you to extract video for editing, and some DVD copy tools allow you extract files in various formats (see sidebar), but these approaches can require extra steps or recompressing to another formats.
A more straightforward approach is to use a dedicated DVD extraction tools like Mirazon Cinematize (www.miraizon.com), available for both the Mac and PC (US$59.95 download). Cinematize is focused on getting the content out of the disc -- extracting the MPEG-2 video and audio data into files on hard disk, ready for you to re-use. Cinematize delivers the original MPEG-2 video without any processing or re-compression, and also extracts the original audio, or optionally converts it from surround-sound / Dolby Digital AC3 format to stereo Wave or AIFF format that can be edited by most applications.
Cinematize is designed as a three-step process. Use the first Files screen to select the disc contents to extract from -- it's easiest to just drag and drop the main DVD folder (VIDEO_TS). Cinematize can work directly from a DVD disc, or from a DVD volume with the DVD files stored on hard disk. Cinematize than displays the DVD contents as stored on the disc -- with one or more Video Title Set (VTS) elements containing IFO information data files and multiple VOB video object files. Highlight the VTS you want to extract from (typically the only one for consumer discs), and click Select VTS.
Cinematize then reads the DVD contents and displays the second screen, with tabs to specify the segment to extract and the output format. Select the disc title element to extract from (typically the first -- there may also be titles with motion menus and other ancillary elements on the disc), and the tracks (video, audio, subtitles) within that title.
Use the first Segment tab to select the starting and ending point for the clip you want to extract -- as a chapter and time offset within the chapter. (You can scroll through the clip to make these selections, but it's easier to plan this ahead of time when you watch your DVD, or run a DVD player application to preview the sequence.)
Then step through the other tabs to select the output formats. You can extract the raw MPEG-2 video data, or output through QuickTime to other formats. For audio, you can extract any available stream on the disc (i.e., stored as Dolby AC-3, MPEG1 audio, or Linear PCM). Since surround-sound AC-3 format is not particularly easy to edit with today's consumer tools, you also can optionally downmix to two-channel stereo and convert to the more common WAV or AIFF format. You also can have the extracted segment saved in one file, or to separate files for each chapter.
When you are done selecting the segment and output format, click Extract Data to start the extraction to files on hard disk. That's all you need to do for extracting the MPEG data from a DVD -- you can get the original data, unprocessed and not recompressed, at the best available quality for further editing. Of course, depending on how much video you crammed on the DVD, the MPEG data may be pretty heavily compressed already. However, today's video editing tools can work with MPEG data, just don't send the same clip though too many cycles of recompression as you re-use them.
Beyond MPEG, Cinematize also offers a QuickTime output option. You can then choose a QuickTime compression codec, to convert to DV format, or as uncompressed data, or other available QuickTime formats, with general control over the output quality and aspect ratio. And you can save the result as a QuickTime Movie file, or in Windows AVI format.
The latest Cinematize versions, released in December 2005 (Cinematize 2.05 for Mac and 2.02 for Windows), also added support for extracting through QuickTime to MPEG-4 formats for downloading to the Apple video iPod and Sony PlayStation Portable. Just be careful to check the Help file to make sure all the necessary options are set correctly.
Another option for extracting clips is to use a DVD copy tool -- today's copy applications not only copy DVDs, but also assemble them from multiple sources, and extract their contents to various video file formats. The new Platinum edition of InterVideo DVD Copy 4, released in December 2005 ($49.95 Gold, $79.95 Platinum, www.intervideo.com), also added support for extracting to advanced MPEG-4 and H.264 file formats, including iPod video, Sony PSP, and 3GPP mobile phones.
InterVideo DVD Copy 4
DVD Copy provides three general functions: DVD Copy (extract segments and fit to destination), DVD Merge (combine segments from multiple discs), and File to DVD (create a DVD from multiple video clip files). For each of these functions, you move through a three-step process: select the Source discs / segments to copy, the Target disc / clips to write, and the Copy format to use in converting the input.
For extracting to video files on hard disk, use the DVD Copy function to select the source segments, and then select the output file format, including video to Windows Media Video (WMV) or just the audio as WMA, WAV, or MP3. The new Platinum edition supports extracting to Apple iPod and Sony PSP portable devices, advanced H.264 MPEG-4, 3GPP / 3GP2 (MPEG-4 for mobile phones), and DivX Media (DVD-like format with menus, audio tracks, and subtitles).
DVD Copy also has some other interesting tricks, including extracting audio clips to create a soundtrack CD, and downloading and converting directly from an Internet site (Web or FTP).
As we have seen, there are a lot of options for re-using content from your DVDs. However, there's no single right answer for all your possible needs. Some tools copy from physical discs, but not from the same files stored on hard disk. Some allow you to preview and select precise segments within the disc, while others can only select individual chapters or even entire VOBs. Some can extract to various video file formats on hard disk, but not to common lightly-compressed formats like DV, or just extract the original MPEG-2 data. And some of these features and formats are relatively new, so these applications still can have unexpected incompatibilities and problems.
So first consider your needs: copying and merging content from DVDs, importing DVD content into your video editor, converting segments for download to portable players, and/or extracting segments as clip files. Then check out these tools, and even experiment with them (some have trial versions available for Internet download), and see what works best for you.
DVD used to be only a final delivery format, with highly-compressed data mushed together and locked up in the inscrutable DVD format of VTS and title and IFO and VOB. But now DVD discs can just be another source video format, an arcive of video and audio that's now relatively easy to extract and re-use.
The most direct approach for re-using a DVD is to create it specifically with this purpose in mind -- essentially saving a project file on the disc that describes its media content, menu design, and navigational structure. Set-top DVD recorders do this when you are recording to a rewritable (RW) disc using the DVD VR (video recording) format, so that you can add more material to the disc and even edit the menus.
DVD authoring tools like Ulead DVD MovieFactory (www.ulead.com/dmf)
support this VR format, so you can re-open and continue editing a set-top disc
on your computer, and re-edit a disc created with DVD MovieFactory. Sonic uses a
similar approach with its OpenDVD technology, so you can re-edit discs created
using Sonic MyDVD and DVDit (www.sonic.com),
among other applications. More and more DVD authoring tools also can import
clips from unprotected DVDs even when this kind of project information is not
If you just want to copy portions of a disc, without re-authoring, DVD Copy tools like InterVideo DVD Copy 4 (www.intervideo.com) allow you to select portions of a DVD to copy to a new disc. You can select clips (i.e., by title, chapter, and timecode) and tracks (video, audio, subtitles), and combine segments from multiple discs. These tools also will re-compress the extracted clips to squeeze them onto a smaller disc (i.e., DVD to CD, or multiple or double-sided DVD to single DVD). Some of these tools also allow you to directly combine video files into a DVD.
If you want to use portions of a DVD within a movie that you are editing, some video editing tools now can import directly from a disc. For example, Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 (www.adobe.com/products/premiereel) has a Media Downloader that displays a list of the VOBs on a disc to select for input directly into the timeline (although you cannot select segments visually). Similarly, Ulead VideoStudio 9 (www.ulead.com/vs) can preview and extract clips from a DVD for further editing.
Finally, if you want to do additional editing with material on a DVD, then you'll want to pull those segments out of the disc into video files on your hard disk. DVD Extraction tools like Mirazon Cinematize (www.miraizon.com) can extract clips from a DVD to video files on your hard disk -- both the original MPEG-2 data, and converted to other formats. Many DVD copy tools also will extract to various video file formats.
If you are going to be doing a lot of work with DVDs, creating and re-using content, then you may also want to try out a DVD / Media Suite like Nero or Roxio (Sonic) Easy Media Creator. These include tools for media editing (for video, audio, and photos), DVD copy, and disc burning in a variety of formats.
For example, Nero 7 (www.nero.com) includes Nero Recode, with many options to copy segments from a DVD and recompress to fit onto a smaller disc. It also can extract and convert to MPEG-4 clip files (but not to other formats, and not to MPEG-2). The Nero Vision editor also can extract sections from DVDs to import to the timeline to edit, and Nero Express can burn DVD-format data to DVD.
Similarly, Roxio Easy Media Creator 8 (www.roxio.com) provides tools including Disc Copier to extract and recompress from disc, and Music Disc Creator to extract audio into an audio CD, MP3 disc, or DVD music disc. You also can create a compilation DVD from other DVDs and files, and copy and recompress DVD content to disk and portable formats.
InterVideo - DVD Copy
Ulead - DVD MovieFactory
Sonic - MyDVD and DVDit
Adobe - Premiere Elements 2.0
Ulead - VideoStudio
Roxio - Easy Media Creator