What's the best way of distributing a DVD over the Internet?
February 11, 2008 3:37 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way of distributing a DVD over the Internet? I'm thinking probably bittorrent for transmission, but what format? ISO? A set of VOBs, etc.?

Basically, I decided to make a DVD of some of the excellent TED Talks to give to a friend - I figured a DVD would be better as it wouldn't require him to sit in front of his computer to watch them.

As the TED Talks are creative commons, I thought other people on t'Internet might like a copy and so I'm looking at how to share it with everyone.

I'm trying to make it easy for people to use (it's going to be tricky enough if they have to install a bittorrent client), so want to distribute it in a format that can be burnt to DVD easily on Windows, Mac and Linux. Preferably where I can provide a short set of instructions and pointers to suitable software for each platform.

The easiest for me would be a mirror of the DVD structure - so AUDIO_TS and VIDEO_TS folders containing .VOB files - but I've also come across ISO files or .CUE/.BIN files.

Which should I pick? (and if it's one of the latter, does anyone have any recommendations for software to create them on Windows XP?)
posted by amcewen to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Personally speaking, I prefer a nicely compressed (i.e. XviD) .avi file, which would mean maybe 700MB instead of 4.5GB for a DVD. Then again, I watch all my movies on my computer.

For an actual DVD, I'd create an ISO, because that's probably the easiest for anyone to burn back to a disc. AUDIO_TS and VIDEO_TS requires people to take the step of creating a data DVD project, and possibly screw it up.
posted by knave at 3:39 AM on February 11, 2008


A raw ISO allows it to be burned very quickly, a compressed video format transmits faster and plays fine, but takes a lot of time to get back onto a disc.

So ultimately, the question is, do you expect to play this DVD on a computer, or on a basic dvd player? Given that these talks are in small clips, I'd lean toward a compressed video format, as people will be more likely to play them on portables like an iPod rather than their TV.
posted by mek at 4:00 AM on February 11, 2008


I'm expecting people to play the DVD on a basic DVD player.

As you say, the compressed format would transfer faster but if you're going to view them on a computer or iPod then just going to the TED website would be a much better option :-)

The idea of the DVD is to give people who wouldn't normally watch things on their computer a taste of what they're missing out on.
posted by amcewen at 4:14 AM on February 11, 2008


I'd say ISO, with full instructions on what to do with it. I can see people burning the .iso file to DVD as a file, instead of using something like ImgBurn to burn it.

I suppose it depends on how technologically advanced the people who download the file are going to be.
posted by Solomon at 4:19 AM on February 11, 2008


Forgot to add, you can use the Build feature of ImgBurn to create the ISO. I'm not familiar with the license of ImgBurn, but you might be able to distribute a copy of ImgBurn with each file, so people have the necessary software with them when they come to burn the .iso.

If you got technical enough, you could write a script that would check to see if ImgBurn was installed, install it if it wasn't, and then cause it to burn the .iso to DVD automatically. It shouldn't be too hard to do in AutoIt (or similar). I might be able to help some if you want to go down that road.
posted by Solomon at 4:23 AM on February 11, 2008


Yerk, I'll finish posting in a minute.

Anyway, forgot to add (quelle surprise) that I know nothing about burning on Mac and Linux. It's probably possible to get ImgBurn working under WINE, but if people aren't technical enough to install Bittorrent, then getting WINE working is definitely going to be a problem for them.
posted by Solomon at 4:29 AM on February 11, 2008


XviD or DivX for me. Information in material form, such as CDs and DVDs, is dead.
posted by 0bvious at 4:41 AM on February 11, 2008


You've got to look at your target audience.

a) interested in TED
b) tech-savvy enough to use bittorrent
c) not tech savvy enough to own a DivX-capable DVD player

Given that rather schizophrenic bare-bones persona, I'd say ISO. But add a text/html file outside the ISO describing how to burn it on various platforms (and ideally pointing to free software). Please post to projects when you're done.
posted by Leon at 5:17 AM on February 11, 2008


I'd go for ISO, because they're easy to burn on any software you want to try, and decent video players (like MPlayer or VLC) can actually play them as they are if people do want to watch it on their PCs. Hell, unless the licence restricts it, you could probably include VLC in the archive.
posted by Jimbob at 5:57 AM on February 11, 2008


An ISO image can very easily be burned to disk on a Mac using DiskUtility or an open-source app like Burn. No worries there, it's really easy to do. Image can also be mounted and read from the Mac just as if it were a physical disk inserted into the DVD drive, without the need to burn it. ISO is really your best delivery option, and it isn't going to be a 4.5 gb download unless the DVD you make contains a full two hours of content.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:05 AM on February 11, 2008


It's probably possible to get ImgBurn working under WINE, but if people aren't technical enough to install Bittorrent, then getting WINE working is definitely going to be a problem for them.

If they're using Linux, they're most likely savvy enough to be able to burn an iso.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 6:17 AM on February 11, 2008


ISO - please, ISO - I hate having to figure out what to do with VOB files and I am reasonably tech-savvy.
posted by jkaczor at 7:31 AM on February 11, 2008


The idea of the DVD is to give people who wouldn't normally watch things on their computer a taste of what they're missing out on.

If Torrents are your method of dissemination but you don't think the users can handle PC watching, you're aiming at a nonsensical demographic. Folks who use torrents are plenty comfortable with watching vids on the PC. If you're going to try to turn noobs on to torrents, you might as well commit and suggest they play the file on the PC anyway.

And I'm strongly seconding the idea of putting up a 700MB XviD rather than some ungodly 4GB download PITA. If they really want to, they can burn the file to a disc and play the XviD in most any recent DVD player. DVD players are much smarter than they used to be.

Also, strange as it seems to me and you, lots of people have a hard time even getting a disc burned. So assuming you can get your peeps to download these huge files in the first place, getting them from that point to burning, to watching off-PC is a pretty big leap.
posted by SlyBevel at 8:29 AM on February 11, 2008


That said, I'd love a nice, compiled set of TED talks. Please link us once your torrent is up!
posted by SlyBevel at 8:31 AM on February 11, 2008


ISO if you must do DVD format, but it would be nice to have an Xvid rip already made for those who don't use DVDs.

I'm among those who would prefer the latter, as I imagine I'm one of many who has a nice setup for watching downloaded content, but a poor setup for watching streamed content ('slow' connection, ugly screen/computer sound and a personal distaste for it). I probably watch around 10-20 hours of downloaded content a week, and maybe 20 minutes of streamed content.
posted by fishfucker at 9:16 AM on February 11, 2008


A couple of things to think about:

1. If the file is 4.7gigs how exactly are you seeding it? Do you have a dedicated T1 for this? On a home connection with a generous 384k upload it will take days to get your second seeder and if he logs out after finishing then its days again. For files of this size i've noticed that you will need 35-50 seeders (not leechers) before you can begin to offer this at any speed that won't be a couple of weeks to get to the end users computer. If you dont predict that kind of volume then bittorent wont work.

2. XP doesnt support DVD burning natively. OEMs install whatever software they can get the cheapest for computers with DVD burners. So you'll need to write instructions for Roxio, Nero, no-name dvd burner, etc.

3. Why not just burn these DVDs for them and ask them to send you a self-addressed stamped envelope. The amount of TED people who cant burn a DVD has to be less than 50.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:34 AM on February 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for all the responses. Looks like an ISO it is then. I know that bittorrent as a delivery mechanism runs contrary to the target audience, but whilst I've just about got the server space to host it, I don't think I can provide the bandwidth for people to download it all from me.

I'll definitely post it to projects once it's all sorted, and will provide an XviD or similar version too. I'm getting performance anxiety now that the talks I've chosen aren't the best ones ;-)

fishfucker, you do know that you can download the talks direct from the TED website? I.e. you don't have to stream them - there's a little download as mp4 link on each talk's page.
posted by amcewen at 9:38 AM on February 11, 2008


fishfucker, you do know that you can download the talks direct from the TED website? I.e. you don't have to stream them - there's a little download as mp4 link on each talk's page.

i suspected ... but i did not know. I'll have to check that out.
posted by fishfucker at 11:25 AM on February 11, 2008


Not to rain on your parade, but some 200 TED Talks are available on Mrio (formerly Democracy player). Unless you're going to put up different speeches, I don't think you should do this.
posted by lattiboy at 12:32 PM on February 11, 2008


Well, it's taken a little longer than I was expecting, but I've got the TED Taster DVD torrents up and running. There's an NTSC and a PAL version of the DVD, and also a (much smaller) collection of all the talks in their original mp4 format too.

I've posted it to Projects, but figured I'd stick a link up here too in case anyone is still following this thread. It's all at http://www.mcqn.net/tedtaster
posted by amcewen at 9:55 AM on April 25, 2008


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