What kind of DVD burner should I get?
September 21, 2004 6:34 PM   Subscribe

Copying DVDs. A friend of mine was recently burgled and lost his rather pricey DVD collection. I now fear for my own. At present, I do not have a DVD burner of any type. What are best? Computer kinds or TV kinds (ie, those double dvd decks I sometimes see on eBay)? Is there a reason to avoid either? I would for the most part just be copying DVDs and really not backing computer shit up. However, I'd like to copy the entire DVD (menus, extras, etc.). Thanks!

With those double decks, is it as easy at it seems? The computer method seems to be more hands on/time intensive. Yes? No?

Also, if you have comments or links on DVD+R vs. -R, I'd appreciate it. Googling gives me nothing but blank media sales.

And I have OS X if that affects your answer.
posted by dobbs to Shopping (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The questions just keep coming: I also have a number of non R1 and PAL discs. How does this affect the equation?
posted by dobbs at 6:39 PM on September 21, 2004

The double deck ones will not allow a digital < -> digital downconversion or digital < -> digital straight copying, due to various crazy laws. Well, they shouldn't...

If I were you, I'd get a DVD +/- R drive for your computer and use something like DVDShrink, but for OS X. You will need to use a software like that to re-compress your large (9 GB) dual layer DVDs into something that will fit on a burnable single layer DVD (4 1/2 GB).

Definately, the dual disc player will be region locked. You want a computer drive for sure then. You should invest in a DVD -/+ R burner that has hacked region-free firmware availabe. Of course, all discs that you burn will be CSS and Region free by necessity (the CSS track is destroyed on General Purpose DVD Rs)

As far as - / + goes, here's the skinny:

- The (-) format is the *ONLY* officially accepted format by the DVD Forum.
- The (-) format will play on more old players than the (+) format.
- Any player made in the last like 5 years should play either format. As an exception, older PS2 versions will not play (+) media.
- (-) media is often on sale, whereas (+) media is usually more expensive [Note: Yes, (+) is now the same price at Best Buy. You don't actually shop *there* for media, do you? Look harder for better deals.]
- The (+) format is something Sony and HP loved. HP was ass-poor at making their first CD-R drives and gave up. Sony is just ass-poor at anything involving discs in general, to the point of being sued.
- On the other hand, the (-) format was popularized by Pioneer. They have a good track record for making non-crap equipment that has a functional and long lasting laser.
- Original Apple DVD burners were (-) format only, and, in fact, were nothing more than rebadged Pioneer drives, marked up the usual Apple 250% (how unusual! NOT!) No, you have to reflash a Pioneer drive to make it work, as Apple changed the drive ID string on the drive and locked their software to that.

Once burned, though, you're all set.
posted by shepd at 6:47 PM on September 21, 2004

shep, not sure what you mean about having to re-flash Apple OEM drives to make them "work". I have an iMac with a Pioneer 105 inside, and it has never needed any firmware upgrades in order to rip/burn region-free, etc. DVDs.

dobbs, I know you're a quality queen (no offense) with a lot of Criterion/extended feature DVDs. Basically, here's the deal:

-if you are copying a short disc (4.5 GB or less) then OS X and stock DVD burning drives will make byte-for-byte, feature-for-feature copies, no problem. I use DVDBackup, with excellent results.

-if you are copying a long disc and don't mind spanning it across two or more DVDs, again, you're in luck: DVDBackup will do the trick, with no loss of quality. You may be able to restore this to one high-capacity disc when dual-layered / 8.5 GB discs come out, but don't bank on it.

I take it as a given that you're not willing to suffer any loss of quality. That being the case, your options are limited to the above, for the next few months. But better drives and media will be coming out soon.

If you want to try something out on an OS X system, you know where to find me.
posted by stonerose at 7:00 PM on September 21, 2004

DVD-R5 is only half the capacity of DVD-9, which is the most common format for commercially available movies these days. There are some older DVD-5 titles out there, and a handful of newer ones, but for the most commonly available drives and media, the answer is occasionally "you can't get there from here." At least, not without recompression, which somewhat reduces the quality of the resulting DVD-R.

You could conceivably do disk spanning -- turning a one-disc movie into two DVD-Rs -- but you won't be able to reassemble them into a single disc without a lot of clever data manipulation and a new DVD-R format.

However, DVD-R DL (dual layer) is here, and it does have the capacity for backing up DVD-9. The burners are only a few bucks more than your basic 8x DVD-R. The downside? The media is about ten bucks a pop.
posted by majick at 7:09 PM on September 21, 2004

Oh, and with respect to the +R and -R wars: slightly more consumer devices support DVD-R than do +R, but from the perspective of the user, there is no other difference between them beyond, perhaps, media price. I'm currently paying about $0.40 each for DVD-R blanks.
posted by majick at 7:14 PM on September 21, 2004

How many DVD's are you talking about? If possible, it might make more sense to copy them to a hard drive, and play them directly off that. I would very much like to do that for myself, but I have 200+, and I'm a bit daunted by the size of the drive array I'd need to hold all of them.
posted by willnot at 7:54 PM on September 21, 2004

I recommend using MacTheRipper for extracting DVDs onto your computer. If you don't mind compressing the movie then use DVD2One. Use Toast to burn them to DVD-R or DVD+R.

Check out FatWallet for deals on a DVD burner and media. I recommend purchasing Ridata or Ritek G04 media, as they seem to be the best quality/compatibility at about $0.45 each.

For additional info on such topics, check out the DVDRHelp's Mac Video Forums.
posted by the biscuit man at 8:03 PM on September 21, 2004

Thanks for all the feedback so far, folks.

stonerose, you're right in that I don't want to lose quality and that most of my DVDs are special editions, criterions.

willnot, about 450 and counting, with about 200 of those being Crits. :(

Also, I have a Powerbook, which means I guess I have to buy an external firewire burner if I go the computer route (I assume upgrading to a superdrive is stupid as it makes upgrading from that later near impossible). Any particular models to avoid? (I assume some of that will be in the forums you folks linked to...)

For the non-computer recorders, I was looking at this or this Malata. I used to see the former all the time on ebay for C$350 but not in months. The latter seems to have some new snazzy 15hr thingy but I don't know if it applies to movies or just computer stuff. I've emailed hkflix about it. I'd rather not pay us$500 for the machine though.

For those who talked about new stuff coming soon... is there actual dates/prices/formats or is it just "soon things will change"?

Again, thanks all! Please keep any info coming.
posted by dobbs at 8:18 PM on September 21, 2004

How detectable is the quality loss after shrinking? I have to confess I can't tell.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:20 PM on September 21, 2004

shep, not sure what you mean about having to re-flash Apple OEM drives to make them "work".

I'm talking WAAAAAAAAAAY back, stonerose. iDVD in 2001 only supported Apple SuperDrives, even though they were just overpriced Apple OEM flashed Pioneer drives. So, while having that software on a Mac with a Pioneer drive instead of a SuperDrive *should* work, it didn't. Back then. I suppose now Apple gave up on that.

posted by shepd at 8:36 PM on September 21, 2004

dobbs - I second (third?) DVD Shrink. It will preserve your menus, etc. It has an extremely low coaster production rate. In fact, I can't remember it ever producing a coaster for me. You'll want to use it in conjunction with Nero for true set-and-forget copying. It's also best if you're adding your DVD burner to a computer that already has a DVD-ROM. That way, you put the source disc in one drive, and the blank in the burner, and go to bed. It's like a 2+ hour process.

Get yourself a computer burner. I recommend one that burns DVD-R for maximum compatibility with TV console DVD-players. DVD+R's aren't the kiss of death, though. Not at all. If you're nervous about choosing, then get a dual-format burner and forget about it.

Don't splurge on an 8x burner yet. Still too pricey and so is the 8x-rated media you need to use with it.

Buy Ritek DVD-Rs. Check bensbargains.net for deals on them.

posted by scarabic at 10:26 PM on September 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

I have a Powerbook

Uh, woops. Sorry, I didn't read closely enough.
posted by scarabic at 10:27 PM on September 21, 2004

stonerose, you're right in that I don't want to lose quality and that most of my DVDs are special editions, criterions.

You're going to have to lose something in your conversion to home-burned discs. Your store-bought movies are double-layer discs that hold over 9GB. Your DVD+/-Rs are going to be 4.7GB max. So you're either going to have to figure a way to copy them to two discs, discard some alternative audio tracks or special features etc, or simply comress the video a little.

I've never been able to see a difference between an original DVD and a copy I've made with DVD Shrink, even though they're almost all recompressed a bit. Apparently, the MPEG-2 that goes into most commerical DVDs is pretty bloated, and can suffer quite a bit of recompression, often up to 50%, without noticeable loss in quality.

Granted, I am not dobbs, I do not have any Criterion DVDs, and I do not watch on a super-hot-shit TV. YMMV.
posted by scarabic at 10:43 PM on September 21, 2004

I can tell the difference between an exceptionally well-made dual layer 9GB disc and a re-compressed 4.8GB copy, using my super-hot-shit TV. It's not a massive loss in quality, but it can be distracting sometimes. On the other hand, there are plenty of less-than-exceptionally well-made 9GB DVDs that don't suffer much at all from recompression.

For the Mac, you'll be wanting MacTheRipper (to read the original) and DVD2OneX (to master the copy) for this job. There are other choices, but they aren't worth bothering with.
posted by majick at 10:53 PM on September 21, 2004

A friend of mine was recently burgled and lost his rather pricey DVD collection. I now fear for my own.

Renter's or homeowner's insurance will cover this. Just keep a list or photographs of the collection to support a claim.
posted by caddis at 12:41 AM on September 22, 2004

dobbs, the things you need to produce identical copies of original double-layer discs are trickling out. This article says LaCie (reputable brand) is selling dual-layer burners for a reasonable price. The challenge now is to find dual-layer blank media (it is rare here in Toronto), and to make sure that your dvd-burning software supports dual-layer burning. If it doesn't yet, it will quite soon.
posted by stonerose at 4:50 AM on September 22, 2004

You can also buy a lockable media cabinet to store your Preciouses in. Heck, I bet a sturdy file cabinet or two, packed to the brim with DVDs you're not about to watch anytime soon and stuck in a closet somewhere would deter theft.

However, this doesn't help against flood or fire. Insurance and an inventory kept in a safe deposit box may be the answer here. After all, what good is it creating a new set of DVDs when a thief would likely swipe your DVD player too?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:51 AM on September 22, 2004

How detectable is the quality loss after shrinking? I have to confess I can't tell.

Large, dark, flat color areas will show plenty of compression artifacts, namely squares all over the place.
posted by signal at 8:41 AM on September 22, 2004

I also have a number of non R1 and PAL discs.

On a PC, there's Region Free, which allows you to 'switch' the region on your DVD reader without messing around with firmware. Not sure about Macs.

PAL is an issue for whatever you're gonna be playing the discs back on. If you can see the originals, you can see the copies.
posted by signal at 8:42 AM on September 22, 2004

On a related subject, it is kind of mind-boggling that you can buy a 1 TB drive for US$1000 from LaCie these days. So that'd be at least 110 DVDs-worth of uncompressed data in one place. You could rip a lot to that before you needed to burn backups.
posted by adamrice at 9:08 AM on September 22, 2004

Thanks again, all.

Renter's or homeowner's insurance will cover this. Just keep a list or photographs of the collection to support a claim.

I'm not concerned as much about being reimbursed for titles as I am being able to find the title to repurchase. Out of print titles are very hard to find.
posted by dobbs at 10:04 AM on September 22, 2004

dobbs, check out LaCie's external dvd burners, I have the Porsche-designed model and it rocks
posted by matteo at 10:59 AM on September 22, 2004

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