Automated way of checking commercial DVDs for errors?
May 1, 2012 9:25 AM   Subscribe

How to verify library patron complaints about freezing, skipping, & other issues with our movies on DVD?

As a public library with DVD movies that circulate very heavily, we're constantly receiving reports that one disc or another is not working properly.

We don't have the funds for a quality disc cleaner, so we clean the discs by hand. It would be nice, however, to verify issues with discs by simply playing them in a PC & having a program generate a report specifying the number & severity of errors. The alternative is to view the movie ourselves or foist the disc on another patron.

Anyone have suggestions for checking the status of multiple discs as efficiently as possible?
posted by woodman to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
One program I have used to analyze DVDs for my own curiosity is CDCheck (which does do DVDs, despite the name). I think that if you are interested in maximum efficiency, a simple method is to simply always loan the disk out and if you get more than two or three complaints about it being unplayable, then take a look at it.
posted by saeculorum at 9:48 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are a number of tools that can do this. I used to use Nero DiscSpeed, which is Windows only. DVDisaster runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Here's an example of a scan of a bad disc. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that DVD drives in computers are usually of higher quality than the drives in lower-end DVD players, so if the computer says a DVD is ok, it still might not work perfectly in a cheapo DVD player.
posted by zsazsa at 9:49 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Couldn't you just pick up an old dvd player or a cheap one at Costco or something, hook it up to a monitor, and check that way? It would take about the same amount of time as the workflow you've described.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:05 AM on May 1, 2012

The difference would seem to be attended workflow -- someone having to watch the disk to see if it has a freak out in the middle -- vs. shoving it in a PC and having software that does a readthrough and creates a report. Even if the latter method took as long as actually watching the movie (and it probably doesn't), you wouldn't need an employee to sit there watching the movie, too.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:21 AM on May 1, 2012

As stated above, most PC-based scans may miss a lot of marginal errors that would show up in a standalone player.

As an alternative, can you include a slip of paper in the case where you ask patrons to note the timestamp and duration of errors, so you can manually ffwd to that area of the disc when you verify? That way you'll at least be able to see if your manual cleaning of the disc gets rid of the problem or not.
posted by trivia genius at 10:32 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

So if you don't have the funds for a disc cleaner this is probably outside your budget too, but we (midsize public library) have a disc inspection machine like this one which is fast and relatively accurate.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:38 AM on May 1, 2012

Waiting for 2-3 complaints doesn't seem like a good idea to me unless you also actively encourage people to report issues. When I borrow a DVD and the skipping is minor but I can still more or less watch the movie, I don't say anything.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:45 AM on May 1, 2012

About 50% of the DVDs we get from the library are unwatchable. We always report in detail ("This froze at 44:30" or similar) but I have no idea what action is then taken.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:59 AM on May 1, 2012

When I worked in a video store (LOL, remember those?) and people complained about DVDs skipping, we would watch them on a little portable DVD player we had in the front of the store. (It was especially hilarious to watch the look on the customer's face if it was a porn DVD.) Those little portable players were SUPER-expensive back then (the early 2000s) but have come way down in price. Scanning around the DVD, watching a few bits here and there, even getting the customer/patron to tell you around when it started skipping can give you an idea of the condition of the disc.
posted by Aquifer at 11:04 AM on May 1, 2012

Even standalone players vary in what flaws they will or won't pick up. (I work at a theater that occasionally screens indie productions from DVD or blu-ray, and "but it worked at home!" is a constant problem). As others have suggested, there's really nothing you can do to consistently and thoroughly check for problems like this unless you're willing to sit down and run the entire disc on multiple players.

16mm lending libraries used to send their prints out with little instruction + evaluation cards. Perhaps something similar would be a good way of helping to control this problem. The "instructions" part of these cards would tell you how to properly handle the film so as not to damage it (DVD version: "never touch the shiny surface of the disc, do not attempt to clean disc, keep disc in case when not in use...") and the "evaluation" part would allow the patron to check off the number of splices or intensity of scratches or whatever so the library would know what condition their print was in (for a DVD, you might ask — "Did the disc skip at any point? When? Were you able to skip past this point and continue watching the movie?" and "Did you have any other problems with this disc?") Make the cards brightly colored, so people notice that they're there. Then you could check up on reported problems, pull from circulation any discs that had problems on both the patron's end and on your end, and make a note of an unconfirmed report for discs with unreproducible problems so that you'd know to pull them the next time a report came on for that disc (or whatever).
posted by bubukaba at 11:13 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wonder if you could avoid a lot of problems by encouraging people to clean (wipe off) the disk themselves before trying to play it. This works 80% of the time with Netflix DVDs, in my experience.
posted by desjardins at 11:21 AM on May 1, 2012

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for the suggestions all. A more complicated issue than I'd anticipated, as usual.

Shame there's not a way to downgrade a PC's DVD player so that it better approximates the performance of low-end stand-alone players ...

Not surprisingly, it's the children's discs that get the most abuse. Some kids may be susceptible to training, but many will not.

BTW, the disc inspection machine referred to retails for around $2k. Out of our league :-(

Will mull this over & perhaps try a couple of the software programs recommended to see if they can add any value for us.

Otherwise, it may be time to start experimenting with some of the DIY approaches for disc repair or creating scratch-proof discs.

Thank you again!
posted by woodman at 1:23 PM on May 1, 2012

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