Converting a DVD to high-quality WMV?
February 12, 2006 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Converting a DVD to high-quality WMV?

I want to experiment with the idea of having digital copies of my (original, legal) DVDs transferred onto my network for playback via Windows Media Center Edition (mostly with Extenders througout my home.)

I'm a stickler for audio/video quality, so I will likely want the video uncompressed from its original source and full surround sound, which I understand will result in huge, multi-gigabyte files. If I can find an acceptable process, I'd consider investing in a multi-terabyte network hard drive to store my 200+ DVD collection. I also understand this would entail a significant commitment in time, but I'm willing to do it if it works.

I've looked online and easily found a number of commercial (and a couple of shareware) DVD rippers and converters, but the choices are just too overwhelming.

Is there a defacto standard process that those "in the know" use to convert DVDs to WMV with essentially lossless compression? (I used the combo of Exact Audio Copy and RazorLAME when I converted my CD collection to MP3.)

I need a system for ripping a DVD (either the entire disc with menus or just the movie itself) and converting it into a WMV file (non-negotiable, since this is one of the few formats that will actually play back on Windows Media Center Extenders, an Xbox 360 and Xbox Classic with Extender software in this case. So unfortunately I can't consider formats like xVid or DiVX) Just to be clear, the final WMV file will live on a network hard drive, and will not ever be re-burned onto a DVD-R, so I have no need to make the file size arbitrarily smaller.

I'll assume a PC solution is the preferred method given the final output file, but Mac software can also be considered if there's something amazing available.

Alternatively, I've also been considering a physical DVD changer such as the Niveus DVD Changer that interfaces with Windows Media Center, but my ulterior motive is to begin phasing out the DVD as a physical medium for eventual conversion of my entire library to HD-DVD and/or Blu-ray. I'd like to keep access available to all my DVD titles until an HD version is available, at which time I would sell the standard definition version.

I mention this because although it would be easier and less time-intensive to make my DVD collection available over a network with a changer, I don't like the idea of investing several thousand dollars in a piece of hardware that is designed for standard-definition DVDs, whereas at least I know a multi-terabyte hard drive could be re-used for something else.
posted by robbie01 to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I haven't experimented directly with this... but are you sure it won't do .vob files? They're bog-standard, and obviously the XBoxen have the ability to handle DVD video.

BTW, all consumer-grade video compression is lossy. Anytime you switch formats, you'll lose something. What you're really asking for is 'to lose as little video quality as possible'. The best way would be sending it without converting it. Seems very odd to me that the XBox wouldn't stream DVD format directly. There's *no* reason not to, if your network is fast enough.

I have a 360 here. I'll have to fool with it a bit.
posted by Malor at 12:45 PM on February 12, 2006

Response by poster: From what I've found online, Windows Media Center (and Extenders) will NOT play .VOB files.
posted by robbie01 at 12:55 PM on February 12, 2006

If you want to preserve the quality, your best bet is DVD decrypter or DVD fab decrypter, which you can use to make an exact copy of the disk to your hard drive. Then you can use MyMovies or this hack to get them to them to appear in MCE as if it were a DVD changer.

If you want to save space, you could losslessly convert the main movie into a single MPEG2 and discard the DVD extras.

If you want to save more space, you can reencode into WMV format (I think windows media encoder can work on uncompressed MPEG2), but you're going to start loosing quality.

Check the conversion guides at VideoHelp or doom9 if you want more detailed instructions. They have guides for almost any conversion you can think of.
posted by Good Brain at 12:57 PM on February 12, 2006

Oh, sorry, missed the issue with Media Center Extenders. Yeah, your only option there is converting to WMV at this point if you want to use an extender.
posted by Good Brain at 12:59 PM on February 12, 2006

If I was you, this is what I'd do.

1. get DVD Shrink

2. pop DVD in your laptop

3. "back it up" via DVD Shrink... and you can make it as small as you want. I've seen anything above 50% (that's 1/2 of a single layered blank DVD) look JUST FINE on a TV. You can also take out the other language tracks, extra scenes, etc.

4. save it as an ISO file on your laptop.

5. watch it, not with Windows Media Player, but with a more all-around player like VLC.

Be happy!

I do this all the time... although I usually only keep 3 or 4 movies at a time on my laptop.

If you're looking to archive DVD movies for every and put them on an external hard drive, you won't want to "shrink" them... but for the purpose of being on an airplane or something, this will work just fine.
posted by k8t at 1:02 PM on February 12, 2006

Here's the deal. DVD's are MPEG-2 - very lossy (think JPEG vs. Raw or Tiff). Really. That's how the squeeze the 200 gig uncomrpessed video file down to a DVD-9.

WMV files are *even lossier* than MPEG-2. Plus they can be DRM's etc. Which is why microsoft wants you to use it.

So, it's kinda silly to turn it back into an uncompressed file. Better to strip the CSS using (um...I'd get DVD Decrypter (or someone will know of it's current versoin, since decrypter was cease and desisted.)

You can have the VOB files sitting on your network at the 9 gig original size, with all the extras. Too bad the WMCenter can't play it (nor can, right now, I think, the Xbox 360.) If the xbox 360 can, then that'd be your best bet.

As an aside, the modded Xboxes (older ones) can totally play a VOB file (I think they use MMplayer)

Your WMV problem:

I found a DVD to WMV ripper , but to be honest? I don't trust groups in this marketplace, and I'd look for an open source solution.

Look over at They're good

A small WMV file can be knocked down to less than 512k/sec...or all the way up to 7-8megabit. The higher the setting, the better the film will look.
posted by filmgeek at 3:14 PM on February 12, 2006

Filmgeek is right in that there are a lot of scammers in the ripping game. However, the software he mentioned is part of ImToo Software and I use their programs with excellent results. The actual homepage for ImToo is here. Instead of the DVD-WMV, you can pay $5 more and get DVD Ripper which can rip to any of the major file formats, including .WMV.
Good luck!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 4:41 PM on February 12, 2006

1. The easiest solution is to buy ImToo, and use that as a one-step DVD->WMV converter.

2. The cheapest and best-video-quality solution is to use DVD Decrypter to rip the DVD to .vob files, and then use the DScaler video player to play the .vob files on your HTPC or wherever. The upscaling/deinterlace in DScaler is of really good quality, and will look way better than the "simple zoom" you'll get when converting .vob to .WMV and then playing the 640x480 video back at 1280x720 or whatever your TV/monitor is.
posted by rxrfrx at 8:30 AM on February 13, 2006

unless something's changed between versions, windows media center should play VOBs just fine... i've been running a windows media center 2004 box for a couple years and have had no playback problems using vobs ripped via DVD Shrink... i do more or less what you're proposing regularly (rip dvds to hd, watch thru media center, stream over network... wifi: w/out extenders) i would think, if this is possible with media center 2005, that un-shrunk vobs would be a more idea, less lossy solution, than converting to wmv files... saves you a step too. and, because vobs are dvd native, you can, again using Shrink, rip them with the audio stream (or all the streams) you want attached, too... with the right card/codecs installed (i use an nvidia card and appropriate codecs) i can playback any audio (dolby, dts, stereo) through media player 2004 as well.

are you sure your version of media center won't load and play vobs?
posted by RockyChrysler at 2:49 PM on February 13, 2006

Ok, I'm old and lazy, but this sounds like too much trouble. Since you own the DVDs just grab it and pop it into the DVD player if you want to watch it. I can't imagine that anyone watches movies enough and is lazy enough to want to do this, but I know I'm wrong. And I know that others just love a 'project'. And I guess it would be pretty amazing to show off to your friends, but the thought of the hours of work just kills me.
posted by JamesMessick at 5:00 PM on February 13, 2006

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