20 February 2011

borrowing DVDs, permanently

How very satisfying to trudge home through the snow clutching your latest box-set of a solid British drama series. Even better as the Library lends DVDs for free. There are buts coming and they're tricky ones. But what if the set is in high demand so the loan period is only seven days and there are four discs containing twelve one hour episodes? What if you have a busy week ahead just as this treasured series has become available?

Make copies! Not for broadcasting or sharing of course but to allow you that little extra time to view them in. Oh, and it’s useful to have the set handy in case you want to watch it again, right? But DVDs are usually between 6GB and 8GB in size whereas a blank DVD-R holds a mere 4.7GB. What to do? Are we thwarted? Not on your Nelly!

Squeezing lots of video data onto a small disc is certainly possible but you have to shrink the file. I have an interest in solving technology challenges and this is the copying method I have developed. The freely downloadable software DVD Shrink is a good place to start. It compresses the data during copying to ensure it will fit comfortably on any commercially available blank DVD. It’s easiest to choose to rip the disc as an ISO image file.

But to back up for a moment (pardon the pun), it is a good idea to clean the discs thoroughly first. In the case of well-worn discs, deep scratches will be unreadable by a computer drive so you may as well give up at this stage and save yourself the hassle. But light scratching, which will be bothersome to a computer drive, can be polished down sufficiently using a car body scratch remover – the kind that will gently buff away surface scratching.

Sometimes no matter what you do, the disc may be impossible for your drive to read, it may be badly pitted. Or perhaps you want to rip a ‘Region 2’ disc in your ‘Region 1’ drive. Try DVD Decrypter. That has more powerful features, will crack regional encoding and seems less fussy. Europe is Region 2, North America is Region 1 but DVD Decrypter will render the copied image region-free. However, the ripped file you end up with this way will still be far too big, so you will need to reduce the ISO file size in DVD Shrink. Earlier we shrunk an actual DVD but this time you will need to “mount” the ISO file on a virtual drive. Magic ISO will achieve this by treating the ISO file as a playable DVD and will allocate a virtual drive letter to it.

When you’ve at last got an ISO file on your hard drive coming in at just under 4.7GB then you’re ready for the easy bit, the burning. I use Nero or Roxio but any burning software will put the ISO image file onto a blank DVD. I find DVD-R discs are readable by most DVD players. I don’t notice an appreciable loss of quality even though the copied image is considerably smaller than the original.

After all that effort you’re ready to watch. Slip into your old slippers, light your pipe and relax in your favourite armchair... and don’t forget to take the DVD back to the library, you don't want a late fee do you!


Russell 'C.J.' Duffy said...

Try catching the box set of Ken Follet's 'Pillars of the Earth.' Fantastic series that I found captivating. I am always reluctant or wary of copying DVD's (bearing in mind I work with creative desingers with their magic macs)as I thought it wasn't possible to do?

Your word verification is DONGIL!

Perfect Virgo said...

Russell - put your dongil away! I think I'd like the mini series and I see it has been released here too. I'll be looking out for it. That period of British history is so far removed from ours it's like another world.

Surprising what a laptop will do if you encourage it! DVD Shrink has been around for 7 or 8 years or so. There is a professional version you can buy but I find the freeware is quite adequate.