HOW TO transfer DVDs to VCD

At the outset, never copy copyright material without permission. This technique is useful for those that wish to know how to make their own VCDs. This document has been written to describe how to create VCDs on a PC for playback on a standalone DVD or VCD player.

This document applies to PAL format VCDs 352 pixels wide, 288 pixels high at 25 frames per second. The published audio standard for VCD 1.0 is 44100Hz, 16 bit stereo, 224kbits\sec. If you use NTSC or Secam then please consult VCD Helper or the VCD specification for the resolution and frame rate requirements.


Myths

1. There are CDROMs available for about $30 that claim to allow users to copy DVDs using an ordinary CD Writer. This is overstating what they do. These are not exact copies. They refer to transferring the DVD data to the VCD standard using the tools that are freely available on the internet and something like the methods described in this document.
2. DIVX is MPEG4. MPEG4 as a standard was withdrawn after many companies added proprietory extensions or didn't fully implement the coding scheme (I think). DIVX is a high quality audio video interleave codec based on the MPEG4 specification. It does not have support for shape coding, object orientation, face modeling, mesh objects, and sprites which were part of the MPEG4 specification. It provides excellent compression and is well suited to internet distribution. The problem is that the files can only be played on Personal Computers. As far as I know, no standalone DVD player can play CDRs full of DIVX files.
3. VCD picture quality isn't that good. Debatable. I think it is acceptable when transferred from digital sources. It has more scanlines than ordinary VHS in PAL (240 in VHS, 288 on VCD), and the sound quality is acceptable. Only 60 minutes of video or so can be stored on a 660Mb CDR, or about 72 minutes of video on an 800Mb CDR as opposed to 3 hours on a standard video tape but VCD is digital and CDRs are cheap.

What is DVD?

DVD stands for Digital Versatile Disc. DVDs store roughly 10 times the data of an ordinary Compact Disc but they are physically the same size. The high capacity of DVD makes it ideal for storing movies and multimedia digitally in high quality. DVD movies are usually mastered at high video resolutions, such as 720*576, and high frame rates in the MPEG 2 video format. Different audio subsystems can be used for features such as Dolby surround sound and almost 3 hours of video can be stored on an 8Gb disc. Enough storage space for a film, a documentary, subtitles and soundtrack for example.

For protection the raw MPEG2 video data is encrypted in .VOB files on the DVD using the CSS algorithm. Most DVDs are Macrovision protected making it difficult to transfer to VHS without special hardware, unlock codes, internal modifications, firmware upgrades or other means.

It is impossible for an ordinary CD drive to read the entire contents of a DVD disc!

What is VCD?

VCD stands for Video Compact Disc. It is an earlier standard for video storage developed by Philips. The data must fit on an ordinary CDR. The movie data is stored in MPEG 1 video format in a very specific format (352*288, 25 FPS, stereo, 224kBits\sec audio). VCD2.0 supports higher video resolutions but the data must fit on a standard CDR. Typically 66 minutes are available on a VCD. Usually an entire film takes up 2 VCDs.

Why convert to VCD?

VCDs are popular in parts of Asia. VCD is a format supported by most DVD players available in the UK. With the availability of inexpensive home CD writers and powerful PCs and video capture cards it is possible to record video to disc rather than VHS video tape.

VCD can provide better than VHS video quality depending on the source, if written from a video capture card there may be lip-sync problems, and shearing. The Voodoo 3-3500 video capture card, for instance, with the last released beta video drivers can capture straight to VCD compatible resolutions but it exhibits these problems. Not ideal for mass transferring VHS video tapes to VCD. Excellent results can be achieved when transferring from DVD sources.

At the time of writing in the UK PC DVD recorders are expensive and the blank media costs are prohibitive. For example a Pioneer DVD-R drive (SCSI) costs 460, media costs are 10 per blank disc roughly. Set top boxes are also available but the prices start at 1200. This makes it too expensive for most folk. It is simply CHEAPER to rent or buy original DVD discs! That is a good anti-piracy policy.

If you have a DVD that you wish to backup in whole or in part you can use personal computer software to extract the video. Conversion software can convert the decrypted MPEG2 stream to the VCD standard. A CD Writer is required to write the VCD data to cheap CD recordable discs. There is a loss in visual quality converting to VCD and the conversion time is long, but this document describes how to do it.


What do I need?

Hardware

1. An Intel Pentium 3-500\AMD Athlon class CPU or higher,
2. PC with DVD ROM drive,
3. About 10Gb of available hard disk space,
4. Standard CD Writer with VCD writing capability supported,
5. DVD player capable of playing VCDs or PC VCD playing software.

Software

1. VOB decrypting software (Example: cladDVD v1.71 or SmartRipper v2.28),
2. MPEG2 to MPEG1 conversion software (Example: FlasK or TMPGEnc beta 12a),
3. CD Writer software. Nero Burning ROM 5 or higher or Adaptec Easy CD Creator Deluxe or something similar,
4. PowerDVD 2.55 or higher or WinDVD 2 or higher for testing decryped MPEG2 files on a PC.

Process

Decrypting .VOB files from the DVD to your hard disk

cladDVD

1. Load cladDVD,
2. Goto the Directory menu and specify an output directory,
3. Select Rip Full DVD.

SmartRipper

1. Load SmartRipper,
2. Select the required chapter(s) using the browser,
3. Press the Start button.

Note: DVDs are split into chapters. SmartRipper is easy to use but I always extract only one chapter at a time with it. The same VOB file name may be used and overwrite previously written ones so it is safer to do a whole disc systematically one chapter at a time.
Each chapter may be 1Gb in size, do not be alarmed the MPEG encoder will reduce this dramatically.

General note: VOB decrypters may fail if it cannot find the decrypt key in a reasonable amount of time. Usually they can and will extract with no problems but newer DVD released in 2001 seem to be more powerfully encrypted. If this happens there is nothing you can do about it... Rising Damp has better protection than Robocop (ahem).

When the VOB data is extracted, probably in several 1Gb chunks, the whole movie must be converted to MPEG1 for VCD. This can be done using the tools identified below.


Converting from MPEG2 to MPEG1

FlasK

FlasK will combine multiple VOBs into a single output file. This is extremely useful for unattended conversion. The output file will probably not fit on a single CDR and will need to be split using TMPGEnc when in MPEG1 format.

1. Load FlasK,
2. Goto File\Open Media,
3. Select the input filename and press "Open",
4. On the Options menu select "Select Output Format", select bbMPEG encoder,
5. Press configure. On the Audio tab select decode audio, 44100Hz. On the Video tab select Width=352, Height=288, Time Base 25. On the General tab you may want to specify a small number of frames to convert rather than whole file to test that the output is correct before doing the whole file.
6. Press FlasK it! on the main form,
7. On the bbMPEG form ensure that Audio Tab settings are stereo, layer 2, 224 kbits\sec. Other formats will work on most VCD players but this is the published standard.
8. On the Video Stream Tab settings are VideoCD. Frame rate must be 25fps - PAL (625/50) video frame rate.
9. On the "Load and Save Settings" Tab these settings can be saved as default or to a .PAR file.
10. On the bbMPEG form press "Start".

It is possible that FlasK will be unable to decode some audio formats. In this case try using TMPGEnc, if that fails then the file may contain identifiers that are unreadable by these programs.

TMPGEnc (also known as 'Tsunami')

TMPGEnc will not combine multiple VOBs into a single output file but it is an extremely powerful convertor, ideal for small or single chapter clip conversion.

1. Load TMPGEnc,
2. Select input filename by pressing the 'Browse' button next to 'Video Source' (.vob),
3. Select output filename by pressing the 'Browse' button next to 'Output File' (.mpg),
4. Press the 'Configure' button,
5. Select the 'System' tab,
6. Select 'MPEG-1 Video-CD' in the 'Stream Type' combo box,
7. Select the 'Video' tab,
8. Enter 352 x 288 in the Size edit boxes,
9. Select the Audio tab,
10. Select 'sampling frequency' of 44100Hz,
11. Select 'channel mode' of Stereo,
12. Select bit rate of 128 kBits/s (or whatever you prefer),
13. Press OK,
14. On the main form press Encode.

NOTE: In some cases the audio track will not be recognised by TMPGEnc. I think this is caused by discs with surround sound tracks, in this case install and use FlasK to convert. FlasK is very similar in terms of performance and usability to TMPGEnc.

Then wait! It takes a very long time to convert these files. On a P3-800 with 256Mb of RAM, 20Gb UDMA-66 hard disk, and Windows 98 it took 36m7s to encode a clip of 8m31s using TMPGEnc beta 12a (4.24 times the length of the clip). Be patient, the results are worth it.

Performance tips

1. Close all other applications and do nothing else on the PC while encoding,
2. Minimize TMPGEnc while encoding,
3. Ensure that UDMA is enabled on the operating system if supported by hardware and plenty of disk space is available,
4. Encode a small part of the clip before doing the whole input file and test the output file in Nero before writing to CDROM.

Note: The conversion settings must be manually reset for EVERY loaded file otherwise the output clip will not work. In the freeware TMPGEnc it is not possible to save the settings for a conversion to a project file. Better to test part of the file before waiting for hours for the files to encode then finding out it doesn't work in Nero...


Cut and Join

This is required if the VCD encoded output is too big to fit on a single CDR.

1. In TMPGENC use File\MPEG Tools to select the Cut\Join features.
2. Press the Add button and select the input file,
3. Set the Type to MPEG-1 Video-CD in the combo box,
4. Press Edit and set the start and end markers using the [ and ] buttons respectively then press OK,
5. Specify the output file. Press the "Browse" button and enter the filename in the file dialog,
6. Press the start button.

This should take a few minutes. Repeat the steps until the whole file is edited to fit onto the required number of VCD or so that chapter breaks occur at the correct places.
Note: if you forget to select "MPEG-1 Video-CD" Nero will fail and say that this is not a VCD 1.0 compliant disc. Use File\MPEG Tools and Basic multiplex to turn the input file into a VCD 1.0 compliant output file, then burn that file using Nero.


Writing the CD

1. Load Nero,
2. Make a standard VCD 1.0 compliant disc,
3. Drag and drop the converted output MPEG files into the Nero file browser,
4. Write and finalize the CD!

Some DVD Players will not accept multi session discs, please check with your DVD manual if you wish to try using multi session discs.


Links

This document would not have been possible without the following sources.
Free downloads are available from these web sites.

cladDVD v1.71
SmartRipper v2.28 download
TMPGEnc English Home Page
FlasK MPEG Home Page
Nero Burning ROM Home Page
VCD Helper

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