Posts Tagged 'DVD'

DVD-to-Zune Ripper: WinX DVD Ripper (free)

(as originally posted at the ZuneScene forums)

Since getting my Zune HD (32) a week ago, I’ve been on the hunt to find a good DVD-to-Zune software package.  There are a lot of good articles on this site, but I’m (personally) more fond of the one-step applications: pop in a movie, choose some settings, and then "rip".  No hassle, ya know?

Anyhow… here are my criteria for a "reasonable" solution:

  1. One-step rip.  DVD straight to a file that is ready to load onto my Zune.
  2. Must not "convert" when syncing with my Zune.  Ugh!
  3. Must have decent-to-nice image quality.
  4. Keeps everything in-sync (audio with video)
  5. Reasonable file sizes
  6. Can’t take forever and a day to rip a movie!
  7. Price.  Free is nice. 🙂

So, my searches led me to a lot of different solutions.  I’ve used Cucusoft’s offering for awhile now, but it’s a bit wacky… and I would get pauses from time to time.  No good.  Finally, I was browsing Dealnews and came across an offer for WinX DVD Ripper for "free".  They were actually referring to the Platinum version, which isn’t totally free when you get down to it.  Still, their real "free" version looked promising, so I downloaded it.

At about a 6 meg download, the program is fairly lightweight and straightforward.  Nice!

Having successfully ripped several movies now with WinX DVD Ripper, I thought I’d share my steps (in case anyone cares)…

1) Download and install the WinX DVD Ripper.  Even works great on my Win7 64-bit box! 🙂

2) Launch the software


3) Click the DVD Disc icon to select your movie.



4) Select your options.  I choose MP4, "disable" Subtitle, Original Size and Keep Aspect Ratio, Video Quality "1100". 

Note: that a Subtitle is selected by default.


5) Click START to convert. Wait while the video is ripped and converted.  Your mileage will vary, but my quad-core AMD system ripped a 2:10hr movie in about an hour.  Not too bad.


6) When the process completes, you can copy the .mp4 file into a directory that your Zune software uses (if not already in there) and then Edit the file details with a better name, release year, etc.

This 2:10hr movie ended up at just over 1.1gigs in size.  You can bump the video size and/or video quality down a bit, if you’d like smaller file sizes.



7) Sync the movie to your Zune and enjoy!


Other notes:

The options selected should work fine for all 2nd generation Zunes and above.  The Zune 30 will likely require choosing the WMV tab and other options for quality.


DVD-to-Zune conversion…

Personally, I find the “convert my DVD to a portable format” quest to be an aggravating one.  I own a number of DVDs, and I would like to have those movies — that I own — on my Zune with me.  It seems that this is a borderline “sketchy” thing to do.  Why?  Well, you first have get around the DVD copy protection, then extract the DVD content, and finally convert it to a format you can use.

We can thank the movie industry for this hassle, I suppose?!

In my case — and to add further aggravation to the mix — my previous Zune 30gig would then re-convert whatever file I would make.  In other words, it supported *very* particular file types, resolutions, audio codecs, and video codecs.  The Zune software supported a wide variety of video files, mind you, but the Zune 30 had to have just-the-right thing.  The result?  Another hour+ conversion to get the video file onto the Zune *after* you’ve already converted it!  ARGGGGHHH!  I should add here that the Zune 80 is much more forgiving in this regard, and does not *need* to re-convert the video file, in most cases.

Anyhoo… I found a *very* handy application from Cucusoft called the “DVD to Zune Converter“.  At $29.95 — and even a bit cheaper if purchased on Ebay — this application made a pain-in-the-rear process a whole lot easier!  Here’s what you do…

  • Launch the software and hit the ‘Open’ button
  • Choose my DVD drive (where my movie disc is located), and it instantly fast-forwards to the beginning of the movie.  Nice! 
  • From the ‘Settings’ menu, choose ‘Profile Settings’ to configure the output format
  • From the drop-down menu, choose ‘Zune Video – Windows Media 9’
  • The default video size is 320×240 — what the Zune display can show — but you can choose up to 640×480 for higher resolution if connecting to a TV later on
  • The default audio bitrate is 96kbps, but 128kbps is even better
  • Close the ‘Profile Settings’ box
  • Click the ‘Convert’ button to start converting the DVD to a .WMV file

The Cucusoft program does things a bit differently than others, as far as I can tell.  Rather than performing a file-level conversion, the Cucusoft app appears to actually play the DVD, and then record the output.  Sounds wonky, but it honestly still looks very, very good. 

The process is this: It will fast-forward through a section of the movie, pause, “encode” that portion to your video file, and then proceed on with the movie, repeating the same process.  Depending upon your computer speed, you can actually rip movies faster than the movie length.  On my older, slower home computer — a P4 3.0ghz system with 2gigs of RAM — I can rip to a 320×240 .WMV file at about 1:1 ratio.  That is, a 2 hour movie takes about 2 hours to encode to a video file.  The faster machines I have at work make much better time, with a 640×480 movie taking about 4 hours for a 2 hour movie.  File sizes are reasonable, with a 2 hour movie at 640×480 encoding to a (roughly) 800mb file.  Not too bad.

Here’s another great thing: if you choose the Windows Media 9 option (above), then the Zune software DOES NOT need to re-convert the file when you sync up your Zune 30 (or Zune 80, for that matter).  It copies the file over and you’re ready to go!  The 320×240 size is not tremendous on any device, but it really looks pretty good.  Encoding at 640×480 looks better on the Zune (and on TV output), but means a longer encoding process *and* bigger files.  Your choice.

Lastly, I’ve done a bit of messing around with the other formats that the Cucusoft program will encode to.  It supports H.264 and MPEG-4 in addition to the (preferred) .WMV format.  With this software, however, I’ve found that the Windows Media 9 option provides the best quality video, though a bit slower than other options.

Anyhow, I give the DVD-to-Zune Converter software from Cucusoft a hearty 9 out of 10 stars.  Go check it out for yourself!


Quick Movie Review: Iron Man

I confess: I didn’t know much about the Iron Man legacy before heading out with my buddies to see the movie yesterday.  In fact, you could argue that I *still* don’t know much about it, but the movie looked good and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hang out with some friends (in a dark, packed theater, no less) and see this newest superhero flick.  With movie theater prices as they are these days, sometimes you get out of a showing and feel a bit swindled: $9.25 for a ticket, $6.50 for popcorn, $3.75 for a drink, and $2.25 for a box of candy that costs $.79 everywhere else.  Almost $22 later, you’re wishing you’d purchased a DVD of a movie you *actually* enjoy!  I didn’t get any food yesterday, but you get the point.  In this case, the price of admission was well worth it.  Honestly.

Let’s see now… explosive action?  Check.  Engaging storyline?  Check.  Impressive leading actor?  Check.  Pretty damsel?  Check.  Great special effects?  Check.  In fact, in my personal opinion Iron Man is the best superhero flick to come out in quite awhile.  It grabs your interest, holds it, and leaves you desiring more.  (Note: there WILL be more.  Stay until the end of the credits for a next-chapter-in-the-series teaser.)  I would easily place this movie up there with the first Spiderman and X-Men movies.  Really good stuff.

  • My take: 9 out of 10

Get out and see this one!