Posts Tagged 'movie'

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!