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Duplicating and Copying DVDs (part 1) - Duplicating DVD Movies

2/7/2014 2:41:24 AM

While it's likely that you have at least some video content of your own, the reality is that most home video tends to be short or at least short-lived. Many have had this same basic experience: excited at the beginning of a family or relationship, you purchase an expensive video camera, eager to document your lives, as though anyone, let alone you, will ever be particularly interested in watching most of the video you eventually shoot. Video cameras tend to gather dust in a closet somewhere, so you move on to digital cameras and even cell phones and smart phones, many of which now offer low-quality to decent-quality video capabilities in addition to their more common still picture functionality. But even that tends to be a low-impact hobby: most of the video I've taken with my digital camera, for example, has been created by mistake. I meant to take a still shot, but the camera dial had turned to the video setting while in my pocket. As I result, I've got dozens of five-second-long videos in which you can hear me in the background muttering about what went wrong. Its compelling footage, let me tell you.

While I have no doubt that some of you out there will become dedicated videographers, the truth is that most people enjoy an entirely different kind of video far more often than your own home movies, whether they were taken accidentally or on purpose. You rent and purchase DVD movies, for example, and, increasingly, even high-definition (HD) Blu-ray movies. You watch movies and TV shows on TV, and enjoy On Demand rental content. You watch short video clips on YouTube and other video-driven Web sites. And for a small minority of users, you even purchase and rent TV shows and movies electronically, using services such as Apple iTunes, Amazon On Demand, CinemaNow, Blockbuster Movielink, and others.

Wouldn't it be nice to get some of that content on your PC or portable media devices so you could enjoy it on the road, while commuting, at the gym, or in other situations in which it's not convenient or possible to be sitting on your couch watching TV, or sitting in front of your Internet-connected PC? Sure it would. In many cases, you can make it happen.

Some of the scenarios just listed are more problematic than others, but we'll focus on DVD movies here because these shiny, silver discs are, by far, the most common way to enjoy video entertainment. That said, it's worth at least a short side trip first to explain what's going on with these entertainment types:

  • Blu-ray: As of this writing, the ability to create a DVD version or PC-playable file from a Blu-ray movie is somewhat of a pipe dream, though hackers are working on it. A bigger issue, from a PC perspective, involves Blu-ray playback. If you have a Blu-ray optical disc drive on your PC, you also need a variety of hardware that is HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) compatible. That is, Windows 7, like Windows Vista before it, has been engineered in such a way that your video card, sound card, monitor, and other hardware must all be HDCP compatible before you can play back that Blu-ray movie you legally purchased. That's because Blu-ray movies are essentially perfect digital copies of the original film, and Hollywood is understandably anxious to prevent consumers from illegally copying these perfect digital copies and giving them to friends. To be fair, any new PC, especially those that come with Blu-ray optical drives, should be fully HDCP compatible; but that doesn't help those who purchased lower-end PCs or built their own PCs. In the end, the consumer has a lot of work to do to ensure they can view Blu-ray content on a PC.


    You could simply purchase a wonderful software product called AnyDVD HD. Available from SlySoft (www.slysoft.com/), AnyDVD HD enables you to watch Blu-ray movies on a non-HDCP-compliant PC. It also performs a number of other useful Blu-ray related jobs, including removing BD+ copy protection and region codes from Blu-ray discs, meaning you can watch international Blu-ray movies, a huge plus for movie buffs. AnyDVD HD also includes all of the other excellent features from the standard AnyDVD utility, which we examine more closely in just a bit. AnyDVD is a bit expensive, yes, but its cost pales in comparison to the potential cost of making your PC HDCP compliant.

    That said, Windows 7 does include the capability to write Blu-ray data discs. And Microsoft has created the low-level underpinnings needed for third parties to add Blu-ray movie playback via their own applications.

  • Recordable TV content: Windows 7 includes all the software tools you need to record TV shows from a variety of sources, including cable TV and HD sources such as HD cable and over-the-air (OTA) HD.

  • YouTube videos: While online video entertainment sites like YouTube are enormously popular and make it easy to enjoy videos online, what they don't offer is a way to download your favorite videos so you can enjoy them offline.


    To download unprotected copies of YouTube and other online videos to your hard drive, check out the free RealNetworks RealPlayer media player (www.realplayer.com/).

  • Content from online services: Apple iTunes, Amazon On Demand, and other similar services rent movies and sell movies and TV shows in various formats. Fortunately, these movies arrive as PC-friendly video files, so you should have no problem accessing them offline on a portable computer or compatible device. Different services are compatible with different portable devices and digital media receivers, however. Apple's files are compatible only with its own hardware, including iPods, iPhones, and Apple TVs. Meanwhile, most other services have standardized on Microsoft's Windows Media Video (WMV) format and Windows Media DRM copy protection scheme, so these files should be compatible with any Windows-compatible devices that aren't made by Apple. Note, however, that all of this content is copy-protected, and as of this writing there's no way to remove that copy protection and use this content in your own projects. Some services do, however, allow you to burn purchased movies to DVD.

Okay, now it's time to take a look at the two biggest missing features in Windows 7 when it comes to digital video: duplicating DVD movies and ripping, or copying, DVD movies to video files that will play fine on PCs, Xbox 360s, Zunes, and many other devices, including Apple's iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV.

1. Duplicating DVD Movies

From a "fair use" perspective, it should be possible to make a backup copy of your legally purchased DVD movies, assuming you're doing so for archival purposes and will not be distributing those copies, or the originals, to others outside of your immediate family. This is a bit spurious from a legal standpoint, we think, but there is a compelling reason to back up a few DVD movies, and it has nothing to do with archiving.

If you travel a lot for work, as we do, you may sometimes like to bring along DVD movies for those otherwise wasted hours on planes and in hotel rooms. However, we don't want to subject expensive DVD purchases to the rigors of travel. Paul had a particularly maddening experience on a cross-country flight in which a few of his DVDs were actually cracked thanks to an overzealous fellow passenger jamming his too-large bag into a too-small storage compartment directly on top of his bag.

You'd think that Windows 7 would come up with some sort of basic DVD backup utility, even if it were designed to only function on that tiny percentage of unprotected (that is, homemade) DVDs that are out there. But it's not there: Windows 7 does include ways to burn data DVDs and Blu-ray discs and create DVD movies, but it's surprisingly light when it comes to DVD movie backup. For this reason, you're going to have to look elsewhere.

We've come across several excellent DVD backup utilities. Chances are good that your PC came with one of them. The Nero suite (www.nero.com/) and Roxio Creator (www.roxio.com/) are popular PC bundles, and of course, you can purchase these huge and sometimes confusing digital media suites on your own if you're looking for that kind of thing.

That said, we prefer simpler, more elegant solutions. For example, SlySoft's CloneDVD (www.slysoft.com/en/clonedvd.html) is an excellent and inexpensive way to back up entire DVDs or just the parts of a DVD you want. That's literally all it does, and it does it well. CloneDVD is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Looking to duplicate a commercial DVD movie? CloneDVD is the solution.


What all of these solutions lack, if it's not obvious, is a way to back up commercial, Hollywood-type DVDs. That's because these DVDs come with a form of copy protection that prevents such copying. In order to bypass this protection, you'll need something like SlySoft AnyDVD (or AnyDVD HD), www.slysoft.com/en/anydvd.html, which we both use and strongly recommend. AnyDVD removes the encryption from DVD movies, allowing you to back up Hollywood movies and other copy-protected DVDs. It removes the DVD region coding from DVD movies, so you movie buffs can enjoy DVD movies that are purchased outside of your locale. But AnyDVD isn't just about bypassing copy protection. In fact, other features make this a tool of interest to anyone who enjoys DVD movies regularly on a PC. It prevents the automatic launching of not-so-friendly "PC-friendly" software on video DVDs. It enables you to skip annoying trailers and other baloney that movie companies force on us, letting you jump directly to either the main movie or the DVD's title menu. And it does this automatically: pop in a disc and AnyDVD will do its thing under the covers. This is one of the best utilities we've ever purchased.
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