Saturday, September 2 2006

This should be easy…

I have a large stack of unencrypted (well, they are now…) DVDs. Each one contains several short video clips, correctly separated with chapter marks. I want a new DVD containing a subset of those clips, arranged in the order of my choosing, with a simple menu structure, and without re-encoding any of the videos. A mix disc, as it were, with no quality loss. So far, every Open Source or free tool I’ve tried has choked.

I’ve tried three different VOB-splitting tools. All of the available author-from-VOB tools choke on them, because they’re missing the embedded tags that make it a real DVD-compatible VOB (e.g. muxed with “mplex -f8”). Demuxing (either directly from the DVD or from split VOBs) produces an audio track that none of the tools can read, not even the same tool that just demuxed it; they all claim it’s unsupported. mplayer, ffmpeg, ffmpegX, mjpegtools, dvdauthor, transcode, etc, etc, all the same. mplayer cheerfully plays the DVDs (and the single-chapter VOBs), but it only successfully demuxes if the audio is AC3 or MP2; mine are all PCM.

[side note: ffmpegX and HandBrake both have a tendency to produce garbage in either audio or video when used to transcode and compress DVD video; there are options that work correctly with both, but many things that should work don’t.]

It seems the only realistic solution is to rip to DV and drop them into iDVD, accepting the quality loss from re-encoding. Everything else involves spending more money than the task is worth.