Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Converting PC multi-media to a DVD movie

If AVI and Codecs have you spinning on the spotex, readex this and clear up the jargon.

In a recent article, I unraveled how to save YouTube videos to your computer (www.witnessgeek.blogspot.com), but I was seriously disappointed when burning the downloaded video file onto a CD and trying to play it back on my regular DVD player did not produce the desired results. I found out that I could not watch an avi file on an ordinary dvd player. Looking for solutions I discovered that video formatting can be a can of worms.

Trends change and move rapidly but at this moment the multi-media container (video format) of choice for computer viewing pleasure in my immediate circles seems to be AVI, which stands for Audio Video Interleave. This means that the video file will have an .avi extension and most media players such as Windows Media Player will be able to play it on your computer. The same cannot be said for playing DVD movies on computers. Yes, my computer allows me to open and view the .vob files that make up your normal DVD movie, but older media player versions frequently cannot. The done thing, and I speak for non-copyrighted movies only, you understand, is to convert the DVD movie to an avi format. This process is called “ripping to your hard drive” and has one other major advantage: a more manageable file size.

Other video file formats gaining favour are mp4, Windows Media wmv, Flash video .flv, Quicktime .mov and Mobile phone format such as .3gp and .3g2.

Many programs can be used to “rip”; some are pay software and some are not. NERO, which ships standard with most DVD Rom drives, has the ability to “rip”.

These programs use codec to rip. Codec stands for Coder/Decoder. Basically it is a piece of software or a driver that adds a support for certain video/audio format for your operating system. With codec, your system recognizes the format the codec is built for and allows you to play the audio/video file (=decode) or in some cases, to change another audio/video file into that format (=(en)code).

Compressing movies in this way has the lovely advantage of allowing about ten hours of viewing to fit onto one DVD. Imagine a 320Gb external hard drive filled to the brim with series, movies and your favourite programs that you are able to take to friends and plug and play for a slumber party. Aha, I hear you say, that sounds like fun.

But now lets look at bringing a computer friendly video format file such as an avi back to a format that ordinary DVD players can play back on your TV. For example a YouTube video you have recently downloaded. Here you are looking to convert to a vob format, inclusive of the correct video and audio folder creation, as well as info and backup files that make up the normal DVD movie setup. Again, there are many software packages out there, but the one I found to work and for free is called Sothink Movie DVD Maker and it can be downloaded from www.sothinkmedia.com . Once installed, it can convert several movie files at once and it can even burn you a DVD in one foul swoop. Alternatively you can create a temporary folder on your hard drive to be burnt onto a removable medium later.

A wise word from someone who has wasted many, many DVD’s: Don’t try this on an underpowered computer and start with short movies and see if there are video versus audio synch problems when you play this back on the DVD player. They don’t sell computers aimed at videography with all the RAM and processor bells and whistles for nothing and your entry level PC might struggle.

Next time: Completing the trilogy on movies: how to do some video editing for free!

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