Saturday, January 11, 2014

Random Tech Post - Converting my Workout DVD Library

I have a longer term goal of building a Linux based home media server, which I've been too lazy to do in the past.  I want to be able to create more ways to utilize my very expensive and extensive library.  In the past, I've ripped the audio from a few select kettlebell DVD workouts so that I could use them at the track or at the big box gym.  That has been a good option for me, but I also want to have access to the actual video workouts when I'm not working out in my garage.  The first step is to get my media in a format that allows me to start experimenting. Time to digitize (is that a word?) Then, I can explore avenues for serving up the digital files while inside and away from my private home network.  I hope that you find it helpful if you dig this kind of stuff.

Step 1. Rip & Convert DVDs into digital video format
I found a timely discussion on turning DVDs into mp4s on the video fitness forums.  Another great resource has been the "How to turn your DVD/CD Library into a Digital Library" article that I found online.  I've been experimenting with various software products - both freeware and licensed software.

DVD Ripper Software - Freeware Options
1. Handbrake: Unfortunately, I haven't had much luck using Handbrake.  I have an HP laptop running Windows 7.  Every time I rip a DVD, the application causes my computer to shut down abruptly, similar to a power surge.  For some reason, it seems to cause the computer to run really hot and the fan is not cooling it fast enough. I read that other users had the same issue, which is unfortunate since alot of people like Handbrake since it's freeware.
2. MakeMKV:  MakeMKV was a pretty good solution for me. It ripped dvds in about 20 minutes and ouput them in MKV format.  I can't play MKV files without a converter.  I couldn't get VLC to work on my system, and I didn't want to have to find another product to convert MKV files or play MKV files.
3. Freemake: This solution did not bode well for me.  I gave up after waiting for almost 45 minutes for it to just analyze one DVD. I do not have that kind of time or patience.

I decided it was time to invest a little in order to get what I needed.  Most fee based ripper applications also convert media into many formats (tablet, phone, tv, general video, etc) and provide the option to extract the audio, which is great for using just my headphones.  I gave myself a price point of $40 or less.  I tried several demo versions of software, but they typically limit the output to 5 minutes.

DVD Ripper & Converter Software  - For Fee Options:
1. Brorsoft DVD Ripper: This product works pretty well. It accomplishes what I need it to do, but it has its pros and cons.   
The Good: It reads and analyzes DVDs quickly. It also has many pre-configured profiles to support most devices.  I also like that it allows me to select or remove individual titles and merge titles into a single output file.  I haven't checked to see if I can add metadata, chapter points, or menus.     
The Frustrating: The conversion process is slow.  It takes about 30-40 minutes to convert a workout of the same length.  Movies can take up to an hour.  It slows down my system performance to a painfully slow pace, and my laptop still runs hot.  Now, I'm not ruling out that my 4-year old laptop could be contributing to the poor performance problems.  I decided that the software is worth keeping, but still not what I'm looking for.  I want some software that will rip and convert in about 5-10 minutes.  With such a huge library, efficiency is important to me.  So, I decided that I would purchase another software package if it seemed worth it.
2. WinX DVD Ripper Platinum:  This software promises that it can rip and convert a DVD in 5 minutes.  Unfortunately, I am running into problems with this software.  I tried the demo version before purchasing it, but it only converts 5 minutes of content.  It did that at lightening speed, and I was pretty happy and thought it was worth the risk.  I tested it using one of my older DVDs (2003ish), and it had no problems getting the job done.  I couldn't speak to the time to convert an entire DVD, since the demo version was limited.  After I purchased the license, I tried to get it to rip one of my brand new, just received P90X3 DVDs and ran into problems.  I was able to convert the same DVD using Brorsoft without any issues other than the time investment.  (I received it last night, and I want to take it with me tomorrow to start using it in my hotel room w/ bands.)  

The Good: It anaylzes the DVD pretty quickly and attempts to find the main title track.  I also like the interface.  Also, customer service has been fantastic!  I submitted a help ticket last night to correct some information on my order, and they resolved it almost immediately.
The To-be-Determined: The program was able to find, analyze, and convert the DVD into MP4 format.  However, the final output file was only 3 minutes.  In addition, I was not able to preview or edit the DVD titles in the tool.  I suspect that the issue may be related to an unclean install or the protection on the DVD.  I have submitted a help desk ticket and am awaiting their feedback.  I found discussions that other folks really like this software and have successfully converted P90X2 and P90X.  I'll post an update once I've had a chance to see if the issues I am experiencing can be resolved.  Until then, I'll continue using Brorsoft to keep building my digital library.

Step 2. Introduce a Media Server Component 
Streaming Media Options: Being able to access my digital media from multiple devices while away from home is very important to me.  I do not want to have to store files locally on various devices, with the exception of a few movies to watch on planes when internet service is unavailable.  Storing media in a central location and streaming to devices as needed is an excellent solution.  Based upon my research, I've found that many folks are happy with either Subsonic or PS3 Media Server; both are free streaming media servers.  I decided to install Subsonic. It was easy to install and setup.  It did take a little bit of time to get the port forwarding configured correctly, but I am able to access my library from the internet by logging into my subsonic server.  I have noticed some performance delays when trying to tap into the server from multiple devices.  I used my phone, ipad, and laptop to see if I could play media files.  It was possible, but alot of hangs (could be my network bandwidth too).  I did not like the response time on the iPad when using Safari.  There are apps for Subsonic, but I couldn't find alot of free options. 

Linux-Based Home Media Server: I hope to start my Linux (Unbuntu) home media server project in mid-to-late February.  I know I could buy one, but I'm actually kind of excited to build and configure my own media server.  I have an old desktop that I plan to use to get the job done.  It should be fine for a this purpose.


Joseph said...

Hi, great blog. I was wondering if you ever got an update on the WinX DVD ripper platinum. I just purchased it and am coming across the same issues with ripping p90x3. Thanks!

Li Wu said...

Li Wu said...

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