With low-cost DVD burners and software such as iDVD and DVD Studio Pro, it’s easier than ever to put your movies onto DVDs. What isn’t so easy, however, is getting content off those DVDs. Because of the way DVDs store audio and video—mixed together in files called VOBs (Video OBjects)—you can’t just copy a file from a DVD and hope to edit or resue it. (If you want to just play the VOB files, you can download MPlayer OS X or VLC media player, both free.)
So why would you want to extract content from a DVD? Perhaps you want to make a multimedia portfolio of your work. Maybe you’d like to create a “greatest hits” DVD with footage from several DVDs without recapturing from the original tapes (assuming you still have them). Or maybe you have a DVD recorder attached to your TV and want to edit the shows you’ve recorded.
If any of these reasons make you think “Hey, I want to do that,” then Miraizon’s $60 Cinematize 2.02 ( ) may be for you. Cinematize lets you pull content from unencrypted DVDs (which typically means anything but Hollywood movies—more on that later) to your desktop in a number of different formats.
(Last year we reviewed a very similar application called DVDxDV. DVDxDV has the added benefit of being able to preview audio and video—one at a time—but Cinematize offers greater control over the extraction process and has a more appealing interface.)
Insert a DVD into your DVD drive or copy the VIDEO_TS folder to your hard drive—either way, when you launch Cinematize, you drag and drop the DVD’s icon or VIDEO_TS folder into the main window, select the Video Title Set you want to work with, and click the Select VTS button to get started. That’s where your options really open up.
Once you select the Title and Angle to work with (in the default Segment window), you then select your starting and ending points to decide exactly what video and/or audio to extract. You can select areas ranging from a number of frames (less than a second) up to every chapter in a Title. A window lets you preview your selection in full motion video, but unfortunately it doesn’t play any audio—which can make it difficult to figure out what scene you’re actually viewing. A slider lets you scrub through the chapters you’ve selected and set start and end points, and you can start playing from any point (the slider, however, is grayed out during playback so as not to change start or end points—to get to another point in the video, you must press the pause button, pick a new point, and begin playing again).
Now that you’ve chosen the areas to extract, the other tabs come into play. Under the Video tab, you’ll see the video format (MPEG-1 or MPEG-2), video standard (NTSC or PAL), aspect ratio (4:3 or 16:9), and frame size (720x480, for example). If you want to extract only audio, you can select No Video Stream. Assuming you do want video, however, you can decode to a QuickTime file using the built-in QuickTime codecs (and you don’t need to have QuickTime Pro to access them either), and also choose the quality and aspect ratio (among other options). Or you can save as an elementary stream, which simply pulls video off the DVD and saves it as a .m2v file with no quality loss (of course you won’t gain any quality over the source material), which you can then import into DVD Studio Pro. The other option is MPEG-2 program stream, which gives you a .mpg file, which you can view with the above-mentioned third-party players, or with QuickTime if you’ve purchased the optional QuickTime MPEG-2 Playback component.
The Audio tab lets you pick the audio stream (or no audio), and provides similar information to the Video tab (in this case, format, number of channels, sample rate, and bit depth). Cinematize can handle PCM, AC-3 and MP2 audio—but not DTS—and you can choose to decode the audio to AIFF or WAV format, as elementary stream, or as an MPEG-2 program stream. The program can downmix multichannel AC-3 audio to stereo audio.
The Output tab lets you choose the final output format of your extracted content. Depending on the settings you chose for audio and video in the tabs of the same names, you can create a QuickTime (.mov) file, DV stream (.dv) , or AVI (.avi) file with audio and video combined into a single file; an MPEG-2 program stream file (.mpg) with audio and video combined; or as separate stream files. Or if you prefer, you can save each chapter as its own segment. At output, Cinematize does an excellent job of making sure your audio and video are the same length and synchronized properly.
There are times when you may want to extract content from encrypted DVDs when such actions would be considered fair use—to create CDs or AAC files from the songs on some concert DVDs you own, or to insert a short clip from a movie into a presentation, for example. Cinematize won’t extract that content directly, but you can use a utility such as the free MacTheRipper to decrypt a DVD and save it to your hard drive (although I’m not going to get into whether removing encryption violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act). From there, you’d follow the same steps as with any other DVD.
Cinematize’s few others options are found in its Preference pane. You can tell the app to play a sound when extraction is done, add file extensions as needed, include stream type labels in stream file names, and de-interlace non-progressive DVD video. (There’s also a tab for extracting subtitle tracks from DVDs, which most people aren’t likely to use.)
You can use Cinematize on a G3-based Mac, but because the app takes advantage of Velocity Engine processing on G4s and G5s, you’ll see speed improvements on newer Macs. Using a dual-2GHz Power Mac G5 (with a DVD in the stock optical drive) it took about six minutes to extract and decode a 6:24 clip to normal quality MPEG-4 video.
If you find yourself needing to edit or reuse content from your DVDs, Cinematize is a full-featured app that offers almost all the features you could ask for. If the price makes you think twice, Miraizon has a demo version availalble for download as well, so give it a try.