Video software tips

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from Philip Tagg (update 2012-04-02)

Home page at this website (Philip Tagg)

Computer Tips


Useful software for students of music/sound and the moving image

Download and convert
YouTube clips

DVD Decrypter ($0)

VLC audio-video player
– essential – ($0)

Grabbing still frames from movies

Make editable movie extracts
from DVDs

Bits of need-to-know about DVDs

VLC icon VLC VideoLan VLC icon
——— Play ANY media file. Very highly recommended ———

VLC VideoLan is a  totally useful, free, no-nonsense and excellent media player that manages any audiovisual format reliably and efficiently without your having to ‘join up’, ‘sign up’,  ‘become a member’, without having to deselect ‘free’ offers, and without having to go through the rigmarole of ‘media libraries’ or ‘my favourites’ (whose favourites?), or being expected to star rate everything on your computer.  Nor do you need suffer the trendy-wendy glitz and skins most other media players insist on offering. VLC VideoLan just does the job and does it well. And it’s FREE.

You can download it here, here, here, here and here. If none of those work, just google <VLC download> and choose another site. Forget Winamp, Windows Media Player and QuickTime: you don’t need them.

VLC also deals satisfactorily with DVDs. To view a DVD, click Media then select Open file. Browse to the VIDEO_TS folder containing the DVD you want to play and double click the file VIDEO_TS.IFO (DVD file nomenclature explained shortly). Your DVD should then play correctly.

• Yes, double-click the file VIDEO_TS.IFO (surrounded by red, above).  
• Yes, all DVDs do have the same file names because they are assumed to be stored on separate carriers.
• Yes, VIDEO_TS.IFO is the only one that properly opens your DVD

N.B. If you've been careless enough to check the option Hide extensions for known file types in Windows, or if you’ve just left that option in that state ever since you acquired your computer, you won't see any difference between VIDEO_TS.BUP, VIDEO_TS.IFO and VIDEO_TS.VOB. That’s utterly useless if you’re dealing with DVDs because you won't know which VIDEO_TS file to select! You must UNCHECK THE HIDE EXTENSIONS option in Windows if you can’t see the .IFO, .BUP and .VOB parts of the file listing! Here’s where you do that essential unchecking operation: 
       Vista, XP: [My]Computer → Tools →  Folder options → View 
    Windows 7: Control Panel → Folder Options → View  

DVD Decrypter ——— Back up DVD movies to your hard drive
DVD Decrypt icon
DVD Decrypter is a no-nonsense piece of free software that lets you transfer DVD files to your hard drive.

The download sites for DVD Decrypter seem to be in a state of flux.
A Google (or similar) search for <DVD Decrypter download> will take you sooner rather than later to a valid download site.
As of 2012-04-02 this download site was operational. It also provided very useful information. Worth reading!

DVDs can easily get scratched or otherwise made useless by dirt, grease, dust, etc. DVD Decrypter lets you back up your DVDs to hard disk. Just make sure the (1) Source drive and (2) Destination folders are correct. Then (3) select all the files on the right and (4) press the DVD to hard drive icon. After the decryption and transfer is finished you can, if you want, copy the DVD files on to a blank DVD. Be aware that duplicating copyrighted DVD content for others is against the law.

Using DVD Decrypter to copy DVD files to hard disk can also be a useful first step if you need to edit (extracts of) audiovisual material for teaching or research purposes.

You may have trouble with DVD regions. It's worth learning about that issue (see heading RCE (Regional Coding Enhancement) Protection removal at this site), especially if you are involved in any type of media analysis or teaching. To remove region protection using DVD Decrypter:

1. Select -> Tools -> Settings -> General and set your region according to this table

USA, Canada, US Territories
Europe, South Africa, Middle East (incl. Egypt), Japan
Southeast Asia, East Asia (incl. Hong Kong) (see region 6)
Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Central America , Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean Region
Eastern Europe (Former Soviet Union), Indian subcontinent, Africa, North Korea, and Mongolia
Peoples Republic of China Region
International venues (planes , ships, etc.)

2. Ensure that ‘Remove IFO/BUP RCE Protection’ options are all checked.

If you have other problems with ripping DVDs, go to for very useful tips and information.

  YouTube Downloads

Easiest: use Mozilla Firefox add-on Easy YouTube video downloader. See also Music Downloads.

Making editable movie extracts from DVDs  
Method 1   • Method 2

Essential facts about DVDs

Unlike USB keys or MiniDiscs, DVDs have an exposed and unprotected surface. They are easy to damage. Dirt and scratches make them unusable. DVD backups are a necessity because no-one wants to pay twice for something that becomes unusable from the slightest scratch.

Movies come out on media not only exposed to dust, grease and scratches but also formatted to different scanning norms (NTSC, PAL, SECAM, etc.) which the big corporations, in their insatiable thirst for money, have divided into mutually incompatible DVD ‘regions’ that make a mockery of globalisation (divide et impera). Add to that the problem of copy protection and producing DVD extracts for editing and analysis becomes a time-consuming hassle (solutions later).

DVD stands for 'Digital Versatile Disc'.It's simply a carrier that can contain data of any sort. A DVD is a type of moveable medium in the same way as a CD or a USB key. The problem with ‘DVD’ is that it doesn't just signify a particular type of data carrier: it also denotes a particular mode of coding and storing information on a hard drive, or a USB stick or a DVD disc. Commercially bought feature films are usually coded and stored as DVD files on DVD discs.

DVD files all have the same sort of name, whether the film on the disc is The Sound of Music or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The most important same-name DVD files to recognise are those with names like VTS_01_1.VOB, VTS_01_2.VOB, VTS_01_3.VOB etc. and the file VIDEO_TS.IFO.

The double-numbered VOB (Video OBject) files just mentioned are those containing the actual film. You’ll notice that most of them are around one gigabyte in size, the equivalent of about 26 minutes of viewing, and that the last one in the series is smaller. You can in other words roughly calculate where in which VOB file a particular extract in a film on DVD starts and ends. You need to know that the breaks between one VOB file to the next (e.g. from VTS_01_1.VOB to VTS_01_2.VOB) virtually never occur at natural breaks in the visual or audio narrative (solution later).

You also need to know that the DVD file ‘VIDEO_TS.IFO’ contains information keeping track of the various double-numbered VTS_*.VOB files. It's also the file to click when you want to see a DVD production on your computer.

Removing regional restriction and copy protection, copying to hard drive (ripping)

Before you can do anything at all with the contents of a commercially bought DVD, you almost always have to remove its regional restriction and copy protection. Without that step you're lumbered with a totally uneditable, unmanageable product. You also need to transfer the DVD files to your hard drive in order to edit them. Several pieces of software do the code breaking and transfer all in one go. I recommend DVD Decrypter for this purpose. It is no secret that this software, so useful to those of us who study moving image-related topics, is also abused by pirates. If you're such an abuser, please stop, because your actions just provoke worse crack-downs from the industry side and that means more work for those of us who need to find ways of editing bits of commercially diffused DVD for purposes of teaching and research.

Please follow these steps (DVD Decrypter) to decode and decrypt a commercially bought DVD to your hard drive.

Video editing software

To do video editing you need —— quelle surprise!—— video editing software. If you don’t have any and want something cheap and cheerful, try one of these, or this. Then there's Virtual Dub (free and open source), Windows MovieMaker and so on before you get to more established high-end stuff like Avid, Sony Vegas Pro, Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro. Personally I use and recommend Sony Vegas Pro v.8.0: I find it intuitive, reliable and fast. Its main drawback is that even an academic license costs $400 Canadian.

If your video editing software cant handle VOB files you'll need to convert them into a format it can deal with. It may in any case be useful to convert from VOB to another digital video format (like MPG or AVI) especially if the film extract you want to deal with spans two VOB files.



Method 1: Total DVD decrypting then video editing
Link to Method 2: Partial DVD conversion then video editing

A Preliminaries

  1. Make sure you have installed free DVD ripping software like DVD Decrypter.
    Be aware that using this sort of software to copy and distribute commercially released DVDs is illegal.
    Using DVD decrypters for entirely private or demonstrably academic purposes is not illegal.
  2. Make sure you have installed video editing software.
  3. Insert the DVD you want to use into your computer’s DVD drive.
  4. Open DVD Decrypter

B. Inside DVD Decrypter

(Using DVD Decrypter)

  1. Select the right source disc
    (I have put The Good, The Bad and the Ugly into G:).
  2. Select the folder to which you want DVD Decrypter to write the decoded version of the DVD files.
  3. Select all the files on the DVD.
  4. Press the DVD icon to start the process.
  5. Wait 20 minutes or so for the process to complete.

C. Inside Sony Vegas

  1. Open Sony Vegas.
  2. Select File —> Insert —> Media.
  3. Select the relevant VOB file. I selected VTS_01_1.VOB because I want to edit the film’s title sequences. Note that a full-length VOB file (1 gig) is equivalent to around 25 minutes of DVD playing time.
  4. Wait for the video and audio streams to load.
  5. Mark off the passage you want to edit or extract. I chose from 0:00:15;26 to 0:02:59;26 (see next pic).
  6. Select File —> Render to save the extract as a video file (AVI, MPG, etc.).
  7. Edit the saved file as required.

If your extract contains spoken language and has more than one soundtrack you will need to mute or delete the language soundtracks you don’t need. In that case go to a place in the VOB file where there’s speech and deselect, mute or delete soundtracks as appropriate (see next picture but one).

Making editable movie extracts from DVDs (2)
Method 2: Partial DVD conversion then video editing
Go to Method 1 (total DVD conversion then editing)

In this case I use Wise DVD Converter Professional (c. $50 US) to rip the ‘Concerto d'Orange Juice’ scene from Brassed Off
(1996; 0:16:16.14-0:21:24.03) to AVI which I can then trim and edit in Sony Vegas (c. $400, academic rate).
If the DVD is region locked and/or encrypted you'll need to use Method 1.

1. Use your DVD player or DVD playing software to locate the start and end points of the extract you want to extract and/or edit.
    For the Concierto de Aranjuez passage from Brassed Off I noted from 0:16:16.14 to 0:21:24.03.

2. Open the Wise DVD Converter software.


If you want to convert directly from DVD, insert the disc into the your computer’s DVD drive. Then click the Open DVD button (bottom left). Personally, I find it more reliable to work from a DVD mirror on hard disc so, having first used DVD Decrypter to copy the whole DVD on to the computer, I click the DVD Folder button ((a) next to Open DVD) and select the relevant VIDEO_TS folder (b). Then press OK (c).


Let's say I want to convert a DVD VOB extract to high-quality AVI (XviD High 2-pass). I click the little blue square on the right (a), just under the Delete button. That click reveals the conversion type presets from which I select XviD (2 pass) Original (b) from the drop-down menu. XviD (1 pass) Original is twice as quick and perfectly OK if you’re just creating something for, say, YouTube.


Using the slider (a) and scissors (b) (c) under the little video monitor (top left), mark the start and end points equivalent to the extract you identified in step 1. This is NOT an exact science. I was unable to pinpoint more exactly than from 0:16:05.00 to 0:21:27.00 (d) (11 seconds too much at the start, 3 seconds at the end). Still, it's better than having to wait while a complete VOB file is converted. Moreover, you can, if required, convert a DVD extract that straddles two VOB files.


Once the extract is cued up ((a) (b) (c)), press Add Job (e). Details of the imminent task are displayed under Job description (f).


If the Job description is correct, click Start (g) and let the software finish the task.


Exit Wise DVD Converter, open your video editor and trim/edit the AVI file you just produced.

Saving stills

The best and least complicated way of saving stills (freeze-frames) from moving images is to use the function providied by your video editing software.

For example, in Sony Vegas you do this (see image, right):

1. Align the cursor on the exact frame you want to save as a still image file (see image).

2. Ensure the Video Preview resolution option is Best (Full).

3. Press the diskette icon to name and save the image to disc.


You can also use some software that takes screen shots (stills of part or whole of what's on your computer monitor).
For example, using VLC and Snagit (v.7 and later) you can proceed as follows.

1. In VLC, go to the exact frame you want to save as a still image file.
2. In Snagit, set the capture Mode to Image and the Input source to Window.
3. Press Capture.
4. Place the mouse cursor on the middle of the picture you want to save and do a left click.
5. Press Finish (File).
6. Name the file and save it to disk.