to the second part a three part series about MPEG-2
files. The first (issue #50) focused on converting
standard MPEG-2 files to AVI's for importing into Movie Maker 2.
We used a downloaded MPEG-2 file from the Prelinger Archives, and
converted it into a DV-AVI using VDubMod with the Panasonic codec. In
this issue we'll start with files on DVDs.
DVDs come from many
sources and I'm still working toward my personal 'standard conversion
procedure'. I selected discs from 4 different sources to see
how they responded differently and similarly. The testing gets me a big
step closer to where I'm hoping to be, maybe even all the way there.
Results were good,
and the steps no longer use Movie Maker as the
primary audio conversion utility, with its random crashing during
it. Here are the 4 DVDs I used... with links to 10 second
WMV snippets made by Movie Maker 2 from the converted files. They're
low res snippets but give you some idea of the results.
the latest DVD I made... just last week using MyDVD
(the low quality/pixelization was from the original
footage - digital8 shot in low light does that)
a mini-DVD disc recorded by my son on
camcorder (the camcorder that burns directly to
, a DVD made by a friend who does lots of great home
video work... I don't know what software he used but I'd guess
'Step into Liquid'
- a professional
commercial DVD which didn't successfully convert with the
tools used. The video file created from it ended up with each frame
looking like this
picture... the encrypted
file precluded conversion.
I'm not taking the extra step in this
newsletter to decrypt it, but I'll leave it in the sample
group to see how it acts when you try to handle it like the
adhere to a standard file
... which makes the first step easy,
finding the file on the disc. It's a VOB (video
object) file in the Video_ts folder... the file names don't really
tell you much, but it's easy to find the one you want by playing them. The
file numbers are in the sequence they play on the disc.
Playing a VOB file
The Video_ts folder of the 'Step into
disc has 182 files in it, about half of them vob's... but only
a few are the main feature. The partial list of files at
the right includes the 4 largest files, which are obviously
the main segments of the movie.
The files in the folder total 8.3 GB, so these 4 use about half of the
Double-click a vob file in the file browser and it'll
open and play in your computer's default DVD player software.
On my laptop, it's InterVideo WinDVD 4. They all
look and sound great.
Importing a VOB file into Movie
a vob file into
and you get an error message about it not being a
supported file type. Vob files are MPEG-2, packaged to meet the
standards for a DVD.
Importing a VOB file into MM1 works.
Some of the .vob files looked and sounded fine in MM1. But
all had the thumbnail of a music file. Consistent with that, they went
only to the audio track of the timeline.
This illustrates more the tightened controls
of MM2 rather than MM1's ability to use .vob files.
Importing a Renamed VOB File
MPEG-2 files have different extension
names on computers than they do on DVDs. Rename a
..vob file to .mpg and Movie Maker and other
software will try harder. In some cases it'll partially work,
but in most cases it'll work just enough to get your hopes
up, and then result in confusion and frustration. Up until now I'd
been using Movie Maker to convert the audio track to a WMA file even though it
crashed more often than not.
The renaming is important when it comes to
ripping the video and audio files from it using
The MyDVD .mpg came into MM2 as
an audio clip and went to the timeline as if it was an audio file. It
sounded good, so good that I'm confident I can save the MM2 movie
as a WMA audio file. It's duration per the clip and timeline aligned with
the DVD file.
The file from the Sony
disc acted differently... it too came into MM2 acting like an
audio file. But the duration (which was about 15 minutes on the disc), showed
as about 2 seconds in the collection and on the timeline. Previewing the
clip in the collection played fine. Previewing the timeline with the clip on
it stopped after 2 seconds.
The 'Be Like
Mike' file didn't import... got the message "...If you have
already tried to download and install the codec, close and restart Windows
Movie Maker, and then try to import the file again."
The properties of the imported
'Step into Liquid' file in MM2, shown above left, shows audio
properties but has no info about the video.
line about renaming from .vob to .mpg: 3 of
the 4 imported, but none of them gave any indication of
having a video track. The audio properties and the way it acted was
different for each of the 3. Only the MyDVD file acted so well that it seemed as
if the audio could have been ripped from the file using MM2 (I didn't
Where do we go from here? Into the ripping and
converting... the right ways.
... before that,
here's a couple notes...
Someone e-mailed a much easier way to animate
a map-route clip... using just 2 images instead
of a big pack of 20 to 30 images that I used a while back in a Photo
Sure enough... works easy and well: use the same
image twice, the first with no marking and the second with the fully
marked route. Let's say it's going generally from left to right... set
the transition between the two clips to a long duration (10 seconds or
so) and the transition type to 'reveal right'. The story will
show a nice smooth route marking rolling out. You can
do it in Movie Maker also, as it has a 'reveal right'
transition... no need to make a story first.
In issue #50 I asked what MPEG-2
decoders you have, and if any green lights or positive
comments were indicated in the decoder utility. There were
minimal responses and no-one reported a green light.
The new book
was published... here's a link to a press release
I'm looking forward to reading what the other authors wrote. It covers
VirtualDub, VDubMod, and AVISynth... we'll be using VirtualDub in one of the
conversion steps later in this newsletter.
.... on to the main topic
The Variability of VOB
We've seen it in the introduction, 4 discs with files that
act differently. The vob files have the video and audio streams in them, one
video and as many as 8 audio streams. Some programs require that you demux
(separate the video and audio streams into separate files) before you
Here's a well written page about demuxing
... demuxing separates the video and audio streams so
you can work on them individually, and remuxing puts them back together into an
MPEG-2 compliant file.
Even a demuxed MPEG-2 video file won't work in Movie Maker, nor
will an extracted Dolby AC3 audio file. So for us, demuxing gets
us separate video and audio files that need to be converted.
Everyone's computer system and software toolkit is
different. I don't expect to be able to provide a standard procedure for
everyone. But I do hope to help you understand the processes by illustrating it
with my procedure, so you can more easily develop your own.
The software I'll be using is:
That'll get video and audio files of the highest quality,
and file types that work very well in Movie Maker.
Available Software and
I want to stop here and review current guidance about
software needed to demux and then convert MPEG-2
video and Dolby audio files. We lucked out in issue #50 as
the downloaded MPEG-2 file didn't have a Dolby audio steam. But 3 of the 4 DVDs
I picked for this issue have .ac3 audio files, so it's time to find a better way
to convert it, better than my hit and miss use of Movie Maker.
There are somewhat overlapping but different
objectives between my website and DVDRHelp. Mine is focused on getting
DVDs to source files for Movie Maker projects... theirs is more about
open source software, the Divx codec and it's derivatives... ripping
DVDs to get them into Divx encoded files, or to make backup discs, not
how to make files that work in Movie Maker. The links and guides
at DVDRHelp don't reference Movie Maker.
current website pages note 16 software apps that could be
used in ripping and conversion steps. Some are my personal comments,
but most are from posts on the newsgroup. It's interesting
that only 2 of the 16 align with the conversion guides at
DVDRHelp: DVD Decrypter
I found 25 DVDRHelp Guides about converting MPEG-2 to
AVI... just reading their titles showed how strongly
they align with the Divx community. AVI to them means Divx encoded... to me
it means something akin to DV-AVI. But there's a lot
to learn from the guides... and apply it to our needs.
The 25 guides cover 28 different software apps. Of most
interest was BeSweet to convert audio
files, and the related Be Sweet GUI, a wizard
interface to run BeSweet, which is a command-line utility.
.... back to the steps need to demux and convert
the disc files
Splitting the vob (mpg) file into 2
parts - video + audio (de-multiplexing)
We'll split the files into the two streams, the
video and audio, and work on each separately... first the de-multiplexing.
I'll start with the largest and the only one of the 4 test
files apt to be protected, the one from 'Step into Liquid'.
I tried various tools... bbTools, a command
line utility, then VDubMod, and settled into TMPGEnc for the
Demultiplex - using
From the main menu, use File > MPEG tools
> Simple De-multiplex tab > select the file...
Press the Run button... for the largest file of the
4 vob files, the 1 GB+ 22 minute one from 'Step Into Liquid', the
splitting took about 5 minutes to first make the video m2v file, and
then another 2 minutes for the audio ac3 file. Demuxing isn't a rendering
process... it's more of a splitting one, so it's pretty quick.
For 3 of the files, this simple de-multiplexing
step resulted in two files from each of the vob's, an MPEG-2 m2v file
with the video, and a Dolby ac3 file with the audio. The combined total
sizes of the two files was the same as the single vob file.
The Simple De-multiplex didn't include
the audio stream for the file from 'Be Like Mike'... so I moved
over to the 'not-simple' De-multiplex tab shown
This window shows the streams inside the file...
those automatically checked are the available ones. See the note at the bottom
of the window, saying to double-click the one you want to save to a new
I double-clicked the checked audio stream 0x00
and saved it to a file, gave it a .WAV extension and it played great.
At this point I've separated (de-muxed) the
combined files into separate video and audio files. Four MPEG-2 video
files with .m2v extensions, three Dolby audio files with
..ac3 extensions, and one audio file with a .wav extension.
We've ripped the files. Now it's time to
convert the .m2v and .ac3 files.
Converting the video and audio
We're heading toward DV-AVI video files and
As long as I was in TMPGEnc, I stayed in
it for the video. Open the m2v file in the main
working window as the Video source.
From the main menu use File > Output to
File > AVI file > uncheck audio as we don't have that stream > Video
Setting for compression > Panasonic DV Codec.
The longest of the renderings took 45 minutes
for a 7 minute video (the one from the MyDVD disc).
I didn't know until my final quality check that the
converted file from the Sony mini-DVD wasn't complete. It was only the first 29
seconds of a 14-1/2 minute video... more later.
The file from the 'Step Into Liquid' disc converted
but playback of the avi file showed it as a garbled set of colored blocks, as we
saw in the intro... due to the encryption
Although TMPGEnc spun-out the ac3 files, it
gives an error message if you try to import one, saying it's an unsupported file
TMPGEnc needs a special module to convert AC3
files. There is one, but it supports other versions of TMPGEnc, not
I researched the options at DVDRHelp
and tried BeSweet... and it's sweet!!!
BeSweet and the BeSweet
I started with BeSweet and the BeSweet GUI/Wizard, and
didn't need to look further. BeSweet is a command-line audio
transcoding utility that converts audio files from one format to another,
and with the BeSweet Wizard, the conversions went easy and well.
The downloaded files for the two software
packages are small (2/3 MB total)... zip packages.
Make a folder on your hard drive named
'BeSweetWizard' and put the contents of the BeSweetGUIv0.6.zip into it.
Then make a sub-folder under it named 'BeSweet' and
put the contents of the BeSweet1.4.zip package in it. It needs to be in
that location for the wizard to find it.
Run the BeSweet GUI v0.6.exe file. When first opened, it
gives you the choices at the left... I like Wizards, selected
it and pressed GO.
The wizard has five steps and
is easy to use.
On the first step drag (from your file
manager/browser) each of the ac3 files you want to convert. I did one at a time,
but the wizard lets you make a list of and run it as a batch
The next steps are to select the output type (WAV),
the output mode (Wave-Stereo), an optional FRC Preset (None), and a look at the
project settings... by default the new .wav file
is placed in the same folder as the source ac3 file.
Press the GO button on the last step and in a
couple minutes you'll have WAV files. I didn't run into any issues using
At this point I thought I had all of
my converted files. Just one more step, a quality check in
Movie Maker... the goal is good usable source files for movie
The figure at the lower right
shows the pair of files from the MyDVD disc on the
timeline of Movie Maker 2... zoomed in all the way to see
how aligned the ends of the video and audio files are.
Perfect!! That's what we're looking for.
The project preview plays smoothly, and looks and
Note that the video file shows no associated
audio... we had opted to not include the audio in the saved DV-AVI
That was the only set to fully pass this
The 'Be Like Mike' set was close enough.
The audio file was 0.13 seconds longer than the video. There was no
lip-syncing to need precise alignment so I accepted the
But the set from the Sony DVD
flunked cold. The audio file was over 14-1/2 minutes in duration
but the video was 29 seconds. The video obviously needed more
Post Quality Check
Checking the Sony disc vob file properties with
the MPEG Tools of TMPGEnc showed it had pixel
dimensions of 704x480. I hadn't noticed that before.
Our normal dimensions for DV-AVI files (NTSC),
which the Panasonic DV codec needs in the input file,
I went to VDubMod and
added the resize filter to the
process to first resize the file before it goes to the Panasonic codec
The rendering went fine and the check in Movie Maker 2 showed perfect complete files and alignment
between the video and audio... over 14-1/2 minutes in
This was a major post-quality check fix, but once
noted it was easy to resolve.
I've learned that the Sony mini-DVDs use a slightly
different standard size than DV-AVI files... looking at the standards for DVDs,
the 704x480 size is included.