Monday, 21 April 2008

The bread and butter DVD back-up guide.



If you are struggling to make DVDs, I personally guarantee that this will work for you. Have a little patience, read through this post, grab any applications that I suggest and by dinner time you will have a shiny new DVD. Before I begin, this guide is (I should imagine) by no means original. It is however the way in which I was successful having struggled to make back-ups of my movies before. I hope it serves as some use to you.

Before I begin I should obviously make it 100% clear that copying and making DVDs that are not your own property, that you have not paid for and have no intention of paying for is illegal seemingly everywhere. With that in mind I highly recommend that you don't decide to set yourself in the business of piracy by using this guide. Should you choose to, that's your own mistake, and one that I certainly refuse to be held responsible for.

It may sound condescending but in order to reduce much of the pain of creating a DVD you must have a computer that can handle the processing demands. If you are running anything even just a few years old or a model produced to endure just the rigours of some casual word processing and a bit of left hand surfing now and then, it would be wise invest in something better. Do not be disheartened though, most current models are more than sufficient - just don't be cheap when it comes to some extra RAM, it will save you lots of time later on. Like I said however, if you are running something relatively new, you should be fine. And finally, this may sound stupid, but check that you have a DVD Re-writer drive before going any further!!

A stumbling block could also be your hard-disk size. Most modern computers have plenty of hard-disk space, but that doesn't mean you have not already filled it with rubbish. A standard DVD is in the region of 4.3 Gigabytes, and what with the fact you will be copying it again and then burning it you will need at least double this. For things to move smoothly I personally keep at least a 2o Gigabyte block spare just for breathing space.

Again before I continue I will emphasise that none of the products I mention are affiliated with myself, they are the products, software etc that work for me: So therefore;

Buy good quality DVD+R disks:
When I used to make nice back ups of my CD's in the late 90's I used to huff and puff when faced with purchasing some more blank media. The dilemma was high prices, lots of brands and questionable results. Nowadays there is an array of choice, plentiful customer reviews online and very clear results. Cheap disks fail, have bad sectors and whilst saving you a few pence per disk, in the long run they do more to frustrate than to satisfy. I use Verbatim DVD+R, they have never ever let me down. Running a Google search will confirm their reliability. If you are going to purchase them, is excellent value. They can also be purchased in most decent computer retail stores, perhaps at a premium, but for conveniences sake that is more than justifiable. I have seen them everywhere from Maplins to Woolworths.

More than likely they will come in a "cake tube", which saves manufacturers the cost and space of packaging 100 disks (for example) in 100 DVD boxes. This gives you some options, you can buy standard DVD cases for nice presentation, purchase plastic wallets, or if you're not fussed, just put them back on the spindle in the cake tub when you're done! Personally I buy both cases for movies I've backed up and plastic wallets for films that I don't need to show off in my shiny display cabinet. It's really a matter of choice and I've found to be the best value again. On the high street Maplins sell cheap plastic CD wallets, and Poundland sell DVD cases at something like 5-10 for a £1 - just steer clear of their actual DVD+R disks!

Printer Considerations:
This is really a side note for those who are a little autistic about things like myself. When I back up my films I like to have them looking like the original; this involves me printing the covers off and placing them nicely inside the DVD case I've purchased. Should you be like myself and want a near enough replica, it doesn't hurt to have a good printer fit for purpose. I'm an ordinary guy who doesn't have the money to invest in the latest amazing photo imaging release from 'insert-brand' though, so what are the options?

I was staggered when I investigated my options, and I'll highlight something you may already be aware of. There is very little difference between budget (e.g. £30) printers and mid priced, supposed, "high end" retail models (e.g. £100-£150). I've had three printers, a HP laserjet that was quick and very nice but ate more ink than I could justify buying. A Lexmark costing around £40 which was cheap to run but was relatively slow and results were quite average. The best by far has to be a £30 EPSON D92 printer that I picked up from ASDA (Walmart for any US readers, take note!) which is quick, prints very clearly even on low grade paper and the individual cartridges can be picked up for under £2 via It's a revalation!

If you already have a printer, or are going to buy one for that matter, here are some tips for maximising not only your investment but also getting it to perform well. Take just 5 seconds to look at the ink settings, you could be wasting some everytime you print to no visual advantage, do some trial and error! Experiment with different paper, glossed card etc. This may sound odd, and varies between each printer because of "how" they print - on my old Lexmark I found that cheap glossed card from a stationary shop produced almost photographic cover results. The EPSON printer I mentioned works fine with a decent grade XEROX paper, I imagine if I actually investigated some glossed card I would get better results! On a budget though, and thinking long term savings to maximise your wallet, you cannot go wrong by putting in a few minutes thought with regards to your set up.

In the long run you will benefit from this as your back-ups will be near identical to their originals, which is the whole point afterall!

The Source Of Your Back Up:
In life you never know what will happen. Your house could burn down, your kids could destroy your favourite film or your wife could dump all your belongings in a cardboard box on the lawn in the rain. Therefore it is only prudent to make copies of what you have. So without further ado;

Backing up from another DVD:
This may appear the easiest way of doing things, but to my great surprise it wasn't straightforward at a first glance - do not be concerned though, it is remarkably simple and take 5 minutes when you know what you are doing.

Most DVDs retailed are now protected by copy protection software as film studios understandably want to protect the product they have already sold you. Having placed your original DVD in the drive, you need to use a piece of software called DVD Decrypter (free) which can be located via Google. This will extract the files. For specific help regarding this I suggest taking a look at the regularly updated Doom9 website and searching for DVD Decrypter.

DVD Decrypter will leave you with all the files from the copied DVD - I am deliberately not going into great detail as to what as many guides overload you with information that you just don't need to know. To keep things simple why not create a folder on the desktop of your PC and ensure that DVD Decrypter extracts to there. This way you know exactly what's what, and where it is. Depending upon your processor speed, this could take a few minutes. Make a cup of tea if its dragging.

Next you will need a program called ImgBurn, which is quite frankly superb. Having obtained this free program you should run it and select 'write files/folders to disk', and browse to the folder that you extracted the DVD to using DVD Decrypter. Add these files - should you do anything wrong ImgBurn will rebuke you, but put it right anyway, it's truly stupid proof.

One problem I do encounter is to do with the extracted DVD files being larger than the DVD they are intended to be put on. This can be a pain in the ass, I will not lie, but if it occurs will be the only bit on tinkering you will need to do, and once done for the first time is easily remembered. Should the image be too large, ImgBurn will obviously say it can't be burnt to disk. Hide ImgBurn for a minute, pull up Google and search for DVD Shrink. Download, install and run this little piece of genius. Now you must open the DVD files you intend to burn, and RE-Author them - sounds hard - it isn't. You want to change the Compression of the file, and this is done by moving the Slider in the tabbed menu down, obviously compressing the file. The hardest bit is navigating the menus, seriously this is easy, I will not go into detail as doom9 (and the forums there) are an excellent resource for troubleshooting specific problems you may encounter. If you need to Shrink your DVD, this is the program you will need and again it's free.

Next, if everythings running smoothly ensure you have a DVD+R inserted, and hit burn. This should take a few minutes to complete depending upon your drives write speed, why not get some biscuits for that tea? Allow the process to complete and resist the temptation to eject before the disk is finalised!

As a side note, ImgBurn you will notice has the ability to copy image files from DVD to your hard disk - ImgBurn does not read copy protected disks, hence why we use DVD Decrypter for that part!

Backing-Up From An Internet Source:
Sometimes disks get damaged, destroyed, chewed up, lost or even stolen. That disk might be rare and the only option is to search the evil porn lord that is the Internet for your back-up. If you are looking for your film I suggest visiting sites like btjunkie, mininova or isohunt - running these terms through Google will yeild results I'm sure.

Once you've searched on these sites and found what it is you wish to download ensure that it is what it says it is. A genuine DVD will be in the 4 Gigabyte region. I have found success with the following two types of file format consistently;

1) File formats ending in .ISO - these are disk images of the DVD. You must download this, and then a program called Daemon Tools (free) and "mount" the .ISO using this program. Then using DVD Decrypter extract the DVD files, and burn with ImgBurn as outlined above.
2) A clear DVD rip with files ending .BUP, .IFO etc. This is an extracted DVD, the product of what you would get having used DVD Decrypter. This is a little timesaver really, though no better in terms of result than an .ISO - once you have downloaded this, all you must do is burn the files using ImgBurn to DVD+R!

Covers for your DVDs:
Assuming that you have not got your original box for your DVD, you will need a cover. Fortunately the website has copies of seemingly every cover for virtually any format ever released; go there, search the title, download the cover. You will now be wondering how to print at the correct size for your DVD - if you have Nero, there is a bundled cover maker. I used this for years and it is a good tool that allows images to be imported and the correct dimentions set. Another option is a program I've been using called DVD-Cover Printmaster. It's not particularly pretty to look at but it is a lightweight application as opposed to Nero, free and it does the job. Google it. It does require that Microsoft .NET is installed, which you may already have, and is easily enough done if not.

Now that's out of the way your DVD is complete.

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