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Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Ripping DVD's for Vista Media Center and Extenders

This topic has been covered lots of times at TGB and there are various ways to achieve the ripping and streaming of standard definition DVD movies to Media Center and Extenders and to other secondary Media Center PC's.
Its a real shame there is no native support for this in Media Center, I can remember how disappointed I felt, when I discovered that the default DVD library in Vista Media Center was not extended to the version 2 extenders such as the XBOX 360 and the Linksys DMA2100 and DMA2200.

Support for such a feature may be coming in the next version of Media Center code named Fiji or so the rumor mills suggest. In the mean time the way I have achieved this is to rip my SD DVD's to my hard disk drive using my preferred tool Magic DVD ripper. If you are already using AnyDVD with Media Center, that will also do the job of getting those VOB files on to your hard disk.

Now you can rip just the main movie to save space or you could rip the entire disk including the menus and extras. I opted to rip everything. Once you have some of your DVD's ripped to the hard drive you can easlily get them in to Vista Media Center. To enable the default DVD Library in VMC you will need to make a small tweak in the registry. For instructions on how to do that see this MS KB article.

Now you need to tell VMC where your DVD VOB files are located? This is a common mistake to add a watch folder in to the wrong area of VMC and this is exactly what I did. When I first did this I went in to Tasks - Settings - Library Settings and added a watch folder to D:\Data\Movies\DVD but nothing happened and I could not see my newly ripped DVD's in the VMC DVD Library. What gives?

You actually don't add the watch folder in the main Library Settings of VMC. Instead you need to go in to the VMC DVD Library itself, right click and select from the menu add Movies and then add the location of your ripped DVD's. See this guide for more information and some screen shots.

Ok so now you have some of your DVD's showing up in the VMC DVD Library. On my main VMC PC these play great using the default MS MPEG-2 decoder and because I ripped the entire disk I have the menus and extra as well for the full DVD experience.

So what's next? Well depending on what other Vista Media Center systems and extenders you have in your house you can do a few things to extend this to other devices and areas of your home. For example in addition to our main VMC PC we also have a VMC laptop running Vista Ultimate. To have the same VMC DVD Library show up on that secondary media center laptop all I had to do was share out my DVD folder in Windows so it could be accessed from the laptop. Then in Media Center on the laptop go in to the DVD Library and add Movies again this time using a UNC path e.g. \\MCE01\DVD. MCE01 is the name of our main VMC PC. Excellent so now we can have access to the same DVD Library on the laptop say in the kitchen or in the garden and it streams really well over a 802.11g wireless network

Extenders are a totally different matter altogether and you cannot natively stream DVD VOB's. You have a few options here. What I did was to use an application called VideoReDo to convert the VOB's in to a DVR-MS file. A DVR-MS file is just a different container, so its a very quick process of quick streaming the files in to DVR-MS as there is no re-encoding. DVR-MS is the standard file used by VMC for recorded TV. Some other people simply rename the single .VOB file to .MPG for playback on the extenders.

Now it is not possible to have all the menus and extra's functionality on the extenders, so I found I had to re-rip my DVD's but this time only rip the main movie. Then in the VideoReDo application you just open the VOB, select the starting point and select the end point and mark the selection and then choose to output to DVR-MS 5 or 10 minutes later you have a lovely DVR-MS file of the main movie that can be played back on the extenders.

You could in addition rip the extra's separately if you wished and quick stream them in to additional DVR-MS files. I haven't really done this other than for things like the Star Wars extra bonus disks.

As we have already discussed the VMC DVD Library does not extend to the extenders UI. So you need some where in VMC to host the DVR-MS files for playback on extender. One obvious place would be the VMC Video Library, however that would mean having two different UI's for DVD playback on the main VMC PC and on the extender. My solution was to use the My Movies add-in on both. The great thing about using My Movies is not only do you get the same UI on the VMC PC and on the extender, it is also intelligent enough to know to play the VOB's if you are on the VMC PC and to play the DVR-MS file if you are on an extender so the whole thing is fairly transparent to the user. The obvious down side to this is having to have two copies of each movie and you need lots and lots of storage space on your disk drive(s).

But I am hoping that one day I can just delete all my DVR-MS movie files if and when DVD streaming is natively supported by Microsoft.


Anonymous said...

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Kyle said...

Question, I currently have ripped DVD's on my HD and they are currently 6+ gb. I would like to convert them (or compress them) to a different format so they are a bit smaller. I've used handbrake and converted them to mp4, mv4, avi, etc. and once converted, they do not play in my Windows Media Center on Vista. Do you know of a way to convert them so the videos are smaller on your HD and still play in WMC? Thanks for any help.

Stuart said...

Kyle to be honest not really WMV possibly? I always stuck with converting them to DVR-MS myself.

You should be able to play MP4 and AVI in side Vista Media Center. What codec have you got installed?

The Vista Codec pack from Shark007 is a simple way to get your VMC playing most video files.

Also if you can wait till Windows 7 that will play MP4 and AVI out of the box and on the XBOX 360 extender.

Kyle said...

Hi Stuart, thanks for the info. I had a k-lite version of Codec on my PC. I removed that and put the 007 Codec on it. I've got some DVDs setup to compress (through Handbrake) and I'm going to try to see if they work tonight (compressing/converting them to mp4). One other question, what did you use to covert them to DVR-MS? Does that compress them any and could I convert .VOB to DVR-MS? Sorry for all the questions. Thanks for the tips/info.

Stuart said...


You use a program called Video ReDo Plus to convert DVD's to DVR-MS.

It's a quick process maybe 10 mins max for each DVD, because you are not re-encoding the video you are simply changing the container to .DVR-MS from .VOB

There is no compression gain so the movie will be pretty much the same size on disk as the original DVD rip. However the advantage of this is DVR-MS is fully supported on your extenders so you can have main movie only rips in DVR-MS format and play them on your VMC PC and extenders with full RWD/FFWD functions etc.

Have a look on the Green Button forums and do a search for DVR-MS and Video Redo. I should write a quick guide on how to use Video Redo for this purpose.

Carl Aage said...

In fact a very god blog about the subject. I have recently bought the DMA2200, but I am seriously thinking of returning it. It works fine, I have used most of the tips in your blog, but the subtitles won't show.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stuart, Fantastic blog.

I have recently purchased the Linkys DMA 2100 and have followed your advice on converting .vob files to DVR-MS using "video redo tv suite". The video will play on my tv via the media extender, however the sound is absent. I have tried playing the DVR-MS file on the pc and the audio and video work perfectly.

Have you any advice you could offer me to help correct this problem?

Many thanks, Andy

Stuart said...

I'm not too sure about the lack of audio on the DMA. If you have only tried this on one DVD movie, rip another one and convert to DVR-MS, just to make sure it's not a problem with that particular movie?

Hugin4ub said...

This comment is to Anonymous. I am running mediacenter on Windows 7 and there the .vob files do not need to be converted to anything, they can be played as they are. If you want subtitles on the file you can convert them to .avi, most avi converters offer you to encode with fixed subtitles.

Stuart said...

Your right extenders under Windows 7 can play VOB video files. But still can't handle the VIDEO_TS DVD structure so you wouldn't get any DVD menus etc. Plus if the movie is more than one VOB file you would have to play them individually like video files. One big VOB file would work I guess.

Mark said...

Hi Stuart,

Just wondered if you'd come across any issues with playing back DVR-MS files on the DMA2100?

I've converted all my vobs to DVR-MS files using Video ReDo and play them on my DMA2100 extender and every now and again I get a pixilation problem (similar to digital tv in during a storm). If I hit the rewind 7 second button it sorts it out, but this is a bit of a pain.

Just wondered if you'd had this problem and if it's the DMA 2100, the type of file, Windows 7 or possibly my network?

Many thanks for your help

buy movies dvd said...

I think that you you can play the DVD movies directly from the DVD in Media Center. One problem with Watching movies with Media Center is that you can't seek the movie while it is possible Windows Media Player.