[svlug] DVD*{R,RW}, backups, authoring, and region encoding

Florin Andrei florin at andrei.myip.org
Mon Oct 20 18:51:19 PDT 2003

On Fri, 2003-10-17 at 20:10, Rick Schultz wrote:
> Well, it seems while I wasn't looking, DVD burners have dropped to the
> sub-$200 range.

Yeah, but the good ones are still above that limit, still.

> Now, I don't even have a DVD-ROM drive, so if I got a dvd burner, I'd be
> looking for it to serve several different purposes.  First off, it seems
> like it's the most cost-effective backup[1] solution available.  (Anyone
> disagree?).

Mmm... nope, i don't disagree. I think.

> I'd also like to be able to burn home movies and the like,
> and send them around to family and friends.

Yeah, that's what i'm doing currently. See here:


The versions indicated are kinda outdated, the current transcode stable
release should be fine; mjpegtools- should be fine as well (but
vanilla 1.6.1 is NOT fine); dvdauthor-0.5.4 seems to work pretty well.
Also, the problems mentioned in that message are already solved.

I plan to release a more elaborated version of the HOWTO sometime soon.

> Here's where it gets complex: I've got family overseas, so I'd like to
> be able to burn DVDs without worrying about whether region encoding is
> going to get in the way.

Amateur-grade DVDs (stuff that you burn yourself) have no DVD Region
limitations. In other words, DVD-R and DVD+R are "region free".

Same goes for CSS encryption. Amateur DVDs are not encrypted.

> I also wouldn't mind being able to buy DVDs
> that aren't released on region 1 and being able to watch them here.

You need a "zone-free" DVD player. There are tons of them for sale
on-line. Also, there are tips on the Web for transforming normal DVD
players into region-free players.
Google is your friend.

Or you can watch the DVDs on your computer, with a software player, and
that's region-free as well. I'm using Xine (universal media player) or
Ogle (dedicated DVD player):


> Bonus if I can re-encode arbitrary-region DVDs to watch on the zaurus.

It's certainly doable, albeit not always legal. If it's not legal then
don't do it. Otherwise go for it.
Take a look at transcode:


> 1) how complete is DVD burner support?  Is it like CDR drives and
> network cards, or are there caveats?

Pretty good actually. dvd+rw-tools can burn DVD -R/RW +R/RW with no
issues, as long as the burner supports those formats.
There's a huge religious war between DVD-R and DVD+R fanat^H^H^H^H^H
supporters, so it's surprisingly hard to find unbiased comparisons of
the two formats. Since i don't care which format is "the best", but i do
care about my DVDs being compatible with as many DVD players as
possible, i'm normally using DVD-R since it seems it has a slightly
higher success rate than the other formats, especially with older

However, if i have to burn a DVD+R because of some specific
requirements, i can do that as well, because both my software and my
hardware support all these formats. I like that. :-)

But this format issue is becoming more and more irrelevant. Most of the
new DVD players and DVD-ROMs are multi-format even if that's not
explicitly specified in the tech details. If you don't believe me, burn
a DVD-R and a DVD+R, go to Good Guys or Fry's and load them up into
several random DVD players. In most cases, both disks will work. This is

Format conflicts suck.

I'm using Sony DRU-510A as a DVD burner, on IDE with SCSI emulation
The distro is Red Hat 9.
The DVD burning software is dvd+rw-tools rebuilt from src.rpm from Red
Hat Rawhide.

> 2) As I understand it, most DVD drives these days block "wrong region"
> DVDs at the hardware level, and the only way around this is to reprogram
> the drive with hacked firmware.  Do burners suffer from the same
> predicament?

No. If you buy a DVD-R or DVD+R and burn it yourself, it is "region

> 4) Are NTSC vs. PAL issues to consider for my purposes?

Of course. I have a family overseas as well, they live in "PAL-land".
Fortunately, most DVD players and TV sets in the PAL region also have
NTSC capabilities. As long as the TV set can do PAL60, you'll most
likely be able to play a NTSC DVD on it.

Another way is to author separate DVD copies in PAL format. The
transcode collection of utilities can do that, you must use the fps
filter to change the framerate, and also the image must be scaled
vertically. I never tried that, though, because i didn't sent any DVD
yet overseas. But that day will come, pretty soon. :-)

> These can all
> be handled in software, right?

A software DVD player, on a computer, will play any DVD regardless of
the TV standard.

> 5) Can this all be done with free software?

Yes. I'm doing DVD authoring on Linux all the time. You can create
menus, buttons, etc.
dvdauthor is the way to go, but the documentation sucks. Deal with it.
OTOH, simple DVDs (no menus, no buttons, no bells'n'whistles) are
trivial to generate. See the first URL in this message.


> Any advice on the above or on related topics I haven't thought of would
> be greatly appreciated.

I'm planning to release a "Digital Video HOWTO" and a "DVD Authoring and
Backup HOWTO" pretty soon. The former is in embryonic form at the
mailinglist URL indicated above, the latter is in a similar "alpha"
stage on my computer.
I'll send an announce on this mailing list once i'm done.

> [1] And before anyone suggests buying extra hard drives, I really mean
> backups, where you can restore last week's files, or last years.  I do
> not mean RAID, nor some asynchronous mirroring scheme.  I worry about
> inadvertently destroying stuff, not just drive failure.

Yeah, DVDs are good for that. Thanks for reminding me i should start to
actually do backups. :-)

Florin Andrei


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