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How to copy a DVD

The other day my neighbor came over and asked me if it was possible to make a copy of a DVD, and then burn the copy to a blank DVD, so that it can be played in a DVD player. I rarely use DVDs and my current computer doesn't even have a DVD drive anymore, so I used an older MacBook Pro for this task.

Looking back, the easiest way to do this would be to get a copy of the movie from DVD somewhere else and then find out how to make a playable DVD out of it, but why not go the whole way and find out about the extraction part as well?

DVD Ripping

The proper term here seems to be Ripping and in the past I sometimes used the wonderful HandBrake to do just that. Handbrake can then convert the ripped copy to other formats, but we're not quite there yet.

Usually it was sufficient to play a DVD once with VLC which would then use libdvdcss to store the CSS key in ~/.dvdcss, in turn allowing HandBrake to decrypt the same, which is essential for the rip to complete. And while this worked beforeTM, this time the resulting video was all distorted and felt like watching an old, mangled VHS tape, so something wasn't right.

The internet was full of similar reports and suggestions too, the main theme being "Just install libdvdcss to the correct location for HandBrake to find and it should just work". Well, instead of just relying on VLC to do the decryption once, I did install libdvdcss via Homebrew, hoping that Handbrake will be able to find it:

$ otool -L /usr/local/lib/libdvdcss.dylib
/usr/local/lib/libdvdcss.dylib:
        /usr/local/opt/libdvdcss/lib/libdvdcss.2.dylib (compatibility version 5.0.0, current version 5.0.0)
        /System/Library/Frameworks/CoreFoundation.framework/Versions/A/CoreFoundation (compatibility version 150.0.0, current version 1259.20.0)
        /System/Library/Frameworks/IOKit.framework/Versions/A/IOKit (compatibility version 1.0.0, current version 275.0.0)
        /usr/lib/libSystem.B.dylib (compatibility version 1.0.0, current version 1226.10.1)

And lo and behold, Handbrake did find the library, but then would crash reliably when trying to open the DVD. Bummer. And only the closing comment in the same bug report shed some light on this, suggesting that 1) libdvdcss is not recommended anyway and 2) another tool named "MakeMKV" would help here.
And off we are, still trying to complete the DVD ripping part, when we could have just downloaded the movie from somewhere else :-) Luckily MakeMKV really did the trick and was easy enough to use, and offers a 30 60 day trial version, which is just fine for this one-off experiment.

DVD Creation

MakeMKV produced a ~3 GB file (MPEG-2 Video, AC3 Audio) which now needed to be converted into the DVD-Video format and finally burned onto a blank DVD-R.

I had Burn installed on this Mac, and while it is able to burn DVD-Video, it wouldn't understand the .mkv container format. The interwebs are full of recommendations for something called "iSkysoft DVD Creator", which is offered from so many shady looking websites, and under so many different alternate names that it's hard to not suspect something sinister. At least on first sight, the image does not present itself as malware, so maybe it's safe enough to try? After removing my tin foil hat and installing, this DVD creator was indeed able to parse the .mkv file and burn a DVD-Video disc in the correct format. But, as I was using the Trial Version, the whole movie was overlayed with a huge visible watermark. Lacking official documentation regarding this fact, I should have suspected for this to happen. Hm, so...what else is out there?

Digging through the Homebrew-Cask database I found DVDStyler, which should be up to the task as well. And it's released as Open Source software, cool beans!

The DVDStyler interface felt a bit awkward, but never look a gift horse in the mouth (I can't believe that this is a real proverb in the English language!) and a few mouse clicks and a coffee later, a DVD-Video copy was produced. Yay!

Next time I must remember to direct my neighbor to the next video-on-demand platform instead of ever fumbling with DVD copies again :-)

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