Well I’m a little late starting this tonight, as I have spent most of the day doing some evaluating of freeware tools that will allow me to either convert avi files to something more manageable, or preferably convert and/or burn them directly to DVD.
I have a fairly extensive library of commercial VHS tapes, mainly movies that need to be converted over to DVD. I figure that since I paid for the license to view them, then I should be allowed to copy my own tape onto my own DVD.
Originally I purchased a great Sony DVD recorder for the task. It worked wonderfully on all my home moves, and I had a lot of them. Everything just sailed through fine. Now I can use the video software I currently have, Pinnacle Studio, to manipulate, add titles and special effects etc. (Well once I get the time anyways that is…) It’s something that I have always wanted to do ever since I had my first movie camera, let alone video camera.
So, like I said everything went fine. Then about two months back I wanted to watch one of my VHS movies on the VCR. The darned thing jammed halfway in (or out depending on your point of view). It took a bit of cajoling and fussing to finally get things working the way they should and it hit me that what if it ate the tape half way through the movie!?
Sure, I can go out and buy a new VCR to watch future movies on, buy why!? It’s a quickly disappearing dinosaur (and it now costs more than a DVD player of equal quality!) So I decided that since my DVD recorder worked so great for my home videos, that I would just convert my home movies the same way…. NOT!
The movie industry, in it’s wisdom, has been experimenting with various copy protection schemes throughout the years. One of its more consistent protection schemes is something called Macrovision. For anyone who has an old TV and has to play their DVD player through their VCR to see it on TV, it’s what causes those “funny” color fades and distortions…
Well it would seem that they went one higher with all their protection schemes and actually convinced some DVD recorder companies (mine in particular) to look for any movies with this protection scheme AND refuse to record it!! Which has left my plans high and dry.
Yes I could rewire my complete video set up and filter it through my TV first, but that would not make anyone else in the household very happy while I convert my 50+ movies! I could also get a Macrovision stripper or filter (like the Sima Video Stabilizer, discontinued – I’ve heard – because it apparantly worked too well) but I don’t want to spend the $100 or more that is needed to hopefully get something that may or may not work!
So my idea was simple. While I am not an avid fan of downloading all the commercial movies, music, books and whatever else people put out there. I thought that I should be able to at least download those movies that I currently own and put them on DVD so that I can continue enjoying them. That is the logic I used, take it or leave it as is….
So, I had downloaded several .avi files of some of the movies that I wanted to try to put on DVD. The avi files are much more plentiful than full disk images, especially when it came to some of the “older” movies that I wanted to convert. After downloading a couple to experiment with I then took it to the next step.
As I mentioned I have Pinnacle, which is a great piece of software for Windows users and it does a really good job working with mpg files, however when it came to converting an avi file so that it could use it…. It was going to take hours, if not days… So I decided to see what else was out there that I could use.
I am a huge fan of freeware, or failing freeware then shareware that isn’t crippled, so that you can properly evaluate it before deciding on whether you want to buy it or not. My search led me down a couple of bizarre paths, but I finally found what I was looking for.
A lot of the freeware packages that I came across actually insisted that you have a commercial version of something called Cinema Craft Encoder or CCE so that it could do the conversion. Those packages didn’t last long on my computer.
I then came across two other tools that looked promising: AVI2DVD and The Film Machine both of these pieces of software, on the surface, looked very promising. Unfortunately I could not, no matter how hard I tried, get AVI2DVD to even work. It did not seem to come as a complete package, it was more a front end for other tools rather than a solution in itself. The Film Machine however did work, but it took forever (14+ hours) AND never gave me a usable disk, nor source that I could burn onto disk! I was beginning to think that I might have to go back to Pinnacle and just grin and bear it.
Then I came across a gem of a program called Diko. Not only was this program fast (conversion for a 90 minute movie took only two and a half hours), but it converted the movie into proper video disk format PLUS an actual ISO disk image PLUS and MPG file PLUS a couple of other versions just for fun! Impressed doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. Finally something that worked, and worked WELL!
Diko is freeware but you can purchase an advanced version which gives you even more control over your conversion. It also includes a built in rudimentary editor AND menu building system. This is a very professional package, with all sorts of tools and extras built in (including the ability to convert from PAL to NTSC and back again.)
The developers website includes a forum, and numerous support services. Everything you need to run Diko comes in the installation package, so you don’t have to track down other packages, once installed it is ready to run. This except off their website says it all:
Diko is a video converter: it converts many kind of video to fit a DVD-R as DVD-Video or a CD as SVCD. But how DIKO is different from the other video converters around?
For each step of this conversion, there’s an optimal way to do it and a optimal software (generally freeware) to use. But using all softwares and learning each step to do an optimal conversion is a time consuming task in two aspects: you have to spend a lot of time learning to use the tools and you have to be around to run each tool. Since video encoding processes takes a while, sometimes this means that you would have to stay all day long around the computer to command one step after the other, besides setting the right options and doing manual calculations.
DIKO is an automation tool: it command many other software to get the best result in this conversion. It’s like a super specialized robot that does the all the calculations, decides what is best quality-wise and gives the right orders to all tools, aiming to get excellent video quality.
This is a real gem of a piece of software, and if you are looking for something that can convert avi files quickly and professionally, then Diko is what you have been looking for. I give it five stars.