A company called SlySoft makes an ingenious $39 application called AnyDVD, which resides in memory and unprotects commercial DVDs on the fly. So, when AnyDVD is running and you insert a DVD movie, it appears to the system to be unencrypted. Then, you can use the video application of your choice to copy the DVD contents into a more suitable format. Incidentally, AnyDVD is also good for other uses: It removes a DVD's region information, letting you play international DVDs, and it prevents DVDs with horrible PC-based software (such as PC-Friendly) from automatically starting on insert.
I've experimented with various video applications, but since I'll be reviewing CyberLink PowerDirector soon, I�ll walk you through the process of copying a DVD by using AnyDVD and PowerDirector. First, make sure AnyDVD is resident on your system. Then, launch PowerDirector and insert a DVD movie in your PC's DVD drive. Next, select File, Import to import either the DVD�s entire VIDEO_TS folder or the individual VOB files that make up the movie.
In PowerDirector, you can drag individual VOB files to the timeline and edit them, or you can simply drag the entire movie onto the timeline and prepare to write it to disk. PowerDirector, like any good video editor, gives you a number of options for saving the movie. You can make a Video CD or DVD, for example. Or, you can save it to the hard disk in AVI, DivX, MPEG-1, or MPEG-2 format. MPEG-2 is the native format for DVD movies, so that's probably a good choice. Let�s start with that. A 1-minute MPEG-2 video encoded in a DVD-quality 720 x 480 format takes about 60 seconds to encode and occupies about 56MB of space. Do the math, and you're looking at about 5GB for a typical 90-minute movie. And, of course, the roughly 1:1 ratio of movie length to encoding time means that the video will take about 90 minutes to write to disk.
DivX provides similar quality to MPEG-2 at much smaller file sizes, but the encoding process typically takes longer. That same 1-minute clip, encoded to the same resolution, will take about 1 minute and 4 seconds to encode, but the resulting file is only 17.2MB. So, a 90-minute movie would occupy just 15.5GB. That's much better, but DivX is also a slightly dodgy format, and is not as widely supported as MPEG-2.
Hint: His maths on DivX ain't so hot.