ADS DVD Xpress DX2: Legal, but imperfect, DVD Copying

In Use

The DX2 is capable of encoding content on the fly through a hardware- based encoding chip that allows the DX2 to encode and store video at the same rate as the video source. For example: a 120 minute movie will take 120 minutes to capture and store on your computer's hard drive or on a recordable DVD including any compression or DVD burning that may be involved.

In a timed test, I captured a 1 hour 46 minute (106 min) movie using the DivX option. The DX2 produced a 1.25 GB DivX file in 106 minutes at 640X480 resolution, 29.970 frames per second and 4800Hz Stereo audio. The other movies that I captured with the DX2 produced similar encoding speed results regardless of the file type or destination, i.e. hard drive or DVD.

Once the DX2 is set up, the capture process can begin (Figure 5). In order to capture video, you must first establish that the input settings and connections are correct. Since the DX2 does not control the input device, (In this case a standalone DVD player) the DVD must be cued up manually on the player before the process can begin. The DX2 has a "preview" button that allows the incoming video to be displayed within the Capture Wizard interface before the actual recording begins.

Figure 5: Capture Wizard in action (click image to enlarge)

The preview screen is very useful because it allows you to verify that the audio and video are being piped through the capture utility correctly and there are a few colouring and contrast settings that can be changed to ensure that you're getting a good video balance. Once you have made all of your adjustments you're ready to start capturing which simply involves restarting the video on the DVD player and hitting the record button on the Capture Wizard.

Unless you're positive about the exact time that the source DVD will end, be prepared for a little babysitting. The Capture Wizard is unable to detect the ending of a movie and will continue to record a blank screen after the movie has finished playing unless you are there to stop it. There is a timer that allows you to restrict the recording time, but if you're not sure how long the movie runs, you're going to have to keep an eye on the recording. Fortunately, the DVD plays through the capture process so you can be entertained as you wait for it to finish.

One frustration with backing up your DVDs with the DX2 is that you can't easily make a copy of all of the extra content that is available on most DVDs. Due to the way in which the DX2 captures the audio and video as it is being played by the DVD player, the DX2 backup does not include the menu structure or "special features" content of a DVD. If you want to retain any of the DVD's special features, you will have to capture them separately as they play one at a time. The original DVD menus are also not transferable at all, but there are a few presets within the Capture Wizard that will add a very basic DVD menu to a DVD that is being created in real time.

ADS also includes a copy of Ulead's Video Studio 9 SE DVD, which I found to be a nice little video editing program with a few advanced features. After you finish copying the DVD, you can use Studio 9 to build a more advanced menu structure for the DVD before you burn it to a disk. You can also add some of the special features back in with VS9 if you feel passionate about keeping them.

Video Studio 9 also has a chroma key function that is entertaining to play with. Chroma key is the "green-screen" technology that allows the weatherman on the news to be superimposed over his maps. I was easily able to perform this bit of video magic in Figure 6, superimposing the woman over video from a DVD. Video Studio 9 also employs a simple drag and drop method for combining video clips and adding effects.

Figure 6: Chroma key example (click image to enlarge)

Video Studio 9 SE is a full video editing program geared towards light home video editing, so many of its features won't be useful for DVD backup. However, software that gives you more than what you require is always better, of course, than software that fails to meet your needs.

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