Storing video can be one of the single most space consuming tasks you can do on a computer. If you do any video editing, you know the pain of storing 6+ hours of uncompressed DV footage for composition (not to even mention work in HD). That’s bad enough. At least once you are done with it, you can archive the footage on its original tapes, or select out the best bits and pieces for a scratch file to be used later, and dump the rest. Where I am running into more and more problems is backup of TV shows I record on my tuner and such. Rather than setting my VCR to record, it’s all too easy to keep up with a show’s torrent RSS. Once I’ve watched them, I tend to not get rid of them however (at least if I like the show), because once in a while I like going back and watching it over.
This adds up. Several seasons of a show will really pack on the gigs into a hard drive. Yes, you can buy it on DVD, that is an option I have exercised more than once. But sometimes shows on DVD are way overpriced, impossible to find, or not even released (has anyone seen the Drive season set yet, or anything past the first volume of Whose Line?). Thanks to my friend Rachel giving me a spindle of blank DVDs for Christmas, I decided to try my hand at burning my shows to DVD to watch on TV, instead of my computer monitor, and also free up the space on my server.
First, go here. It’s a tutorial at the VideoHelp.com forums. Though a tad dated (there’s a new version of TMPGenc Xpress out, and you don’t need Goldwave), it still gets you familiar with the process. It does help if you know a little about video encoding ahead of time. I’ve done a lot with the VCD format in the past, and done my share of editing and exporting. If you aren’t familiar with codecs and bitrates, I suggest starting in some of VideoHelp’s FAQs.
To give you an idea of what I was able to accomplish (I’ll explain my settings momentarily), I can fit 7-8 ~45 minute episodes on one DVD. Caveat: At my settings, the quality is above acceptable, in my opinion. But, I don’t have an HD TV (not that VCD, SVCD, or DVD supports HD in the first place), I’m not hell bent on perfect clarity, and I can probably tolerate more than some people. I actually use formating that falls somewhere between VCD and SVCD, and as far as I am concerned, it’s a fine compromise, but there’s a chance you would disagree. So, preview your transcoded video before burning it, or burn a sample disc, just to make sure you can live with it before sinking several hours of CPU time into settings that aren’t acceptable to you.
First, that tutorial I mentioned says to use Goldwave to rip the audio stream. That is unnecessary, as the new version of TMPGenc Xpress can do this all as a matter of course in one step. It rips it straight to an .mp2 file as well (by selecting “ES (audio + video)” instead of “ES (video only)”), removing the intermediate step of converting the ripped .wav you get from Goldwave into an .mp2. You can still follow the steps as laid out if you want, it just takes longer. Generally, allowing TMPGenc Xpress to do it all takes about half an hour for a 42 minute episode. By comparison, it’s roughly the same the original way, but you have to babysit it a lot more.
For the video encoding, I select MPEG-2 (which is the SVCD standard), but use the VCD resolution of 352×240 (for NTSC people) at a bitrate of about 1500kbps. You can use a bitrate calculator to figure out the rate best for you, or TMPGenc Xpress will show you in the lower right corner how big the output will be. With a DVD5, shoot for no more that 4500MB. On the older VCD standard, the bitrate is 1150kbps. For SVCD, it can vary, with 1600-2000 about normal. I go a hair under depending on how many episodes I’m fitting. Obviously if it is a shorter season, or you aren’t concerned about spanning several discs, you can stick to SVCD standard encoding. The result is video that looks just fine on a TV, right about what you would get from standard cable.
To create and burn the disc, you can use DVD-lab Pro (which is fairly easy) as suggested, or Adobe Encore, or whatever you are most familiar with. At that point, you can import the elementary streams you have encoded and create menus and whatnot as you desire. Then just build and burn. Before burning, you can also open up your built disc by dragging the folder to most DVD player programs (WinDVD works, or VLC Player can do it too) and test how it looks and runs. This can be handy if you don’t want to waste a disc if the output isn’t what you’d like. Be prepared to waste a disc or two if you really want to tweak your quality, as balance between resolution and bitrates can be a challenge.
Otherwise, this all worked out well for me. I can get a 16 episode season on two DVDs. This would change for half hour episodes obviously, which means I’ll probably be retweaking my settings again, heh. It runs about 4 hours of labor per disc, most of which is time spent transcoding from AVI to MPEG-2, which is a good task to let the computer do overnight while you sleep.
I’d be interested to know if any of you do something different, or have different settings, etc, that you find useful.