How To Try And Fail To Rip And Edit Video In Linux

The problem seems deceptively simple: rip a minute of video from a DVD and encode it into an MPEG file.

Oh, wait, you’re using Linux. Good luck with that. You get your choice of three types of programs:

Type 1: Anything Related to MPlayer: Despite the fact that MPlayer’s interface is designed to prove your inferiority to The Great And Knowledgable MPlayer Developers, Experts Of All Video, you have to admit that it is able to handle just about any video file you throw at it. One might think that its video encoding tool, cleverly titled mencoder, would be equally capable. After all, it does require approximately 50 different command-line options in order for it to do anything.

However, there’s one minor flaw in the documentation. According to the man page, the -ss option lets you specify at what time index to start encoding from. That’s a typo. It should actually say, the -ss option tells mencoder to dump core immediately. So much for ripping only that minute you wanted half an hour in.

Also, lest you think using a graphical mencoder graphical front-end like AcidRip can at least protect you from mencoder’s cancer-causing command line, be warned that it crashes more readily than Evolution, and that takes some effort.

Type 2: GStreamer-Based Tools: The exact opposite of the first type, these are actually designed to be usable by people other than the developers. Alas, they are textbook examples of the GNOME stereotype of “we removed all the features to make the interface easier.” Thoggen is clean-looking and straightforward, but it only lets you rip entire titles. Not only can you not specify a range of time indexes, you can’t even specify chapters. Just entire titles. No, I don’t want to rip 50 minutes of video and then find a way to delete 49 of them. Plus, Thoggen only supports encoding into Ogg Theora which, while it makes my inner open-source bigot happy, means it probably won’t play on Windows without having to go codec hunting.

Then there’s PiTiVi, a self-described “non-linear video editor.” That’s another typo. It should read “non-linear video non-editor,” for the actual video editing part hasn’t yet been implemented. That’s right, the version packaged for Debian is nothing more than a UI mockup. Seriously.

Type 3: Obscure Command-Line Tools You’ve Never Heard Of, But Are Packaged For Your Distribution: These tools have two defining characteristics. First, their names are completely devoid of vowels (long live Unix!), with no discernable connection between name and function. Second, even if you can somehow figure out which one you want, the documentation lies about how to invoke it, and they just spend 100% of your CPU time without actually doing any productive work. I’m looking at you, mpgtx and MJPEG Tools (the name of the suite may have vowels, but the programs included in it don’t).

3 Responses

  1. Sounds like somebody needs to spend a little less time complaining, a little more time writing eponymous Linux based video-ripping software.

  2. Perhaps repackaging one of these editors would be easier than writing your own.

    Try (in this order)

    http://fixounet.free.fr/avidemux/
    http://www.kinodv.org
    http://www.jahshaka.org/
    http://lives.sourceforge.net/

    If nothing else, it seems VirtualDub is workable under Wine.

    As for command line editing, that is truly hardcore. Getting the right frames using offsets is certainly not worth the trouble.

  3. If I had more time, I might give those tools a try (but none of those web sites are giving me the “yes! this is it!” vibe. But I’ve spent too much time as it is trying to get it to work, and I do have papers and presentations left that need some attention, what with the end-of-semester and all. Grumble.

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