Feb 042010

Kids love to watch movies, but they are not kind to equipment. Some of the older media, such as VHS tapes, might be technically inferior to DVDs but they certainly were more durable. We have tried to get our kids to carefully handle DVDs, but it just doesn’t happen. A few were destroyed before I learned my lesson.

It turns out that most geeks with kids have realized the same thing: you just can’t give kids DVDs. All the films and videos they love can be stored on your hard drive with much better results: no more messing with scratched discs, no more fumbling for the right video case, instant access to whichever video they want to watch, and you won’t have to replace broken DVDs over and over (something which will make our corporate overlords very unhappy).

This had been working well for us until I tried to save the new Pixar film Up. A quick bit of googling revealed that movie studios have attempted a new form of disc copy protection: ship broken discs.

The general theory is that set-top DVD players connected to TVs will assume the disc is just scratched, even though it’s brand new. They will skip over that section and continue playing. Computers, on the other hand, assume they need to get every bit of data and will choke when they come upon an intentionally broken section of the DVD.

Of course, one of the guys who figured this out was having problems because his set-top DVD player wouldn’t play Disney films. Turns out there are plenty of devices out there which were not designed to play intentionally broken DVDs.

As always when corporations attempt to stop consumers from using their rightfully purchased products, there are plenty of work-arounds. The solution that worked best for me can be found here. Summarized, you just need to do this:

ddrescue -n -b 2048 /dev/dvd output.iso
dvdbackup -M -i output.iso -o dvd_structure
mkisofs -dvd-video -o clean_dvd.iso dvd_structure

As mentioned in the article, you can re-quantize the video if you want it to take a bit less space on your hard drive. I’ve found Handbrake to be a simple, useful tool for compressing my videos. It’s very flexible and has saved many GB worth of storage. If you have any trouble installing it, you might take a look at my Handbrake installation instructions.


Despite the list below, I do enjoy some classy media. Check out my book, movie and music recommendations.

  6 Responses to “Trying to Watch Up!”

Comments (6)
  1. Of course, it got more complicated when I went back to watch the film. Turns out there are 99 titles on the DVD! Most of them are garbage or the film with missing pieces.

    I didn’t test them all, but title 50 worked without any problems using mplayer:

    mplayer -dvd-device up.iso dvd://50

  2. Same thing happened when I tried to watch the new Star Trek (2009) film. There were 99 titles on the DVD. Most of them jumped randomly between scenes. But this one seemed to work ok:

    mplayer -dvd-device star_trek.iso dvd://21

  3. Similar behavior on Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen after fixing the bad sectors. The track that seems to work is:

    mplayer -dvd-device transformers.iso dvd://23

  4. Same deal for Pixar’s WALL-E. Correct title is:

    mplayer -dvd-device wall-e.iso dvd://30

  5. The Bruce Willis movie Surrogates was even more difficult. It appears the bad sectors are in the CSS keys.

    I was able to watch it successfully, but dvdbackup did not cooperate. I had to stop after ddrescue.

    mplayer -dvd-device surrogates.iso dvd://43

  6. Similar problems with Iron Man 2.

    mplayer -dvd-device iron_man_2.iso dvd://29

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