DVD to XviD Encoding with Mencoder

Posted by admin on September 19, 2012 under Tech Tips | 2 Comments to Read

If you would like to copy a DVD to an XviD video file using Linux, doing so from the command line offers a number of flexibility benefits over many graphical tools. Two fantastic tools for the job are lsdvd and mencoder. I like lsdvd because it provides a great deal of information in an easy to read format, and mencoder is just a phenomenal tool for multimedia encoding.

There are some pre-requisite applications you need in order to follow along. Be sure to install mplayer, mencoder, lsdvd, lame, and if your DVD’s are encrypted, the libdvdcss2 libraries. If using Ubuntu, Debian, etc, then all are available in the repositories, except libdvdcss2 which is available in the Medibuntu repositories.

Quick XviD Encoding Examples (For the Impatient)

In the following examples, we’ll use mencoder with the most basic of options, allowing mencoder to decide which video and audio streams to use. Mencoder’s choice may not be what you want, and the audio will also be converted to a high quality VBR stereo MP3. Adjust any settings as you see fit.

Single-Pass Encoding

Fixed Quantizer Value of 4 (Good quality, decent file size)

mencoder dvd:// -oac mp3lame -lameopts q=0:aq=0
-ovc xvid -xvidencopts fixed_quant=4:autoaspect -o video.avi

Fixed Quantizer Value of 2 (High quality, larger file size)

mencoder dvd:// -oac mp3lame -lameopts q=0:aq=0
-ovc xvid -xvidencopts fixed_quant=2:autoaspect -o video.avi

Two Pass Encoding

Pass 1: (no need for audio or quality settings such as bitrate)

mencoder dvd:// -nosound -passlogfile pass1.log
-ovc xvid -xvidencopts pass=1:turbo:autoaspect -o /dev/null

Pass 2 Option 1: (VBR ~ 1500 kbps)

mencoder dvd:// -oac mp3lame -lameopts q=0:aq=0 -passlogfile pass1.log
-ovc xvid -xvidencopts pass=2:autoaspect:bitrate=1500 -o video.avi

Pass 2 Option 2: (VBR ~ Restrict final video size to 1.5 Gb)

mencoder dvd:// -oac mp3lame -lameopts q=0:aq=0 -passlogfile pass1.log
-ovc xvid -xvidencopts pass=2:autoaspect:bitrate=-1500000 -o video.avi

Basic Source Selection Examples

If you are copying a DVD directly from a physical disc as the examples throughout this post will assume, the following two examples will work. The first automatically selects title 1, and the second specifies title 2.

mencoder dvd:// (other options)
mencoder dvd://2 (other options)

If you’re encoding a DVD from an ISO or similar image file, or have the contents of a DVD extracted to directory, use the -dvd-device option as shown below.

mencoder dvd:// -dvd-device video.iso (other options)
mencoder dvd:// -dvd-device /path/to/dvd_directory/ (other options)

Basic Audio Examples

To encode the selected audio stream to a high quality VBR stereo MP3 format.

mencoder dvd:// -oac mp3lame -lameopts q=0:aq=0 (other options)

If the source audio stream is encoded as AC3 or DTS 5.1 (6 Channels), you can simply copy the stream, but remember to specify 6 channels. The default is 2.

mencoder dvd:// -oac copy -channels 6 (other options)

To exclude all sound, which is useful for the first pass of a two-pass job, or if you prefer to multiplex the audio later, use the -nosound option.

mencoder dvd:// -nosound (other options)

Gathering Source Video Information for Informed Encoding Decisions

First you should identify which DVD title tracks are available, so you can determine which one you want to copy. Most DVDs will place the movie as the first track, but you may not always be that lucky. You can use lsdvd to list the number of titles, chapters, and audio tracks on your DVD.

lsdvd /dev/dvd
Disc Title: DVD_TITLE
Title: 01, Length: 01:26:08.200 Chapters: 13, Cells: 13, Audio streams: 02, Subpictures: 01
Title: 02, Length: 00:02:01.120 Chapters: 01, Cells: 01, Audio streams: 02, Subpictures: 01
Title: 03, Length: 00:02:26.120 Chapters: 01, Cells: 01, Audio streams: 02, Subpictures: 01
Longest track: 01

In the example above, we found that Title 01 is the longest at 1 hour 26 minutes, has 13 chapters and 2 audio streams.

Use lsdvd again to gather additional information about video properties of this specific title.

lsdvd -v -t 1 /dev/dvd
Disc Title: DVD_TITLE
Title: 01, Length: 01:26:08.200 Chapters: 13, Cells: 13, Audio streams: 02, Subpictures: 01
VTS: 01, TTN: 01, FPS: 25.00, Format: PAL, Aspect ratio: 4/3, Width: 720, Height: 576, DF: ?

From the output above, we see that this video is in the PAL format at 25.00 frames per second and an aspect ratio of 4/3. Use mplayer to play this title and verify it’s the one you want.

mplayer dvd://1

Gathering Source Audio Information

Use lsdvd to give you more detail on the available audio streams for the title you’re working on.

lsdvd -a -t 1 /dev/dvd
Disc Title: DVD_TITLE
Title: 01, Length: 01:26:08.200 Chapters: 13, Cells: 13, Audio streams: 02, Subpictures: 01
Audio: 1, Language: nl - Nederlands, Format: ac3, Frequency: 48000, Quantization: drc, Channels: 2, AP: 0, Content: Undefined, Stream id: 0x80
Audio: 2, Language: en - English, Format: ac3, Frequency: 48000, Quantization: drc, Channels: 2, AP: 0, Content: Undefined, Stream id: 0x81

The output above shows that there are two audio streams, both AC3 Dolby Digital, however only the second one is in English. Mencoder and mplayer allow you to specify your desired audio stream by language as shown in the following example.

mencoder dvd://1 -alang eng (other options)

If your source has multiple English streams, you can specify which particular audio ID (aid) you want. Mplayer can be used to display all available audio identifiers of a DVD. The following command is a little long but it should serve you well.

mplayer dvd://1 -identify -frames 0 -vo null 2>&1 | grep aid
audio stream: 0 format: ac3 (stereo) language: nl aid: 128.
audio stream: 1 format: ac3 (stereo) language: en aid: 129.

From the output above, the English AC3 audio stream we want is identified by aid 129. It can be specified when using mplayer and mencoder as shown below.

mencoder dvd://1 -aid 129 (other options)

Advanced Single-Pass XviD Encoding

As mentioned before, you can encode your video using a single-pass fixed quantizer mode. It may not be as efficient in size and quality as opposed to a two-pass method, but it can save some time and complexity. Here’s the more advanced encoding options I tend to use for virtually all of my XviD encoding jobs, coupled with the information we gathered from above. A fixed_quant value between 2 and 4 work very well. The lower the number the higher the quality and larger the resulting file size.

mencoder dvd://1 -alang eng -oac mp3lame -lameopts q=0:aq=0
-ovc xvid -xvidencopts fixed_quant=4:autoaspect:max_key_interval=25:
-o video.avi

I added a number of quality settings as discussed both in the mencoder man page and this useful link here.

One option that seems to lack a lot of documentation is the max_key_interval setting. It influences the seekability of the encoded video. By default, the max_key_interval is set to a value of 250, which adds an I-frame at a maximum interval of 250 frames. This equates to approximately every 10 seconds depending on the frame rate of your source video. I like to set the value to 25 which is pretty low and results in a slightly larger file, but provides a seek accuracy of about 1 second. That’s just my preference, so feel free to change it as you wish.

Advanced Two-Pass XviD Encoding

Using the same advanced XviD encoding options as above, here’s what a two pass encoding job would look like.

mencoder dvd:// -nosound -passlogfile pass1.log
-ovc xvid -xvidencopts pass=1:turbo:autoaspect:vhq=0:max_key_interval=25
-o /dev/null

mencoder dvd:// -oac mp3lame -lameopts q=0:aq=0 -passlogfile pass1.log
-ovc xvid -xvidencopts pass=2:autoaspect:max_key_interval=25:bitrate=1500:
vhq=2:bvhq=1:trellis:hq_ac:chroma_me:chroma_opt:quant_type=mpeg -o video.avi

Cropping Black Borders

If your video source has black borders, you can crop them out to reduce the overall size of your video. For example, you video may resemble the following diagram.

movie uncropped

Video with black borders



These borders can be cropped with a video filter -vf crop=w:h:x:y where w, h, x and y are the width, height, x and y coordinates. To help determine which crop values are appropriate, first play your video with mplayer using the -vf cropdetect option, and seek through the movie to bright points of the movie where the black borders are clearly visible. Dark opening scenes may give you inaccurate edge readings.

mencoder dvd:// -vf cropdetect
(snipped for brevity)
[CROP] Crop area: X: 6..711 Y: 0..575 (-vf crop=704:576:8:0).0 0
[CROP] Crop area: X: 6..711 Y: 0..575 (-vf crop=704:576:8:0).0 0
[CROP] Crop area: X: 6..711 Y: 0..575 (-vf crop=704:576:8:0).0 0
[CROP] Crop area: X: 6..711 Y: 0..575 (-vf crop=704:576:8:0).0 0
[CROP] Crop area: X: 6..711 Y: 0..575 (-vf crop=704:576:8:0).0 0

Copy the values that mplayer displays in the background terminal as the example above shows and use them like the following.

mencoder dvd:// -vf crop=704:576:8:0 (other options)


I hope this post provides you with detail that helps you with your DVD encoding endeavors. Please feel free to post your comments, questions and tips. If needed, I’ll adjust the post to include your valuable input!

Convert 3gp Videos to XviD AVI

Posted by admin on February 13, 2010 under Tech Tips | Read the First Comment

3gp is the container format used when recording video with many mobile phones, which can be a pain when trying to view them using a number of multimedia players. Fortunately, converting videos from 3gp to XviD AVI is easy with FFmpeg.

Usually, there’s not much to the quality of these types of source video files, so many of the more complex video and audio options aren’t needed. A simple FFmpeg command that retains as much quality as possible would look like the following.

ffmpeg -i video.3gp -acodec libmp3lame -vcodec libxvid -qscale 2 -f avi video.avi

Extract Audio from Video Files to WAV using FFmpeg

Posted by admin on December 15, 2009 under Tech Tips | 4 Comments to Read

Previously, I described how to Extract Audio from Video Files to WAV using Mplayer. Another method using FFmpeg instead of Mplayer was also pointed out in the post titled Add Stereo Audio Tracks to MKV Files, and I figured it would be useful to outline the quick one-step process in a post all by itself.

Here’s an example of extracting the audio from a video file called video.mkv and saving it to a file called audio.wav. This very well could have been an AVI, MPEG, or any other video format that FFmpeg can decode.

ffmpeg -i video.mkv -acodec pcm_s16le -ac 2 audio.wav

It should also be mentioned that your source video file may have multiple audio channels or streams. For example, you may have both English AC3 and DTS channels, but you may also have other audio streams for other languages, directors comments, etc. If you want more control over which stream you are using, first identify them all with ffmpeg.

ffmpeg -i video.mkv
[snipped for brevity]
Input #0, matroska, from 'video.mkv':
Duration: 01:30:38.78, start: 0.000000, bitrate: N/A
Stream #0.0(eng): Video: h264, yuv420p, 1280x720, PAR 1:1 DAR 16:9, 23.98 tbr, 1k tbn, 47.95 tbc
Stream #0.1(eng): Audio: ac3, 48000 Hz, 5.1, s16
Stream #0.2(eng): Subtitle: 0x0000
Stream #0.3(heb): Audio: mp3, 48000 Hz, stereo, s16
Stream #0.4(heb): Subtitle: 0x0000
Stream #0.5: Attachment: 0x0000
Stream #0.6: Attachment: 0x0000
At least one output file must be specified

From the example above, you see that Stream #0.0 is labeled as being an English video stream with h264 encoding. Stream #0.1 and #0.3 are both audio streams, but #0.1 is English AC3 5.1 and #0.3 is Hebrew MP3 stereo. Simply reference the stream id with the -map option in the following format.

ffmpeg -i video.mkv -map 0:1 -acodec pcm_s16le -ac 2 audio.wav
[snipped for brevity]
Output #0, wav, to 'audio.wav':
Stream #0.0(eng): Audio: pcm_s16le, 48000 Hz, stereo, s16, 1536 kb/s
Stream mapping:
Stream #0.1 -> #0.0
[snipped for brevity]

Now that you have a PCM WAV file, you can manipulated it however you like, e.g. encode to MP3, OGG, FLAC, etc.

lame -V0 -q0 --vbr-new audio.wav audio.mp3
oggenc -q6 audio.wav
flac audio.wav

Flag WordPress Posts as Outdated

Posted by admin on December 13, 2009 under Tech Tips | 2 Comments to Read

The following outlines the process of dynamically adding a blockquote message at the top of any post you have flagged as being “outdated”.  Over time, your posts can become outdated or even completely inaccurate, especially if you’re running a tech blog, since software constantly changes. This will help warn readers that there may be issues with the post in it’s current condition.

I did some digging around and couldn’t find an official plugin that took care of this.  I did however stumble across a blog post by Trey Piepmeier that helped me understand a fairly straight forward method of doing it yourself.  I typically don’t like to rehash work someone has already discussed, but I figured it would help to give a little more detail for those interested.  Depending on your PHP and WordPress theme modification skills, you can change this however you like.


You can place the following PHP “if” condition just BELOW the code referencing your post title and ABOVE the code referencing your post content. The get_post_meta() function assigns the $status variable with the value of a custom field you will later define as “outdated”. If it matches, then a blockquote message will be printed, otherwise it will be skipped and the post will continue as normal.


Enter some useful message here about the article being old.

Depending on your theme, this can typically be done in your themes index.php and single.php files, but you should also update any other you use to publish posts from.

Then, all you need to do is edit any of your outdated posts and add a custom field with the name of “status” and a value of “outdated” without any quotes and your work is complete.
outdated custom field

An example of what this might look like on your blog is shown below.

outdated post example

Please feel free to leave comments, suggestions or concerns. A great deal of help on figuring this out was also provided in the #Wordpress IRC channel on irc.freenode.net. If you find yourself in a pickle, there’s always someone there willing to help you out.

GnuPG Context Menu Options for Gnome Nautilus

Posted by admin on December 9, 2009 under Tech Tips | 4 Comments to Read

If you’re running the Gnome desktop environment and would like to have GnuPG context menu options in Nautilus to encrypt, decrypt, and digitally sign files, simply install the Seahorse plugins package available in your favorite Linux distribution repositories. If using Debian or Ubuntu, it’s as easy as an apt-get install.

sudo apt-get install seahorse-plugins

After installing the package, go to System -> Preferences -> Encryption and Keyrings, select a default key to use and decide whether you want to include your own key by default when encrypting files. This is sometimes a good idea if you ever want to open a file you encrypted to someone else. Below are some screenshots of the Seahorse preferences.

seahorse prefs

seahourse prefs encryption

Here are some screen shots of the context menu options that appear when you right click on files in Nautilus.

seahorse context 1 seahorse context 2

When you choose to encrypt a file, you can select as many public keys as you’d like. Here’s an example of the dialogue.

encrypt to dialogue seahorse

Using PGP has never been easier. There are still some improvements to the UI I would like to see completed, but overall the most important features are there.