DVD to DivX/XviD "1-click" software: Anything decent?

vbimport

#1

I’ve been trying to compress my holiday DVDs (created with CyberLink PowerDirector) to DivX or XviD (both latest versions of the codecs). All the DVDs are 720x576 PAL 4:3 PAL or 720x576 PAL 16:9 PAL and I want the resulting files to be the same, letterboxed, with no zoom and with the original DVD’s aspect ratio and framerate kept, in order to display correctly on a 4:3 TV (I don’t mind the black bars as long as the aspect ratio is the same as the original). So far I’ve tried a variety of software, all trial versions or freeware:

DVD2AVI Ripper v2.6.0.33
#1 DVD Ripper v5.3
AoA DVD Ripper v5.1.0
1Click DVD Ripper v1.03
AutoGK v2.40
Dr. Divx 2 beta 3
CloneDVDmobile v1.1.4.0
Xilisoft DVD Ripper Platinum v4.0.71.314
ImTOO DVD Ripper Platinum v4.0.71.314

AutoGK
It always produces files smaller than it should. For 1 hour 45 min worth of footage I selected the pre-defined size of 1CD (700Mb) and it ended up producing files smaller than that (around 600Mb), and with audio always out of synch.

Dr. DivX
It seems to be unable to encode a single file on both my desktop and laptop, it always crashes so I can’t comment on its performance. Too buggy even for a beta.

CloneDVDmobile
It offers only very minimal options and doesn’t allow the spliting of files to 700Mb pieces in order to to burn the segments to CD-Rs. It doesn’t even allow you to input an exact bitrate value, it uses a slider instead and this makes the creation of exact file sizes impossible. I could live with that, but when I selected 720x576 PAL (no zoom) for the output, the file’s aspect ratio was screwed as well.

DVD2AVI Ripper v2.6.0.33
#1 DVD Ripper v5.3
AoA DVD Ripper v5.1.0
1Click DVD Ripper v1.03

These programs allowed configuration of the two codecs but I’ve had problems with aspect ratios and resulting file quality. The options can be confusing with novice users. The resulting file had too much gamma/brightness which gave the impression of washed-out colors, and this was with both DivX and XviD, both configured for maximum quality/slowest encoding time through the options. Hardcoded subtitle rendering was not very good either.
I played around with the setup changing the cropping/resolution options and resulted to messed-up aspect ratios and two different shades of black bars above and bellow the image.
I was surpised that all the above software had very similar setup options and resulted in very similar quality files, all with too much gamma/brightness. These guys must be ripping-off each other’s code…

Xilisoft DVD Ripper Platinum v4.0.71.314
ImTOO DVD Ripper Platinum v4.0.71.314

These two are identical in every respect. So far these are the only ones I’ve tried that managed to create good quality 700Mb segments with aspect ratio identical to the original and no gamma/brighness problems. They require minimal user intervention which would be great for absolute beginners. They also allow you to split the resulting file into pre-defined or user-specified segments, but if you want to create one or more files of the exact same size you will have to use a bitrate calculator in order to input the correct bitrate into the program, otherwise the last resulting segment may not be of similar size to the previous ones. The only problem I encountered was some minor pixelation but I think this has to do with the fact that encoding is pretty fast. I would have prefered to have an option for high quality/slow encoding, but these two programs don’t allow you to modify the encoder’s settings directly and this is the only aspect of them that sucks.
Also, I’m not sure if these programs respect any quality/speed changes you make to the DivX/XviD encoder directly, or if they just use their own pre-defined default. In my opinion if these two programs allowed direct manipulation of each codec’s settings through their interface, they would be ideal for both novice and intermediate users.

If anyone knows of an easy to use program not mentioned here that allows file splitting and direct codec manipulation and produces decent results without too much hassle, please recommend it!


#2

Something strange I forgot to mention also: Both Xilisoft DVD Ripper Platinum v4.0.71.314 and ImTOO DVD Ripper Platinum v4.0.71.314 create DivX/XviD files which have no audio when played back using my Samsung DVD-VR330 standalone DVD/VHS recorder. I tried different MP3 audio bitrates from 128 to 192 at both 48K and 44.1K and the Samsung crapped-out in all of them, it plays them mute. Probably an issue with the Samsung, as the clips play well on my other standalone (H&B 3255). However it is strange because the Samsung plays DivX/XviD files perfectly when encoded with other programs using the same audio properties. It seems not to like files created with these two programs…