I've bought MovieJack version 2 and version 3 in the past two months. I hope it will be useful for others to see a comparison of the two peices of software, because I found the differences surprising. Because all my search engine results for "MovieJack" pointed me here, I might as well put my thoughts here too!
Skip down to the end of this for what I think is good and bad about the two versions. Or read on for more detail.
I wanted a simple way to temporarily copy the video from a DVD to either a file on my PC or a super video CD. Although there are many guides to making DivX transfers using freely available tools, the process require a lot of hard disk space, user interaction, and time.
I have slightly more money than free time, so bought a copy of MovieJack 2 to help me out. Then I bought a copy of MovieJack 3 to get round some problems I had, and then ...
Windows XP on an Asus K7V-133 motherboard with an Athlon XP 1700+ CPU. Panasonic SR-8585 DVD-ROM drive with a region free firmware.
Buying Movie Jack:
Shop around -- Amazon, Ebay, http://www.scan.co.uk could all be cheaper than the webstore linked from http://www.moviejack.org/, but you'll have to wait for delivery via CD rather getting a license key straight away via the website.
I bought version 2 on CD from scan, and bought version 3 from the MovieJack website. The key arrived by email straight after I finished at the web store.
The sentence on the MovieJack website "And we have recently teamed up with DivX technologies to develop the latest in both quality and speed of digital video conversion and recording" suggested to me that the DivX codec might be included in the installation, but it isn't. I went to http://www.divx.com/, and bought the DivX Pro codec for an extra US $20.
DivX is only a video codec, and doesn't come bundled with a suitable audio codec for the sound in your movie files! I couldn't find anywhere to buy an AAC codec, so I used the free MP3 Lame codec after some searching for it.
Both versions have the same installer, but the version that I got on CD, 2.06.008, wouldn't install on my Windows XP machine. It kept failing with the message "Error 25001". The updated installer, 2.07.002, from the MovieJack website fixed the problem.
At first I didn't spot the license key in my packaging, but it's was written on the back of the leaflet insert on the box -- I'd been trying to use the serial number printed on the sales invoice. (Hey, I'm not stupid really!)
I initially installed both programs with the Windows ASPI driver option, but I've since reinstalled without that, and not had any problems on my WinXP machine.
Using the ripper (both versions):
Both versions of MovieJack install several programs. MovieJack 3 has a "DVD Copy" program not included in MovieJack 2.
Mainly this is a review of the Ripper part of the suite. The ripper is the program that will read your DVD, reencode it in the format of your choice (for instance SVCD or DivX), and optionally burn it straight to CD.
The ripper in both version looks almost identical. The interface presents only the inputs that the developers feel you need to use. There is a setup wizard routine that lets you chose some initial default parameters, and also the sound volume.
MovieJack 2 (only) also asks "What is the format of your movies?", and gives you a chose of NTSC or PAL. Actually, this option isn't related to your source DVD movie, but to the resolution of the output (S)VCD file. Although the output resolution is correct for PAL or NTSC, it doesn't do any framerate conversion, which stays the same as the source DVD.
When you start MovieJack and put in a DVD it is detected by the Ripper, which offers you a choice of titles from the disk, and shows the title times. MovieJack 3 (only) also lets you choose a detailed view which shows all video sections on a disk, which is needed on disks that seperate long titles in to sections (like TV show series), rather than just having a single long title (most films).
When you've set your input parameters (like the file name you want, and the number of CDs you want to copy to), you press the big red "Jack It" button. After this the Movie Jack application becomes very unresponsive, but that's OK, because you're going to have to wait several hours anyway.
If you have chosen to encode an AVI rather than an (S)VCD then you then have to chose the video and audio codecs to use, and optionally set any codec parameters that you need to.
It is integration with DivX that I think needs improving to bring it to the same simplicity as SVCD.
I had to spend some time chosing an output size that I was happy with, and setting the crop value to trim the black bars from the top and bottom of widescreen content. The DivX codec lets you save these settings as stored presets to make it quick to repeat your prefered settings.
Both versions encode DivX in the same amount of time (because they both use the external DivX compressor).
Just as an example, here are the approximate encoding times for a 90 minute film from DVD to SVCD:
MovieJack 2 (normal quality mode) - 8 hours
MovieJack 3 (best quality mode) - 6.5 hours
MovieJack 3 (only) puts a graphic "MJ" logo in the corner of the encoded video. It appears after 30 seconds or so, and disappears about 90 seconds later. It seems to only disappear on a scene change in the encoded movie, so it could stay for longer. There was a registry tweak listed in these forums which told me how to stop the logo being recorded. It doesn't worry me anymore.
For DivX movies, both MovieJack versions seem to give the same quality encoding. I decided that the DivX codec works better if you manually chose source aspect ratio to be 4:3 in MovieJack (otherwise MovieJack letterboxes the content before it passes it to the DivX codec). It is annoying to have to keep remembering to do that.
MovieJack 2 always letter boxes the encoded content to display correctly on a 4:3 screen. MoveJack 3 records 16:9 SVCDs anamorphically (good). The same behaviour is possible in MovieJack 2 by manually chosing the 4:3 aspect ratio for the input DVD.
For SVCD the normal quality encoding from MovieJack 2 had a very slightly higher average bit rate (1870 kbps) than the MovieJack 3 encoding (1830 kbps) for my test SVCD.
The video quality of the "normal" MovieJack 2 encoding is always better than that from MovieJack 3, whatever quality setting I chose.
But MovieJack 3 SVCD has a more serious problem. As of version 3.08.018, there are always clicks every few seconds on the encoded sound. I've had an email from the technical support address that says they are aware of this problem with their new SVCD encoding library, and are trying to fix it.
When I first started using MovieJack 2, it did crash several times, however, it hasn't recently. This could be because I tend to just leave the software encoding over night, or while I am out, so there are no other programs competing for the resources of my PC.
I was pleased to see a "Cutter" application, becaues I though it might let me cut adverts out of some mpegs that I record off air before putting them on SVCD. Unfortunately, it only works on AVI files, and not AVI files that use a compressing codec like DivX. That isn't very useful to me.
The help files:
It has some, that's a good thing! Obviously they have been translated to English from another language, and they could have done with some proof reading first.
An example: "For instance, the audio codec Ogg Vorbis has already been established during the installation. "
If this is supposed to mean that an Ogg Vorbis codec got installed with Movie Jack 3, then I can't find it.
I have had several replies from technical support, although they don't always answer the question that I have asked
- I don't need 10 GB of free space on my hard disk to temporarily store a copy of a video.
- Almost single click ripping of a DVD to an SVCD.
- MovieJack 2: Good quality SVCDs that play on my living room DVD player.
- MovieJack 3: Much faster ripping to SVCD, but ...
- MovieJack 3: Click click click in the sound of SVCDs made from either PAL or NTSC DVDs.
- MovieJack 3: Can't fast forward in SVCDs on my living room DVD player.
- MovieJack 3: Inferior video quality in SVCDs.
- MovieJack 2: Can't select "title indexes" of certain disks, so only the first title is available for ripping (eg, only the first episode of four on the "24" DVD box set.
- MovieJack 2: Letterboxes 16:9 ratio movies in SVCD instead of anamorphic.
- No integration with the DivX codec, so some experimenting with the DivX settings is required.
- Fix the SVCD problems!
- Better integration with the DivX codec with good default values, so I don't have to experiment with the parameters in there.
- Expose more "advanced" options for the SVCD encoding, so that I can tweak if I want or need to.
- Let me buy MovieJack 2.5, with the old SVCD library, and the new interface !
Phew, that was long! Anyone else got something to add?
Copyright Steven Mackenzie 2003