Welcome to the forums hackmonkey.
We recommend both AnyDVD and DVDFab as good decryption programs that are still being updated to deal with newer encryption schemes as they come out. There are some important differences between them. AnyDVD by itself does have the ability to decrypt and rip movies to the hard drive. But it cannot compress movies to fit to a single layer dvd. You’ll need either a commercial product like CloneDVD2 or use the free program DVDShrink.
You can, in fact, use AnyDVD in the background and then use DVDShrink to do the ripping/compression part of the process. Then burn to a disk with whatever burning program you prefer. Shrink can use Nero or DVDDecrypter to burn automatically. I prefer a free burning program called ImgBurn.
You will occasionally find a dvd that causes problems for Shrink, even with AnyDVD. For those, rip to the hard drive first with AnyDVD’s built in ripper, then compress with Shrink.
DVDFab is an all-in-one solution. It can do the whole process by itself.
For those who don’t want to spend money on programs, you can use the free ripping/decryption section of DVDFab, called DVDFab HD Decrypter. It will continue to function even after the trial for the main part of DVDFab expires. Combine it with DVDShrink and ImgBurn and you can make good backups of any dvd.
Now for a few more differences. DVDFab (if you purchase the complete program) has gone to a subscription model. Which means you’ll eventually have to pay for updates to the program. AnyDVD has also done this, but they still offer a lifetime update package, for a higher price. If you buy this lifetime update, you don’t pay for the program again.
AnyDVD HD, is at the current time, the only effective decryption program for Blu Ray movies with BD+. If that is a concern, then the choice is easy. It costs more than the plain jane AnyDVD program however.
Burn speed…using modern drives and 16x media, slow burns are not the best solution. We recommend going no slower than about 8x with most modern blank dvds. Verbatim is a safe choice for media, as is Taiyo Yuden as a general rule. If you are using mediocre media, stick with 8x. If using Verbatim, TY or maybe Sony, burn at 8x or 12x.
Double layer media: It is more expensive and there is only one brand reliable enough for us to recommend. That brand is Verbatim. There is another that is gaining ground among users here, called FTI/Falcon, but it is harder to get unless you buy online. It can be found at meritline.
Use DL media when you want to keep the entire movie intact without compression.
Shrink vs quality: This is subjective. I am very picky personally, so I don’t use transcoders like DVDFab or DVDShrink much, not unless the compression is minimal. For an alternative, look at the free version of DVDRebuilder, especially for very large dvds that require a lot of compression. DVDRebuilder uses encoders and will give better results on highly compressed movies. The trade-off is that it takes longer. DVDRebuilder will neither decrypt nor rip the dvd to the hard drive…it is only for reducing the size of the movie.
Disney…they seem to have a lot of movies with extra protection schemes added. You’ll need either DVDFab or AnyDVD to deal with them, though 1ClickDVD may work also. (that should confuse you )