How to convert episodes from a TV Series DVD to DivX/XviD with ease using free software

How to convert episodes from a TV Series DVD to DivX/XviD with ease using free software

Guide Revision 1.02 (23rd May 06)

Quick introduction:

So you want to convert the episodes on a "TV series" DVD into separate DivX or XviD files, eh? …and you want to do it for free, you say? Well, my friend, you are in luck!

Although very similar to converting movie DVDs to DivX/XviD (for which there are many great guides), there are some subtle differences when converting a "TV series" DVD into separate DivX/XviD files, which is why I’ve written this guide.

Before we start I must say (well write) that the two themes of this guide are "with ease" and "for free".

By "with ease" I mean that this guide should be nice and easy to follow. There is a lot of text in this guide, but don’t let that put you off reading it. I just like to explain everything of relevance so that readers aren’t left having to guess anything. I hate nothing more than when I try to follow some instructions and great chinks of information are left out. Therefore, this guide should* cover everything you need to know in order to convert your DVDs to DivX/XviD.

*I’ve used the word "should" in the last sentence as there are bound to be some DVDs out there which have an odd structure and, hence, will create a few questions in your mind, but this guide should cover most DVDs. If you do come across a DVD with an odd structure and you can’t figure out what you need to do to rip it, by all means post a question to this thread (with screenshots where applicable) and I (or someone else from this website) will try and help you out. …you never know, it may even result in me making an amendment to this guide! 🙂

By "for free" I mean… eer… "for free". There are several software products out there which you can pay for (FairUse Wizard is just one) which will give you the same results, but I say "Why pay when you can do it for free?".

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s get crackin’…



Essential Tools:

You need these two tools in order to follow this guide, so if you don’t have them already, go and download them:

DVD Decrypter
DVD Decrypter is DVD ripping software. This one is free. There are other free ones, but DVD Decrypter is generally considered by most (myself included) to be the best.

AutoGK 2.27 (or later)
Auto Gordian Knot (or AutoGK as it’s also known) is a modified version of the highly respected Gordian Knot software. AutoGK does the same as Gordian Knot, but the user interface has been simplified. Although AutoGK does have some options that you can configure, most are hidden (Ctrl & F9 will reveal them). Instead AutoGK rather cleverly, and with great success, guesses the settings you will need! If the output ever comes out a bit incorrectly, the AutoGK tutorial should be able to help you out.

Optional Tools:

These tools will not be covered specifically in this guide, so you are not obliged to download them in order to follow this guide, but they are worth a quick mention as they may help you:

DVD Region+CSS Free (this is NOT freeware!)
DVD Region+CSS Free is not required unless you plan to rip a DVD where region of the DVD does not match that of your DVD drive. Now, before anyone corrects me on that last sentence, it is possible to get DVD Decrypter to rip a DVD when its region does not match that of your drive, but this can be quite slow and DVD Region+CSS Free can help to speed things up. If you don’t want to pay to make your drive multi-region it is possible, with some drives, to flash new firmware to it to make it multi-region. However this carries the risk of bricking your drive (I.E. it could be flashed badly and cause you DVD drive to stop functioning). Put simply, DVD Region+CSS Free is a safe way of making your DVD drives multi-region!

This guide assumes that the DVD you are going to convert into DivX/XviD files, has all the episodes in separate Program Chains, or as they are more frequently shortened to "PGCs" (more about PGCs later). However, you will sometimes find that all the episodes are in one PGC. This means you will end up with one long DivX/XviD file with all the episodes back-to-back. If you want to separate the episodes into individual files you will need to use a video editor (such as VirtualDub) to chop the files into sections.


The Guide:

Right… In this guide I am going to focus on converting the TV episodes to XviD (instead of DivX) as I personally feel it’s a better codec. Not only that, XviD is currently the most popularly used video codec. DivX is the second most popular, but statistics suggest that XviD is about twice as popular (so XviD is quite clearly in the lead). However, it is easy to convert the files to DivX using this guide, if you prefer, by changing a simple setting within the "Advanced Options" of the software we are going to use (AutoGK). (…and for the slightly more inquisitive amongst you…) Further to this, statistics suggest that, despite being the oldest and most restrictive container format (file type), .AVI is the most popular container format and MP3 is the most popular audio codec. As such, this guide will focus on creating .AVI files which will contain XviD video and MP3 audio, as this will be what most people want. Now, on with the show… err… I mean guide…

STEP 1 – Configuring DVD Decrypter.

I have DVD Decrypter set to its default settings, apart from the "IFO Mode" settings, which I have tweaked a bit. Note: you should only need to do this once, unless you mess with the settings at a later date, of course!

Open DVD Decrypter. Then click "Tools" > "Settings". This will open the Settings window. Next click on the "IFO Mode" tab.

Under the "On Startup" section:

– Disable "Select Main Movie PGC". When enabled this feature simply selects the longest PGC, which can be annoying when ripping multiple DVDs!
– Disable "Enable Stream Processing". When enabled this feature will allow you to rip audio or video streams from a DVD. You don’t need this enabled for this guide as we want the audio and video to be in the same file.
– Enable "Uncheck Suspect Cells". This is enabled by default.

Under the "Options" section:

– Set "File Splitting" to "None". This is important as it will keep the episodes in one file when ripped, as oppose to splitting them part way through the episode (which would cause problems later). The only time you may want to change this is when all the episodes are back to back in one PGC (this will become clearer once you’ve read the ripping section of this guide). If the episodes are all in one PGC and if, for example, the episodes are divided by "Chapters" then you may want to set this option to "Chapters". For now, though, don’t worry about this and just leave it set to "None".
– Enable all the other options in this section. This will reduce the risk of anything going wrong. If you experience any problems when ripping, you may need to change a few of these options.

Under the "Create Additional Files" section:

– Disable all the options. You do not need any of the additional files to be created for the purpose of this guide.

Under the "File Names" section:

– Enable the "Include PGC Number" option.
– Disable the "Include Angle Number" option.

Now DVD Decrypter is configured correctly, click "OK" so that DVD Decrypter accepts the changes you have made.

STEP 2 – Creating a Folder Structure.

Before you start ripping a DVD, you should ensure you have enough free space on the hard drive to which you are going to rip the DVD. I recommend you have at least twice as much space free than the total size of the DVD. So if you have a 4.35GB DVD, you should have at least 9GB free. If you have an 8GB DVD you should have at least 16GB free. If you have more than one DVD to convert to DivX/XviD (as AutoGK can convert more than one DVD using it’s "Job queue", which you’ll see later) then you will need to check you have enough free space for more than one DVD. Just remember you need at least twice as much space free than the total size of each DVD.

To see what the total size of a DVD is you must insert it into the DVD, then open "My Computer", right-click on the drive with the DVD in it and select "Properties". As you can see, this DVD is about 8GB:

You can see how much space you have free on any given hard drive by opening "My Computer", right-clicking on the hard drive and selecting "Properties". As you can see I have over 46GB of free space on this hard drive:

Once you have checked you have enough free space, you should create a folder for each episode on the DVD(s) you are going to rip. For the purpose of this guide I am going to rip one of the best UK TV series ever made: Only Fools and Horses – Series 1. This DVD has 7 episodes so I have created a folder for each of the 7 episodes:

Note: It is important that you create a folder for each episode, as if you rip all the DVD files to the same folder (even if you give the ripped files different filenames) this will cause problems for AutoGK. This is because AutoGK creates a temporary folder (called "agk_tmp") for each file it converts and if all the source files are in the same directory the files in the temporary folder become all messed up resulting in the same episode being converted several times, instead of each episode being converted once. Just create separate folders for each episode… trust me! Finally, make sure the folders have a meaningful name as AutoGK will use this later.

STEP 3 – Ripping the episodes with DVD Decrypter.

Once the folders for each episode are created, start DVD Decrypter (if it isn’t already running). Next, if the DVD you wish to convert isn’t alreay in the DVD drive insert it into the DVD drive. Within the "Destination" section of DVD Decrypter there is an icon of a folder with a magnifying glass on it. This is known as the "Browse for a folder" button. Click it. When the "Browse For Folder" window appears, navigate to the folder you created for episode 1 and click "OK".

Next, under the "Input" section of DVD Decrypter locate the first episode. This will usually be the first PGC of the correct length (20 – 30 minutes) and click it to highlight it.

Usually all the PGCs (one for each episode) will be under the same VTS section:

Sometimes they might be under different VTS sections though:

Either way you should be able to identify the PGC of interest by its duration:

If you can only find one PGC that is 2 or 3 hours long, then this probably means that the episodes are back to back within the one PGC. Sometimes a DVD will have both seperate PGCs for each episode and one big PGC containing all the episodes (this is usually to allow the DVD viewer to watch one episode at a time or all the episodes back-to-back). In this instance you are only interested in the separate episode PGCs and you can ignore the PGC which is 2 or 3 hours long.

Note: If the DVD only has one PGC that is 2 or 3 hours long (containing several episodes) you will have to select that PGC to rip. After you have converted it to DivX/XviD (using AutoGK) you will have to cut it into separate files for each episode (with VirtualDub or similar). There are already many guides on this website that cover DivX/XviD editing, which will teach you how to cut DivX/XviD files into sections, so I will not cover it in this guide. Having said that, you may be able to rip the individual episodes by adjusting the "File Splitting" method within DVD Decrypter’s options (which I wrote about in the "Configuring DVD Decrypter" step of this guide). However, by the time you have worked out which "File Splitting" method may work (if any!), it might just be quicker to rip the whole 2 or 3 hour long PGC and then chop it up with VirtualDub or similar software. Anyway…

Once the first episode has been highlighted, click the "Decrypt" button:

This will start the decryption process for the first episode, which on average takes about 5 to 10 minutes to complete:

Once this is complete, you should get a confirmation message, to which you can click "OK":

If you were to look in the folder you created for the first episode you will see that DVD Decrypter has created a .VOB and .IFO file. The .VOB file contains the actual audio and video from the episode and the .IFO contains information about the .VOB file (I.E. the names of the audio languages, the location of the chapters, etc.).

Now you need to repeat the same process for episode 2.

So click the "Browse for a folder" button again. When the "Browse For Folder" window appears, navigate to the folder you created for episode 2 and click "OK".

Next, under the "Input" section of DVD Decrypter locate the second episode, then click the "Decrypt" button. This will start the decrypting process again.

Once this is complete, you should get a confirmation message, to which you can click "OK".

Now repeat the process for episode 3, 4 and so on. Remember to set the correct destination folder for each episode and select the correct PGC before clicking the "Decrypt" button.

Once you have done this for all the episodes, you can close DVD Decrypter and continue to the next step.

STEP 4 – Converting the .VOB file (DVD Video) to DivX/XviD using Auto Gordian Knot.

Once you have ripped all the episodes to their respective folders, start AutoGK:

Firstly click the "Input file" browse icon (that’s the little folder with the green arrow pointing towards it) and locate the .IFO (not .VOB!) for the first episode. This will be in the folder you ripped the first episode to. Once you have located the .IFO, highlight it and click "Open":

This will load the file into AutoGK:

Next click the "Output file" browse icon. This will prompt you to save the output in the same folder as the episode 1 .VOB and .IFO file. It should also name it something appropriate as it copies the folder name (remember I told you to have meaningful folder names?). Then click "Save":

This will set the same location for the file:

Check that the first audio track is set to your desired language (note: only languages that were available on the DVD will be available). Leave the second audio track set to "No Second Audio Track" and leave the subtitles track set to "No Subtitles".

Next, under "Select output size" click on the "Custom size (MB)" option. Note: selecting this option will cause AutoGK to encode the video using a 2-pass method. This means it will read the episode from the DVD (I.E. the .VOB file) twice, to improve its final quality.

Now you must enter a size (in MB) that you wish the final DivX/XviD file to be. You can enter anything here, but I tend to enter values that will let me get 2 or 3 episodes (or about 1 hour of video) on one 700MB CD-R.

So if the episodes are around 20 minutes, I will try to get 3 episodes on one 700MB CD-R. In this instance I would set this value to about 230 or even 233 as 233 multiplied by 3 equals 699 (just enough to fit onto a 700MB CD-R).

If the episodes are around 30 minutes, I will try to get 2 episodes on one 700MB CD-R. In this instance I would set this value to about 350 or maybe 349 as 349 multiplied by 2 equals 698 (just enough to fit onto a 700MB CD-R).

After a while you will get an idea of the sort of number you want to enter here. If you are uncertain, you could always just convert one episode for now and see how it turns out before you convert the rest.

As you can see in the previous screenshot (above) the "Source Information" bar reads:

Video info: MPEG2 720×576 PAL 4:3 PGC 1. Length: 0:29:55:23

You should pay attention to the bit that reads "Length: ?:??:??:?" as this tells you how long the video is. My example is 0:29:55:23 (0 Hours : 29 Minutes : 55 Seconds : 23 Milliseconds" or, in other words 30 minutes! So, as these episodes are 30 minutes long I will want to try and get 2 episodes on one 700MB CD-R. So I am going to set the "Custom size (MB)" to 349:

Note: you only have to set the "Custom size (MB)" for the first episode. The same values will be used for the other files you add.

Next click the "Advanced Settings" button.

Set the "Output resolution settings" to: Fixed width [640]

Set the "Codec" to: XviD (unless you want to convert to DivX, then you’d select DivX)

Set the "Output audio type" to: VBR MP3, kbps [128]

Leave the Subtitle options both disabled.

Once you have done this, you can click "OK".

Note: Every time you use AutoGK from now on it should retain the Advanced Options. You will have select the "Custom size (MB)" option and set the value (on the main AutoGK screen) every time you start AutoGK, though.

Finally click "Add Job" and this job will be added to the "Job queue".

Next, you can either add the remaining episodes to the Job queue, or you can just click "Start" to convert the first file and see how it comes out.

If you want to add the second episode, simply do the following:
– Click the "Input file" browse icon, locate the .IFO for the next episode and click "Open".
– Next click the "Output file" browse icon, ensure the file name is appropriate and click "Save".
– Check that the first audio track is set to your desired language.
– Leave the second audio track set to "No Second Audio Track".
– Leave the subtitles track set to "No Subtitles".
– Check the "Source Information" bar for the length of the episode and ensure the "Custom size (MB)" is set to an appropriate value. If this episode is of a similar length to the previous one, the same value should be fine.
– Finally click "Add Job".

Repeat this for the remaining episodes you wish to convert and then click the "Start" button:

AutoGK will run a series of applications (which will appear on your task bar) to convert each episode to a XviD/DivX .AVI file. It will take between 30 minutes a 2 hours to convert each episode (depending on the specifications of your computer). The output will be located in the episode folders as per the "Output file" paths you specified earlier.

Once the conversion is complete you can delete the "agk_tmp" folder (and its contents), the .LOG file, the .IFO file and the .VOB file within each episode folder, leaving just the XviD/DivX .AVI file for each episode:

…and that’s it! 🙂

Now you can just sit back/have a coffee/go to work/go to sleep (delete as appropiate) until AutoGK has completed the job queue.

Note: whilst AutoGK is converting a series of episodes to DivX/XviD, you can rip the next DVD you want to convert (using DVD Decrypter) and load the ripped files into the AutoGK Job Queue. Once it has completed the first series of episodes, it will continue to convert any additional episodes you have added to the queue.

If this is one of the first episodes you have converted to DivX/XviD by following this guide, you should probably check the output to ensure the quality meets your satisfaction…

…if it doesn’t you should adjust the quality setting in AutoGK ("Custom size (MB)") and try again.

Thanks for reading!

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