I love my new Archos AV-700 portable media system. It can record video directly, has tons of disk space, is a music player, photo album and can show movies in a variety of formats. None of which are compatible with my DVD player, alas. So how the heck do I copy one of my movies onto the device?
The Archos AV-700 is indeed a sweet little device with lots of capabilities and a lovely big 7-inch screen, in a unit no bigger than a paperback book and less than an inch thick. You can read all about this slick device at Archos if you want to learn more. If that’s not enough, the Archos portable AV line (including the 700) are what’s powering the new Dish Network PocketDish program.
Fortunately, Archos loaned me a unit so I could put it through its paces, and that’s how I’m able to write about how to convert a commercial DVD into a format that’s appropriate for the AV-700 device. Unfortunately, they’re going to insist I send it back soon. I want one!
But let’s stay focused, right?
The biggest problem you have with copying your DVDs onto the Archos device is the same problem you have copying it for any purpose: commercial DVDs have a variety of different protection mechanisms to foil your migrating the data from one device to another, making backup copies, or otherwise consuming it as your lifestyle requires.
There are a variety of different programs you can download for your Windows XP computer that will help circumvent these protection mechanisms, but generally they’re all illegal to sell in the United States, so you’ll find that their authors are all based overseas to avoid any problems. Is it ethical or legit to wantonly copy DVDs that you get from Blockbuster, Netflix or your pals? Of course not. That’s a problem and I don’t endorse that behavior for a second.
On the other hand, I have at least four different devices that can play movies, including a Sony PSP, an Apple iPod Video, an Archos AV-700 and a Wolverine MVP-100 multimedia device. If I want to take a movie that I already own and push it out to these devices, are organizations like the MPAA really expecting me to dutifully buy five copies of the movie, one for each platform? That’s incredibly anti-consumer in my opinion. And so, I am offering up this tutorial on how to copy your movies (read that again: your movies) onto an Archos device.
The first step is to get a software program that removes the encryption and other protections from your DVD player on your PC, and after having tried out a bunch of free and pay solutions, I haven’t found anything better than the $24 AnyDVD1 application from Antigua-based SlySoft. What’s particularly nice about their solution is that it’s invisible: once you install it, programs that access the data on your DVD drive go through the AnyDVD app and never see any encoding, encryption, CSS, Macrovision, or regional encoding limitations. It’s like waving a magic wand over the DVD disks you put in your computer. You can get a sense of how it lets you interface with your DVDs by looking at its settings:
Once you have that set up and running (it requires a reboot and injects itself into the DVD driver, so it looks kinda like spyware, but as far as I can tell it’s benign and only accomplishes the one task of helping you access your DVD disks), you’ll need a program that can read the data on the disk and convert it, compress it, and repackage it for the desired output device, in this case the Archos AV-700.
There are lots of solutions in this space, including many commercial applications you can find from mainstream publishers like Roxio, but Slysoft’s the winner here again, with its terrific and super easy-to-use CloneDVD Mobile1 program. Combined, AnyDVD and CloneDVD Mobile will set you back about $50, less than two new DVDs, and it can produce output for just about any modern portable media device.
Let me step you through how I copied one of my favorite movies, Singin’ In The Rain from DVD disk to the Archos AV-700. First step was to get AnyDVD running, then I launched CloneDVD Mobile and selected the output media format:
Notice that it supports producing video for Apple iPod Video devices, Sony PSPs (in two different formats!), Windows smartphones, Creative Labs Zen Vision devices, and, most importantly, the Archos AV 700 device. That’s what I choose, and clicked Next:
To proceed, I clicked on the tiny donut-shaped icon just below “Help”, and selected the VIDEO_TS folder on the DVD itself (on my computer the DVD drive is E:, but yours might be D:, F:, G: or just about any other letter). It then shows me the various titles on the DVD: simply select the longest one and that’ll be the movie. As you can see, Singin’ in the Rain‘s running time is exactly 1:42:43.
To make a nice icon for the file, I stepped the preview forward until it was a mnemonic frame, as you can see, rather than just a generic black screen which is how just about every movie starts. Again, I clicked Next to proceed, and:
Most DVDs have more than one audio track: make sure you select the one you want at this point (and some movies, like Hero have a default track that’s not English. In the case of Hero the default language is Chinese, in fact) and again click Next:
Just about ready to start up the program. The only step left is to specify the output filename: here you can see that I’ve specified “singing-rain-av700.avi” so I’ll remember the optimized format for this particular clip. You set this by again clicking on the little donut-shaped icon just to the right of the “filename to write” box.
At this point I also recommend you change the label to something friendly and mnemonic too. “DVD DATA”, for example, isn’t a very device-friendly name! You might also move the video quality slider to determine where you want to balance quality against file size. Needless to say, the higher the quality, the bigger the output file: at quality level 23 this 1:43 movie is over 1GB in size.
Everything looks good, so let’s Go!
This is the screen you’ll now see while the CloneDVD Mobile program is running. I’ve found that it takes just a bit over an hour on my Pentium WinXP box to convert a movie into the desired output format. That might be dramatically faster or slower than your own computer depending on DVD disk speed, RAM, CPU speed, and various other factors.
Once it’s done, you can pat yourself on the back. You’ve done by far the hardest part of this process. Now you have a nice (albeit big) file ready to copy onto your Archos device. That can be done quite simply, by plugging the device into your computer using a mini-USB cable, then turning it on. Within a few seconds it should show up as a removeable hard drive within Windows, and you should be able to browse its contents, finding this:
Almost there. Now you just need to drag and drop the new AVI file:
Finally, it’s done, it’s copied and boy, it looks great on the Archos device:
So it’s a bit of work, but with an elapsed time of less than 90 minutes per DVD, you can easily copy a half-dozen of your favorite movies onto the Archos before your next flight (and convince at least a dozen people on the plane that they need to buy one of these beauties before you land too!)