I wanted to copy a DVD. The copy would go on the airplane and I wouldn’t have to worry about damaging or losing the Netflix copy. Simple, eh?

anydvdupdateDVDs can’t be copied without running software to defeat their copy protection, but programs like Slysoft AnyDVD are readily available. Apparently SlySoft is based somewhere exotic that the movie industry can’t reach – Slovenia or Detroit or Mars or something like that. I have AnyDVD running on my computer – the icon down by the clock looks like an animal with a horrible head wound and it’s fond of popping up reminders every 48 hours or so that there’s an upgrade available (the latest one adds “support for a new type of structural protection as found on “Beste Zeit”, R2, Germany,” I kid you not). But AnyDVD does its job – when it’s running, DVDs can be copied.

I popped in the movie and started Nero 8 Ultra Edition. Like Roxio Easy Media Creator, it’s a wildly overstuffed lumbering monster of a suite of badly integrated programs. Some pieces are valuable and work beautifully; some are half-baked and a few are absurdly out of place. (“Nero Scout – Database Technology”? You don’t want to know.) I had studied the list of programs for an hour to figure out which pieces should be left out before I pressed “Install.”

Can’t copy the disc directly. It’s a dual-layer disc, more than 7Gb of data. Blank dual-layer discs are expensive and I’ve never been sure if my DVD recorder can record on them anyway. I’ve got the more typical 4.7Gb blanks.

nerorecode nerorecode2 Nero Recode lives for these moments. It can take a DVD and recode it so it fits a 4.7Gb disc, with virtually no loss of video quality. Beauty! Let’s go!

It takes a long time to work with video. Nero Recode took an hour or so to chew through the movie, then spit open the drawer and asked me to insert a dual layer blank DVD.

Hmm. That kind of missed the point.

I spent a while making arbitrary changes to the manual settings for the size of the disc and the subtitles and the like, then tried it again. Same result an hour later.

Nero releases updates for its suites as often as everybody else but I already had the latest version – heck, it’s been an eternity, almost two months since version, and by the way, when did software version numbering morph into three decimal places?

Okay, try the option to encode only the main movie, not the menus or special features. An hour later, Nero asks for a plain old DVD+R. Joy! Twenty minutes later the drawer opens and spits out my perfect copy, right up until I read the error message that says the whole operation was a failure because it could not close the disc due to a “PMA update failure.” Google google google. Either defective media or outdated firmware in the DVD recorder or bad software, but maybe not any of those things.

Try it again at a slower burn speed. An hour and twenty minutes later, another error message.

If I had spent this much time watching the movie, I wouldn’t have needed the copy because I’d have been able to act it out for the kids.

Instead of recording the movie directly, let’s park it on the hard drive, one of the options in Nero Recode. An hour later, a lovely VIDEO_TS folder is waiting for me and it’s the work of a moment – well, thirty moments or so – to start up Nero Express, add the VIDEO_TS folder, and successfully burn a copy of the movie onto a 4.7Gb disc.

epsonprintcd Magic! Grab some art from the web and print the label on the disc. Many of Epson’s inkjet printers have a special tray to print on the top of blank CDs and DVDs, as long as you use the “Epson Print CD” software, which is just as quirky as everything else. Printable blank CDs and DVDs are reasonably easy to find if you look for them but of course there are ways for them to be inconsistent. Grab the nearest CD or DVD – is the inner circle around the hole clear or printed? You can buy the blanks either way, and of course you’ll have to track down a setting in the software to make that adjustment. I don’t know why I always forget that conventional CD/DVDs are 12cm with a 43mm opening, while the ones that allow printing in close to the hole have a 20mm opening. Where is my head some days?

Was it worth it? Sure, it was a lot of effort, but I’m sure parents will appreciate the happiness that filled my heart when my 15-year old took off the headphones on the plane so he could lean over and say, “Dad? The voices in the movie? They’re not coming out when the people move their mouths. It’s like a badly dubbed Japanese movie. Wow, that’s weird – it just skipped a scene. Look, dad, it did it again.” It was a special moment.

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