Backing up DVDs in Ubuntu

Posted by Martin Vilcans on 25 September 2009

We're in the middle of the episode where Bamse and his friends are trying to get rid of the huge dragon that has claimed his place right beside grandmother's house. The dragon cries for more of grandmother's meatballs, but she can't make enough of them. The dragon breathes fire and makes annoying noises. This is too much even for nice old granny. Bamse and his friends decide to visit Skalman. He is smart (although quite a bit excentric). He must know how to get rid of the dragon.

But then the DVD stops.

My son is almost two and a half and understands that DVDs can be broken. He just doesn't understand that he's the one who breaks them by not handling them very well.

So right now I'm making backups of the rest of his movies.

I'm using Ubuntu 9.04 for this, and here's my notes about it in case I forget and/or someone else is interested. It may work in other Linux distributions or other versions of Ubuntu, but I haven't tested that.

I use command-line programs because they are quicker to run over and over compared to GUI applications.

First, I installed vobcopy:

sudo apt-get install vobcopy

Vobcopy can decrypt DVDs while copying, and needs libdvdcss for that. Since CSS decryption code may not be allowed in some countries, it is not included in Ubuntu's default repositories. It is still simple to install libdvdcss. Just run the following command (first checking that it's legal where you live of course).

sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/

Now I can copy the DVD to the hard disk with the following command:

vobcopy -m -t bamse

The -m flag to vobcopy creates a clone of the whole DVD. The -t flag sets the name of the directory that vobcopy creates, in this case bamse. (The default name is the same as the DVD's volume name, which is sometimes cryptic and not unique.)

I can play the movie by opening the bamse/VIDEO_TS directory in VNC.

With backups in place, I don't have to worry so much when my son handles his DVDs. I'll get back to this subject the first time I burn a DVD from a backup. Meanwhile, I'll check if it is somehow possible to repair a broken DVD, or at least backup the chapters that still work. In the episode after the one with the dragon, the dragon is gone, so probably Skalman figured out a way to get rid of it. I honestly don't mind so much if I never figure out how he did it.

Information sources:

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