Recording DVD Segments on a Mac

In the “how long were you going to have that feature and not tell me” category comes the ability to record in the Mac version of VLC. What it allows you to do is record segments from a DVD. You see, in the Windows version of VLC (since version 1.0 came on the scene), you have been able to record a DVD that is playing. The Windows version has a record button in the program (you need to select View>Advanced Controls to make it available). Once you do that you can hit the button to start recording, then hit it again to stop.

For almost a year now, and even during my recent NMC presentation, I have been under the assumption that this was a Windows only feature. In exploring the new version 1.1 for the Mac, I discovered in the keyboard shortcuts area a “record” option. Invoking “Shift-Command-r” starts a recording, and pressing the same key combo again, stops the recording.

This, of course, dramatically helps the workflow of using clips from DVDs on the Mac. After saving the recording, I would use Handbrake to convert it into a web ready MP4 file, then upload it to a web server. The result would look like this:

See my screencast on Recording Segments from a DVD. Insert the standard disclaimer here about copying DVDs and Fair Use.

The Making of an HD Screen Grab

After my last post, you may be asking how I do an HD screen grab from a recorded TV show. If there is such a thing as a rabid fan of my blog, you may remember a similar post from back in the day (it was Feb 12, 2006!). That was back in my PC days and I did the digitizing via a firewire cable from my cable box to a firewire card in the computer. A program called Nero played the video and it provided a button to take a still frame from the recorded video. So what has changed in the 4 years?

Let’s start with the computer setup, which is a Mac Mini that has a Hauppauge HD-PVR. What this little beauty does is allow me to connect component cables from my FIOS set-top box to my Mac (via USB). Yes, I did say component and not composite, so I get full HD quality up to what the programming is broadcast in. I can get up to 1920×1080 pixels in an image from 1080i video. I can record any HD content from FIOS using the Eye TV software from Elgato. There is also more simple recording software (but not as feature rich) known as HDPVRCapture that could be used. For $30 you get basic recording from the HD-PVR, and conversions to QuickTime compatible files.

Once you have your Eye TV recording*, you need to transcode it to a non-proprietary format for the Mac, typically an h.264 QuickTime video. This is not a full blown conversion so it doesn’t take hours (like a Handbrake conversion). Now that the video is in a QuickTime compatible format, you open it in the VLC media player, play the video to the point where you would like to grab a frame, and then choose Video>Snapshot. This will save a .png image file on your desktop, ready for you to post to whatever website you choose.

Now the actual procedure that I followed was needlessly convoluted however. The Colbert clip was crashing VLC, and so I couldn’t even get to the snapshot step. So I decided to use a combination of QuickTime Pro, and Preview. VLC is definitely the preferred way to go because it is free, and as it turned out, upgrading VLC to the latest version fixed the problem. However, if you do have a registered version of QT Pro you can do it. You open the video file in QT Pro and then navigate to the frame of video that you want. Click on the File menu and choose Export… then select Movie to Picture. Unfortunately, no matter what you change in the Options area, the file will be saved as a .pct file (a “pict”). You should be able to open it with the Preview program and then save it out (File>Save As…) as a .jpg or .png. Then use it how you wish. However, a 64-bit issue read its ugly head. In Snow Leopard, Preview is a 64-bit program, but it gave an error (see below) when I tried to view the .pct file that suggested I open the file in “32-bit mode”. To force Preview to run in 32-bit mode you need to go into your applications directory, click the Preview icon and choose File>Get Info from the Finder menu. Check the box labeled Open in 32-bit mode and then close the window. I could now open the file and save it out as a jpeg image. There, that was easy wasn’t it.

* I have since discovered that the Eye TV software has a snapshot feature, so I just find the frame I want in the original recording and make a snapshot. In other words, never mind. Still, the feature in VLC to take snapshots is applicable to many other projects. As I stated in my post from long ago, Hi-Def television is a great resource for high quality images, keeping in mind copyright issues, of course.

Oh, and I fully expect people to comment on other programs that can play the video and take a snapshot from a frame, so let’s have at it.

cc licensed flickr photo by Tyler Howarth:

Cool new feature in VLC Player

Thanks to LifeHacker for pointing out a very cool and interesting feature of the latest version of the VLC media player (one of UMW’s favorite tools). By enabling the Advanced Controls under the View menu, you can now record a segment or an entire DVD as it plays in the VLC player window. As of now this is a Windows only feature, and not available on the Mac version. The resulting recording, which is placed in the Documents folder, can then be played back using VLC. This makes it much easier for educators to grab segments of a DVD for showing in class. The old way would have meant using a DVD “ripping” program and then editing down the segment to show. The file is a standard MPEG-2 video file, but neither QuickTime or Windows Media Player was able to handle the file by default, so VLC is neccesary to play back the file on a computer. I’ll be playing around with converting the files to other formats like MPEG-4 and Flash (FLV) in the near future.