Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Posted by Chris Sacksteder in "Digital Home Software" @ 07:00 AM
Copy To Device
The program did not detect my Creative ZEN X-Fi or my HTC Touch Pro phone when connected via USB, although Windows 7 recognized both easy, so I was not able to test the function of copying converted media to a device. Since it is easy for me to copy and paste files to these devices when connected to a Windows 7 computer, I'm not sure what it might do to make that easier.
DRM (Digital Rights Management) refers to various forms of copy protection, typically designed to allow you to play media on a computer if you are licensed for it. Some schemes may allow copying files to supported media players or to backup devices, but often there are problems and restrictions. Some people are completely against any form of DRM, while others believe it is necessary to protect the media creators. While I tend to think that most people who want to remove DRM protections are going to share the media illegally, a case can be made for removing DRM for fair use scenarios and for backup purposes, which may be legal depending on the source of the material and your local laws. Or maybe your portable device doesn't support the DRM method in the files you have purchased rights for and your source doesn't specifically prohibit bypassing the DRM for personal use.
There seems to be a huge number of utilities for removing or bypassing DRM, so it must be a popular thing to do, legal or not.
The help file for this program had no topics on DRM removal, but the process was easy compared to finding some files to test. I don't have any accounts in services that provide such files, and I'm sure all or most of them require that you agree not to tamper with the copy protection in the files they provide.
Eventually I found a sample .flv (Flash Video) file from http://www.ezdrm.com/html/demo.asp#wmdrm, and installed Adobe Media Player to verify the FMRMS (Flash Media Rights Management Service) was triggered when the file was played. I then tried to preview and convert the file in DMCU, but it didn't do anything; it just said "done", and no output file was created. To be fair, Flash is not a format listed under their description of DRM removal.
Another file from the same site, instustrial.wmv (16 seconds 640x352 742kbps), demonstrated the DRM protection in it, so I put it into DMCU and started a conversion. To remove the DRM, it apparently plays the video in a window with Windows Media Player and mfpmp (Media Foundation Protected Pipeline EXE), captures the frames, and saves them in the target format. Elapsed time was 42 seconds for this 16-second clip (on the laptop), so this process is time consuming.
Note that DMCU doesn't "crack" the DRM protection . . . you have to have a valid license to play the media for it to capture the frames and/or audio and recode them to another file.
One nice feature is a "Find DRM" button that scans a predefined "DRM folder" for files that have not been converted yet; these are automatically added to the processing list, saving you the chore of selecting new files.
Although not advertised as a feature, DMCU can extract an audio track from a video clip, making an MP3 or WMA file to put on your music player. You just select MP3 or another audio profile as the video profile. I've needed to do this with a favorite radio program that is not available as a podcast download but is streamed live from various web sites. I use the SageTV plug-in "Web Feed Encoder" to capture the program on a weekly schedule, but it adds a video stream to allow the program to be played through a Hauppauge MPV extender, which is how we usually listen to it. But occasionally I'd rather copy it to a portable player, and a 2-hour show is huge at 3.6GB. It took DMCU 6:30 (minutes:seconds) on our desktop computer to recode one 3.6GB MPEG file to MP3, which was many times smaller at 55MB.
In comparison, the freeware/nagware AoA Audio Extractor Basic (AAEB) did the same thing (same 64kbps bit rate, 22050 sample rate) in 5:58, making a file identical in size. If you want a smaller file, DMCU can make a WMA file with a variable bit rate, which is not an option for AAEB. It made a 28MB file from this same 2 hour source in 2:52. On the other hand, AAEB can go as low as 32kbps, making a 27MB file but taking 17 minutes.
Doing the audio extraction makes me think it would be nice if the program had a command-line interface, so I could write scripts and schedule tasks to process new files automatically. It probably wouldn't take much for them to add that because most or all transcoding seems to be done by a CmdConverter.exe rather than the user interface presented by DMCUltimate.exe.
Ripping a DVD
A typical 120-minute DVD movie was selected for testing. On clicking the "Load DVD" button, you can select titles, chapters, which audio track, and an option to show subtitles. First I selected the "Creative Zen Player" profile, but increased the frame rate to 29.97. On my desktop with a relatively low-cost DVD drive (16X) the copying took 6 minutes, with both cores running near 85%. A second run was tried with the .H264 MP4 profile, 1500kbps bit rate. This took a lot longer (59 minutes) and only one core was busy; a "CmdConverter.exe" used a maximum of 50% total CPU. Clearly that target format was not a good choice.
I tried another DVD, one with 11 titles and a 2.5 hour main title. This time the target was WMV (852x480, 1596kbps) and both cores ran about 80%. The conversion took 98 minutes and the results, 1.41GB total size, was jittery and poor quality compared to playing the DVD (7.6GB) on the same computer. Note that the computer was doing some other things at the time (SageTV was recording a show, occasionally taking 10% of CPU) which would account for some of the slowness. I tried converting the main title with the "Creative ZEN Player WMV" profile, which was much faster, finishing in 20 minutes. Quality was reasonable for the resulting file size, about 500MB.
There are so many choices for formats and settings within formats, I'm not sure what the best choice would be for an NTSC DVD. The programs documentation does not make recommendations.