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Convert a DVD soundtrack to an audio CD

 

Craig wrote this excellent guide in November 2002 : it was so good, we decided not to bin it when we overhauled the site in January 2005

Please note that this guide is for the enjoyment of the audio soundtrack of DVD's you already own. Copying any material from DVD's you have borrowed or rented is illegal. Area 450 does not condone the use of this guide for the illegal copying of copyrighted material.

Converting DVD Soundtracks to Audio CD

So, you grew up with disco and were feeling nostalgic. You just bought a copy of the DVD "Xanadu" and have fallen in love all over again with Olivia Newton-John. Now you want to listen to all that wonderful ELO and ONJ music in your car as you drive into work every morning, but you don’t want to shell out another $15 for the soundtrack CD (which doesn’t even contain all the songs in the movie). So what’s a guy to do ?

Well, you’ve got all the audio bits just waiting in that DVD to be released and transformed. By using the power of your computer, you can turn those bits into a conventional audio CD that you can play in your car or any other CD player that can handle a CD-R. How is this possible? Come along with me, and I’ll show you how…..

First off, there are probably many ways to do this using various software packages you can download off the internet. This is the one that I’ve used with relative ease and success, but I’m sure there that other folks will have their own favorite method. However, I can tell you for sure that this will work.

Here are the hardware ingredients you will need:

  • A movie on DVD with audio you’d like to convert into a conventional audio CD
  • A Windows 98 (or greater) PC with a DVD-ROM drive, at least 128 MB of RAM, and a hard drive with about 5 or 6 GB of free space (more or less, depending on the length of the movie and whether or not you want to capture the entire sound track)
  • A CD writer in your PC and a blank CD-R or two.

Here are the software ingredients you will need:

  • A copy of Smartripper
  • A copy of DVD2AVI
  • A copy of Audacity
  • Your favorite burning program that has the facility to burn a conventional audio CD using a list of WAV files (I use Nero).

Smartripper and DVD2AVI are presently available for download from the Doom9.org website's software page. Of course, you never know when things like this will disappear, so just be prepared to use Google to search for these utililties when required. You can find Audacity by clicking here.

And now the steps:

  • Rip the VOBs (video/audio files) from the DVD to your PC hard drive
  • Extract the stereo audio track from the VOBs and convert the sample rate to audio CD specifications, resulting in a huge WAV file
  • Edit the audio file into individual tracks (WAV files) and adjust the volume and fade-in / fade-out of each track to taste
  • Burn to CD-R using your favorite burning program using audio CD settings.

And now the details, one step at a time


Rip the VOBs (video/audio files) from the DVD…

Put your DVD into the DVD drive in your PC, then fire up Smartripper. If your DVD playback software autostarts, just exit the playback program. The SmartRipper "Rip Method" comes up in "Movie" mode, which is fine. If you have only a selected cut you’d like to obtain from this DVD, use your DVD player or DVD playback software to determine the chapter number(s) where the desired song(s) occur, and then just select those chapters in the SmartRipper chapter selection window.

At this point (or even before), it's a good idea to create a "project directory" where you are going to save all the files involved in this process. Then navigate the SmartRipper "Target" path to that directory. The output of this process will be a number of VOB files that have been somewhat altered to allow further processing (you can't run the next step on the original VOB files on your DVD).

Most DVDs will be contained within 4 or 5 VOB files, depending on the length of the movie, with each VOB being 1 GB in size (and containing about 30 minutes of the movie). The last VOB file length will be whatever it takes to contain the remainder of the movie. If you want to capture the soundtrack from the entire movie, just retain the default selection of all chapters and click on the Smartripper START button. You’ll need about 4 GB free for the VOB files on your hard drive for a 2 hour movie. Depending on the speed of your PC and DVD-ROM, this will probably take about 1/10 to 1/4 of the duration of the movie (e.g., 12 to 30 minutes for a 2 hour movie). On my Althlon XP1700+ equipped PC with 384 MB of RAM and 8X DVD-ROM drive, the VOB ripping process runs at about 1/13 realtime (about 9 minutes for a 2 hour movie).

 

Extract the stereo audio track from the VOBs and convert the sample rate to audio CD specifications…

We next run DVD2AVI. Most folks use this application as a precursor to encoding the DVD video down to MPG1 or MPG2 files for VCD or SVCD creation (only to back up DVDs you already own, mind you), but we’re just using it to extract the audio. Select the VOBs you just extracted to the project using the FILE -> OPEN command. Navigate to your project directory (where you stored your ripped VOB files) and you will see the list of VOB files. Just select one of them to open, and a window will appear in the DVD2AVI program showing all the VOBs in that directory (you must DELete the ones you might not want to process). I won't bother showing a picture of the DVD2AVI program GUI, it's not terribly exciting and is quite straightforward to use.

Now using the selections under the main AUDIO menu, make the option selections that affect the extraction of the audio file. (It helps if you have a copy of DVD2AVI to follow along with as I describe the selections below):

AUDIO ->

TRACK NUMBER -> TRACK 1

CHANNEL FORMAT-> AUTO SELECT

DOLBY DIGITAL -> Select DECODE and DOLBY DOWNMIX and set

DYNAMIC RANGE CONTROL to NORMAL

MPEG AUDIO-> DEMUX

48 TO 44.1 kHz-> HIGH

NORMALIZATION-> leave at 100

Most of these are the default selections. If not, then set them to what I listed above. Then hit FILE -> SAVE PROJECT and give the project a FILENAME and click SAVE. The DVD2AVI will crunch for a while (depending on the speed of your computer). On my Athlon XP1700+, the DVD2AVI process runs about 0.42 realtime (a 2 hour movie will require about 50 minutes to convert the VOBs). Oops, did I tell you you'd need another 1.25 GB of hard drive space to hold the audio file from a 2 hour movie? Better make sure you've got it before you go further.

After conversion, you will have two new files on your hard disk. One will be a small "FILENAME.d2v" file that is basically a frameserver pointer to information in the VOBs for later video encoding (we won’t be using this) and a "FILENAME AC3 T01 3_1ch 448Kbps 44.1KHz.wav" file that contains the stereo audio from the movie. This file will be about 10.5 kBytes per minute of movie (or about 1.25 GB for a 2 hour movie). At this point you can erase the ripped VOB files, you won't need them any more.

You could load this baby up in Winamp right now and start listening to the movie audio. But wouldn’t you rather do some editing so you can just get right down to the individual song tracks? Of course you would…

 

Edit the audio file into individual tracks

Now fire up Audacity to edit the big WAV file. It will take a minute or two to load up the entire WAV file if you elected to extract audio from the entire movie. You can see here that Audacity gives you a nice graphical representation of the sound wave as a function of time, so you can readily see the spaces of silence between songs (or other audio activity). If you want to see what’s happening audio-wise at any point in the file, just select the cursor (vertical line) in the top left area of the Audacity window and then click along the timeline at the desired spot. Then click on the green "play" button, and the audio will begin playing at that point. You can select the ZOOM tool (looks like a magnifying glass) and drag it along the timeline to select a portion of the time to zoom in on. This will allow you to more precisely lay the cursor at any point in the audio file.

Going back to the cursor tool, you can drag across any portion of the audio file timeline to highlight a particular section (song), then use the FILE -> Export Selection as WAV option to save just that portion as a separate WAV file (you can give the selection a name at this point, such as the title of the song). Do this to each song/selection to build the "tracks" for your forthcoming audio CD.

The cheap and cheerful (actually FREE) Audacity has a lot of neat features that are beyond the scope of this article. However, for any particular section of the file you highlight, you can do the kinds of functions listed in the EFFECTS menu here:

One thing you might want to do is boost the overall amplitude of the WAV file before you begin. As you can see in the first Audacity figure above, the amplitude (loudness) of the wave file seems a bit low. Just highlight the entire timeline (or use the SELECT ALL option under the edit menu), then select the Amplify…. effect. Audacity will automatically select an amplification factor that will not cause clipping (saturation) of the audio file at any part of the file. If you like, you can also use this feature after you have created your individual WAVs (tracks) to boost individual songs that might be too low in volume for your taste.

And here’s a handy tip for file naming. If you want your tracks to retain the same order as they occur in the movie, simply add the prefix 01 to the first filename, 02 to the second, and so forth. This will be a good practice too if you decide to convert the WAVs to MP3 files for use with your Sampo DVD player MP3 playback facility.

 

Burn to CD-R

I assume if you’ve gotten this far, you probably already have experience in converting WAVs or MP3 files to conventional audio CD-Rs. Many CD-R burning programs have this facility (you can’t simply dump the WAVs onto CD-R and expect your conventional audio CD player to play them – it just won’t happen). I use Nero, which opens with a "wizard" for disc creation. Under the "compile a new CD" option, simply select the "audio CD" option. You will be presented with a window into which you can drag and drop your wave files. Then just hit the BURN button, and in a few minutes you’ll be enjoying your new soundtrack CD anywhere you like!

 

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