Converting DVD's to Watch on Tivo

Note: This guide is now mostly out of date. There are a number of new tools out there that should make this process a much easier one. There are also better hardware devices for displaying video content on your television. I'm leaving this guide available for archival purposes. [Joshua Garnett]


With the recent introduction of Tivo Desktop v2.2 you can now transfer movies from your computer to any Tivo connected on the same network. This is great for displaying home movies and any other content you would like to have access to on Tivo. For those with multiple Tivos this offers a great way to consolidate your DVD collection onto a single computer, which would then be available to all connected Tivos. It also allows you to increase the number of Television shows you can store since you can use Tivo Desktop to transfer content from your Tivo to your computer for long term storage. This is much more cost effective and safer then trying to do an upgrade on a Tivo.

This guide will show you how to convert content from a DVD you own to an mpeg that you can view on your Tivo. For legal reasons I will not discuss how to get the DVD files required onto your hard drive. All other steps though you should find in this guide. The difference between this guide and other guides currently on internet is that I show how to also convert 16:9 content into letterboxed 4:3 content without any audio sync problems. This is required for Tivos that do not properly add the letterbox bars to 16:9 content.

What you will need:

Getting The DVD Files

(Duration 20-60 minutes)

When extracting the files from the DVD you only need to select the actual movie. Tivo has no way of displaying DVD menus so its a waste of space and time to grab them or any additional content on the DVD.

Your Folder structure should look something like this:

DVD Shrink Step

(Duration 10-90 minutes)

It is during this step that you may go into two directions. For 4:3 content after this step you'll be done. For 16:9 content you've got a few more hoops to jump through.

First off lets set the appropriate settings in DVDShrink. Goto Edit->Preferences then into the Output Files Tab. Here you need to disable the splitting of VOB files. Just Uncheck the box to disable it.

Now you want to get into the Re-author mode of DVDShrink. To do this just click on the Re-Author button that is in the top toolbar. On the right hand side you should now see the contents of your My Computer folder. Navigate to the folder that contains the DVD files you want to convert. Eventually it'll automatically parse the IFO in the Folder and display a folder called Main Movie. Double click on this. Then it should have a file that says something like "Title 1". Click and Drag this over to the DVD Structure on the left. It will do a short analyze step that should only take a few minutes. At this point your screen should look like this:

Now click over to the Compression Settings Tab. Here it lists the compression setting, audio tracks, and subtitles available. For both 4:3 and 16:9 content you should uncheck all subtitles and leave only one audio track checked. Usually the top audio track is the one you want to keep.

This is where things change. For 16:9 movies you don't want to compress the video at all. This is a waste of time and since you have to do compression in another step this will just reduce the overall quality of the video. So make sure you select No Compression in the drop down box. For 4:3 movies you most likely will want to reduce the size of the video. To do this in the drop down box select Custom Ratio. Then use the slider to adjust the size of the output. I'd recommend you set aside about 2GBs for each hour of video. This is comparable to the size of High on the Tivo. (Due to the better compression algorithms used though it should rival Tivo's Best quality)

16:9 No Compression

4:3 Custom Ratio 85.1%

Now its time to generate the single vob file. Click the Backup Button in the toolbar. Set a target folder. I usually use C:\DVD. If your working with 4:3 content and you adjusted the compression click on the Quality Settings tab. Check both Perform Deep Analysis before backup to improve quality and Compress video with high quality adaptive error compensation. Doing this will dramatically increase the quality of your final DVD.

Now just hit the OK button. If you are compressing the files it can take anywhere from 30-90 minutes. If you aren't compressing the files it should only take about 10 minutes. For 4:3 content after it is done, goto the C:\DVD folder, look for the single VOB file and change the extension to MPG. Then goto down to the Wrap Up step. For 16:9 content you've got a lot more to do. Close DVDShrink and move on to the next step.

Note: If your television supports the proper rendering of 16:9 content you may be able to just skip to Wrap Up. You can either use DVDPatcher to change the ratio in the header to 4:3, or if you have Tivo System Version 7.2+ you can goto Settings->Video and enable 16:9 compatability. I've found on my standard Television that it stretches the picture, so these options aren't usable.


(Duration 10 minutes)

This process goes pretty quick. Most other guides skip the DVDShrink step and work directly with the multiple VOB files. This technically would work, but I've found even with DVD2AVI accounting for the audio sync errors, it tends to fail. There is nothing more frustrating then spending hours converting a video only to find out that the audio isn't in sync with the video.

Ok, start up the DVD2AVI program. Then goto File->Open. Select the VOB file that DVDShrink created. It will then show a box with the VOB file in it. Click the OK button.

There is only one setting you need to make sure you set. Goto Audio->Output Method and verify that Decode to WAV is checked.

Now you just need to goto File->Save Project. Select an appropriate name and then hit ok. In order to save the project it has to create an index file of the movie and demux the audio into a wav file. This only takes about 10 minutes. Once that is done your now ready to move on to the next step. Note: Do Not Close DVD2AVI, as it works as a frame server to TMPGEnc.

TMPGEnc Step

(Duration 2-6 hours)

TMPGEnc is a great program for converting a multitude of media types. For our purposes we need access to TMPGEnc's mpeg2 plugin. The freeware version comes with a 30 day trial of it.

Before you open TMPGEnc, you need to copy over the DVD2AVI.vfp file from the DVD2AVI directory into the main TMPGEnc directory. This allows TMPGEnc to work with DVD2AVI. Now run the program. It should startup the Project Wizard by default. In this window select DVD->NTSC in the tree view. Now select CBR MPEG-1 Layer II Audio (MP2) from the drop down box on the right. Then click next.

In this step click the browse button to the right of the Video File Input Field. Select the d2v project file that you created in DVD2AVI. Next click on the Browse button to the right of the Audio File Input Field, select the wav file that was created by DVD2AVI. In the Aspect Ratio drop down box, select 16:9 525 line (NTSC). It is very important that you select this, otherwise it will think your source video is of the aspect ratio 4:3. Lastly verify that Video Movie is selected in the Content of Video Drop Down Box. Click Next.

In this step click the Other Settings button. This will bring up a new window. In the video tab at the very bottom you will see the Motion Search Precision setting. Setting this to a higher setting can improve the overall quality of the video created. The higher the quality you select the longer it will take to create the video. I'd suggest going with the High Quality Setting.

Now click on the Advanced Tab. For the Video Arrange Method, select Full Screen (keep aspect ratio). This option tells TMPGEnc to change our content into a letterbox format. Once that is set click the OK button, and then click Next.

Your almost done. Here you get to set the video and audio bitrate. As I mentioned before I recommend about 2GBs for each hour of video. To hit this in TMPGEnc I set the Average Video Bitrate to 4500 and the Audio Bitrate to 224. This will create video that is the same size as video set at the High setting in Tivo, but looks much more like Best Quality. Remember, you can set this to whatever you want, but you want to make sure that you don't set a size that is greater then the original VOB file as that is just a waste of space. Also, insure that the video resolution is set to 720x480 when you are done. Click Next.

You've made it to the last step. Just choose a name and location for your mpeg file and click on the Ok button. TMPGEnc should now start the encoding process of the video. Depending on the quality settings you choose, length of the movie, and the cpu speed of your computer this can take anywhere from 2-6 hours. On my 2.4Ghz computer it takes about 2 hours for every 1 hour of video at the High Quality setting. This is a good process to kick off before you goto bed or take off for work.

If you need to do work on the computer while the video is being encoded there are a few options you can set to limit the amount of CPU TMPGEnc uses. First goto Option->Preview Option, and select Do Not Display. Also, goto Option->Task Priority, and select both When Active - Idle Time Only and When Not Active - Idle Time Only. It will take longer to encode the video, but it won't slow down your system as much.

Wrap Up

Now all you need to do is take the mpg file that you've created and move it to the Tivo Recordings Folder. By default this is a subfolder of your My Documents folder. If you are looking to put your entire DVD collection on your computer, you most likely will be buying a seperate drive to store all of your movies. Make sure in the Tivo Desktop settings you set the directory for the Tivo Recordings Folder to this other drive.

At this point as long as you have Tivo Desktop 2.2, your Tivo System Version is 7.2, and you've enabled the transfers of downloads (to set this goto your account settings at you should be all set. Just goto the Now Playing List, scroll all the way to the bottom, click on your Computer Name, and select the movie for transfer.

If you plan on setting up a large DVD collection to be viewed on your Tivo, I'd recommend setting up a wired network. Wireless works fine, but unless you really sacrifice on quality you can't watch your movies in real time. Using the settings I've recommended you should be able to download the movie faster then real time, which means you should be able to start a movie transfer and then start watching the movie immediately.

This is my first attempt at a technical guide so please forgive any choppiness. If you have any questions/comments/suggestions feel free to e-mail me at Have Fun Converting!

Guide Written By: Joshua (10/28/2005)
Guide Inspired By: A DVDShrink Guide Done By Dave Zatz

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