If you want an un-intimidating yet powerful software that can turn your DVDs to (much smaller) videos for your laptop, iPhone or other device, VidCoder will do the job beautifully.
VidCoder is a free program that can convert a DVD to video files in MP4 or MKV formats.It uses the Handbrake encoding engine but masks it in a much more user friendly interface. It also adds a handful of features such as instant source previews, batch encoding, and the ability to pause and resume the encoding process.
VidCoder can output files in MP4 or MKV formats, and can be used to convert not just DVDs but other video files to these formats as well, including AVI, which makes it a great tool for converting both DVDs as well as regular videos to iPhone/iPod formats.
VidCoder is essentially the Handbrake engine re-cast in a more streamlined and intuitive interface. It does, however, require the installation of the Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0 to run, which leads us to the question of whether installing and using VidCoder is worth it vs. simply sticking with Handbrake?
My answer to that is that if you use and like Handbrake you might as well stick with it. If you are unfamiliar with Handbrake, however, and just want a good, solid program that will convert your DVDs to video files then by all means go for VidCoder, as the simpler interface employed by this program can really make for a better user experience (although I will add that the Handbrake interface is not a bad one and I personally never really found the Handbrake interface to be particularly complicated). There is also a case to be made for sticking with Handbrake, as one might imagine that the development of VidCoder might lag behind that of Handbrake (although that may or may not be the case).
Encoding encrypted DVDs: most DVDs (i.e. virtually all commercial DVDs) will require some way to break the encryption before you can convert them to video files. Strangely, VidCoder will let object to being fed a protected DVD to process, although of course it will not successfully convert it to video. Use the “preview” function if you need to in order to confirm that VidCoder is able to process your DVD.
You can install and use the freeware program DVD43 that will run in the background and remove the protection from encrypted DVD’s on-the-fly (i.e. it will make all DVDs behave as if they were “normal”, unencrypted DVDs – see my “How to convert DVDs into iPhone MP4 format” article for step by step instructions on how to use DVD43 with programs like Handbake and Vidcoder). The only drawback with this is that DVD43 does not work with 64 bit OS’s. Alternately, you can “rip” a protected DVD to your hard drive (minus the encryption) using programs such as DVDFab HD Decrypter free or RipIt4Me.
Supported formats: MKV and MP4/M4V video containers, encoded with H.264, MPEG-4, or Theora video codecs and AAC, MP3, Vorbis, AC3 for audio. AVI and Xvid have been dropped from Handbrake since ver 0.94 (and thus Vidcoder does not support them either).
The verdict: I really like this program and would highly recommend it. Here are some of my favorite features:
My top 7 favorite things about this program:
- The interface: really nice and streamlined.
- Batch encoding: is very well implemented and intuitive.
- Set output size: will let you set the desired file output size in megs (i.e. it will calculate the bitrate to use according to that input).
- Multithreaded: i.e. it will use multiple processors if your PC has them, making the conversion process fast.
- Resizing the video: will let you determine the width for the output video and automatically calculate the height if you check “keep aspect ratio”. This ensures that your output video has the correct aspect ratio and is not weirdly resized.
- Will convert AVI to MKV and MP4: what more do you want? Especially for us iPhone/iPod users.
- Can pause/resume encoding: which is handy if you’re actually using your computer for other things as you are encoding.
Note that aside from #1,2, and 7 above the other points also apply to Handbrake! The only drawbacks that I could see were rare bugs (for example when selecting FLV videos for source, would crash half way through, etc). But these are minor issues that are to be expected and my guess is that they will be ironed through in future releases.
Version Tested: 0.4.0
Compatibility: runs on any OS that supports .NET 4.0: Windows 7, Vista, XP, Server 2003 and Server 2008. (Requires Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0).
Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx 5,41 megs).