Teach Hacks – Antenna http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Teach Hacks: Creating Clips from DVDs http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2013/08/08/teach-hacks-creating-clips-from-dvds/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2013/08/08/teach-hacks-creating-clips-from-dvds/#comments Thu, 08 Aug 2013 11:00:46 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=21237 mpegstreamclipThis is the second post in Antenna’s “Teach Hacks.” I’m covering a crucial skillset for film and media scholars: extracting clips from DVDs. I’m including numerous links, since there are already some clip-making tutorials and explanations of relevant fair use doctrine available online. But I’ll also address a few thorny issues, including nuances of extracting subtitles and clip-making in the “post-physical-media” era, that aren’t well covered elsewhere.

Fair Use
In 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) made it illegal to break copyright protection technology on DVDs – even if one employed the liberated media in a manner satisfying fair use doctrine (i.e., using short excerpts for criticism/comment). However, in 2006, 2009, and 2012 the Library of Congress’s Copyright Office announced exemptions to the DMCA for educators and students. Jason Mittell covers the 2006 and 2009 rulings here. Here you can read the 2012 report, which extended the exemption to K-12 educators and students and to certain types of online video (more on that later).

Fair use advocates have thus far failed to persuade the Copyright Office to extend the exemptions to Blu-ray discs, which are protected by a different type of encryption than DVDs. According to the 2012 report, “the record did not reflect a substantial adverse impact due to the inability to use motion picture materials contained on Blu-ray discs” – even if said materials were only available on Blu-ray. So, for now, the exemptions apply only to DVDs “that are lawfully made and acquired.”

mtrMaking Clips
To go from a commercial DVD to a short clip ready for instructional use, a couple of things need to happen. (Some applications perform these tasks simultaneously,but that does not automatically make them the best option in all instances.)

1. You need to “rip” the relevant chapter(s) of the DVD to your computer or an external drive – in so doing breaking CSS encryption.

2. You need to pinpoint a precise “in” and “out” point for your clip and generate a corresponding video file from the ripped DVD chapter.

One option is the program Handbrake. Two Handbrake-based tutorials are Miriam Posner’s and Jason Mittell’s.

My process more closely resembles that outlined by Bill Kirkpatrick, who recommends, for Mac users, a combination of two programs: Mac the Ripper and MPEG Streamclip. DVDFab is a comparable ripping application for PCs; MPEG Streamclip is available for Mac and PC.

Pro tips:
-The ability to rip off-region DVDs varies unpredictably from disc to disc. In some cases I’ve been able to rip a chapter right from my laptop’s DVD drive, and other times I’ve only been able to do so using an external drive. Sometimes neither works.

-MPEG Streamclip can’t extract clips’ accompanying subtitles. Handbrake can retain subtitles. If you’ve got custom-subbed media, the subtitles are probably stored as .SRT files. A very helpful clip-making application for the latter scenario is FFMPEGX.

-If your source material is interlaced you may wish to de-interlace it when making a clip.

-If you are going to be displaying your clips on a TV (especially an older set), you may wish to toggle the “zoom” function to 90-95% to protect against overscanning.

If you make clips, especially ones needing subtitles, regularly, and are picky about quality, you should seriously consider paying for an application like Wondershare Video Converter or MacX DVD Ripper Pro. They offer one-stop ripping/clipping/converting and are faster and more flexible than the free options discussed above.

Transferring/presenting Clips
Now, how to get your clips into the classroom? Here are your chief options, from best to worst:

1. Screen them directly from your computer if you have a video dongle/audio input setup available.
2. If you can’t use your own computer but have access to a classroom AV console with a computer, play them from a USB drive. If you teach film or media and don’t already own a 32GB or larger USB drive, you should get one.
3. If you have only a TV/DVD system to work with, burn your clips to a video DVDR that is playable in a standard DVD player.

The third option is worst, because a clips DVD is: a time-consuming pain to create; harder to navigate for close analysis and discussion; and otherwise more restrictive and onerous. Many older standalone DVD players (such as those still in use in college classrooms) do not play burned DVDRs with any consistency.

It’s also getting increasingly difficult, at least for Mac users, to make clips discs, because new Macs no longer ship with iDVD. A freeware alternative to iDVD is a program called Burn, but in my experience it has trouble combining clips with different aspect ratios. (For PCs, Posner suggests BurnAware or ImgBurn.)

dvdcollThe Future of Clip-making and DVDs

I’m wary of the much-touted decline of physical media and concurrent rise of cloud storage and access, as these phenomena stand to restrict our ability to manipulate media for teaching or analysis. Streaming and cloud-based media are more difficult to capture and make clips from. When you can make clips from streaming media, the quality is often significantly worse than clips made from a DVD of the same work. Streaming media can be yanked from the consumer any time (remember “Streamageddon“?). The films and shows for which you can obtain “official” digital copies in proprietary online “vaults” represent a mere fraction of all the media you might wish to draw on for your teaching. Apple is among the most aggressive proponents of the cloud, and its computers no longer ship with optical disc drives. But it remains crucial for film and media instructors to own a functioning DVD drive – and to encourage their universities to continue building DVD libraries.

But what about media only available via streaming services – for instance, the rare television programs hosted at the Paley Center’s “iMedia” online archive? Well, the Copyright Office grants fair-use excerpting privileges not just for “motion pictures on DVDs” but also for those “distributed by online services.” This clause seems to open the door for some legal circumventing of proprietary streaming software like Silverlight. But that’s a subject for another Teach Hacks …


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Teach Hacks: How to Capture and Save Broadcast http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2013/05/27/teach-hack-capture-save-broadcast/ Mon, 27 May 2013 17:11:36 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=19723 Family_watching_television_1958Watching the truly poignant media spectacle circling the Boston Marathon bombings and shootouts on my television screen last month refocused a very logistical question media scholars and educators continue to grapple with: How do you capture broadcast? How do you take programs airing live or on your DVR and put them onto your computer for use in future research or in the classroom?

Online, as each story from the bombing developed, web editors covered up traces of earlier (and perhaps inaccurate) versions of the events thus creating silences in a potential archive and skewing future researchers on its development. Few inaccurate reports may “make it” as important enough for archiving because of the way they were criticized by the FBI or by satirists like Jon Stewart.

Although in their own ways problematic, off-air broadcasts have been fertile places for media studies scholars hoping to make sense of an event, perspective, text, or celebrity. With the growing popularity of the “officially-licensed” archive and the death of VHS, these off-air broadcasts with commercials included are increasingly difficult to find (and may even be illegal). In other words, although we often remark on the concept of Flow, rarely do we actually perform Flow studies, largely because of a lack of access.

Today, Antenna is launching a new series, “Teach Hacks,” for our readers and writers to share their own tips and experiences using technology for research and in the classroom, a sort of “E-D-U How-To.” I’ll start this series by pointing out what I use to digitize broadcast and give you some tips on saving those files for posterity (note: fair use rules are for off-air broadcast aren’t as lenient as you think, so proceed with caution).

What You Need to Digitize and Save Broadcasts:


1.) TV Tuner: The first thing you need is a TV Tuner/Video Recording device. You will likely want a high definition (HD) device as the standard devices capture terrible quality. Because I have a Mac, I use the eyetv HD video recorder from elgato, and I love it (here’s a similar PC product).  Many such devices now also capture “game play” for those Antenna readers interested in archiving that realm. For example, Elgato has a game capture device (that works on PC or Mac) specifically suited to that purpose which can also be cleverly rigged for TV capture. Here’s a sample video of the device in action.

These devices make very large video recordings, depending upon the resolution your set-top box is set to output. HD channels on my DISH Network box output at 1080p (HD resolution), meaning that an hour’s worth of programming takes up about 8 GB of space. You then take that video raw file and, with included software, convert it/compress it down to an AVI or an MOV (or a variety of other available video formats) to make it as small as you have room for them. (VLC is a free program that will play all these formats, while Azul for the iPad will do the same for a nominal fee. If you’ve ever had a video file not play during a lecture, VLC will be your friend. It will also play volume levels by 200, 300, 400, 500 percent, so it’s especially useful for quiet clips.)

Maintaining a higher-than-necessary quality, most of my hour-long recordings will end up being about 1.8-2 GB in size. So far, I’ve used about 2 TB (terabytes) of disk space for my broadcast archive, which means I have some external hard drive needs.

Drobo Image

2.) External Hard Drive: External hard drives and flash drives seem like convenient back-up options, however liberal estimates only give them a 6-11 year life expectancy. (!!) Many still will not last this long, particularly if you move around with them often and/or constantly plug and unplug them from your computer. Newer external hard drives like the Western Digital My Book Live work in the same way, except that they are connected directly to your WiFi network, and thus your computer’s connection to the hard drive is via “the cloud” and not a USB.

These devices also have mobile apps that allow tablets and mobile phones to also connect to your personal files instead of just computers. In other words, if you’re at a conference and your computer fails, you can borrow an iPhone an iPad or another computer and connect to your personal cloud for easy retrieval.

More secure still is something like drobo, a data storage device housing several hard drives (purchased separately) that each back each other up. So, when one hard drive fails, as they all will eventually, pop it out, pop another one into its place and all your data remains secure and uncorrupted. Here’s a geek explaining the drobo.

Cloud-Backup-Secure3.) Back-up Clouds: Finally, to make sure your new broadcast archive is as secure as possible, you need to make sure you’ve saved your files off-site, away from your server so that in case of natural disasters, fires, floods, etc., you won’t have depended entirely upon one device to save your stuff.

Many academics have used DropBox to house their records, which stores your data in a cloud (DropBox’s own server), but you may prefer a more intuitive data backup method with less space constraint. I suggest CrashPlan+. For a subscription fee, CrashPlan+ backs up your files automatically, constantly detecting changes and updates and saving as necessary. Certain CrashPlan+ subscriptions, unlike DropBox, will save an unlimited amount of data, which is good news if you plan on backing up an entire 100+ episode season of a talk show for instance. If your local server is destroyed, CrashPlan+ also offers a service of creating a new local server loaded and mailed to you with your files safe and secure, so you don’t experience this: How Toy Story 2 Almost Got Deleted.

Professional archivists suggest saving your important data in at least two formats, and in at least two different places. By having both server-hard and cloud copies, you’ve accomplished both, protecting your files for years to come or until available software no longer supports it.