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Media Upgrades Technology

Extracting Digital Video from LaserDiscs? 92

americanatavist asks: "I was wondering how feasible it would be to digitally copy LaserDisc movies to DVD. Clearly this would require the standard suite of tools to make a DVD. What method would yield the maximum level of quality? Is it worth the effort to find a means of extracting the digital information using an LD-ROM drive, or would the S-video from a regular LD player suffice?"
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Extracting Digital Video from LaserDiscs?

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  • Those LD-Rom drives, and standard laserdisc players in general, are so big, you'd throw a disc out trying to move one of those.
  • Not digital (Score:3, Informative)

    by alienw ( 585907 ) <> on Friday July 30, 2004 @11:31PM (#9850160)
    Laser discs are actually analog. So you can't copy them to DVD directly.
  • by PenguinOpus ( 556138 ) on Friday July 30, 2004 @11:32PM (#9850163)
    LaserDisks have always been analog video. Later versions of them added Digital Audio tracks (including a very few with DTS), but the video has remained analog.

    If you've gone to enough trouble to buy LDs, you should be looking at the price of DVDs these days and realizing that its cheaper/easier just to replace your entire collection (or the ones you really want) with DVDs and then rip those losslessly onto your HD using a $20 DVD-ROM drive.
    • Some content is still only available on LD.
      • This is true. Just as there are "special editions" available only on DVD, there are some titles which have specific content only ever released on LD. There are also some titles which have not yet made their way to DVD yet.
        • you know, before Lucas and Co. decided to ruin the origional franchise, people had LD copies of SW. I want to find a few and put them on DVD as well... you know.. becase my tape copies are almost 20+ years old. There's only so much you can do with a 20+ year old tape.


          that being said, if anyone has an LD of StarWars, I'll do the conversion for free. email me for details if you're interested!

          • Someone's already done this. There are torrents around of LD->DVD rips of the original trilogy, sans Lucas' updates. Not that I've downloaded them of course - because, obviously, I'd never engage in the theft of copyrighted material. However for those more morally flexible than myself the torrents are out there.
            • ...theft...

              The correct term is "copying". You would never engage in copying copyrighted material.

              Evidently you don't believe in fair use.
              • by tchuladdiass ( 174342 ) on Saturday July 31, 2004 @11:38PM (#9855978) Homepage
                Ok, if you go into a barber shop to get a hair cut, then you take off out of there without paying, have you actually "stolen" anything? The barber shop isn't missing anything afterwards, and you dont have anything you didn't previously (actually, you leave with less than you went in with). But most people would call this "theft of service".
                The same is true with IP theft. Except that in this case, there is a one to many relationship between privider and benefactor, where in the the case of the haircut there is only a one to one relationship. But it is still theft of service nonetheless.
                • Bad example.

                  The barber exchanges his work for money. You asked him to cut your hair, promising to pay him, and you didn't. You stole him his pay, which you had promised to pay, in a verbal contract.

                  Subway musicians share their work in hope for money. They sing, you listen, and if you want, you pay them, if you don't you don't need to pay.

                  I think the analogy with musicians would actually be easier, because they actually use a similar model to promote their work.

                  The problem here is that analogies are not
                • You've left after wasting the barber's time!

                  Now if you hear a great song on the radio, so you go out and buy the CD, and despite promises that the CD is great, it sucks, has the record company stolen anything?

                  Why can't you hear unbiased reviews of music on the radio? has the record company stolen anything?

                  Why can't you return the CD? You might have made copies? Really? Has the record company stolen anything?

                  Why can't you play cool CD's in the barber shop while people abscond with their free hair

              • Wow, that's really ludicrous. I posted a dispassionate, factual comment, and got modded as a troll. I don't give a rat sphincter about my karma, but I do hope the mod who did that gets smeared. Adolph Hitler could post my post, and it still wouldn't have been a troll.
            • Actually if you buy (or bought) the trilogy on tape, you can download and view those.
              If anybody ever gives you any shit about it, tell 'em I said it was ok.

          • You should have picked up a set of the restored (not the Special edition) trilogy that came out not long before the Special Editions came out...

            Han still shoots first.
          • Check out your local SciFi fan community, chances are that one or more fans have a copy on DVD. Myself, I have two copies of the LD trilogy, a friend of mine came over with his own copy and we were going to record it onto digital VHS using the s-video connector on my player. New Hope went fine, but Empire & Jedi are both in the 130-140 minute range and too long for the Apple software he's using.

            Then conveniently I mentioned it to a friend and *poof* he already has such a set. I'll get two copies and
      • yes... like a version of Star Wars where greedo doesn't shoot first. I picked up a LD player and plan on making my own personal use only DVD copy without the dreaded cantina b.s. cheezy cgi.

      • Here's a list of titles known to be on LD and not DVD, it was updated early July: pd f
  • Aren't laserdiscs actually analogue?

    The best option would be to find a player with RGB output and then hook it into a capture card that accepts RGB.
    • The best option would be to use a composite video cable.

      That's right. Composite video. The one yellow cord.

      Why? Because that's how the analog video is stored on the disc! The S-Video and Component and RGB outs on LD players merely apply a lousy dotcrawl filter then upsample.

      Your computer can remove dotcrawl much better than a 10-year-old LD player's realtime removal thingy.

      As for capturing audio, get a sound card with SP/DIF in and use that.

  • Aha... (Score:5, Funny)

    by JasonMaggini ( 190142 ) on Friday July 30, 2004 @11:34PM (#9850173)
    You've got a set of those THX Original-Edition Star Wars LaserDiscs, don't you?
    • per my post here: d =9851456 []

      you know, before Lucas and Co. decided to ruin the origional franchise, people had LD copies of SW. I want to find a few and put them on DVD as well... you know.. becase my tape copies are almost 20+ years old. There's only so much you can do with a 20+ year old tape.


      that being said, if anyone has an LD of StarWars, I'll do the conve

        It seems the best ones are the Definitive versions - I have Version B and it's pretty average, but it IS original trilogy, not bastardised special edition.

        I have a friend on permanent lookout for the Definitive Edition set whenever he travels via Bangkok...
    • I certainly do have a spec edition starwars laserdiscs I was thinking of doing this with.

      I dont see a problem with this, simply transfering them to a different format.

      Wonder what sort of quality drop I would get?
  • Whatever works. If a cheap $2 cable works just as well as a $200 LD-ROM, I personally would go for the $2 cable.
  • Sell them. (Score:3, Informative)

    by jpmkm ( 160526 ) on Friday July 30, 2004 @11:41PM (#9850209) Homepage
    Laserdiscs video is analog so you cannot digitally extract it. If you would rather have DVDs then sell your laserdiscs and buy the DVDs. Though I know some movies were released on laserdisc but not on DVD(Johnny Got His Gun comes to mind).
    • Re:Sell them. (Score:5, Informative)

      by grotgrot ( 451123 ) on Saturday July 31, 2004 @01:43AM (#9850736)
      then sell your laserdiscs

      Sadly there is almost zero market for selling laserdiscs. Many of those on eBay don't even get bids. For those that do get bids, add in the shipping costs and the result is similar in price to DVDs so only few people will buy the disks.

      An even bigger problem is the lack of players. Due to the size and weight of the discs, the players do start acting up over time. That makes second hand players a very dicey decision.

      Two years ago I needed a new player due to the death of my old one after 7 years of service. The only new one available was the Pioneer DVL-919 at around $1000. That buys a lot of DVDs. Fortunately I managed to get a used player for $50 from my local AV store, but when it dies I'll give up on Laserdisc.

      I have about 350 discs, and it will be a sad day when I can no longer watch them. DVDs are a lot more convenient, especially from Netflix :-)

      • The ebay LD market was hot-n-heavy a few years ago, so you might have missed your shot. However, I suspect that any content that hasn't been or likely won't be released on DVD will still sell well there. (It took forever to win "Wings of Desire", and then they finally released it on DVD...)

        At the same time, my player is getting funky, some of the old disks are rotting out, so LD is dying here as well, even as a library format.
      • I've bought several laserdiscs on ebay. I don't know why I like them but I just do. I was able to get a couple pioneer laserdisc players at my university's surplus auction for about $20 for the pair. Both work perfectly. I've got a few laserdiscs that aren't available on dvd and it doesn't look like they ever will be(like I said earlier, Johnny Got His Gun).
        • I have Aliens Special Edition on CAV Laserdisc. Even with a player that automatically changes sides, it gets real tedious and I bought the box set on DVD instead :-) I don't think I have any on Laserdisc that won't eventually be on DVD.

          And I have several laserdiscs that were bargain bin at the time (ie around $20 :-) that I wouldn't buy on DVD anyway. I guess the novelty wore off. Netflix also lets me see everything on DVD whose content I am unsure of, so I no longer buy bargain bin DVDs either.
    • You must not have heard of a DAC then?
  • It should be evident that there is a high quality way to do this since the star wars ld's have already been ripped to dvd and released on the internet for some time. i would suggest checking out the usual dvd/vcd help sites such as dvdrhelp and doom9 for some tutorials
  • by toren ( 202921 ) on Saturday July 31, 2004 @01:59AM (#9850789)
    As many others have pointed out, LaserDiscs have analog video. Also of note is that they store composite video, so a LaserDisc player with an S-Video connector is not necessarily better than one without, as your capture card may do a better job than the player of converting composite to S.

    The audio on LDs is (except for the very old discs) digital: 16-bit 44KHz PCM, just like CDs. Many newer discs contain AC3 audio (16-bit 48KHz multichannel Dolby Digital) or dts audio, but in either case you'd need a player that supports it.

    For convenience, you can't beat hooking the player up to a FireWire DV media converter box. But for the best quality transfer, I recommend:

    Video: raw analog capture card; WinTV dbx or preferably PixelView X-Capture, an incredible card for ~$40.

    Audio: get an audio card based off of the CMI8738 chipset that has digital in/out. These can capture an externally-clocked digital signal without altering it at all. I've used one of these to capture the 5.1 Dolby Digital stream off of a LaserDisc and (with some slight massaging of the stream) put it on a DVD without recompression. Even if you're just dealing with the 44KHz stereo PCM that's on most LDs, this will get you a cleaner signal that other options. If you're planning on grabbing the AC3 audio, you'll need an AC3-RF demodulator, or a preamp that will take an AC3-RF signal and output SPDIF or TOSLink to the soundcard.

    I've successfully used this to get top-notch transfers of my own LaserDiscs to DVDs. Good luck!
    • Also of note is that they store composite video, so a LaserDisc player with an S-Video connector is not necessarily better than one without, as your capture card may do a better job than the player of converting composite to S.

      Though in some cases - certainly for Pioneer players - the S-Video output would be preferable to the composite output on the same player. The D/A converters for these outputs are usually superior to the composite ones.

      Even though the video is stored as composite, the S-Video outp

    • Video: raw analog capture card; WinTV dbx or preferably PixelView X-Capture, an incredible card for ~$40.

      Just curious, but 'raw analog capture' does that mean a composite RCA on the back of the card?

      I'm hoping what you mean is that there's some way to feed the laser's digital output directly to an NTSC decoder without needing to use the DA converter in the laserdisc player.

      Hey, I can hope...
  • by GreatDrok ( 684119 ) on Saturday July 31, 2004 @02:14AM (#9850840) Journal
    LD uses frequency modulation to store an analogue signal on an optical disc. The lengths of the pits and lands correspond to the wavelength and by varying that length (modulating) you can store an analogue signal on an optical disc. LD was originally shown in the early 70's and commercially appeared in the late 70's. Originally it had a high quality analogue stereo sound track to go with the analogue video. Later a 16 bit 44.1Khz PCM sound track was added. On NTSC discs this could co-exist with the old analogue sound but for PAL discs the video signal takes up too much bandwidth to allow this and so the analogue audio was dropped in favour of the PCM audio. Quality wise, there wasn't that much in it, LD analogue audio is very good, much better than VHS Hifi sound. Discs also come in two flavours, Constant Linear Velocity (CLV) and Constant Angular Velocity (CAV). CLV discs play for roughly twice as long per side (about 1 hour) but lose the trick play features of CAV (slow motion and pause) unless there is a digital field buffer in the player. The trick play CLV digital effects are not as nice as a true CAV disc though.

    Now, there has been talk of s-video being better to capture from the LD. Others have suggested RGB. Well, the answer is that neither is best. LD video is stored as composite video and any LD player with an s-video or RGB output is extracting that from the composite signal. Depending on the quality of the player you may be better just using the composite signal and using a high quality demodulator. The most modern LD players included advanced 3 line or 3D comb filters to separate the chroma and luma and give an s-video output that looked better than the quality of consumer TVs. Where digital field effects are available it may not be possible to get at the true composite video signal depending on the design of the player as some recombine the internal digital signal extracted from the disc for these effects back into analogue s-video and composite signals. Some players even offer the output as RGB but the picture quality is pretty poor.

    Another problem with LDs is that they suffer from chroma noise. Generally the picture quality is very good, way better than SVHS. Resolution is 425 lines (NTSC) or 440 lines (PAL). Remember this has little to do with scanlines. Lines of resolution is a measure of how many lines you can resolve for example on a test card like those provided on Video Essentials. SVHS maxes out around 400 lines so is almost as good and VHS sits at 240 lines. DVD manages around 480 lines so looks a little clearer depending on the transfer. LD looks much better than VHS or SVHS because it has more bandwidth for the chroma (colour) portion of the signal than the VHS formats. The difference is apparent when you make an SVHS tape of an LD, it looks muddier and less colour rich. Betamax recordings look significantly better in this respect. However, some LDs were not great transfers and suffered noise in the colour signal and this appears particularly in the blues which sometimes flicker badly. The Aladdin CAV LD set for instance is very bad for this. Conversely the THX CAV LDs of the Star Wars Trilogy are amazingly clean. The noise levels will affect your ability to get a good digital transfer.

    The highest quality LD players were notable for increasing detail through the use of high quality video processing to reduce chroma noise. The Pioneer Elite series LD players were very good in this respect and if you are going to do a transfer you need to get one of those. Budget LD players still look good but may be more noisy.

    Ordinary computer capture cards (things like WinTV PCI) are poor at best for this. You may be better getting your hands on a stand-alone DVD recorder and going with that. Of course, you also have the issue of getting the audio. Some LDs contain Dolby Digital or DTS sound. DTS sound is available on the standard optical digitial audio out but DD sound comes from an RF modulated connection that you can't just stuff into a d
    • Some LDs contain Dolby Digital or DTS sound. DTS sound is available on the standard optical digitial audio out but DD sound comes from an RF modulated connection that you can't just stuff into a digital input. You will need an RF demodulator which then provides standard digital audio.

      An additional bit of trivia is that there are 4 audio tracks on a typical laserdisc. Two of these are analog tracks and two are digital. The analog tracks are provided as a fallback in case a player doesn't support digital au

  • A laser disk has pits on the disk that vary in length and position in the sequence. So essentially you have a time and amplitude domain that generates a analog waveform. Why would it not be possible to construct a special apparatus that reads the length of the pits as accurately as possible and store that information in a data file with a 64 bit number for each pit with a time? Once you have this the data you have captured is digital and can use the necessary analysis to generate the image information from
    • Whilst every disk drive ultimately stores the data as analogue signals, which have to be decoded back to digital, they are designed to do so. but in this case, even if you undertook the fairly significant work of digitising the signal, it would still essentially be analogue to digital conversion, and prone to losses and errors. so even if it were feasible (I havent worried about that bit) it would not necessarily be better, imho.
  • by nedron ( 5294 ) on Sunday August 01, 2004 @12:21PM (#9858032) Homepage
    I've done this many times for LDs that have not as yet been (and probably never will be) released on DVD.

    I have over 1000 Laserdiscs, and two very good players (one brand new in the box, waiting for the day my main one dies). However, a couple of the rare discs that I really like have started to exhibit some speckling, so I've transferred those to DVD.

    As others have pointed out, the video track on LDs are actually analog, so the setup is very simple (assuming you don't want to extract the digital audio from the disc). Here's how I do it:

    • S-Video and analog R/L outputs of the player connect to the inputs of a Sony DVMC-DA2 Analog-to-DV Firewire bridge.
    • The Sony DVMC-DA2 is set for 16-bit audio and the Firewire output of DA2 is connected to my Apple G5.
    That's pretty much it. Now, you just start recording in whatever app you use to capture DV, and start the player.

    Note that you should be sure to select the correct audio mode on the LD player if you're capturing a disc with Dolby Digital audio. One of the major failings of DD on LD (which DTS didn't have) was that they sacrificed one of the audio channels to contain the DD bitstream.

    You may also want de-interlace the footage in your capture app before transcoding for DVD.


  • I use the Hauppauge PVR-250 to record mine to DVD. You can find out more about it on [].

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