Most of the time I just want to casually watch a movie. I don’t need to own every DVD I have a passing interest in. I even have trouble watching movies I really love more than once. Back in 2001, I was browsing the Michigan Ave Borders in Chicago and found the Atlantis the Lost Empire Illustrated Script. I discovered after a few pages that one of my favorite comic book artists, Mike Mignola, designed all the characters and mecha. Later, in Hollywood Video I rented the non-special edition DVD. When I watched the disc through my home theater set up, I was disappointed that its Dolby Digital soundtrack was broken.
Disney’s Atlantis the Lost Empire was one of a few discs at the time that were mastered with bad audio flags (including Pearl Harbor and Jurassic Park 3), that in combination with my Onkyo 7.1 AV receiver output a few seconds of audio mixed with a few seconds of silence every few seconds (some Denon receivers had the same problem).
Disney DVD’s solution was to try a different receiver. Onkyo’s solution was to avoid Dolby Digital and run the DTS track, only available on the $40, non-rentable Atlantis Special Edition 2-disc set. Both of these solutions were unacceptable. I turned to the internet for answers. I found you could re-encode the Dolby Digital track with proper flags with Apple’s DVD Studio Pro. So all I had to do was grab the separate video and audio tracks from the disc, repair the audio and then burn the fixed movie to a DVD-R.
Defeating a commercial DVD’s CSS DRM is the first problem you’ll hit in this process. Fitting a feature film onto a single layer DVD-R is another problem you will run into while making a backup of any commercial DVD. Luckily, the Atlantis disc crammed both the widescreen and pan and scan versions of the animated feature on the same disc. The widescreen extraction could easily fit on a DVD-R.
DVD Studio Pro needed the original AC3 audio from the MPEG-2 stream. I demuxed the audio and video into different streams or tracks. I then imported the tracks into DVD Studio Pro. I left the video untouched. The Dolby Digital soundtrack required pointing the six separate channels to the correct speakers in DVD Studio Pro’s GUI (L, C, R, LS, RS, Sub). DVD Studio Pro produced a new MPEG-2 stream and burned a DVD-R.
The re-encoded DVD-R played perfectly. The movie regained its full surround sound majesty in my home theater. Without the offending flags from the original Dolby Digital stream, my flagship Onkyo TX-DS989 AV Receiver had no problem. I enjoyed the movie I rented for $4.
My $4 should have gone down the drain with this defective disc. But, through many hours of my valuable time and many expensive software and hardware resources, I was able to enjoy a very mediocre animated feature from Disney’s catalog.
Large corporations screw up and they don’t like to publicize it. Personal DIY can fix these screw ups. Part of this DIY process, defeating DVD’s DRM protection, was criminal. I don’t feel like what I did was theft. I just wanted to watch the movie I paid for.
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