Take RatDVD. It stands for "Real Advanced Technology" and came to birth somewhere between Russia and Denmark, the fruit of a team lead by Peter Jensen. It is a very new 'product' - the website was launched only six weeks ago and the first version 17 days later. Even then, a second version, ratDVD 0.6.1117, which came in last week has been downloaded several tens of thousands of times. Note that it is not offered by the usual downloading sites like download.com.
In a Nutshell, it is a CFF - Container Format File - technology whereby all the items contained in a DVD are compressed and enclosed into a single .ratDVD format file.
Unlike, say DiVX for example, this one keeps the whole thing intact so that you do not have to make concessions. It plays ingeniously on compression rates and introduces one or two goodies like Dolby Virtual Surround AC-3. More interestingly, it opens up the opportunity for those enterprising enough to sell ratDVD compatible players.
Now, the usage of this software per se is not illegal but as with all tools, illegal uses do exist and we do not condone them, of course. This might be one reason why the ratDVD domain name is registered at DomainsByProxy.com rather than through the usual route, the guys do not want too much publicity.
The main advantage of ratDVD is that it allows a whole DVD complete with menus and all bonuses to be compressed by a factor of three - minimum. You can see some results at CDfreaks. It therefore allows people to store more than 100 full size DVDs on a desktop hard drive. Also of interest is the option which allows you to convert a ratDVD back to a normal DVD which allows you to view it on a stand alone player.
The interface is deceptively simple, with just three main windows (see picture). Compressing the whole DVD is a matter of a few clicks. Just select the IFO file from the DVD and start the compression after having decided, using the slider, whether to opt for a smaller file or a better quality one. What's more, ratDVD uses its own codec called XEB which apparently does not use any XviD, x264 or any other code. To play any film, ratDVD uses DirectX9, a software DVD player or Windows Media Player 10 - in fact almost all usual players should be able to play back ratdvd files.
It is also compatible with Windows XP and 2000 which should cater for those with the more powerful computers. Your author recommends at least a 2.6GHz computer and 512MB for compressing but a good deal less for playing.
As for the list of features, it is impressive.
- Full anamorphic picture, 16:9, 4:3, Pan/Scan, WideScreen, Letterbox based on original DVD video content.
- Support for full seamless branching, 9 multiple video angles, 32 subpictures, 8 audio channels, etc.
- Keep movie versions (Directors Cut, Theatrical version, etc.), Alternate story endings, making of, visual commentary , cut scenes, animated anecdotes, etc..
- Keep or transcode multiple audio channels without detoriation loss by staying AC-3.
- Fully working original DVD menus, title navigation, quick seeking and bonus features.
- IMDB connected XML tagging scheme with automatic search for title, actors, directors, plot and DVD cover.
- Reliable high quality, valid check-summed container.
It is now one of the more popular DVD technologies around and only a few weeks old. As the author puts it, now that its original goal has been reached - transporting the complete DVD navigation data - he will concentrate on performance and quality optimizations. To his credit, the site and the software are being updated very regularly, at least once a week. Bugs and inconsistencies are present as you would expect on such a new product but at least the team is proactive in its approach; the last update was on the 16th.
In conclusion, ratDVD is sure to win many around. Hollywood, the MPAA may have yet another reason not to sleep so well at night with ratDVD. But the lure of having a complete DVD copied and compressed is particularly enticing for those who, like my housemates, have more than a hundred DVDs. It also opens a whole new world for DVD distribution for those who can compromise a little bit on quality.
Xbiz website which specialises in, ahem, adult movies has asked several "studios" to test drive the software. Results should be online very soon. Rather than indiscriminately target all emerging P2P technologies, copyright holders should see which one could work for them and ratDVD definitely has the potential to displace DiVX and the likes of Blockbusters or NetFlix with the help of Fiber to the Premises or FTTP.
If you have tried ratDVD and would like to tell us a little bit more about your experience, do so. µ
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