Ripping & Editing 5.1 Surround Tracks from DVDs

 

Please follow the instructions in this tutorial only if your are confident that your actions are exempt from copyright law [1] or if you are willing to risk committing unlawful action to make illegal art.

Software:

MPEG Streamclip
a52decX (Incompatible with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. See “Update” below.)

Update

Things have changed since this tutorial was created.
Unfortunately a52decX does not work with Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). If you have access to a Mac running an older system, you should be okay. If not, follow these directions to split the surround track to AIFF files.

  1. Follow the tutorial up to 8:14.
  2. Select the correct audio track for output.
    • At the bottom of the MPEG Streamclip window there is a popup menu labeled Audio PID. Select the desired audio track for export. (In the tutorial, mine is set to 128 AC3 3/2.)
  3. Select the channels for output.
    • For the popup menu labeled Audio Mode, select L/R Ch..
  4. Export as AIFF.
    • Go to File > Export Audio…
    • Format: AIFF
    • Channels: Mono
    • Sample Rate: 48 kHz
    • Click OK
    • Name the file with the appropriate channels (e.g., LR.aiff for L/R Ch.)
    • Click Save
  5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 for the remaining channels (Center Ch., LS/RS Ch. & LFE Ch.).

FAQ:

The center channel still has background noise that interferes with the dialog I’m trying to isolate. What can I do?

Load the audio clip into an audio edit application (Soundtrack Pro, Soundbooth, Audition, Pro Tools, Logic, etc.) and load up an EQ filter. See if you can isolate the offending frequencies and minimize them. Soundtrack Pro also has some excellent background noise removal filters. See also: Soundsoap Pro

Can I edit AIFF files on my PC?

Most pro-level audio editing apps should open AIFF files. If not, you can easily convert the AIFF files to WAV files using almost any audio or video editing application on a Mac. Just be sure to keep the file’s sampling & bit rates the same (48KHz, 16-bit).

My DVD only has a stereo (2.0) mix. Now what?

Obviously not every movie ever made was mixed in a surround format. If your movie is only available as a stereo mix, you’ll just have to try harder to isolate elements by removing background noise through careful EQ’ing and other filtering.

That said, double check if there is another version of your movie available. Most DVD’s will have the available audio formats printed on the back of the case.

My DVD’s surround format is DTS, not Dolby Digital 5.1. What should I do?

DTS is a higher quality, but less popular surround sound format found on some DVD’s. There are a few utilities out there that will convert DTS to AC–3, but I would recommend going straight to WAV or AIFF and avoiding the extra compression of AC–3. DTS utilities for the Mac are few and far between. You may have better luck on a PC. Yes, I’m sorry.

Worst case scenario: Rip the entire DVD using Handbrake. Setup the audio to convert the DTS track to AC–3. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait for Handbrake to convert the video as well, since there is currently no way to shut off the video portion of the rip. You can configure the video settings to be extremely low quality and small frame size to speed things up.

What can I do with this stereo DivX file that I torrented?

Get off my lawn.


  1. Because this tutorial is for the benefit of my media studies students, the techniques covered herein fall under the “Rulemaking on Exemptions from Prohibition on Circumvention of Technological Measures that Control Access to Copyrighted Works” of Section 1201, specifically:

    (1) Motion pictures on DVDs that are lawfully made and acquired and that are protected by the Content Scrambling System when circumvention is accomplished solely in order to accomplish the incorporation of short portions of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment, and where the person engaging in circumvention believes and has reasonable grounds for believing that circumvention is necessary to fulfill the purpose of the use in the following instances:

    (i) Educational uses by college and university professors and by college and university film and media studies students;
    (ii) Documentary filmmaking;
    (iii) Noncommercial videos.  ↩