When HD-DVD and Blu-Ray were announced, I was all over those technologies like emulsion on film. I’ve always been a movie fan, even collecting 35mm prints back in the laserdisc days because I wanted the best possible presentation of my favorite films that I could get. Fast forward more than a decade later and we now have Blu-Ray as the standard for HD movies, but if you’re like me and still have a few HD-DVD movies around that haven’t been released on Blu-Ray yet, what do you do? Warner Brothers has their Red2Blu offer where you can trade in your HD-DVD movies for Blu-Ray, but other studios don’t have that offer. Not only that, but I don’t want to drop $20+ on another copy of the same movie from studios that don’t offer trade-ins. When technology literally dies, consumers should have the right to find a way to watch those discs. Nobody’s supporting HD-DVD anymore and these movies weren’t cheap when they were released. I wanted to ditch my HD-DVD player since it was taking up space and every time I wanted to watch one of the films that hadn’t been released on Blu-Ray yet, I had to swap cables which wound up being more trouble than it was worth. I needed to be free of the old technology, but I didn’t want to lose the HD movies.
While finally removing the HD-DVD player from my system this weekend, I gave myself a quest to figure out how to get the HD versions of the movies off the discs so I can watch them on my own until they’re finally released on Blu-Ray. I have the original Toshiba HD-A1 player and the XBOX 360 HD-DVD drive and my best bet would have to be the XBOX 360 drive since it connects to a computer via USB. The Toshiba drive inside the player wouldn’t be practical to use.
The following instructions work on Windows, tested on my Windows 7 system using the XBOX 360 HD-DVD drive. I couldn’t find simple solutions or tools for the Mac.
As I stated before, your best bet would be to use the XBOX 360 HD-DVD drive. You can find these dirt cheap now, either in clearance bins at electronic and game stores, or on eBay.
The first thing you need to do is to get the movie file onto your hard drive so you can work with the files without the encryption. SlySoft’s AnyDVD HD does this for you, and even has drivers for the XBOX 360 drive so that you can plug and play the drive and go. SlySoft offers a 21 day trial so you can see if it works on your system. After you install the software and reboot, you can read the file system off the XBOX 360 drive. Pop in a disc and AnyDVD HD will copy the contents of the disc to the hard drive. Be sure you have three times as much space that the movie takes up because you’re going to need to do a three-step process with large files. So, if your movie takes up 15GB, you’ll need 45 GB of free space, for a 50GB movie, you’ll need 150 GB. You may want to use a dedicated free hard drive for this.
Once the disc’s contents is on your hard drive, you’re going to look for the HVDVD_TS folder. Inside there you’ll see FEATURE.EVO. That’s your movie. Grab a piece of software called EVODemux, and drag FEATURE.EVO to it. It will analyze the file for a few seconds and then be ready to split the .EVO file into separate video and audio tracks. Click the “Demux” button and let it do its thing. If everything goes well, you should have FEATURE.VC-1.stream.0.mpv (the video file), and one or more FEATURE.DD+.stream.00 files (.00 for the first audio stream, .01 for the second, etc.).
Now you’ll need to put those files into a container that video playback software can understand. For this we’re going to use the well known .ts container. Get tsMuxer, and drag the video and audio files to it that were created by EVODemux. The app is smart enough to know what to do with the files so they don’t have to be dragged in a specific order. Click on “Start Muxing” and let it go. A bit later, you’ll have a filename like “FEATURE.VC-1.stream.o.ts”. Grab a copy of VideoLAN and drag the .ts file to it. VideoLAN should play the movie back fine. You can rename the .ts file to whatever you want at this point.
There are other steps you’ll have to take to put in chapters, and there are some posts I found to reburn the movie to a Blu-Ray disc in a proper format so that the movie will play in the Blu-Ray player. I have a burner, but haven’t yet tried this step so if I get it working, I’ll post a followup article on how to do that.
So if you have a stack of HD-DVD movies that you think are impractical to own, here’s a way to watch them without being tied to a dead piece of hardware.