Fun with AVIs and VCDs

When my father-in-law was going in for his bypass surgery, he had wanted to watch the TV show 10.5. But due to his surgery, he missed it. So, being the world’s best son-in-law, I decided to see if I could help.

I downloaded and installed a BitTorrent client, and found that someone had recorded the show in two avi files. Each was 750+ megs. So I found the .torrent and started the download.

The download was _very_ slow. I saw my list of connections and each had a bright yellow circle next to it. Same color as a yellow smiley face. I assumed it was A Good Thing.

A couple of days later, in aggravation at the super-slow download rate, I started looking through the documentation. Oops, the yellow circles indicate that something is wrong with my firewall setup. Changed my router configuration to pass through the right port to my laptop. The download took off, and I was finished very soon.

Cool, so now I have two AVI files. Now what?

First I played them in WinAmp to make sure they weren’t corrupted – good, no problems.

In retrospect, at this point I should have bought a cable (more on that later), hooked my laptop to my VCR, popped in a blank tape, played the movie through WinAmp, and sent the tape to my father-in-law.

I don’t have a DVD burner, but I knew that I could burn a VCD that would play in my and my father-in-law’s DVD player. So all I needed to do was turn an AVI to a VCD.

I noticed was that the AVIs were larger than a CD would hold, so I also need a way to split the AVI file.

Since this was a one-time thing, not an ongoing need, I didn’t want to spend any money, either.

So I start surfing and come across VirtualDub. It will allow you to edit AVIs. So I installed it and loaded the first AVI.

What’s that? Something about a variable bit rate being rewritten. *Shrug*, whatever. OK. Split the file into several parts, and save them. That wasn’t hard.

Now, how do I burn an AVI as a VCD?

A little more searching reveals this nifty program called Nero, with a 30 day trial period. So I installed it and burned the VCDs.

I put the VCD in my DVD player to watch it. No good. The sound was way off the video. I guess that’s what the variable bit rate thing was all about. Throw the VCDs away.

A little more searching revealed a program called VirtualDubMod, which is just a slightly modified version of VirtualDub. I used it. This time, it gives you the option of whether or not to rewrite the header due to the variable bit rate. OK, so I’ll say no, don’t rewrite it. I repeated the previous few steps.

This time, not only was the sound skewed, the disc itself just froze up. Hmm, that’s no good.

About this time, a little guy named Nicholas came into our lives. Put the project on hold.

My in-laws came to visit, and I tried some of those things again. No luck. I was disappointed, so I decided to improvise. I went to Wal-Mart of find a cable that would allow the AV out of my laptop to connect to the AV in of my VCR, so we could watch it that way. Nothing fit the bill at Wal-Mart, but fortunately there’s a Radio Shack right next door. Got there at 5 minutes to close, and the guy knew exactly what I needed. Victory!

I returned home and set the laptop up to play through the VCR. No signal. Fiddled with the monitor control panel, got that working, cool.

Unfortunately, we only managed to watch half of the movie. Everybody fell asleep. We didn’t get to finish watching it before my in-laws left.

But now, see, it’s personal.

Oops, now my Nero demo has expired and I can’t figure out how to do a clean uninstall/reinstall. I couldn’t find anything in the registry or anything like that. So scratch using Nero.

When I load the AVI in VirtualDub, it says something about the variable bit rate and an option to save the audio track to a wav file. Let’s see if I can figure that out.

Go to the streams list, hit “Save to WAV”. It saves a big file, but it still wasn’t right. Hmm. Oh, I see. First change it to “Full Processing Mode”, THEN Save to WAV. Cool, now I have two 750 MB AVIs, and a 900 MB WAV (for the soundtrack to the FIRST half only).

Alright, now how do I put these together? Oh, I see, add the WAV as a stream, and disable the AVI sound. Cut the file in half, save it as two AVIs. Two huge AVIs, 600+ MB each.

Now what do I do with them? I can’t find anything else for free to burn AVIs to a VCD. Maybe if I convert it to an MPEG first.

A program called TMPGEnc will do just that. But it runs just a bit slower than real-time. So I fired it up, loaded the first AVI, saved it as an MPEG.

45 minutes later I had an MPEG, and 45 minutes after that I had another. Now, how to burn them to a VCD?

Here’s a program called VCDGear that will turn an MPEG into something called a cue/bin or a toc/bin. Let’s give that a shot.

First one worked fine, but the second one didn’t. Something was wrong with the way the MPEG was “packed”. Grrr… Hey, what’s that option? MPEG to MPEG conversion? Well, let’s try it. I fed the second MPEG through, got another MPEG that was slightly larger, but this time it didn’t give me any error.

Now I have a cue/bin file pair. How do I burn _that_?

Google turns up something called burnatonce. Load the cue file into burnatonce, tell it to write to my CD, and off it goes.

I now have two of the four VCDs theoretically created; we’ll see if they play correctly when I get home tonight.

To recap:

1. Load the AVI into VirtualDub, and save the soundtrack as a huge WAV file.
2. Load the AVI and the WAV together, split the AVI in half, and save the two AVIs.
3. Run the new AVIs through TMPGEnc to produce MPEGs.
4. Run the MPEGs through VCDGear to produce cue/bin files.
5. Use burnatonce to burn the cue/bin files to CD.

Again, I should have just bought the special cable, played it through WinAmp, recorded on my VCR, and mailed it to my father in law. But where’s the fun of that?

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6 Responses to Fun with AVIs and VCDs

  1. Jared says:

    I can’t believe I just read that whole thing. In my head, it all sounded like the adults’ voices on the “Peanuts” cartoons.

    Hope you figured it — whatever it is — out.

  2. Anonymous says:


    I have Debian Linux running on the computer at my house, so I’m familiar with the “Now-I-HAVE-to-get-it-running-on-priciple” mindset, since most of the programs available for Linux and Unix are archives that I have to manually compile.

    Tenacity is a wonderful thing, eh? :-)

  3. Rong says:

    The really sad part is that I very seriously read this nodding my head and at each step thinking, “Yup that’s probably what I would have done.”

    The worst of it is after accomplishing the mission from hell our wives really don’t want us to explain the technical marvel that we’ve just achieved… which I guess is why we have our blogs. :-)

  4. Robert says:

    I used to think computers were supposed to be useful tools and fun toys. But now I think of them more as adversaries to be defeated. Heh.

    OTOH, I have pretty much accepted defeat with getting my wifi card to work with Linux. I put up a good fight, but I’m going to break down and buy a card that has support built in to the kernel.

    Rong, what’s _really_ sad is that one day, someone will be googling for “AVI VCD” and this post will turn up, and it will be a practical guide for someone else who will go through the same elaborate voodoo I did. I suppose, being a programmer and all, I could build something myself. … Nah.

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