A single scratch can make your $20 DVD a drink coaster. DVD X Copy ($99 direct), from 321 Studios, lets you make backups of your DVD discs for personal use to protect your investment.
The Motion Picture Association of America is currently fighting to ban DVD copying, fearing widespread piracy as DVD burners become more commonplace, but 321 Studios keeps its package aimed at legitimate use. The software copies video object (VOB) files, but provides no access to these files, which carry the MPEG-2 stream as well as navigation and search information packets. So you cant, for instance, step in to remove region protection, which would enable playback on any drives sold anywhere in the world. Also, 321 Studios inserts a DVD Backup warning screen on the final discs to remind those watching a copy that it was never intended for resale or distribution.
Video quality of copied discs is pristine, since theres no recompression or altering of the VOB files from the original disc. All audio and video options, such as those that provide commentary and viewing from multiple camera angles, remain. The only catch is that, with the exception of short movies (which are often comedies), most films require about 6GB, and extra features take another gigabyte or so. Blank DVDs hold only about 4.7GB of data, though, so although you can fit more than half of the content on one disc, the remainder and extras take a second disc. And Hollywood uses multilayer discs, so you dont even have to flip a prerecorded disc over to watch the second half of a movie—but theres no multilayer recordable media yet. So the software has to split the content of prerecorded discs for burning onto multiple DVDs.
DVD X Copy will burn about as quickly as your drive can handle read and write functions. Ripping and writing time vary depending on your hardware, but the process is mostly painless. You can specify where the content break will occur, and by default, the software will cause the first disc to launch the menu, and the second to resume playing the movie immediately—convenient for getting right back to it after you switch discs. You can change these settings, hide the menu, or even omit it from the copies if you choose.
We found only a couple of drawbacks. The software doesnt store a job if something goes wrong during the burn; you need to start over in such a case. Should you need to stop a job and fiddle with a driver issue, for instance, the temp folder of your VOB files will disappear, forcing you to begin the rip anew. And the program does not support PAL (European format) discs. But for our money, DVD X Copy provides welcome protection for your DVD investment.
Editors note: On its Web site, 321 Studios recently released an update to the program.