How to extract clips from your DVDs

When studying movies, you may feel the need to convert your DVDs to video files for quick access and to generate photoboards. Maybe you want to export a scene to MP4 to pore over each frame? Well this article will explain you how to do that in as simple and straightforward a manner as possible. Here we go.


Yet another video converter

Like many video converter softwares, Freemake Video Converter is based on the free ffmpeg video utility, which means that with some knowledge and efforts, you could be able to convert your DVDs into MP4, AVI, MKV (and more) files by hand. Actually, we will install and use ffmpeg in next article. But a graphic user interface makes things easier, and moreover, Freemake Video Converter is free, easy to use and, in my experience, gets the job done with 90% of DVDs. Its main advantage over its competitors is its basic editboard which allows you to cut out and export clips from your films very easily. Its main drawback is that it will only run on Windows. No Mac or Linux version has been released yet.

The only gotcha I know lies in the black bands. I eventually paid a few bucks to upgrade the software in order to have them cropped, but if you don’t mind black bands in your converted videos, the free edition works just fine.


Installing Freemake Video Converter on Windows

There’s not much to say. Click on this link to Freemake Video Converter to get to the official webpage, download the software and install it as you would with any other piece of software.


Exporting a DVD

So here’s what you should have on your screen when you launch the converter.

Insert a DVD in your PC like I just did with Angel Heart (A. Parker, 1987), as an example, and hit the big ‘DVD’ button at the top of the window.

A pop-up appears asking you to select your DVD player. Once this is done, wait until another pop-up shows you all the tracks found on your DVD. You might need scrolling to the bottom of the dialog to find out which track is the one you want — the longest, usually. It’s already selected anyway, you just have to hit ‘Ok’. The DVD is ready to be processed.

Check the active language by clicking on the blue line ‘AC3 48 KHz 192 Kpbs Stereo’ (in my case).

Here, we will convert the DVD in MP4. Hit the big ‘to MP4’ button at the bottom of the window.

We’re faced with the Preset ‘Same as source’ which is fine in our case. If you need to export the DVD at a different resolution, click on that button and change what you have to change.

The software also lets you choose the path and filename of the exported video. Change that to what suits you, hit the big ‘Convert’ button and wait until the job is done.

After a little while, a pop-up will indicate you that the conversion is completed. Your file is ready.


Exporting a clip

If you only want to export a fragment of your DVD — or any source you have loaded in place of the DVD — click on the ‘scissors’ button at the right of the window.

You’ve entered the editboard. In this window, you’ll select the parts of the video that you don’t want to keep and cut them off. You’ll be left with the part you want to export.

For starters, we will trim the unwanted part of the film PRECEDING the part you want to keep. Don’t worry, nothing will happen to the original. You’re just getting a part of the video out of the way, you don’t really remove it from the source. And remember that [Ctrl]+[z] will always be there to undo your mistakes.

  • Step 1: move the time cursor to the image JUST BEFORE the part you want to keep. Use the left/right arrow keys on your keyboard to adjust the position precisely.
  • Step 2: mark that position with the ‘Selection End’ button (which by default selects the video from start to that point).
  • Step 3: cut off the selected part of the video with the ‘Cut Selection’ button. The video now starts at the first image of the part you want to keep.


We will now trim the unwanted part of the film FOLLOWING the part you want to keep.

  • Step 1: move the time cursor to the image JUST AFTER the part you want to keep. Use the left/right arrow keys on your keyboard to adjust the position precisely.
  • Step 2: mark that position with the ‘Start Selection’ button.


  • Step 3: move the cursor to the end of the video.
  • Step 4: mark this position with the ‘Selection End’ button.
  • Step 5: cut off the selected part of the video with the ‘Cut Selection’ button. What remains is the part you want to export. The rest has been trimmed down.


You can now leave the editboard, by hitting the ‘Ok’ button and export your clip by using one of the buttons at the bottom of the window, like we did before — e.g. to MP4 format. Only the part that you’ve kept in the editboard will be exported.

Important: If you need to adjust or cancel the trimming of a clip, go back to the editboard and hit repeatedly the [Ctrl]+[z] keys on your keyboard as many times as necessary to undo all the steps you’ve come through. You’ll be back to square one.


What’s up?

Freemake Video Converter may not be the best free software out there to convert your DVDs to video files, but its basic editboard makes it easy to export only parts of a movie. And using the arrow keys on the keyboard to fine tune the time cursor frame by frame is a must. Now you know how straightforward it is to make MP4 files from DVDs, you’re ready to generate photoboards from movies as explained in next article. See you there.


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