Travis Tidwell

Web technology, software, and everything else that bores my wife..

A Nerds Guide to a $100 DVD-less Car Movie Experience

For those out there with kids, you already know what a nightmare it is to go on a road trip with them. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids… but driving in the car with them on a road trip makes me go batshit insane. That is why it is important for all parents out there to establish a road-trip strategy to keep your kids occupied. Movies are great, but that also opens the door for more frustration trying to deal with movies in the car… Things like…

  • It’s expensive! (especially if you have more than one kid who don’t like to watch the same movies)
  • Keeping track of DVD’s in the car is a nightmare
  • Car DVD players have a tendency to trash your DVD’s
  • You have to keep swapping out movies unless your kid is OK with watching the same one over and over…
  • The list goes on.

So, for all those parents out there, who would like a good car movie experience for both the kids and you, here’s a nerds walkthrough on how you can make it happen.

Step 1: Get the stuff you need…

For this step, you will need to spend some money… but it is not much. I too was on a tight budget, so here is what I found that works out great.

Step 2: Convert your DVD to digital files (mp4)

This step, you will need to download a piece of software that will help you rip your DVD’s into media files. I am on a Mac, so the software that I used was called Handbrake. The best way to do this step is really to just follow some already fantastic tutorials on how to rip your DVD. Here is a really good one that seems to be complete. –

Step 3: Install Transcoding Software

Now that you have a video file of your DVD, you will still need to transcode that video into a format that your DVD player can understand. Some of the more expensive players, you don’t need to worry about this, but since I was on a budget, I had to convert the videos that I had into a lower resolution AVI format. To do this, you will need FFMPEG.

  • Start by installing Homebrew – The easiest way to install FFMPEG on a Mac is to do it using Homebrew. The installation does require you to use your Terminal, which may scare some people, but what it will really amount to is you just copying and pasting what I provide you into the shell and press enter. So, open up Terminal on your Mac (you will find it in your Utilities), and then type the following.
  ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"
  • Check the Homebrew installation – Now that we have homebrew installed, the next thing we should do is just make sure that everything is installed correctly. We can do that by typing the following.
  brew doctor
  • Install FFMPEG – The next task is to install FFMPEG. We can find all the available options by running the following.
  brew info ffmpeg
  • With this information, we can then construct the installation command which will install pretty much everything available. Install FFMPEG by typing the following in your command prompt.
  brew install ffmpeg --with-fdk-aac --with-libvo-aacenc --with-libvorbis --with-libvpx --with-opencore-amr --with-openjpeg --with-opus --with-rtmpdump --with-schroedinger --with-speex --with-theora --with-tools --with-x265

Step 4: Transcode your videos

We are now ready to start transcoding! To transcode any of your vidoes, simply navigate to the directory that contains your video and then type the following command.

  ffmpeg -i Ratatouille.mp4 -c:v mpeg4 -vtag xvid -qscale:v 2 -c:a libmp3lame -qscale:a 6 -vf scale=480:-1 Ratatouille.avi

You will need to change your command to take the name of your video (For me that was Ratatouille.mp4), and then also provide the name of the video that will be converted (For me that was Ratatouille.avi. This bit of code actually takes the original video and then scales it to the size of the DVD player screen as well as converts it to a format that you video player understands.

Step 5: Write a script to transcode all your videos!

Now, lets say that you already have a folder filled with videos that you wish to transcode. It may be painful to wait for each and every one of them to finish before doing the next one. You can solve this problem by writing a script that will iterate through all the videos within a folder and convert them and put them in an “encoded” folder. To do this, create a new script called and then place it inside of the directory with your videos. The contents of this file will be as follows.

mkdir encoded
for FILE in *.*; do
  if [[ "${FILE}" != *encode* ]]; then
    echo "Converting ${FILE}"
    OUTPUT=$(basename "$FILE")
    ffmpeg -y -i "${FILE}" -c:v mpeg4 -vtag xvid -qscale:v 2 -c:a libmp3lame -qscale:a 6 -vf scale=480:-1 "${OUTPUT}"

You will now need to make sure this file is executable by typing the following.

  chmod +x

You can now execute this file by typing the following in terminal…


This will now create all of the videos and place them in an encoded folder.

Step 6: Put all these files in on your SD Card.

You are now ready to copy all the encoded files directly onto your SD Card, and then put this inside of your DVD Player. You should be able to get about 30 DVD’s worth of videos onto a single card!!

Happy Traveling!!!