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How to Convert / Transcode DRM protected Video

Homer's picture

In recent times, I made the decision to buy an iPod (in retrospect - a mistake), and then made the further mistake of signing up to Apple's iTunes Music Store, and worse still - actually bought some DRM encumbered music ... including some encrypted music videos. As you might have guessed, the novelty has well and truly worn off now.

Thing is, although I do have access to a Windows machine, primarily I use Linux, and much prefer storing all my multimedia on a server, then streaming it over the network to MPlayer or Amarok.

Therefore DRM protected multimedia is worthless to me, and I desperately needed to convert it all to a more flexible format. That's when I discovered Tunebite.

Tunebite is essentially a loopback recorder, that bypasses the whole DRM problem by simply re-recording the multimedia, as it is decrypted and played by its associated application.

More recently of course, tools such as FairUse4WM and QTFairUse6 have allowed people to directly decrypt DRM encumbered audio files, without re-recording, but this facility does not extend to video ... yet, and so loopback recorders like Tunebite are still necessary.

Update 12th May 2015. For updated information about the current state of DRM removal tools, please see the following Wikipedia artilces:

Now Tunebite supports two different target video formats; Windows Media and MP4 ( the latter requiring another download of software called 3ivx). Of the two formats, I'd much prefer MP4 (of course) but unfortunately Tunebite in combination with 3ivx simply does not work, and just crashes every time, so I was forced to transcode to WMV, much to my dismay. I wish so much that the author of Tunebite would support using all suitable codecs available to the system.

It was at this point that I started looking for reliable ways of converting the resulting videos to another format. I'd already settled on MP4 XviD with AAC audio, and certainly had more than my fair share of tools to do the transcoding with, but the results were invariably less than appealing.

The encrypted iTunes videos are all 320x240 is size, progressive video, 29.97 fps (American standard), AAC MP4 with FairPlay encryption. Tunebite managed to rerecord these to exactly the same specs, but in unencrypted WMV format. Now since I'm in the UK, and like to have the option of piping video to my various TV sets (none of which are NTSC compatible), as a matter of habit, I always perform framerate conversion on any NTSC video to bring it back down to 25 fps. However, subsequently attempting to convert these files to 25 fps XviD resulted in a loss of audio sync, and considerable loss of quality too (blockyness, artifacts, and choppy playback). I've been working (not professionally) with various transcoders for a couple of years now, and I've never had much trouble with framerate conversion before, but working with Windows Media files is a royal pain in the neck, and I can rarely achieve satisfactory conversions.

Enter eRightSoft SUPER:

SUPER is indeed ... super!

SUPER is essentially a GUI frontend to FOSS transcoding tools such as ffmpeg and mencoder, which presumably builds all the correct command line arguments for you, then uses those settings with the aforementioned tools to do the actual transcoding. It all sounds very simple and not at all impressive, but I can assure you that the results are ... very much so.

I selected all the required settings in the main window, queued up all my rerecorded iTunes videos, then hit "Encode" ... and off it went. At first, I selected a target framerate of 29.97 fps (not believing that it was capable of doing framerate conversion, like say Canopus Procoder). After it had finished transcoding, I played the resulting files, and was immediately impressed, but things were about to get even more impressive.

On a whim, I changed the setting to 25 fps, and set it off transcoding again, not seriously expecting acceptable results. To my utter amazement the results were A1 perfect, and most incredibly, the audio sync was frame perfect too. The test file was "Sinéad O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U", and as anyone who's seen the video will know, it comprises a close-up of her face while she sings, for pretty much the entire duration of the song. Any audio sync problems would have been glaringly obvious, but as I said, it was frame perfect. I'm simply stunned. Even the almighty Procoder b0rked at that task, insisting on producing files of the wrong scale, and with audio that was horrendously out of sync.

I couldn't be happier with the results, however, SUPER does seem to have at least 4 problems, as you can see from this video.

  • There seems to be a strange problem with the drop-down menus not drawing properly. You have to minimise then maximise the main window each time you want to select a drop down menu. This is a major bug.
  • If the "3gp" option is already selected, then in order to de-select it you need to select the 3gp output container format first. A minor quibble, but nonetheless very annoying.
  • The program crashes with a JavaScript error, once you start adding files. However, there is a fix, as you'll see next.
  • Why the hell is this application using JavaScript? Using the JS debugger, I discovered that it is trying to run the following script: This script contains a lot of very cryptic code in it, and frankly looks extremely suspicious. The fact that it crashes the program doesn't help either, of course. I have no idea if this is some kind of tracking script, or maybe something to do with advertising sponsors, but whatever it is, I really don't like it, much less trust it, so I simply blocked all network access by SUPER with my firewall. This not only put my mind at ease with regards to a possible breach of my security, but also prevented the application from crashing. I'd still like some hard answers about what that script is though, and why the hell it is being used at all.

So overall, I am very satisfied with the results of my endeavour to free my legally purchased music videos, but the ordeal has not been an easy one. Of course, I'd much rather do all this under Linux, but DRM encumbered multimedia is typically only available for the Windows or Mac platforms, so producing Linux versions of tools like FairUse4WM, QTFairUse6 and Tunebite, probably seems a bit moot. I could have performed the final transcoding stage using the same tools under Linux (ffmpeg, mencoder) but whatever magic our friend (the author of SUPER) is passing to ffmpeg to produce such perfect results, has completely escaped me. I bow to his superior wisdom, and congratulate him on a truly SUPER application.


Anony Mouse's picture

Hi Pal,

first of all, thank you for the great article. I've bought a DRM-protected wmv, and since I'm on linux, I cannot see it properly. Do you know a way to convert them into avi, using a linux software? Thank you for the attention.


Homer's picture

Hi Dan

Sorry, AFAIK there is only one way to transcode encrypted Windows media, and that is by capturing it from the framebuffer using e.g. TuneBite, after it has been decrypted by Windows Media Player (using the keys assigned to the media).

Theoretically it should be possible to decrypt it under any OS, provided you have the keys (or can break the keys), but thus far it hasn't been done (for Microsoft's Janus encryption anyway).

The general thinking is, if you legitimately own encrypted WMV material, then you must surely have acquired it whilst running Windows, since there are no Linux tools designed to purchase or replay encrypted Windows Media. Therefore there doesn't seem to be any point in designing Linux tools to capture and re-encode it.

Yes, I can see quite a few flaws in that logic, but that's the way it is right now.

Maybe eventually things will change.

Then again, from what I hear, the days of DRM are numbered. The likes of EMI and Apple, etc., are considering moving away from DRM altogether, so maybe one day tools like TuneBite will be completely unnecessary.

Here's hoping.

Edit: Sunday 4th May 2008. FairUse4WM will now work with Windows Media Video files, and indeed has done for a long time now. I haven't tried the same thing with QTFairUse and Apple protected media, so YMMV.

Anony Mouse's picture

Thanks once again

Hello Homer,

thanks you for your answer. The wmv I've downloaded with my linux distro, the virtual store didn't offer any problem with that. The problems began when I clicked the video: kaffeine didn't open it, and I couldn't download "the key" to see it.

I'm trying this at a friend's pc, running windows. I hope it works :)

See you,


Anony Mouse's picture

video decrypter

i use wondershare media converter it works great and you can convert HD video from i tunes to avi or mp4 or even mkv its a very good program you should look into it
your friend

Homer's picture

Wondershare are GPL violators

Wondershare are guilty of multiple violations of the GPL, and therefore you should not use their software.