I’ve finally figured out how to “play” DVDs on Android tablets and access the DVD menus. It’s actually quite easy but took ages to figure out from searching forums etc. My reason for wanting to do this is to access a bass guitar tutor DVD on my tablet. The tablet is placed on a music stand and wired into my amp. This configuration makes playing along much easier than with a laptop as it’s in line-of-sight and easy to access the controls.
If you only want to watch a film then you can simply rip the entire DVD or individual VOB files and transcode to a suitable format ready for transfer to or access from the Android device. Everyone and their dog knows how to do this and readily shares their wisdom about using the many free and open source tools. But this doesn’t provide access the DVD menu systems which are often designed to be for good access and navigation of the various features.
The main reason for wanting to access the menus is when using DVDs that make extensive use of them. For example, a language training course or educational title, such as my bass playing course. The alternative of ripping a zillion small files, figuring out suitable filenames from the chapters and then navigating through a linear list in a file manager is not a usable option. In addition, some DVDs have unused, hidden files left over from mastering, making it harder to figure out which files you actually want.
So the solution:
- Copy the DVD files to a directory/folder named “DVD” [see update below] in the root of the internal or on an external SD card. Use direct file access with a file manager to the optical drive containing the CD. Make sure the “AUDIO_TS” and “VIDEO_TS” folders are children of “DVD”. You might possibly access the files remotely across a network as long as the folder is called “DVD” but I have not tried that, opting for standalone access with the tablet..
- Use a video player app that supports the “DVD” folder and provides a DVD player. I found the
Daroon andWondershare players work just fine. The MX and Dice Players only provide access to individual files.
- If you use an external SD card then you’ll need to add the “DVD” folder’s parent to the search/scan path (see the player settings).
- Refresh the player, find the DVD and play it.
- The menus are accessed using a dedicated control “panel” that appears with the video player controls. This avoids conflict with the existing touch interface but it would be nice if you could simply touch the menu items to activate them.
I did investigate accessing ISO files from Android apps. Not only does that not appear to be readily possible, but accessing the DVD files directly has the advantage that they are smaller than an ISO which easily breaks the FAT32 4GB limit of SD cards supported by Android.
I’m not sure if the DVD folder is official, but with at least 2 players providing support it could become a de-facto standard.
Full access to DVDs from Android tablets could be useful for some users with disabilities, for example they are easier to mount on wheelchairs and less bulky However I’ve not explored the accessibility of the 2 players that I found usable. The fact that the controllers require a touch to be displayed hints at the need for some development.
[Update 15 Feb 2013] It turns out the folder name does not need to be “DVD” and it is possible to have more than one on the sd card, at least with the Wondershare player. I assume it is the “AUDIO_TS” and “VIDEO_TS” folders that are detected. For some reason the Daroon player has no sound with these folders on my Galaxy Note.
[Update 11 Apr 2013] Norville reported in comments below a sync issue between sound and vision. Hopefully Wondershare will fix this ASAP. Norville also pointed out that W0ndershare player will also play ISO files. This makes it really flexible and AFAIK unique.