HTPC + DVD ISO + automounting = WIN: Show your work
January 10, 2009 12:36 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a media center solution (not necessarily a Media Center solution), that will automount DVD images (ISO files) for playback.

I stayed with my brother over the holidays, where he showed me a media centre he'd built running Vista and Media Center. I in turn showed him how to rip his DVD collection to his hdd so he could put his DVDs into storage. While we were tinkering, I wondered aloud if it would be possible to get Media Center to mount ISO files and play them as if it were a regular DVD.

Short answer: theoretically it's possible, but I couldn't get it to happen.

Supposedly, Webguide + Daemon Tools is one way of making this happen. I Installed both, but some piece of the puzzle was missing, and despite configuring and reconfiguring until I was blue in the face, there was no joy. My brother didn't care - he was overjoyed to find that Webguide would stream music and video over his network.

Anyway. I'm home now and looking to set up my own media center thingy. And I'd really like to be able to automagically mount DVD images just by selecting a movie from a menu - not for every disc, but definitely some of them. But I need to know if there's anyone out there who has actually succeeded at this. There are plenty of people who say on various forums, for example 'oh yeah, XBMC does this' but I'd like to hear from somebody who has really done it. Describe how you set it up.
posted by Ritchie to Technology (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I installed Mythbuntu, I gave it the location of a big directory with ISO files in it, then I went through most of them to find the IMDB number in order to import a movie poster and various metadata (though there's apparently a script).

Unfortunately, my current TV doesn't have an HDMI input, so I'm not using it at all.

It works basically as you describe: Select a movie from a menu, movie plays.
posted by ODiV at 1:14 AM on January 10, 2009

Best answer: 'oh yeah, XBMC does this'

It really does though. I don't rip my own DVD's but occasionally I will "obtain" ISO or IMG images from various "sources". Uh, in a completely legal fashion.

Anyway, I just drop these files onto my fileserver. XBMC (I have both the Windows version on an HTPC and the Xbox version, works the same) knows the path to the fileshare. In library mode it can index the folder (you have to tell it to "scan for new content" when you add things) and download movie poster art and IMDB info automatically. If you don't like library mode, you can just use it as a straight up file browser. If you just have a bunch of DVD data files, you can also start a movie by playing the VIDEO_TS.IFO file.

Highlight relevent file, press enter (or A). Movie plays.
posted by tracert at 3:12 AM on January 10, 2009

Yep, what tracert said. I've got a ton of DVD5 and DVD9 ISOs sitting on my home fileserver. XBMC browses to them over the network via SMB, I select the ISO and hit the play button on the remove, and movie happens. It's totally seamless.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 6:55 AM on January 10, 2009

totally agree with tracert. I've done this as well with XBMC (pretty much the greatest thing ever invented), and it will even keep the dvd menu structure and all the extras within the ISO file. You won't even notice it's a file and not the actual dvd.
posted by alchemist at 7:02 AM on January 10, 2009

Response by poster: That's terrific. Is that functionality out-of-the-box for XBMC or would I need to research that particular config?
posted by Ritchie at 7:12 AM on January 10, 2009

I've done it with XBMC in the past, but I've also got it working with Vista Media Center - I installed the My Movies plugin/software for Media Center and Daemon Tools, then set the network location for the ISO file - it plays DVDs back perfectly when selected from the Movie Library.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 8:07 AM on January 10, 2009

It also works with Vista Media Center with the excellent Media Browser(was Video Browser) by samsaffron. It's open source, and IMHO less bloaty than My Movies. For example, it doesn't install Microsoft SQL Server Express on your machine like My Movies does (did?).

It also needs Daemon Tools installed.

However, unless you're going to use the system as a PVR with tuner cards, my recommendation is to go with XBMC.
posted by adamwolf at 8:24 AM on January 10, 2009

Incidentally, I recently discovered (here, no less!) that VLC treats ISO images as DVDs and plays them seamlessly. But unless you have a custom player for your media centre, XBMC all the way!
posted by katrielalex at 10:05 AM on January 10, 2009

Ritchie: "That's terrific. Is that functionality out-of-the-box for XBMC or would I need to research that particular config?"

Works out of the box, no fiddling necessary.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 11:22 AM on January 10, 2009

Any particular reason you're ripping to ISO vs using a VIDEO_TS structure? Playing ISOs via Daemon Tools means that you're wasting resources having it decode in the background when playing in Media Center. Even the My Movies plugin recommends that you rip to VIDEO_TS over ISO. Also, Media Center comes with the ability to play VIDEO_TS out of the box (you do have to make a quick registry change, however, to enable it).

I've gone through Media Center XP, Vista, MythTV, and XBMC in the past, while currently trying out Boxee and Plex (I switched from PC to a Mac media center config). So while I haven't tried XBMC in a while, I have to say that I think the interface of Media Center is far more polished and an over all better experience.
posted by sub-culture at 12:39 PM on January 11, 2009

Response by poster: Any particular reason you're ripping to ISO vs using a VIDEO_TS structure?

Uh, because I never thought of doing it any other way. I suppose one advantage of using ISOs is that they're self-contained files that can be thrown into a directory with AVIs, Xvids, etc. If I rip to VIDEO_TS, I'll have a mix of files and directories, each representing a single disc. However, you raise a good point.
posted by Ritchie at 4:10 AM on January 12, 2009

Response by poster: Update: I got incredibly lucky with a cheap Xbox I bought off Ebay. When I went to pick it up the guy told me it had been chipped. I assumed he meant that the locale restrictions had been removed, and it would play games and DVDs from the US and Japan. There was no mention of any of it in the Ebay listing, I guess because it's a violation of their ToS to deal with modded Xboxen.

As it turns out, in addition to region restrictions having been removed, whoever modded it stuck a 350Gb disk in it and included XBMC, saving me some trouble. It plays ISO files off the network, although not very well - this may be due to it being an earlier build of XBMC - version 1.0.0 I think. I'll look into upgrading to a later version of XBMC (hoping this is easier than installing it, as I don't have any of the necessary tools), and see if ISO playback improves.

In the meantime, XBMC is indeed kickass. Thanks everyone!
posted by Ritchie at 3:23 AM on January 13, 2009

Upgrading is super easy since it's on Linux. FTP in and replace files. You'll have to download compiled binaries from here, since it's illegal for the XBMC team to distribute files compiled with the Xbox SDK. ISO's should load quickly (less than 2 seconds from the network on 10/100). Anything longer and you should take a look at your server or network setup.
posted by tracert at 1:21 PM on January 13, 2009

2 seconds for SD media, that is. Although you can run the interface in 720p or 1080i and upscale to those resolutions, the original xbox can't handle HD mkv's or blu ray rips.
posted by tracert at 2:02 PM on January 13, 2009

Response by poster: Ah yes, it was amazingly easy, and ISOs seem to play without a hitch now. Thanks again to everyone who answered, and particularly to tracert. I feel I've regained some ground in the ongoing sibling rivalry between me and my brother!
posted by Ritchie at 3:26 AM on January 15, 2009

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