One drive to rule them all
August 24, 2009 6:42 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to import my DVD collection onto a harddrive but then be able to watch it through the tv. What are my options?

I have a Mac, I have plenty of harddrive space and a lot of movies. What'd like to do is somehow be able to get rid of all the dvd's laying around (that don't get put back in their case and/or get lost/damaged) by backing them up on a harddrive but then somehow be able to watch them on my tv.

I've heard Apple TV can do this, I've also heard there is a cheap alternative of using an unused laptop to do this feature as well querying iTunes. I've also heard of something called Boxee?

I believe there is a program called Handbrake that imports your movies for Mac.

Anyway, I don't want to go through a lot of hooplah to watch a movie. I'd just like to sit down, press a button and queue up a movie.

The TV is hd (I think...on the back it says "HD/DVD IN"...there are a million things to plug in the back of's an older TV but apparently of the earlier models...I had a guy with an Apple TV look at the back of my TV and said "yep, it'll work!").

I'm okay with dropping a little bit of cash for this, if it'll help solve the spilling out of DVD's...I'd say I have about 50 movies. I've got a few large harddrives that would fit a number of them on there (I don't have to burn everyone on there, but there are certain ones I'd like).

So what's my options?
posted by Hands of Manos to Technology (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Take a look at Popcorn Hour
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:52 AM on August 24, 2009

I was looking at doing this, and ended up going with Delicious Library. I've got 350 DVDs and it was looking like a nightmare to find redundant storage space for all that video. Now they fit in a tiny briefcase. Obviously not your ideal solution, but in case you need a fallback...
posted by sixswitch at 7:10 AM on August 24, 2009

Response by poster: sixswitch,

it's not a solution but oh god did I ever need that program! THANK YOU!
posted by Hands of Manos at 7:29 AM on August 24, 2009

We have an iPod classic that we store kids' movies on, and then just plug it into the TV with an adaptor. My partner does use Handbrake to copy the movies to the computer; we have a big bunch of movies on the computer hard drive, and sync a selection onto the iPod.
posted by not that girl at 7:38 AM on August 24, 2009

Rip the DVDs with Handbrake and put the movies on an external hard disk. Plug the hard disk into a Western Digital TV HD Media Player (~ $100). Plug the WDTV into your TV and play.
posted by jaimev at 7:45 AM on August 24, 2009

If you have an unused laptop lying around, you could just use that. You should try to figure out what kind of connections your TV has - VGA, Component, DVI, HDMI, etc. I'm sure you know somebody who could tell you this, or just look at the manual for the TV, which will state them. I connected my old laptop to my TV via VGA and ran it as a Linux server/media player. I didn't bother with any fancy frontend, but there are plenty of those type of solutions available on all platforms (that's what Boxee is - a slick frontend for organizing and playing media that's on your hard drive).
posted by sinfony at 8:44 AM on August 24, 2009

Handbrake or Visual Hub to do the conversion. Store them on a harddrive and access them via Boxee or one of the many XBMC (Xbox media center) clones. It all runs on a Mac, you don't need to pay anything. You can use your Apple remote to control Boxee. Hell, I've stopped using my DVD player at all, and use rip everything into Boxee. It's just like watching TV, but convenient. Boxee has "applications" (plugins) for watching BBC online, Apple Movie Trailers, Hulu, Comedy Central etc.

Other solutions: You can rip movies to an Ipod and play them back on a bigger screen, no problems there. AppleTV is cool, but doesn't understand all video codecs (no a great problems is you're only using your own rips), it costs and if you fill up the hard disk? A ripped movie will fill about 800M to 1G, depending on quality. (I'm assuming you're not going for HD.)
posted by outlier at 8:47 AM on August 24, 2009

The Neuros OSD.
posted by PenDevil at 8:55 AM on August 24, 2009

There are a few separate but related issues here.

1. Stripping the encryption and copy protection from DVDs. Mac The Ripper does this, but it looks like it hasn't been updated in a while, which means that it may have trouble with newer discs.

2. Whether or not to re-encode the DVDs into another format. This may be necessary for compatibility with the widest range of software and hardware (for example, an iPod, or unhacked AppleTV). It can also save disk space. Handbrake seems to be the best bet for re-encoding. It can also handle the encryption on many discs if you have the right supporting software installed (VLC Client, for example). If you skip re-encoding you can have access to all the DVD features, including special features, commentary tracks, subtitles, provided you are using playback software that supports it.

Straight copies of 50 movies probably won't need more than ~300MB of disk space (max of 450MB).

3. How to play back your content on your TV. Are you going to use a special device, like an AppleTV, Popcorn Hours, etc? Are you going to buy or build a small dedicated computer to run something like XBMC (Mac, Windows, Linux), PLEX (an XBMC derivative for Mac), Boxee (another XBMC derivative for Mac, Windows, Linux and AppleTV with enhanced support for internet video), MediaPortal (Windows), FrontRow (Mac), etc. Are you going to use your existing Mac with any of the aforementioned software? There are also commercial options, like the media center options that come with some versions of windows. Software like XBMC, Plex, Boxee and MediaPortal can all play back the raw DVD files from your hard disk, as can Windows media center with some minor tweaks/additions.

As for the remote control, if you have an iPhone, or iPod Touch, there is great remote mouse and keyboard software available that also has preset control pads for popular programs. I'm linking HippoRemote, which takes advantage of the well tested VNC protocol. There are also options that have a bit more integration that look cool, like & RemoteJr, and Airmouse Pro, as well as App specific remotes like Boxee remote and XBMC Remote (which also works with Plex and Boxee).
posted by Good Brain at 10:03 AM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I use handbrake with the iPod high quality setting to great effect; even on my 37" 1080p television, the quality is much better than it should be (I use the iPod settings so I can show movies to the kids on planes.) My MacBook Pro laptop is sufficient (using a DVI-HDMI cable and an analog audio cable) for playback, but we'd go with the AppleTV option if they offered Netflix streaming.
posted by davejay at 1:37 PM on August 24, 2009

Oh, but: on the setting I just described, a typical movie takes up a bit south of a gig of space, so it adds up quickly.
posted by davejay at 1:38 PM on August 24, 2009

Oooo WDTV is great. I bought one last year - it plays virtually every file format under the sun (especially since they upgraded it - even plays most MKV's, WITH SUBTITLES! Glorious!), you can even plug a usb key into it should you want, and even better it upscales your videos to fit the format of your tv, and does a none-too-shabby job.

for $200 bucks Australian (I think it's less in the states), it was well worth it to save the hassle of dvds.
posted by smoke at 4:16 PM on August 24, 2009

If you have some time and aren't scared of copy/paste and editing a few files, there's a really good tutorial here that automates Handbrake. I just set it up a few weeks ago on my iMac. Now, I pop in a DVD and it automatically mounts it using FairMount and rips the entire DVD to the drive. Then, every night at midnight, it wakes from sleep and encodes any movies that haven't been encoded yet. All I have to do is occasionally empty the BatchRip folder and rename things.
posted by Tu13es at 5:12 AM on August 25, 2009

You guys convinced me to get a WDTV and I LOVE IT.
Five minutes from opening the box to sitting on my couch watching my stuff, and that includes moving the TV to get at the power bar to plug it in and then moving it a second time to plug the TV back in because I am, sometimes, an idiot.
I loves me some WDTV, long time.
posted by Billegible at 1:51 PM on September 2, 2009

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