Help me digitize my Will Ferrell cinema collection.
December 6, 2009 5:11 PM   Subscribe

I have a LOT of DVDs, and I want the movies, but not the physical DVDs. What do you suggest?

We have about 500+ physical DVDs. At some point, I want to exchanged replace many of them with Blu-rays, but not in, say, the next month. While I'd like to sell off the physical discs, there are many movies I'd like to have in digital format until I upgrade them (which I know is questionably legal, but I'm not bittorrenting them or anything.)

1. What's the best way to pull the content off my DVDs? (In the simplest, non-techie instructions possible.)

2. What's the best way to store and then view the content from these DVDs at home? (Again, dumb this down to the simplest amount of steps possible.)
posted by santojulieta to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
the rip the content i recommend Handbrake
as far as recommending a proper way to view them, I need some more info:
What sort of television do you have? Do you have a video receiver? What sort? Do you already own a computer that you'd be willing to dedicate as a media server? What sort?
posted by matt_od at 5:23 PM on December 6, 2009

1) try downloading handbrake- it's available for all major platforms and greatly simplifies the process of copying your cds. You may need additional software as well, depending in your platform (VLC on Linux / Mac, I don't know the windows approach to defeating the copy protection).

2) Try installing Boxee, which lets you play local files as well as files from netflix, hulu, etc. It also works on windows, linux, and mac.

Different tools are appropriate for different platforms- what OS are you running?
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:24 PM on December 6, 2009

Response by poster: Should've specified: I'm running Windows 7 (starter edition on my Dell mini netbook until we can upgrade to the better version.)

It should be noted that ultimately, I plan to get a Mac, but that's way down the road.
posted by santojulieta at 5:26 PM on December 6, 2009

1) Get a huge hard drive.
2) Download and install Virtual Clone Drive, which is freeware.
3) Download and install DVD Decrypter. In the "ISO Mode" tab of Options->Settings, check all boxes except "create MDS file" and leave the two dropdowns as is.
4) Rip all your DVDs in DVD Decrypter's "ISO mode" to disc images residing on said huge hard drive.
5) When you want to watch one, mount it with VCD (this will make a fake disc out of the image) and point your preferred DVD playback software to it.

Optional step: if you have any DVDs with newer copy protection that confounds DVD Decrypter, rip them with either AnyDVD HD (payware, and expensive) in image mode or DVDFab Decrypter (free component bundled with DVDFab shareware) and in the latter case make an ISO from the ripped folder with ImgBurn.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:27 PM on December 6, 2009 [7 favorites]

handbrake generally converts your DVDs to playable movies, but stripping all the DVD extras like menus and so on. This is not really desirable (unless you are short on space).

I would personally prefer to rip the disks to ISO. Which is a one-to-one copy of the disk image (minus encryption) and is actually quite easy. Insert DVD, read it to ISO, next DVD. etc.

The .ISO images can then be used:

1) mounting it as a filesystem using many CD emulators, Daemontools, Alcohol, VCD etc. Or just doubleclick in OsX.
2) playing the ISO directly in VLC (no need to mount, this is the best way to play on PC)
3) burn to DVDr (well, if you really wanted to you could)
4) play on your networked device, like Popcornhour, or any of the other NMT devices, or Dune etc.

4) is One of the best options. If you put your collection on a HDD (or even better, just buy a NAS), then setup Jukebox of that media library, which you share over network to your PCH, and it will look like this on your tv.
posted by lundman at 5:38 PM on December 6, 2009

wait, so we don't use mactheripper any more?
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:50 PM on December 6, 2009

Well, the simplest thing would be to use dvdshrink to copy each of your dvds onto a 4.7GB dvdr, put the dvdrs in a binder, and just pop a disc into your player to watch one like you normally do. But then you'd still have 500 discs in a couple of binders.

If you want to transcode to something else, I've found autoGK simpler and more reliable than handbrake.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:57 PM on December 6, 2009

Do note that Handbrake (in Windows form) lacks the libdvdcss library, and therefore can't handle CSS. (see my AskMe post on the topic.)
posted by dunkadunc at 6:07 PM on December 6, 2009

Response by poster: And here's a little more information about our HT setup.

Netbook with HDMI output which I can use to serve the video
PS3 (hardwired to our network)
42" Panasonic plasma
we don't have a receiver of anysort
posted by santojulieta at 6:13 PM on December 6, 2009

What's the best way to pull the content off my DVDs? (In the simplest, non-techie instructions possible.)

These days, space is cheap. There's no reason you shouldn't be ripping the entire disk (an .ISO file as lundman mentioned). Not to mention the time saved that would have been spent transcoding video. As it stands, it's going to take a while to digitize everything (just swapping discs can be a chore), but once it's done you never have to worry about wasting all that time again.

What's the best way to store and then view the content from these DVDs at home

You'll need a really big hard drive. Or two. Create ISO files of your entire collection, save the ISOs to the hard drives, then when you want to watch it use Popcorn Hour (also previously mentioned).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:56 PM on December 6, 2009

If you're doing straight ISO copies of commercial DVDs, each of those copies will be a file of about 7 to 8 gigabytes. For 500 DVDs, then, you will need 8GB * 500 = 4TB of disk drives to hold the whole collection. Doing a straight copy like this generally takes about half an hour per disk.

If you use something like Handbrake to rip your DVD's main movie track to .avi or .mov files, those will end up somewhere between 1GB and 2GB each (the more compression, the lower the quality) and you'd easily fit the whole collection on a 1TB drive. The trade-off is that this kind of transcoding takes a lot longer than a straight rip - two to three hours per movie isn't unusual.

VLC will play any kind of video you throw at it, including straight ISO rips of DVDs - there's no need to use a disk mounting tool to make that work; just tell VLC to play a DVD, and drag and drop the ISO image you want to play into the dialog box where VLC asks for the DVD device name.
posted by flabdablet at 12:04 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

"VLC will play any kind of video you throw at it, including straight ISO rips of DVDs - there's no need to use a disk mounting tool to make that work; just tell VLC to play a DVD, and drag and drop the ISO image you want to play into the dialog box where VLC asks for the DVD device name."

This is true. But, in my experience — on a Mac if that matters — VLC will more often than not crash before you finish watching.
posted by Bizurke at 12:15 AM on December 7, 2009

I have about 2.5TB of my dvd collection stored in a NAS running FreeNAS (an older pc, but FreeNAS does the job brilliantly and for free)

I have ripped my entire collection using DVDFab (dvd decrypter/iso maker is free) and made ISO files out of them all. Copied all of these to the NAS and put them in their own folders.

On my large tv I have a modified XBox with XBMC (probably the best piece of media software ever created!) and it has ISO support, so it's as if you've put the dvd in the drive with the menu's, extras, etc.etc. I have told XBMC where the "Movies" folder is on the NAS.

In order to keep some organisation of the iso's I use Media Companion on my pc which will download all the movie and tv info of the iso files (XBMC can read these info files as well to keep the XBMC menu up to date from one single place). Also gives you the opportunity to edit stuff that it got wrong :) AND the author just added custom genres (I use it to classify "dvd extras" from multiple disc collections). You can double click on any film in the Media Companion menu to play it on your pc - and specify an external player (like VLC, which has ISO support)

Good Luck!!
posted by alchemist at 12:47 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

The question is really whether or not you want the menus and extra features and junk that go along with the DVD's. If you DON'T, and you just want the main movie and 1 audio track (audio tracks take up a LOT of space on DVD's), I'd use autoGK or dvddecryptor to snag the main movie and then dump those to individual folders. Regardless here you're looking at a big external HD, because your mini just isn't going to have the storage for 400 movies. Really, even with modern everything, you're looking at 10-25 minutes a disc, depending on what you're ripping.

Actually, I lie. I'd use anyDVD and Nero Recode, but that's just because the quality is higher and I believe it will rip straight to an image file (.iso or .nrg). Neither is free.

Honestly, I'd be inclined to start at someplace like and look for them all as torrents, and then download as many as possible that way, making sure to run PeerBlock as I was doing it. You'll have 700-1400 Mb rips of the entire movie w/o doing anything.
posted by TomMelee at 6:44 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Re: question 2: We have and adore the WD TV Live media tank. I have been wrestling with a 3-4 year old Compaq Laptop as a HTPC for a year or more (the display on it died, trying to repurpose it) and it was just a constant struggle with larger files and also with aspect ratios.

You can find a 1TB USB drive for about $80 if you look and the WD TV Live we paid $100 for. Then use whatever software mentioned above by the hive to rip your movies. The video and sound quality on the WD device is insanely good.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:51 AM on December 7, 2009

If you're on a Mac, you might also consider using RipIt.
posted by murtagh at 9:20 AM on December 7, 2009

I just finished a project like this -- 1500 DVDs to hard drive. I got around 300 movies per 1.5 Tb drive. I keep the original movies tucked away in a closet for backup and watch the ripped copies on a Mac Mini attached to my receiver. I stripped menus and special features, but left the movies uncompressed since disk space is cheap.

Get a dock like this or similar. Since the dock has no cooling fans, it's best to get a low power green drive similar to this. 1.5 Tb seems to be the sweet spot for price/capacity right now. That particular drive has been priced as low as $85 in some sales. Don't worry about latency and spin speed and such -- 5400 rpm is sufficient for what you need. If you want to watch a movie on another drive, just dismount the one in the dock like you would a thumb drive, turn off dock power, plug in the new drive and power up the dock.

For peace of mind, you may want to get an extra drive and some data recovery software. You'll spend a couple of months ripping your DVDs and you may not want to repeat that when a drive crashes. (Lesson learned when I ignored the "turn off dock power" step mentioned above.)
posted by joaquim at 12:58 PM on December 7, 2009

Use DVDShrink to make ISOs (DVD image copies on your hard drive) of the discs. Drag (or otherwise open) the ISO files to VLC. Voila.
posted by dozo at 1:01 PM on December 8, 2009

If you're using DVD Shrink, and you'd rather have big files and quick rips than smaller files and slow rips, you can tell it to "shrink" to 9GB DL format and it will just do a straight decrypt and copy without recoding. Otherwise, rips will be very slow (three hours each isn't unusual).
posted by flabdablet at 3:46 PM on December 8, 2009

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