OneBagging My DVDs?
April 7, 2012 5:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to get my ever growing movie collection out of these large 300+ DVD cases and into some terabyte drives for traveling convenience. But how?

I keep hearing all these Navy guys talk about how they have all their movies on external drives, but

1st: what would be a good mobile terabyte drive to get?

2nd: supposedly I should compress the DVDs in order to fit more...but, er, by how much? What's the difference in quality?

I note that after I get these movies onto the drives, I -have- to toss them or give them away. So, basically, I need to be sure that this will be successful, that it can work for future DVDs I may want to add without wiping what I already have, and that the DVDs will be of a decent enough quality (for all kinds of movies from "Avatar" to "Seed of Chucky").
posted by DisreputableDog to Technology (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The average DVD is about 4.5-5 gigabytes. A 1 terrabyte drive will hold 200 of them, so you could comfortably fit 300 into a 2 Tb drive with room for 100ish more, with no compression. Maybe DVDs tend to be a bit bigger these days, dunno.

Regarding compression, I used to use DVDShrink, and it works pretty good. Step 1 is, you can actually remove a lot of BS that you don't want - advertisements, subtitles and secondary audio for other languages. If you don't want directors commentary or other goodies, you can remove those also. You can also set different compression rations for different tracks, so, for example you could compress the extras more than the main movie.

I never noticed too much image degradation from minor compression, say 10-20%. I can't comment beyond that, I rarely compressed more than I needed to.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:49 PM on April 7, 2012

If you're getting rid of the physical movies and these matter to you, then I would get 2 drives and make one a backup of the other.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:50 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do you have to fit them all at once on one 1-terabyte drive? Because for 300 DVDs with compression, the compression is going to be the biggest annoyance.

Let's suppose your DVDs average out to 7 gigs apiece with a mixture of DVD-9 and DVD-5 and you have a "terabyte" drive that actually is more like 930 gigs of usable space. If you can back them up to an ISO image with no further processing, you can carry ~130 with you at any time. If you get a 2 TB drive, double that to ~260.

If you use something like MakeMKV to dump the main movie only to a Matroska file without compressing, let's say your down to 6 gigs on average. Now you're up to ~150 movies per TB and could easily get 300 DVDs on a 2TB drive given that a number of your DVDs will be DVD5s and a number will have a bunch of extras that you can dump.

But do you actually need all 300 with you? I'd keep a backup of the originals on one or two big drives at home and take a cheap 500 gig drive with me on the road; now you're up to about 85 movies in your bag assuming you only want the main movie.

For compressing them, you could probably use some front-end to x264 and set CRF 18 as your quality measure, remux one audio track and any number of subtitles, and come out far ahead on size per movie with no quality loss. But then you would have to sit there and do this with 300 DVDs and even with something simple like Handbrake this is a non-trivial amount of time.

My recommendation is to commit yourself to buying more hard drive capacity, which is cheap, and save your time, which is not cheap.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:55 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Some notes:

In the military and I don't have a "home". Even if my parents would allow me to store stuff at their house, I despise the idea merely on the principle of owning stuff I don't use anyway (and would forget that I owned). So, unfortunately, yes, all movies are going to be coming with me at any given time, just as all but a couple books (like my bird guide) are in my Kindle or on my computer.

Other than that, I'm willing to buy the optimal amount of external drives for however many DVDs they would best fit, which is sorta part of my question.
posted by DisreputableDog at 6:10 PM on April 7, 2012

The pirate scene "standard" for acceptable quality DVD rips is 700 megabytes / movie, a size chosen so it just fits on a CD-ROM. So your 300 DVDs works out to about 210 GB. You can get better quality (particularly audio) at the expense of more space. "Highres" releases vary a lot, but 720p BluRay rips with 5.1 audio are on the order of 1.5 - 3 GB / movie.

I suggest you start by grabbing Handbrake and choosing the "Regular / Normal" preset, that'll give you a rough idea what a conversion is like. You can tweak the settings if you want but the presets are pretty good. Note that Handbrake mostly just gives you the basic movie content. If you want to preserve subtitles, or DVD menus, or multiple audio tracks, etc it gets more complicated. Also note there's a confusing variety of possible video formats; the Handbrake presets are good and VLC will play pretty much anything. Ripping to one of the Apple presets is reasonable if you expect to be playing back via an iPad or AppleTV.

For portable drives, I like the Western Digital My Passport drives, currently at $115 for 1GB. USB 3.0 is worth looking for at this point, and 2.5" drives are nice because they don't require an external power adapter. Note these drives have very high failure rates; a backup at home or on a buddy's drive is recommended.
posted by Nelson at 6:15 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would anticipate that a WD My Passport drive is $115 for 1TB, not for 1GB.
posted by kindall at 6:32 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't forget to back your stuff up. Offsite is best.

I recommend either BackBlaze or Carbonite, (I pay $5/month for BackBlaze and am happy with it, and I have heard the same about Carbonite from people I trust --- both are unlimited backups for a flat fee) or you can just do it yourself with an extra drive. But back to your main question: Handbrake rips will generally look pretty good at around 1G/movie or even 700M/movie. Using the presets just works.

An alternative not being mentioned is getting a CD holder and just storing your DVDs in there. Something like this. My wife and I took our CD collection from multiple shelves down to three binders, and we are very happy about it. We don't use the CDs much, but we occasionally do and are glad we kept the discs but not the cases. It's especially nice for DVDs because sometimes you encounter systems with no VGA input, but every entertainment system can accept a DVD, so keeping the physical media can be a big help.
posted by pmb at 7:57 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Shoot for 1GB per film and you'll be happy. Gordian Knot is what I suggest as a tool.
posted by zombieApoc at 7:18 AM on April 8, 2012

You can currently buy a 3TB bare 7200RPM drive for $169. Buy the empty enclosure separately ($25 - $50) and you're set. You pay a real premium if you buy something labeled an "External hard drive" when it reality it's just a standard drive plus an enclosure.

Also, there's several forms of transcoding -- the ones that keep the movie in standard DVD codec (MPEG2) with just extra compression, and the ones that convert it to a completely different codec. You really want the latter, because a modern h.264 encoder is far superior to the ancient and creeky MPEG2 codec. The only reason that you would want to stick with MPEG2 is if you have some kind of hardware that can only play that back. Otherwise it's a giant waste of bits. A quality h.264 encode can easily be half or a quarter of the size of the MPEG2 file with no discernible loss of visual quality.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:35 PM on April 8, 2012

Note: ripping/compressing 300 movies is going to take a lot of time: weeks to months depending on how fast your computer is. Do you have that kind of time? If not, or even if you do but want things to go faster, if you have the Internet bandwidth to spare (you want an unlimited connection), start searching for torrents of movies you own. They're already ripped/compressed; you can retrieve more than one at a time, and the quality will be just fine.

Of course, if you're worried about your downloads being traced by rabid IP syndicates, you probably don't want to do this.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:14 PM on April 8, 2012

Drive space is so cheap these days, if I was faced with this I would just get a 2TB external drive (or buy a 2TB bare drive and a matching external drive dock; end result is the same) and rip the DVDs whole, without compression. Even assuming a generous 10GB per movie, you'll still be able to fit 200 on a 2TB drive. If you strip the menus, commentaries, extras, and foreign language tracks, DVD movies are typically about 5GB each.

DVD Shrink is dead easy and free, and I'd highly recommend it. Even if you don't use the "shrink" feature (set everything to "Original Quality"), it's great for stripping extras. The caveat is that it won't work on copy-protected DVDs, which means almost all DVDs made in the last 5 years or so. My solution to this has been to use DVDFab to copy the whole disc and remove copy protection, then use DVD Shrink to remove the extraneous bits (it works just as well on files as it does on discs).

So, in short, my suggestion:
1. Get big slab of storage, probably 2TB (disk prices are a tad high right now because of last year's Thai floods, but are on their way back down)
2. Rip everything wholesale using DVD Fab or some other app that can crack modern copy protection.
3. At your leisure, use DVD Shrink to remove the bits you don't want, in order to reclaim some space.

I wouldn't recommend recompressing the discs at all if you're intending to get rid of the DVDs afterwards. It'll be a bunch of hassle and a permanent quality loss for not too much space savings, and storage is cheap. If you do intend to go this way, use the h.264 codec because it's high-performance and widely supported. (For the love of God, don't use Divx/Xvid!)
posted by neckro23 at 1:55 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

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