Tell me what DVD copier / player to get
September 15, 2013 2:24 AM   Subscribe

I have a shipload of DVDs that are continually getting scratched. I want to set up a server with lots of DVDs so the kids can play them from the server rather than from the media. Stipulating that I would only do this if it were legal in my jurisdiction, what setup will:
  1. Allow me to store DVDs intermittently with the minimum amount of key clicks;
  2. Let my kids play DVDs with the least amount of parental intervention on a Sunday morning;
  3. Preferably work without an Internet connection, because WiFi is pretty bad at that end of the house - but if it makes adding DVDs easier I'll work something out.
I don't especially care about recording TV shows; I just want an easy way to add DVDs into the system and an easy way for the kids to access them. Assume I can use a command line but only with recourse to manuals.
posted by Joe in Australia to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Assuming you use Macs and have a home network, add a Roku player for less than $100. Then, you would rip the DVD's using the free (but excellent) HandBrake app, and send them to the Roku using the free (but excellent) Plex media server app.

You would simply connect the Roku to both your TV and your home network, turn on the TV, and select the Roku input. Then, Roku presents you with various "channels", one of which is Plex. Within Plex, you will find all of your ripped DVD's, ready to be streamed to the TV. Easy, simple, cheap.
posted by dinger at 4:30 AM on September 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Here's another "if you have Macs" answer. I tried Handbrake, but it took forever to rip some DVDs. I don't know why. Bought Mac the Ripper and love it. Very quick, very user friendly. Add the ripped movies to my iTunes library. We have AppleTV, which makes it super easy to access the iTunes library. Local network is needed, but it doesn't rely on Wi-Fi. My seven year old can easily find whatever she wants to watch. She never messes with the actual discs, which are all pristine and stored in our closet.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:50 AM on September 15, 2013

I don't know what your budget is, but you could look into getting a "DVD Jukebox" kind of set up like one of these. Looks like it might be the least amount of work for you and it also provides physical storage for all of those DVDs with the added bonus that you won't have to worry about legal issues with ripping them.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:15 AM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

We did something like this and just bought a "media server" and copied our DVDs onto it. I gather it is slightly irritating to copy across, my husband always groans, but it is super convenient in use. It didn't cost very much money, I think around the $100 mark.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 5:53 AM on September 15, 2013

dinger's instructions can be done with a PC/windows computer as well. That's what I do.
posted by royalsong at 6:05 AM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want to be super in line with the law in Oz, I'm afraid you might come a cropper. It is far from clear you can transfer DVDs to a hard drive and watch them (I think it is established you can back them up).
That said, if I assume you mean you want to have a system for playing back the content of media you have licensed on DVD, I'd be inclined to rip the DVDs to mp4 or similar and use one of the media server software platforms (XBMC, windowsMC etc) on a pc to play them back.
Or do what I do and get one of the $30 dedicated media players off ebay that take a usb drive and play any format you would care to name.
In actual fact, we find it easiest to download a pre-ripped copy of our media from 'pirate' sources, as they drop the ads and copyright warnings etc.
This is the kind of thing we have, note example not endorsement of this particular one.
posted by bystander at 6:09 AM on September 15, 2013

Just one note, you do say that Wi-Fi is bad there - that won't just affect your Internet connection, it'll also affect the speed of your local network, which you'd be using to transfer the movie files across the network from your server to the Roku/AppleTV. It might work out better to pick up a used/refurb Mac Mini with a DVD drive, plug it directly into the TV, and do it all right there. In other words, rip it onto the Mac Mini, then use media-player software like Plex to play it back.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:32 AM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

My current set up is this - Rip dvds using DVDFab to a desktop PC, import files into Plex media server, then I access the vids with a Roku. Works good enough for my needs.
posted by ducktape at 8:43 AM on September 15, 2013

This is probably a clunkier solution (I am so going to look into that Plex thing) but we use a media player called an nbox; I rip the dvds to avi's (a newer version of the nbox may play mp4's, the under-$30 won't) and put them on a hard drive connected to the nbox (found it on amazon). The only other limitation I've found is that it doesn't want to play past 1 gig, so I make sure all the files are smaller than that. The directions say you can just rip dvds to a hard drive without converting but I've never been able to get it to work. But since I had the hard drive already it only cost me $30, so it's a pretty cheap option.
posted by lemniskate at 8:45 AM on September 15, 2013

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