Hey guys come over and check out my sweet setup
July 21, 2008 1:10 AM   Subscribe

I have upwards of 1000 DVD's, two 29" CRT televisions, a wireless router, a desktop computer with an S-video out and DVD drive, a big fat stereo, and 200+gb of downloaded movies. We are moving soon to a larger apartment, will definitely include a projector and possibly another TV, as well as audio systems for each of the TV's if necessary. I want this digitized, unified, expandable (as we add movies and music) and controllable from my laptop, ideally with minimal wires. How, sirs, do I does it?
posted by saysthis to Technology (8 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Let's do a little choose your own adventure, shall we?

Are you prepared to invest a lot of time and money into this?

If yes, turn to page 2.
If no, turn to page 1.

Page 1

Previous Ask MeFi answers to questions like this try to dissuade you from digitizing all of this, buying a series of 300 or 400-disc DVD changers and calling it a day. I believe Sony ones let you daisy chain them together. There are some upsides to this: your DVDs won't get scratched or lost, you don't spend hours/weeks/months ripping all your DVDs, etc. Stick all of your DVDs in these changers, get a nice remote, and spend more time with your family and friends. You live happily ever after.

Page 2

First, you need to set up a way to store 1000 DVDs. Now, do you need this to be redundant? In other words, to hold this amount of data, you'll need more than one hard drive, and the chances are likely that the hard drive will fail in the future. Are you willing to re-rip all the DVD's that disappeared when that hard drive died?

To get straight to the point - Which is more valuable to you, your time or your money?

If time is more valuable to you, turn to Page 3.
If money is more valuable to you, turn to Page 6.

Page 3

I know I just asked you this, but to what degree is your time more valuable than money? You can save some money if you're somewhat technically savvy.

Do you like building computers? Do you enjoy using Linux and/or configuring RAID systems in your free time to save money?

If yes, turn to page 4.
If no, turn to page 5.

Page 4

Get a reasonably fast computer for storing all your data, preferably one with a lot of space for extra hard drives. Either purchase a PCI Raid card (hardware RAID if you can afford it, software RAID if you can't) or set up a software raid using software like unRAID, some flavor of Linux that supports software RAID (2), patched Windows XP for software RAID, or Windows Home Server. There are a lot of tradeoffs going on here, unRAID costs money but your drives don't have to be the same size and don't have to configure much, hardware RAID costs more than software RAID but is faster so you can use the computer for other things. Windows Home Server used to have data corruption issues but they claim they're fixed now. Some hardware based RAID systems are not compatible with different RAID cards, so if your RAID card dies you need to buy the exact same card. There's a lot of articles about all this so I won't get into any more.

Turn to page 7.

Page 5

Get a 4-bay NAS solution, like a Drobo, a Buffalo Terastation, a Infrant ReadyNAS, or a Promise 4-bay NAS. A Drobo needs either the Ethernet-addon or a computer to connect it to on your network, but it supports hard drives of different sizes. Most other NAS's require you to have hard drives of the same size. Some hardware NAS systems are better than others, and the prices will reflect this. Read the forums on AVS Forums about this, look Fatwallet or Slickdeals for places to buy them after you decide which one you want.

Turn to page 7.

Page 6

Get a reasonably fast computer for storing all your data, preferably one with a lot of space for extra hard drives. Pray that the hard drives in it don't die because your DVD's are essentially your backup solution and you'll need to re-rip them if it does die.

Turn to page 7.

Page 7

Get two of those spindles that blank DVD's or CD's come in. One of these is your Inbox, the other is your Outbox.

Take 50 DVD's out of their cases and place it on the Inbox spindle. Assuming you have Windows, install DVD Decrypter on your computer. Take a DVD off the spindle, rip it with DVD Decrypter to your hard drive, put it on the Outbox spindle. Repeat as necessary.

Look into patching your DVD firmware, some DVD drives have riplock and will cause it to rip at a slower rate.

How hardcore are you about quality? You can store these DVD's either as the raw DVD's themselves, or XVIDs. Personally, I like XVIDs more, I find that 1.5 gigs for each movie is a reasonable tradeoff between quality and size. 1000 DVD's is almost a minimum of 5 terabytes, 1000 XVIDs is almost 2 terabytes.

However, encoding 1000 XVIDs will take an extremely long time, depending on how fast your computer is.

This is something serious to think about. The time investment of ripping 1000 DVD's is a lot, but encoding 1000 DVD's is huge. Also, how much do you care about special features, like director's commentary or deleted scenes? If you care about them a lot, you may want to not encode.

If you'd like to encode your DVD's to XVIDs, turn to page 8.
If you'd like to just use raw DVD's, turn to page 9.

Page 8

If you're going to encode, you'll almost definitely want a redundancy so go back and do that if you didn't before.

Install AutoGK. Set it to 1/3 DVD size, and queue up a bunch of ripped DVD's on your harddrive to encode before you go to sleep each night. Depending on how faster your computer is, you can probably encode 5-20 DVD's per night. Sometimes it will encode incorrectly, getting the cropping of the widescreen wrong, and you'll have to tweak it to get it right using the hidden Advanced Settings menu. Also, be careful to encode subtitles for all the movies that you need to.

Turn to page 9.

Page 9

Move all your movies onto your storage solution. Your storage solution should be hooked up to your network, preferably wired. It doesn't really matter that the storage solution is in the same room as your home theater, just as long as it is wired to the same network.

Now you have to either get a HTPC, a modded Xbox, or a Popcorn Hour, or a hacked Apple TV or Mac Mini.

I have had both a modded Xbox and a Popcorn hour. Both of these can be controlled by a laptop, I believe the modded Xbox has an http server that can control it, the popcorn hour is explained here.

I imagine if there isn't a normal client for controlling the HTPC or the Apple TV/Mac Mini, you can just install VNC and VNC from your laptop to the computer.

Note that the modded Xbox can't handle really intense HD streams, but the interface is probably the best of all of them. Either way you'll want to wire your player to the network. I strongly recommend that you don't try streaming wireless, but it's your house, sometimes the layout creates sacrifices.

posted by bertrandom at 4:22 AM on July 21, 2008 [77 favorites]

Oh, and obviously if you have multiple TV's/projectors, you'll need multiple players (HTPC, xbox, popcorn hours, apple tvs).
posted by bertrandom at 4:24 AM on July 21, 2008

might be worth asking this question over at www.avforums.com as well
posted by moochoo at 5:07 AM on July 21, 2008

Sorry for the derail, but is there a DVD changer that is region code hackable? I have to rip because of this issue but I am more than willing to go with a changer if that is an option. Any one with experience on this?
posted by jadepearl at 9:15 AM on July 21, 2008

That Popcorn Hours device seems really, really cool. You can stream 1080p h.264 over HDMI from a networked drive for 179 bucks? Arguably you can't even buy an effective graphics card that will decode 1080p content for 179 bucks, never mind the computer to run it. Add on a Linksys WRT54G router with dd-wrt firmware and you have an wireless media player setup for under $250.

Seems to not available in the US though...
posted by SweetJesus at 4:34 PM on July 21, 2008

Response by poster: bertrandom - this is me bowing and telling you I'm not worthy.

Just for the record, this is totally me futzing around with my computers. That, and that we've decided when we move we want a very minimalist setup in the house. The wumin and I both work at home and will need to have easily convertible spaces.

Thanks a ton for the info, this'll be fun!
posted by saysthis at 7:58 PM on July 21, 2008

Well I can't be as creative bertrandom, unfortunately, but I can share my own experiences:

- Bought a rack sever off eBay on the cheap. Put 1.5TB in it. NAS solutions are great for expanding, but I wanted the server to also be my acquisition system (put torrent/nzb file in shared folder, it automatically takes care of it). Also you can get a process down and not have to worry about that latest thing you installed breaking it, because this is a server and your latest things go on your workstation. I highly recommend Win2003 as it just works, and is incredibly solid. I say this as someone who has built Debian boxes. Unless this is a hobby stick to the philosophy of "how do I get this done the fastest."

- Okay so now you (hypothetically) have this big fat server. I highly, highly recommend a product called "OSXBMC" and now goes by "Plex" but searching for OSXBMC will have better results. What does it do? I have a Mac Mini running as a head unit, and this is all it does. I installed OSXBMC and told it to look for my SMB (i.e., Windows 2003 shared folders). It automatically "scrapes" your files/folders and fills in the metadata. That means if your naming convention is at all logical, like "Blow Up (1966)" it will go out and find information on IMDB. A dozen movies and this is just a cool trick, wow the IMDB rating and cover art, cool but not really that big of a deal. But when you reach the level we're at, it almost becomes the only way you can deal with large sets. In fact this is the reason I'd steer you away from a big DVD changer. You can now do things like "sort by year" "sort by rating" "sort by movies with Ted Danson" "find movies by this genre." And it'll only get better. It is not production ready yet, I've had it crash on me, but I put up with it because everything is really shit in comparison.

- Check out "The Kaleidescape System," it is a commercial product that does what you're trying to do. It does so cleanly, just throw in a DVD and it adds it to the system without needing to dick around with DVD Decrypter and storage. It "just works" but does so at a price. Around $10k is where installations start at, I believe. In my opinion any homebrew home theater setup is just trying to strive to be the Kaleidescape system. That's the hallmark, we're just playing catch-up. Oh it's about $10k for a basic setup. Mac Mini + HP GL100 is maybe $2,500. The cost savings are obvious.

In any case let me reiterate: get dedicated servers! get dedicated head units!
posted by geoff. at 10:32 AM on July 22, 2008

I recommend using Handbrake to rip and encode the DVDs. It's a single tool that does both jobs without having to double-handle everything.
posted by Jerub at 6:48 PM on July 27, 2008

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