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DVD collection: be my Google! February 16, 2009

Posted by Sacha in /dev/null, IT.

I am spending some time these days (actually week-ends…) trying to understand what’s the best way to move from a horrible collection of DVD to a sequence of 1 and 0, stored on a hard drive, which I can then play from various location (read: what’s the best way to watch movies  in the 21st century).

(Just for the record, this is all about PAID DVDs, paid content (I’ve those ugly DVD boxes filling my place) – so all of this IS legal.)

I am trying to find a solution which:

  • keeps content in an “open” format (i.e. not a proprietary or encrypted format)
  • keeps maximum quality (i.e. I want the initial copy to be a “master” which I can later format-convert if needed)
  • reduce the IQ required to process new DVDs
  • provides a nice GUI once you actually want to consume those bits

Easier said than done. I’ve actually done my homework quite well, but I still have some doubts or things I haven’t been able to figure out.

So I figure out I would share those with you in case you have experiences you can share as well. Once my solution will be ready, I’ll obviously report it here in great details – I’ve already had several requests from people wondering about the same thing.


  • There are plenty of well organized CD databases that exist so that you can get the list of the songs, picture of the CD, etc. when you rip those. Such as what iTunes is doing. Question: does the same thing exist for DVDs? BTW, I am asking for a TRUE solution based on a UID, not some ugly tool using web-scrapping algorithm to match the DVD name to some name-related movieon Amazon.com.
  • Are you aware of any decent ripping software (Windows or Linux) which will automatically open-the-dvd-tray/get the real movie name (see above)/rip the DVD in a folder named according to the movie name/eject the DVD; and this for multiple drives in the same system? If not, I’ll have to code it, fine, but I hate NYH syndromes.
  • Have you tried the TVIX HD M-6500A device? If yes, what are your thoughts on it?
  • What ripping format is best for a “master”: ISO or direct copy of the DVD structure in a folder (content of TS_VIDEO)? I know there are no quality differences, I am just wondering which one might be preferred for other reasons (size, easier to consumme by devices, etc.)
  • Thoughts on the NetGear ReadyNAS NV+? or on the ReadyNAS Pro?


Oh, and remember one thing, I live in Europe (Switzerland), which means that unlike in the USA, there are no decent ways to buy your movie content directly in electronic format from a 3rd party. While some ISP or telco do provide some kind of offering – it never reaches anything close to a decent specialized shop.

It seems the movie industry still doesn’t really understand what “ease-of-consumption” means. They missed the market-flip from Audio-CD to online-mp3-shops and instead prefered to complain during years that their content was being hacked on peer-to-peer network (also known as “listening to the radio” IMHO) instead of keeping the leadership by doing it themselves. Will the same drama happen for Video content? What is sure is that they are clearly not answering the needs of a growing portion of their market. How come I have to spend so much engineering time to design such a simple solution? Instead, what I am trying to achieve should be the de facto way of obtaining content.


Thanks for your help, comments are open!





1. Thomas Heute - February 16, 2009

I spent some time on http://www.divx-compare.com/ trying to get the device of me dream, I’ve just been even more depressed… There are user reviews of the DVICO you mentioned.

About NAS, I’ve heard good things about the Drobo, EmmanuelB got one he may have comments to make 🙂

Can’t wait to read your conclusion…

Sacha - February 16, 2009

Thanks Thomas. I browsed dix-compare.com and the feedback is mostly very positive outside of some comments which appeared to be linked to bogus hardware to be replaced. I’ll look at the Drobo…
Stay tuned…

2. Rich Sharples - February 16, 2009

Sacha, I’ve been thinking about AppleTV front end with MythTV on the backend running on a decent sized storage array (3-4Tb, expandable). AppleTV is the nicest UI, Myth gives you access to more codecs, sources and backend storage.

There’s some nice Windows ($$) s/w called AnyDVD / CloneDVD you can use for putting images on your H/D.

I have played with all these pieces – just haven’t had time to do the integration – I don’t think there’s anything hard.

btw. I haven’t purchased a DVD for 4 years – use AppleTV instead. For now the convenience outweighs the lockin (which is easy enough to overcome if needed).

– Rich

Sacha - February 16, 2009

Hello Rich,

Thanks for your feedback. Some comments:

Apple TV:

I thought that the AppleTV required to copy files locally? That’s not the case? It knows how to stream content from a back-end server?

Is the AppleTV still heating like crazy? I used to have one and was using it to cook eggs.


AnyDVD is a great piece of software, indeed, same for CloneDVD – the problem is that both cannot be scripted on the command line. AnyDVD has a very very basic command line and CloneDVD doesn’t have one – so much for the automation

AFAICT, when AnyDVD is live-converting a DVD, it changes some CRC32 hash which is being used by some tools to identify the DVD (used to query DVD catalogs) – not sure whether that still true or not

As for not buying any DVD for the last 4 years, that is an American-only (or pretty much) luxury. In Europe, there is no such thing – we are being asked to gently buy discs…

3. Rich Sharples - February 16, 2009

Automation – good point – I don’t have that requirement, too few DVDs. How would you automate the load / unload of DVDs ?

AppleTV and fried eggs. My audio cabinet has good airflow (2 self-reg. extractor fans < $100) so I can use a regular frying pan – tastes much better 🙂

– Rich

4. Sacha - February 16, 2009

For the automation, something like the “autoplay” feature (meaning – a trigger which starts a program once a DVD is inserted) would do the trick. Still, the program would need to accept, on the command line, the DVD drive on which it has to do the work (in the case of multiple drives – I have multiple as I’ll describe in another post). Then, once the ripping is over, I can imagine two solutions. Either the software itself has “eject once ripped” feature or (better), the program simply exits and the next line on my batch would just eject that drive.

So that would really be “cheap” automation. The reason I want this cheap automation mode is that I could start that machine with no screen/mouse/keyboard attached and simply blindly add DVDs manually.

For the eggs, I’ll try a frying pan.

5. Romain GUINOT - February 18, 2009

Hi Sacha,

I’ve researched the subject as well a few months ago.
* For the storage part, I own a Netgear ReadyNAS NV+ and like it a lot. it’s dead easy to install. it’s linux (debian) based and comes with a simple configuration web interface. once it’s installed, you can enable ssh access and install other packages through apt-get. It also comes with a cool RAID expansion feature (X-RAID) that allows easy volume expansion as bigger disks become cheaper in the future.

* For the playback part, i own a popcorn hour A-110 (http://crave.cnet.co.uk/gadgets/0,39029552,49298505,00.htm) and really recommend it. it’s also running linux and allows to connect to the NAS via SMB, NFS, FTP, Upnp … to play a very large amount of formats (including flac, ogg…). I use it to play TV shows i pulled from the “radio” , that are stored on my NAS and downloaded from my desktop PC. You can store ISO masters of your DVDs on the NAS and the popcorn will be able to play them as if they were DVDs (menus, subtitles, etc…). I am not sure if it plays Blu-Rays though.
I haven’t yet stored my DVDs and Blurays on the NAS as the space required would far exceed the terabyte i have but i hear it works great. Their wiki should have more info on that : http://www.networkedmediatank.com/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

* For the restitution part, i’ve connected the popcorn hour to my Denon 2809 via HDMI, and used the denon learning remote to make it learn the popcorn’s remote keys, and it’s working great.


Sacha - February 19, 2009

Hello Romain,

Thanks for the information. BTW, your first post was being kept for approval. Your second post(s) went through probably because they were using the same IP address as one of your previous post (only the IP address was different, the usernames were identical).

For the Netgear, the community behind it was one of the big PROs I found, indeed. The X-Raid feature is pretty cool.

For the playback, I’ll check what they say about the popcorn – I’ve seen several mention of this device but never dug deeply in its features.

I’ll also check the Denon “learning remote”, that sounds funny.

Thanks for the tips, time to browse the web now…

6. Romain GUINOT - February 18, 2009

Hi Sacha,

I posted a response earlier but it got deleted 😦
* for the storage part, i own a readyNAS NV+ and it’s working great. Debian based, ssh access, easy to configure CIFS,NFS, FTP … no problems about it. also features a nice RAID volume expansion.

* for the playback you should look at the popcorn hour A-110. i own one and like it a lot. allows playback of a very large amount of formats including flac, ogg … plays HD content such as TV shows from the “radio”, and can play DVDs straight off an .iso, including menus and has and HDMI output…not sure it plays blu rays though.

7. Romain GUINOT - February 18, 2009

Hi Sacha,

I posted a response earlier but it got deleted 😦
* for the storage part, i own a readyNAS NV+ and it’s working great. Debian based, ssh access, easy to configure CIFS,NFS, FTP … no problems about it. also features a nice RAID volume expansion.

* for the playback you should look at the popcorn hour A-110. i own one and like it a lot. allows playback of a very large amount of formats including flac, ogg … plays HD content such as TV shows from the “radio”, and can play DVDs straight off an .iso, including menus …not sure it plays blu rays though.

8. Romain GUINOT - February 22, 2009

Hello again,

No problem. i know first hand that i did a lot of web browsing when i was selecting components to build the system i have today.

I don’t know i you remember me i’m a very good friend of Noel R’s and work in Pascal’s open source team, we met a few times , the last one being the last Paris JUG.


9. Sacha - February 22, 2009

Oui, bien sûr, je me rappele de toi, le site jboss.org également:



10. Adam - March 19, 2010

I was searching google for the same solution you’re looking for. I was wondering if you’ve come up with anything?

Sacha - March 25, 2010


You are right, I should be following up with a blog post – I’ll do it, I promise. In short: nothing magic.

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