You have shelves and shelves of DVDs and Blu-rays. You would like your kids or the babysitter to be able to pick up the remote and watch the video library on any TV in the house without worry of scratching DVDs and Blu-rays. You want to archive discs you have purchased.
Legal: Before considering the legality of a situation, I begin with my own personal morals. I purchased each of these DVDs. I should be able to make a digital copy for my personal use in my own home. I will not be sharing these files. I will not be selling the original disks. I will continue to own them. I will not be selling any digital copies or making copies for friends. I do not pirate movies or DVDs or download copies from the internet. Nothing that I am doing in relation to this article is costing the Movie or Recording industry a dime. As a matter of fact, it’s actually forcing me to do more consumer spending by buying new equipment and hard drives.
Moral issues aside, there are legal implications to copying your DVD collection.
My personal stance is that as long as I have paid for the movie or TV series, I don’t have see a problem creating a digital copy for my personal use.
That said, it’s time to start organizing.
#1 – Decide on a media center
Decide how you’re going to watch your movies and television shows on your TV. There’s a great article on Lifehacker on this very subject – Set Up An Awe-Inducing Media Center This Weekend. If you have no idea what you’re going to do, this is a good place to start.
Think of what the final product needs to look like. For this article, we are going to consider 2 goals. 1) The ability to stream media from a network to multiple devices in the home. and 2) Creating a stand-alone device for a room with a poor wireless signal or to watch if there is a problem with the wireless network. Note: this is also a good solution for kids going away to college so they don’t have to pack the DVDs.
Both solutions need to be simple. While another option could be building your own system and loading XBMC, that’s not what we’re after. We want to plug a device in, maybe set up wireless or a few settings and be good to go.
Media Center #1
There is a method for sharing media called DLNA, or Digital Living Network Alliance. This is a group of organizations including consumer electronic manufacturers that has created the standard enabling all DLNA devices to share media over a home network. For this solution, check out my tutorial on how to Watch Your Digital Video Collection on your TV using DLNA. In order to use this method, you will need a DLNA-certified device. You can check to see if your current devices are certified. If you need a new device, I strongly recommend the Panasonic DMP-BDT220 Integrated Wi-Fi 3D Blu-ray DVD Player for $115.
Media Center #2
For a stand-alone solution I looked into several options and I recommend the A-300 Popcorn Hour device for around $219. This device can connect to your network wirelessly with an optional USB dongle, but we’re looking at it because you can insert a hard drive full of movies and it just works. You can travel with it or connect it to any TV in the house.
#2 – Plan your system drives
Decide ahead of time where your DVD files are going to go. Decide on your file structure. For example, you might put your files in a NAS drive or external hard drive. You could map the drive to the M:\ drive and have a folder called Movies. In that folder create subfolders by genre: Drama, Action, Romance, Family, Television, Series…
#3 – Rip the disks to a hard drive
One of the best tools for ripping DVDs is Handbrake. HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded video transcoder, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows.
Disclaimer: I got this information from my beloved Lifehacker website. I’m reproducting the information here in case something happens to the original located at http://lifehacker.com/5809765/how-to-rip-a-dvd-to-your-computer. That said, I recommend you go there before using my abbreviated instructions, since they have an awesome video and such.
- Download Handbrake.
- Install the .DLL file into Handbrake’s directory. Thats a link to windows builds of gstreamer. Once you install it go to the directory where it was installed, by default: C:\Program Files\OSSBuild\GStreamer\[version]\ or
C:\Program Files (x86)\OSSBuild\GStreamer\[version]\ then in the bin folder there is the file, libdvdcss-2.dll, copy it to the handbrake install directoy where the handbrakecli.exe file. then rename it to libdvdcss.dll.
- In Handbrake, and click the Source button. Pick your DVD drive from the list.
- When it’s done, head to the “Title” drop-down menu in the upper left hand corner of the window. This is where you’ll select which part of the DVD you want to rip. In the case of movies, it’s usually the longest title, so just pick that one. If you’re ripping episodes of a TV show, it’s usually the 22 or 44 minute ones, and you’ll have to rip them separately.
- Click the Browse button on the right side of the window. Navigate to where you want to save your movie file, and type in a file name in the box. Click OK.
- Next, head to the bar on the right labeled “Presets”. This is where you’ll choose what format the resulting file will be in. If you just want to watch it on your computer, the “Normal” preset is fine. If you want to watch it on something like your iPod or iPhone, though, pick the correct preset on the left.
- Hit the Start button at the top of the window. This will take awhile, so you’ll probably want to find something else to do for a bit.
- When it’s done, you’ll get a popup notification. From there, you can watch your movie from where you saved it, or, if you want to sync it to an iPhone or other similar device, just drag it into iTunes’ left sidebar, sync your phone, and enjoy the movie!
Note that if you’re going to be ripping a lot of DVDs, you can head to Tools > Options (or Handbrake > Preferences, if you’re on a Mac), and hit “Browse” next to “Default Path” to choose a location for all the other movies you rip in the future. That way, every time you rip, you can skip step 4, and your movie files will always end up in the same place.
#4 – Install the viewer
You will have completely different instructions for different devices.
Media Center #1
Follow the instructions in my tutorial on how to Watch Your Digital Video Collection on your TV using DLNA.
Media Center #2
These are the instructions for the Popcorn Hour A-300 device that I recommend.
To use the Popcorn Hour A-300 as a networked device:
- Set up the hardware – connect the included HDMI cable to your TV. Connect the Ethernet cable to your router or networked device. If you can’t do this, you’ll need to order the Popcorn Hour WN-160 Wireless dongle to connect wirelessly to your network. Plug in the device (duh!).
- Go through the Setup Wizard on the device. Through the wizard, you will set up your network, local time, location for weather, etc.
- Check for firmware updates and update if necessary.
- Browse your network to the movie files. Hit the left button to get menu and NMJ (Network Media Jukebox)
- Select the movies section on your NAS
- Sit back and watch your movies!
If you wish to use your device independently from your network:
- Copy your DVD files to an internal hard drive. (Click HERE if you don’t know how to format your hard drive.)
- Install that hard drive in the Popcorn Hour device and connect the device to the television
- From the home screen, select Local Media
- Browse your folders and watch your movies!