Building a simple dvd server... - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

Thread Tools
post #1 of 14 Old 12-29-08, 09:25 PM
Posts: n/a
Building a simple dvd server...

Hello all - all your input is greatly appreciated!

I've been doing a lot of research and have found a myriad of suggestions and advice (some that seems pretty antiquidated) and would appreciate some direction - feel free to talk to me like I'm four.

What do I want to do:

--Move my 100 DVD movies to a central/wireless server
--Have simple point and click access to watch a movie

That's it. I have an Xbox 360 and have read that I can use the Media Center to access movies externally - does this mean I only need to get a monster hard drive and attach it via USB to my Xbox, then, turn the Xbox on when I want to watch a movie? Seems like the simplest formula.

On the flip side, I'm not adverse to building a media server with a Vista Media Center driving it and making it wireless accessible and then uploading my DVD backups to that system...

Not looking for the "simplest" method per se (not scared of the challenge) but my head is spinning a bit on the options out there and don't want to drop a grand on I don't need

Sponsored Links
post #2 of 14 Old 12-30-08, 12:30 AM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 3,807
Re: Building a simple dvd server...

Well, the problem with the Xbox is getting your movies in a format it likes. There is a thread elsewhere on this, I believe, but I think Xbox requires that you rip your DVDs to lossy WMA, or use a program like TVersity to transcode them on the fly.

It'snot as pretty, but have you considered a networked media tank like the Popcorn Hour, or Elektron EHP-606? They can play movies off a NAS or other computer in .vob or .iso, leaving menus intact at full quality. The interface isn't much to look at, but the playback works beautifully.

They can also take an installed HD and serve those files around the house for very little cost in electricity (important as each watt you leave on 24/7 will cost you about $1/year, i.e. an 80watt server will cost you $80+, while a 5 watt Popcorn hour and 10 Watt hard drive will only cost you $15.). A NMT can pay for itself in a few short years in energy savings alone.
eugovector is offline  
post #3 of 14 Old 12-30-08, 06:51 AM
Friend of the Shack
Otto's Avatar
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Beautiful Colorado
Posts: 1,356
Re: Building a simple dvd server...

I've not played with WD TV thing, but I think it actually works pretty well. There's a thread here.

-- Otto
Otto is offline  
post #4 of 14 Old 12-30-08, 10:06 AM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 3,807
Re: Building a simple dvd server...

Otto wrote: View Post
I've not played with WD TV thing, but I think it actually works pretty well. There's a thread here.
Problem though, no network support. You be tied to a single local system only.
eugovector is offline  
post #5 of 14 Old 12-30-08, 10:34 AM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 120
Re: Building a simple dvd server...

Building a server seems like overkill to me, dude. Particularly for only 100 discs.

I've recently bought a Popcorn Hour A-110, and I won't lie to you - getting everything configured exactly as I like it has taken several weeks, and I'm still not quite 'there' - but, I can tell already from what my A-110 is doing right now that this machine is the answer to my prayers.

I've been slightly more ambitious than you are, right now. I've backed-up 450 of my 650 DVDs onto three 1TB external drives, and I've used another 3TB to back-up these backups; which might seem excessive, but you've no idea how much time it takes to rip 3TB of DVDs - we're talking something like 250 hours - and I'm NEVER doing it again.

Before you get started on backing up your movies, there are things you should think about:

1). How are you going to order them?

You're going to want to arrange them in sub-directories, I would think. Navigating 100 movies in a single list would be painful, particularly with the A-110's slightly sluggish GUI.

2). Are you going to use internal and/or external drives?

A single internal 1TB (931GB) drive would serve your needs (allowing for an average of 6.5GB per disc), and allow room for another 40 or 50 movies as you add them. A single 1.5TB (1396GB) drive would give you even more room to grow. And an internal drive looks very neat and tidy...

... but, for me, external drives are preferable. As a rule of thumb, internal drives are noisier and run hotter than external ones and, if you shop around, you’ll find that external drives aren’t appreciably more expensive. I bought three 1TB Western Digital Essentials USB drives for 69 each, which is pretty much the price of big-name internals.

3). Which format are you ripping your movies to?

If you go with video_ts or .ISO format, your discs will be playable from your Popcorn Hour as though they were the discs themselves – menus, commentary tracks, subtitles, special features, the lot – will be intact, and you’ll be able to navigate them in the usual way. Not only are these formats very cool (I think so, anyway…), but they’re also much more reliable than selectively extracting .VOB files from discs and running them without their .IFO files – I know this because my media centre mission began with the PS3, and I ran into timecode and aspect-ratio problems with 40% of my discs when ripping the .VOBs alone (the first of many a bitter lesson learned…!).

Assuming you are going to use one of these formats, it then becomes an issue as to which you will choose. Because, using video_ts format, individual constituent files will never be larger than 1GB; whereas using .ISO will collate complete discs into a single file of, on average, 6.5GB in size. Which raises another question…

4). Which filing system are you going to use on your hard drive(s)?

If you use an internal drive, your choice will be between two Linux filing systems, ext2 and ext3, and the Popcorn Hour will format the drive for you. I’m no Linux expert (I’d never had anything to do with it until the A-110 forced me…!), but I believe both of these filing systems have no file-size limit. And I’m told ext3 has better crash-recovery than ext2, but is otherwise very similar.

If you’re using external drives, you can use whatever you want. You can use ext2 and ext3, but unless you’re comfortable with Linux and/or willing to learn, getting Linux filing systems onto external drives is a bit of a pain. Most people will probably go with one of the Windows filing systems, FAT32 and NTFS.

FAT32 has a 4GB file-size limit. So, if you’re intending to use .ISO, FAT32 won’t be appropriate. NTFS has no file size-limit, but Linux isn’t particularly comfortable with NTFS – it definitely takes longer for NTFS drives to be recognised by my A-110 than it does for FAT32 drives. That said, I’ve not had any playback problems from my NTFS drives, so it may only be a very superficial issue.

However, if you’re going to use external drives formatted to NTFS, bear the following in mind – all the external drives that I’ve ever bought have come pre-formatted to FAT32, and will therefore need reformatting to NTFS. Whatever you do, DO NOT use the “convert” function in Windows Vista to quickie-format an external FAT32 drive to NTFS, because it will screw up EVERYTHING. Your Popcorn Hour won’t be able to see the drive, and you’ll assume, as I did, that the drive is either broken or incompatible. But it’s not. If anything’s “broken” in this particular scenario, it’s Vista…

… what you need to do in this situation, is fully reformat the drive to NTFS. Cut to several hours later, and you’ll finally have a drive that can be seen by your A-110 AND hold files of greater than 4GB, without having to use Linux filing systems.

There are other considerations. Such as considering downloading movie jukebox software like YAMJ to give you, the movie fan, a slicker and prettier interface with which to arrange and view your movies… but don’t get ahead of yourself. That was my mistake. That’s why I’ve spent a fortnight in purgatory; because I didn’t get the basics right.

It also goes without saying – consult the official Popcorn Hour threads before buying any internal or external drive to ensure it’s on the ‘Compatibility Lists’:

And, as any of the mods on the official forum will tell you if you ever ask anything vaguely simple, read the Wiki:

That’s all that I can think of, right now…

… wow. That post kinda got away from me, huh…?!

Hope it helps.


EDIT: ... oh, and, of course, you can use a number of network solutions if you choose neither internal nor external drives. But that's not something I know anything about. And I figured you might like to know of another means of achieving the same outcome...! Certainly, with the A-110 and a single external USB drive, you needn't worry about "dropping a grand" - not even a third of that.

PS. I'm proud today to've served the Sausage King of Chicago...!

PPS. Save Ferris!

Last edited by dh2005; 12-30-08 at 10:50 AM.
dh2005 is offline  
post #6 of 14 Old 12-30-08, 11:49 AM
Senior Shackster
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Charlotte, NC
Posts: 160
Re: Building a simple dvd server...

Something else to consider is SageTV... if you want to grow your vision slightly

I use SageTV as my video server... several hundred DVDs, plus all TV PVR functionality (HD and/or SD). I use their extenders at each TV and now any TV can watch these DVDs and TV shows.

Like I said, it's broader than your initial vision - but the additional functionality might be worth it to you.
Bruce Fisher is offline  
post #7 of 14 Old 12-30-08, 09:54 PM
Posts: n/a
Re: Building a simple dvd server...

Ok - looks like I have a lot to digest/consider/research further!

Truly appreciate the comments and of course, anyone with further input to aid my decision making process feel free to offer your input! Some incredibly detailed advice---thanks so much for taking such time to respond to a first time poster!!

post #8 of 14 Old 12-31-08, 08:15 AM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 120
Re: Building a simple dvd server...

No worries.

If you have any questions, or need any clarification re the stream-of-consciousness essay that I posted earlier, just let me know.
dh2005 is offline  
post #9 of 14 Old 12-31-08, 01:23 PM
Senior Shackster
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Studio City, CA, USA
Posts: 458
My System
Re: Building a simple dvd server...

Are you looking for full DVD content, complete with special features, etc., or just the movie itself?

How critical is perfect quality to you... 100% on all of them, or are there some movies you care about more or less than others?

Is this system for you to use, primarily, or is there a wife factor to consider? (in which case, extreme ease-of-use often becomes a major system requirement)

Depending on your answer to these questions, an AppleTV might be worth considering. Otherwise, the Popcorn Hour seems to be the best game running. Either way, with one of these set-top boxes and a few large external hard drives, 100 DVDs should be pretty easy to get going. Be prepared to devote a chunk of time to the ripping/conversion process, though, or at least to let the collection grow slowly over time. I have a 500+ disc library that I've been converting in small batches as the mood strikes... I have about 200 discs converted over the course of a few months, but I haven't been a slave to the process.
KalaniP is offline  
post #10 of 14 Old 12-31-08, 08:15 PM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 120
Re: Building a simple dvd server...

Too true. Ripping lots of discs takes LOTS of time...

... I'm a university student, and I'm currently on holiday. I've been ripping discs all day, everyday, for almost three weeks, and I've just about got all my ripping done (450 discs...). As the previous poster suggests - ripping DVDs can take a very, very long time.
dh2005 is offline  


building , server... , simple

Quick Reply

Register Now



Confirm Password
Email Address
Confirm Email Address
Random Question
Random Question #2

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address



Activation requires you reply to an email we will send you after you register... if you do not reply to this email, you will not be able to view certain areas of the forum or certain images... nor will you be able download software.


See our banned email list here: Banned Email List

We DO NOT respond to spamcop, boxtrapper and spamblocker emails... please add @hometheatershack DOT com to your whitelist prior to registering or you will get nowhere on your registration.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML is not allowed!
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome