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Discussion Starter #1
The mission I chose to accept is one Jim Phelps would probably have turned down! ;)

Here is the objective outline.

I have a substantial DVD library, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200-1300 DVDs. A lot of these are movie series boxed sets, or TV series on DVD. The PS3 is much more than just a game console, so I decided to put it to the test and see what this thing can really do.

Most are aware that it can be used as a media server- You can store photos, music, movie clips or even full movies on the internal hard drive, but 60GB can fill up quick. Those four USB ports on the front of the PS3 are for more than just joysticks and open up the door for a lot of add on devices.

I picked up a 320GB My Book external USB drive. One thing to keep in mind is that the PS3 uses the FAT32 system. That imposes a file size restriction of 4GB, so until NTFS is an option it doesn't look like any major High Def content will be practical, but for what I need to do that is not a problem. USB drives come preformatted in FAT32 so this worked out nicely.

The first test was to check if the PS3 could recognize the drive and play a movie from it. That worked like a champ, Sony even fixed the sub folder problem people were complaining about.

The problem I did run into though... how to get the DVD over to the hard drive with the best quality conversion?

I first used DVD to PS3 Converter. It took HOURS to convert one DVD. When I say hours I mean set it up at night and go to bed. I can say I definitely was not pleased with the video quality. It looked like a worn VHS tape- This was a major setback. I can try the setting that converts to 1080p, but I am skeptical at this point if that will really do anything. Also the audio quality wasn't DVD quality either.

Next I downloaded PS3 Video 9. This looks pretty much like DVD to PS3 Convertor but it's free. It too took over eight hours to do just ONE .vob file. Seeing that my test movie has four, this obviously is too time consuming to be practical to anyone. I am still checking out both of these programs, there is probably some settings that will improve the PQ, but they are still slow.

Next up is a trick that I am going to check out. You can rename a .vob file to .mpeg and it will play on Windows Media player and supposedly the PS3 will play it as well. Theoretically this should be the exact same image quality as the DVD source. Problem #2... As of now the PS3 does not support play lists. What this means is it plays one video file at a time. So you would have to go back to the drive and select the next file of the movie, and do this four times which is unacceptable.

I am going to run a test where I rename the .vobs and then join them. Also DVD Decryptor will output a single .vob file.

Now, I want to state this and make it perfectly clear. This is NOT a topic for pirating and no questions will be allowed on that topic. I own all the DVDs I am working with, I just want to consolidate some of the series onto a drive for convience and the coolness factor.

So far for this project, if it can be done easily it would definitely be a 9.5 rating. The ease factor is definitely a 4 rating as of now, and the coolness factor is probably a bazillion or something like that. ;)

Anyone out there that has done this? Specifically with a USB HD? So far the preliminary test are promising... the PS3 will recognize the drive and it will play movies from it. Now the problem is making this easy and keeping the quality good.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Round 2

This round is looking even more promising. I figured out how to get my DVD VOB files on the hard drive and by simply renaming them the PS3 will play it back.

In the time it took me to encode one movie with PS3 Video 9 or DVD to PS3 Converter I converted and moved over 18 Bond movies to the hard drive. Again I want to clearly state that nobody is to do this unless you actually own the titles.

I should have all 22 Bond movies setup in my 'media server' by tomorrow. :)
 

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I found a way to make this work and do it realtively painlessly. Anyone can do this with a few simple steps that does not require hours of conversion time required by using two of the predominate software programs out there.

I will provide a detailed step by step tutorial tomorrow on exactly how to set this up.

In the mean time, I successfully transferered all the Bond movies (which I own on DVD) to a My Book USB HD and it is DVD quality, not the sub par VHS quality I got with the other programs. No offence to them, but they are more for converting small video clips to be played on the PS3.

This is setting the PS3 up as a true media server and I can report that the playback gets upconverted to 1080p. The video is just as stunning as playing the actual DVD because it isn't a conversion from the DVD vob format. I will explain this in detail tomorrow! :)
 

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First I apologize about the delay... it's been a busy day.

Okay first things first. The PS3 can act as a media server several ways.

One way is to have it connected to your home network and run a video server/streaming program on your computer such as Red Kawa's PS3 Media Center X. With the firmware 1.81 update it adds in a lot of features including the ability to accept video streams.

The other way is to use an external USB mass storage device and store your movies and media content on it. Storage capacity is only limited to your budget.

I opted for the second method since I don't have a network connection available in my HT room and I wouldn't recommend wireless, at least not in a 160 year old lathe and plaster walled house- connection reliability is horrible even with a repeater.

Using an external USB drive is much easier than I thought it would be from reading through countless websites. What I did is three easy steps that anyone can do, and best of all it doesn't require hours of conversion time to end up with PQ that wasn't up to par in my opinion. Granted there are probably settings I didn't try that would have provided a better image, but the time factor was something I just didn't like. This method is much easier and faster too. It took me less time to setup 20 movies than it did to re-encode one movie to mp4, and the video quality is better this way in my opinion- it is still the same DVD file as you will see, so it is still DVD quality!

Step one is getting your movies from DVD to the hard drive. Again this is only for movies that you already own. I tried several programs and ended up using DVD Shrink 3.2.1 (3.2.0 will work too).

Normally most programs separate the VOB files into 1GB chunks. This won't work since the PS3 doesn't have a play list and in order to watch a full movie at the end of each VOB file it would require selecting the next file, and so on... not a very appealing way to watch a movie. So the movie needs to be in one complete VOB file for this to work. DVDShrink handles this task nicely.

First start DVD Shrink. From the Edit menu select Preferences. This is where you will set the program up to do one continuous VOB instead of breaking it up.


[img]http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l190/wbassett/HTS/DVDShrinkPreferences.jpg[/img]








When the Preference window opens, remove the check mark in the box next to the option "Split vob files into 1GB chunks" and click 'OK'. Even though it says 'recommended' don't worry about that you need one continuous file. It is much easier to let the program do the work than to try and reassemble them later.










Next 'Open' the DVD with the 'Open Disc' button on the top. A window will come up and from there select the drive that the DVD is in.


The program will go through a short disc read and pull in the contents. If you want you can enable the video preview option and watch the disc scan. When it is done you will be at the main window again but now you will see the entire contents of the DVD.

The one possible negative factor is this is only to play the movie. The DVD menus will not work from the Media Server, but this isn't really why we are setting this up. Besides, later on I will explain how to do the special features if they are desired. To get just the movie select the Re Author button at the top menu bar.

It will bring up this next view:

Usually there is only one main title which is the movie itself. Special features are normally listed under the 'Extras' listing. In this example we see two titles under the main section. Don't panic, it's usually easy to tell which one is the main movie, it is the larger file and the running time is also listed. If you are not sure, you can highlight the title and click the DVD style play button on the lower left portion of the program window and the movie will actually play, complete with sound in the little window. This is a nice way to make sure the right audio track is associated with the movie. Usually this isn't a problem though.

Now if there are two titles the same size and same running time, typically it is a DVD that has both wide-screen and Pan and Scan versions on the disc. The playback option at the lower left of the screen is a good way to determine which version each title is- select the version you want... I personally only go with wide screen.

Now as was mentioned earlier, FAT32 has a 4GB file size limitation. You will need to make sure the VOB file is 4GB or less in order for this to work. Select the 'Compression' option that is directly above the file listing.

It will bring up the Compression screen:

The program is set to do automatic compression, but you can select custom compression from the drop down options. In this case the movie is fine and under the 4GB limit. If it were bigger than 4GB, the custom compression is a slide bar setting- just slide it until you get the file the right size. Also deselect all the subtitles and audio commentary tracks. This will reduce any compression needed and raise the bit rate that the movie is encoded in, which means a better picture. If you want to listen to the audio commentary, well the nice thing is since you own the DVD you can put that in and watch it the conventional way!

I know right about now some people are raising and eyebrow about compression. Most DVDs movies are not the full disc size, and as seen here it is already under 4GB in size. The ones that are over 4GB are usually 5.5GB to 6.5GB, so the compression is slight and the PS3 handles up-conversion exceptional well so it really doesn't look any different than playing the DVD.

[img]http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l190/wbassett/HTS/DVDShrinkTarget.jpg[/img]





Once the title is selected, all subtitles and alternate audio and commentary tracks are deselected, click the backup Button on the top menu bar.

This is the window that will come up. From here select the destination drive. Ensure there is enough room on the drive to hold the movie. The program provides an option to create a new destination folder or it will create a new folder and name it the disc name. This will be the new default folder, so I just created one called DVDShrinkFiles.

This is the only setup that needs to be done. We aren't burning a DVD, we just want the VOB file to load onto our Media Server drive. Once the destination directory has been chosen, click 'OK' at the bottom of this window.






[img]http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l190/wbassett/HTS/DVDShrinkEncoding.jpg[/img]




The encoding window will come up. If you want, you can enable the video preview. For slower computers I would leave it off. If your computer is fast enough it's kind of cool to watch the first couple of times but after awhile it gets boring so you'll probably leave it unchecked after a few times through.

Depending on the compression setting required, it can take anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes to encode it to the hard drive. CPU speed is also a factor. My system is a Pentium IV 2.8GHZ processor with 512MB of ram, nothing fancy or exceptionally fast and this compression setting (none required) takes around 15 minutes to run.





That's the end of Step One. It may have seemed like a lot of intermediate steps to go through, but it is actually very easy and quite intuitive.




Step Two getting the VOB file converted to something the PS3 will recognize. On all the sites I scoured, this step was usually the most daunting and required third party software to re-encode the movie to mp4 at the expense of enormous amounts of time and even image quality. So is everyone ready? All you really have to do is to rename the file from .vob to .mpeg. Pretty intense wasn't it? Wait though, there is one thing that needs to be done. You can't just change the file extension from Windows Explorer, it won't remove the .VOB extension. If you tried it that way you'll end up with something like this- 'moviename'.mpeg.VOB, and that's not going to work

[img]http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l190/wbassett/HTS/Rename.jpg[/img]


Open a Command Prompt window and navigate to the target directory where DVD Shrink stored the encoded files to. It will look similar to this-->

The movie will typically be listed as VTS_01_1.VOB, if it is not, it will be the largest VOB file listed. Now you could just rename the file extension, but that would make it hard to tell what the movie is on the Media Server, so pick a name that makes it easy to identify, but adhere to the FAT32 file name length restrictions. As it can be seen I went with 00701DrNo.mpeg because the name of the movie is Dr. No of course ;) but why did I append 00701 to the beginning? Simple, the Bond movies all have different names and the PS3 will list them all alphabetically, which of course would put everything out of order. Dr. No is the first Bond flick, hence the 01 after 007.




That was it, the end of Step Two!


Step Three: Putting the movie on the external Hard Drive.

Any external USB Hard Drive can be used. Make sure it is pre-formatted in FAT32. Most are, but if you are buying your own external USB case and adding a large internal Hard Drive, they may not be formatted in FAT32. Do not use Windows XP to format the drive in FAT32 because it won't recognize the full drive capacity. If you have to format, use the utility disk that came with the drive, or a third party program that will properly format the drive in FAT32.

[img]http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l190/wbassett/HTS/mybook1.jpg[/img]


For this test I went with a Western Digital USB My Book. They are excellent drives and the price was right- around $110 at Sam Club for a 320GB external drive, and it is pre-formatted in FAT32, so it's good to go.

Plug the drive in and connect it to an open USB port on your computer. The computer will automatically detect the drive. Once it is accessible, the first thing I did was to delete all the 'bonus' software on the drive, and then I moved the Western Digital Utilities to my internal D: drive. After that you will have a clean large capacity drive ready to load up your movies and media content.


Before you just start copying movies over, the PS3 recognizes certain directories only. Create a directory on the external drive named 'VIDEO' in all capital letters. One nice update that came with firmware 1.81 is the recognition of sub folders. This is nice so that there isn't just one huge listing of every movie on the drive. It's bad enough with 22 movies plus special feature discs! Since I am doing a Bond Media Server setup, I created a sub folder called 'Bond_Dossier'.

Now that you have the VIDEO directory, and your sub folder set up, just drag and drop the movie from the target directory DVD Shrink used.

That's it! Plug the USB drive into any of the USB ports on the front of the PS3, go to the Video icon on the PS3 menu and you should see the external USB drive! Click through to your movies and have a blast!
:party:

If for some reason there is no audio, go to the setup icon on the PS3 menu and select the audio setup function and enable the appropriate audio feed.

It really is that simple! The first step is probably the most intimidating, but DVD Shrink is actually very easy to use and very intuitive. Oh, 21 movies and several bonus discs only took up a little over 80GB, there is still around 240GB remaining on the drive for more media!

That's all for tonight, tomorrow I'll explain how to put some of the special features on the media server as well as talk about some of the other media functions it can do.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Bill,

How much time did it take start to finish? Per movie I mean.

This may have to be a sticky... I'm going to do it.
That was the beauty of this... depending on compression, typically 15 minutes from the time I loaded the DVD until I was moving it to the USB hard drive. With PS3 Video 9 it took over eight hours to do just one VOB file, and there were still four I had to do. Some of the movies are actually already less than 4GB in size because of the special features on the disc, so no compression was needed and playback is literally exactly like having the DVD in. Even the ones that were compressed, the compresson wasn't high enough to cause any noticable degrade in play back PQ.

It took me a little over 6 1/2 hours to do 20 movies and three bonus discs. (The ones like Shaken and Stirred that Best Buy was giving away)

This really isn't a 'conversion' like PS3 Video 9 or PS3 to DVD Converter does, the VOB is already mpeg2 so it's just renaming it and making it into something the PS3 can recognize and play. This was so easy I really don't know why there isn't more information about doing it this way. I saw maybe one or two posts saying someone tried it, but no details on how they did it.
 

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This is seriously amusing and amazing... :T The problem I have is my daughter has the PS3 and won't let me have it for nothing. :dontknow:
 

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I don't have an XBox either, but the principles should be similar.
 

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I'll have to look at it and see... I'm not sure if it has USB ports or not. It's an Xbox 360
Originally I was trying to see if the XBox 360's HD DVD external drive could be plugged into the PS3, theoretically it should work, but we're talking Sony and HD DVD sooo.... You know the saying, theoretically you can travel at the speed of light too! ;)
 

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Friday Night with a PS3 Media Server!

I just loaded up around a dozen CDs on the internal 60GB hard drive... never touched the external 320GB drive and the internal still has plenty of space left.

My wife is a full blown convert now and loves this thing, and I think that says volumes! We loaded up a ton of pictures she scanned from the family photo albums, as well as pictures from the digital camera and tonight instead of just watching movies, we cued up a CD that was stored to the drive, selected a photo album stored on the hard drive, and reminisced at 1080p with some good tunes and a nice photo slide show. After that we threw in a couple DVDs and watched Evolution and Night at the Museum upconverted to 1080p.

If this thing ever accepts the XBox HD DVD USB drive the Toshiba is moving to the bedroom!

More testing and playing to come...
 

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The only problem I could see with using the dvds in their native uncompressed format is how quickly the harddrive would fill up. For people with hundreds of dvds in their library, you could easily start tilting the scales at the terabyte range. I would maybe take another look at reencoding the dvds... There is some more advanced software out there called meGUI combined with AVIsynth that can reencode almost any video format into x264 mp4/avc. The best part is the queue system, you could rip 10-20 of your dvds at a time to your hd, then set them all to convert, and then run the encode process at lowest priority and let it run for a few days without any interruption to your normal work.
 

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Yeah, I've toyed with the idea of using one of these things as a media player also. Both my kids have Xbox 360's at their houses, but I feel from looking at them and their possibilities for myself as a media hub that these companies are missing the boat. They could unlock so many features that people want and it would move the units way past simple game machines.

Good thread wbassset. You've shown me a possibility here that I didn't know about.....

brucek
 

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The only problem I could see with using the dvds in their native uncompressed format is how quickly the harddrive would fill up. For people with hundreds of dvds in their library, you could easily start tilting the scales at the terabyte range. I would maybe take another look at reencoding the dvds... There is some more advanced software out there called meGUI combined with AVIsynth that can reencode almost any video format into x264 mp4/avc. The best part is the queue system, you could rip 10-20 of your dvds at a time to your hd, then set them all to convert, and then run the encode process at lowest priority and let it run for a few days without any interruption to your normal work.
I'll definitely take a look at meGUI and AVIsynth.

I don't plan on putting my entire collection on hard drives, more like TV and movie series. It sounds like you've done this before, is it DVD quality when you're done? The two software programs I used to encode to mp4 just didn't give me what I was looking for and I spent a lot of time to find that out. I certainly have no problem or issues with re-encoding, this was just so easy to do though that I thought it was worth presenting.

Also how big are the file sizes after the encoding is done? Most of the ones I transfered were already at or under 4GB in size, and PS3 Video 9/PS3 DVD Converter were around 2GB in size. To me saving between 1.5-2GB per movie and losing PQ wasn't worth it. If these programs work better it's worth checking out.

The quick down and dirty method I mentioned will get anyone rolling with a very low learning curve and time invested. I'm actually pretty pleased, 21 movies and several bonus discs and it only took up around 80GB. I'm actually trying to think of what I want to do next, I still have around 240GB left.
 

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Yeah, I've toyed with the idea of using one of these things as a media player also. Both my kids have Xbox 360's at their houses, but I feel from looking at them and their possibilities for myself as a media hub that these companies are missing the boat. They could unlock so many features that people want and it would move the units way past simple game machines.

I don't promote 'modifying' these units, but take a look at this TV program on modding an xbox into a media center and it lets you see how much these things could actually do for you if the companies would sell them this way. The answer to why microsoft and sony don't use this hardware as shown in this program must be that they're selling some very powerful hardware for cost, then hoping to make a profit on the games alone. If they sold it as a media center, perhaps there's no money to be made?

Good thread wbassset. You've shown me a possibility here that I didn't know about.....

brucek
Thanks bruce, and this was actually a lot of fun to do too. It's been awhile since I took on a project that I really had this much fun doing. I feel like a kid at Christmas at times . :)

I have some friends that have an XBOX 360 that have done some playing around with for eeking out every last bit of it's capability. I'll check with them and see if they set theirs up as media players yet.

Honestly, prior to the 1.81 firmware update, the PS3 just sat there. I only used it to watch Bluray movies, and most of the titles I like are in HD DVD, since the Toshiba upconverts SDVDs exceptionally well, it is/was pretty much the work horse in my setup. Sony should have included the ability to upconvert SDVDs all along with the PS3, but I have my own personal theory why they didn't: They were trying to sell their flagship model BD player. The PS3 got reviews in some magazines that put its playback and speed up there with $1500 players, and I must say it is fast. If they had all of it's features unlocked right away, why would people have wanted to spend several hundred dollars more on their 'real' Bluray player? They would have killed their own product and marketing.

It is also a computer that is dressed as a game console, so that appealed to me as far as updating and future abilities. When I set my new system up (Kept the projector, speakers, receiver, and the Samsung DVD –HD931... ditched the 36" Toshiba CRT set, Laser Disc player, and VCR player that was never used) I toyed with the idea of an XBOX 360, but at the time the lack of HDMI wasn't too appealing to me, and the VGA input on the Sony SXRD doesn't support 1080p resolution.

I truly am format neutral and don't push one format over another, however I must say the PS3 is really a good value if you look at it's overal capabilities and the fact it has the potential to get updates that could add on features not even thought of yet.

Pioneer actually tried something similar to this years ago. They had an Elite Laser Disc player that had a drawer that you could slide in various game sytems and play cartrige based games or some special content Laser discs that were supposed to come out. It of course never made it.

My son is coming up from PA for a week and I plan on renting the PS3 Pirates game while he's here. As much as I love my Toshiba HD DVD player, I have to conceed that it's only a player (a great one at that) while the PS3 is starting to become an entire entertainment system.

Interestingly and a finaly note for this post- Sony is very very protective of it's movie copyrights, and understandably so, however I thought it was amuzing that to load a CD to hard drive you just put the disc in, hit the triangle button, and select 'Import' from the menu that comes up. If it were only that easy for DVDs. ;)

(As far as CDs go, those I will probably end up deleting off the internal 60GB drive and actually rip those to smaller mp files.)
 

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With mpeg4, and moderate compression you can get a 2.5 hour movie down to about 1.4 gb with little to no detectable loss in quality.
 
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