Month: January 2005

A running log of my HTPC project

Posted by – January 1, 2005

My DVD collection has gotten fairly large. The problems with a collection of over 250 DVD’s are:

  1. Physically storing them has become a problem.
  2. It’s tough to remember what my options are when I want to watch one.
  3. When I decide on what to watch, it’s tough to locate it within the collection.

These problems have led me to research digitizing all of my DVD’s and and building a jukebox-esque system where they can be searched and played directly through a computer connected to my TV..

When I first began researching this concept, I had never heard of the term Home Theater PC (HTPC), but I quickly realized that there was an entire community of people building the same types of systems. The only difference is that most people are using their HTPC’s to manage cd/mp3 collections and most HTPC’s are windows-based. Well, I stopped listening to music after rap became violent and stopped using windows after… well, after windows made me violent.

Before I jumped head first into the HTPC project, I researched some other options to make sure I had all my bases covered. The only legitimate option was a multi-disc changer solution. That option looked something like this:

One to four Sony DVP-CX777ES 400 disc changers connected to an Escient Fireball DVDM-100 Manager. This option would be quick and painless to get running, but it was expensive ($2500+) and that I’d still be limited to 400 movies. And what happens when blue-ray replaces DVDs and I’m stuck with all this ancient equipment? Not good at all.

So, in the end, I decided that an HTPC was the best option. It’s scalable and can be upgraded over the years without incurring major costs. It’s relatively inexpensive ($1500ish) and with the same hardware, I can have both a dvd jukebox plus I can take advantage of apps like mythTV to replace the functionality of my tivo for free.

Of course, there are some drawbacks. HD space is an issue. My system will eventually consist of four 250Gb drives. Ripping the DVD without encoding it would mean ~6Gb/movie. Even with 1Tb of disk space, that’s still only 166 movies. This means that I’ll have to transcode the DVDs to mpeg2, which will reduce the file size considerably, but will drop the quality of the video. At a bitrate of 1100-1200 kbit/s, I can drop the size of a movie to ~1.1Gb. That means that I’ll be able to store closer to 800 movies. By the time I reach 800 movies, the price of terabyte drives will be reasonable and I can start upgrading the system.

This is a big undertaking, but I have no life and plenty of time to spare. One thing I noticed while researching my htpc is that there aren’t nearly enough sites dedicated to linux-based htpc’s, so I decided to log my progress on this site.