How do I make a good (digital) setup of my DVD movies?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by MultiBat, Oct 21, 2011.

  1. MultiBat macrumors member


    Jan 12, 2011

    Sorry for the long post.

    I am a DVD movie collector who has been thinking of going digital, i.e. store my movies on an HDD, but still watch them on my TV.

    I do not want to use media centers like boxee, because from what I read in forums they are not entirely solid. Like one product (forgot which) losing sound when fast forwarding and forcing a shutdown of the machine to resolve it.
    I have already come accustomed to the "it just works" with apple after a few months of being a Mac owner, so I prefer no hacking and tweaking to make stuff work.

    I want a fixed setup. Don't want to connect cables each time I want to watch something.
    I have looked around for a while and have found a couple of options:
    1. Apple TV
    2. Mac Mini

    Now... I have almost 1000 movies (yes, I have bought them all). It will be a long project to convert it all, but I'm not in a hurry. It's not like the discs will disappear.

    Option 1
    Apple TV would mean I would have to convert movies to a format to fit the apple TV. Easy with handbrake, but... I would then have to select 1 audio track and burn in the subtitles (correct me if I am wrong) into that one apple TV file. The biggest drawback would be that I cannot access the extra features/material and select audio tracks (commentary track , other languages). It feels like too much work for each movie if I would do multiple versions and also encode special features. I could do it for a few movies that I like to watch often, but not for the whole collection.
    Also I would have to stream from another computer, minor drawback.

    Option 2.
    I simply rip the DVD to a HDD and use it from there. From the Mac Mini instead of an apple TV, that should work just fine. Sure the movie library will be huge, but once I have ripped all my DVDs (years in the future) storage will be super cheap. I'll just buy more storage as the project goes along.
    The drawback with this would be that I have no visually nice setup of the movies. Browsing finder to find a movie... Feels... Not so "Apple-nice".

    So, have I missed any options?
    What can you recommend?

    My dream setup would be that I can browse my movie catalogue on an ipad, select it and it will start playing on my TV.

    Hey, maybe I should just wait for iTunes-match-for-movies (that will never appear in europe)?
  2. monkeylui macrumors 6502

    Oct 11, 2011
    A Galaxy far, far away
    I use handbrake & apple tv. That's it. But I'm not sure about the subtitles, etc as you state.
  3. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    Handbrake and the ATV2 support multiple audio tracks.
    1 = AAC stereo
    2 = DD5.1
    3 = Directors commentary or none

    You can switch by holding down the play button during playback.

    Handbrake has subtitle options including forced & burned in.

    Get a fast multicore machine and the ATV2 setting works for all your iOS devices.
  4. MultiBat thread starter macrumors member


    Jan 12, 2011
    Thanks. Good to know about the multiple audio tracks.

    I played around with subtitles in handbrake, but then only playing them in my ipod and I could not get it to work. I had to have them burned in to be able to see them in my ipod. Is it different for apple TV?
    Or maybe I just did something wrong?
  5. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    The only time I use subs is forced & burned in. The ATV2 supports CC & Subs but I've not played around with them.
  6. ashman70 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 20, 2010
    I would suggest you reconsider the Boxee Box (hardware) while it costs around $200 it is a very solid solution. I have had mine for almost a year and I love it, I have over 1500 movies in my collection and its growing all the time. I have ripped many DVD's using MakeMKV, very simply process. I also have an Apple TV2, but I rarely use it, it has XBMC and Plex installed but I find the boxee does a better job of streaming the movies over my wired gigabit network in the house, but thats just my experience, yours may be better.
  7. mikeb13 macrumors regular

    Jun 19, 2009
    I recommend getting a Mac Mini. It will cost a lot more than an Apple TV 2 but you can do a lot more with it.

    Since Apple got rid of Front Row in Lion, I would recommend downloading Plex. It has a nice graphical interface for movies, TV shows, and music. Also, you can access a lot of online content such as Hulu, Pandora, Crackle, Netflix, etc.

    One other download I definitely recommend if you get a Mini is the Kylo browser. You can get it at It's a browser for the big screen and lets you access tons of video from various websites all from one place. It's free.

    The only drawback with the current Mini models is there is no DVD drive anymore. You will need to buy an external USB drive to rip your movies to the HDD.
  8. clarkie604 macrumors member

    Jul 20, 2010
    I agree that Plex is a great option. Easy setup and it's great at gathering metadata. There is a Plex app that can be used as a remote - but I have never used it so I don't know how well it works. Another great thing about Plex is that once you set it up you can easily stream to other iOS devises on your network - or, with a little extra setup over the web. I'm not sure how well it deals with audio and subtitles other than basic audio over TV speakers.

    There is a Plex client for a jailbroken AppleTV, but it won't read Video_TS files - so you can't keep your DVD menus. Plus, it usually transcodes .mkv DVD/BluRay rips, so you lose a lot of quality.

    Mac Mini might be the best solution for you because it has plenty of horse power to play DVD/BluRay rips without requiring you to transcode into mp4s. -- But I've never tried Boxee.
  9. mstrze macrumors 68000

    Nov 6, 2009
    Use the scripts and automated procedure stickied at the top of this forum and you'll have your movies in an iTunes-compatible format in no time. :D

    It looks like a major process, but it's really not once you get the componants downloaded and with it, you can easily convert 10-20 or more movies a day based on the speed of your Mac and how mcuh free space you have on your HDD.

    It's as simple as:

    1) insert a DVD

    2) choose whether it's a TV show or movie disc and choose the title of the movie from an online database search (this pulls in ALL the metadata for the movie automagically!)

    3) after it rips, put in next DVD and repeat 1-2 until you have a full bacth of movies imported for your nightly encode.

    4) run a Service to encode your can schedule this to run at any time, plus using Growl it can send you an email (or text?) when your encodes are done if you so desire.

    Go back and do it all again the next day. (I delete the original DVD rips, but I know some folk like to keep them. They take up far too much space in my opinion.)

    It really is simple and easy and I would bet you could finish your entire collection in 2-3 months if you are diligent and have a fast processor.

    Here's the thread:
  10. dnelms macrumors regular


    Jul 19, 2011
    McGee's Crossroads, NC
    One thing you might also consider is that just ripping the DVD's as opposed to ripping and encoding to a different format, makes a difference in the amount of HDD storage you'll need. With a 1000 movies, if it is just a rip, you will need a lot of space. Actually either way, you'll need a lot of space, juts less with the encoding. Just something to consider in adding up your startup costs and deciding between a Roku, ATV2, Boxee or a Mac Mini.
  11. mstrze macrumors 68000

    Nov 6, 2009
    True...just ripping and not encoding will produce 7-12GB 'original' files for each DVD. Encoding gets them down to under 1.5GB generally.
  12. peterjcat macrumors 6502

    Jun 14, 2010
    Not quite that big -- DVD is 8.7GB maximum. But still big!
  13. tucker3434 macrumors regular

    Dec 23, 2009
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A334 Safari/7534.48.3)

    I keep all my movies on my hd and watch through atv. If you have the hd space and it's just for movies, I wouldn't spend the extra money on a mini. The atv can handle most of what a mini can anyway (for media purposes).
  14. ansalmo macrumors regular

    May 23, 2005
    The decision will have to be based on how important you feel those extras are to you, but I'll tell you my experience based on doing this for around 600 DVDs. I ultimately chose to sacrifice access to all of the extras and commentaries, and focus on getting the movies themselves converted with full metadata onto an AppleTV setup. My workflow was RipIt > Handbrake > MetaX, but I've recently switched to the simpler RipIt > iVI Pro and am happy with the results so far. It's a definite time-saver having the metadata being retrieved prior to the encoding stage.

    I have a RAID-5 NAS holding the movies, mounted over AFP to a Mini running iTunes, and a couple of AppleTVs connected to TVs in different rooms. I already had the Mini set up as a home server, so that configuration was convenient for me. Your "dream setup" scenario is satisfied by the use of Apple's Remote app on an iPad - it connects to iTunes to let me browse my movie collection and I can then just click on a movie and it streams to a chosen TV.
  15. Phil22 macrumors member

    Apr 29, 2009
    Sorry to jump in, but as a windows user what is the best way to stream itunes server? Is it to just buy a cheap base unit with lots of HDD space and sync that to your apple tv? I have a powerful computer which i use for ripping etc but do not want to have it streaming of it as it currently is.

  16. Muscle Master macrumors 6502a

    Muscle Master

    Oct 15, 2010
    ditto this..
  17. vrDrew macrumors 65816

    Jan 31, 2010
    Midlife, Midwest
    Any locally-stored movie or TV content you want to stream to your AppleTV has to be in iTunes. And in order to be imported to iTunes it needs to be mp4 format. Generally simply choosing "Open with" and "iTunes" for this sort of content will create an iTunes copy of the file in your library. I generally edit the metadata on each file after its made its copy.

    iTunes streams quite well on a Windows box. I'm using a 5 yr old Vista PC with a 2TB internal drive for my iTunes collection. It wirelessly streams my entirely library with very little delay or lag. Pausing, rewind and fast forward work flawlessly (better, in many respects than DVD content) and about the only "lag" effect I notice is that sometimes there is a slight delay in seeing some of my album art when skipping between playlists.

    iTunes HAS to be running before you can access its content from an AppleTV, and its difficult (if not actually impossible) to remotely start iTunes from within Windows. That is probably the most important thing to keep in mind when planning your iTunes server setup. If you want to have the freedom to watch any of your content without having to run into the room with your PC - you need to have a machine that can be running 24/7
  18. Phil22 macrumors member

    Apr 29, 2009
    Since I just want a base unit, and this box will be in our cellar, would you use some remote desktop client to add files etc to the iTunes library on the computer? Just now I use my powerful computer upstairs to do all the encoding and tagging etc (using handbrake and metaX) so the files that it creates just copy to the downstairs computer. Is there an easy way to keep both iTunes folders synced fully? I.e. when I add films, music etc using my main computer for it to automatically get pushed onto the cellar computer? Then import these new files into iTunes and have it pointed towards my apple tv? Leave this base unit running 24/7 so that my library is always available to the apple tv.

    Is this the right idea?

    Many thanks.
  19. vrDrew macrumors 65816

    Jan 31, 2010
    Midlife, Midwest
    The best way to do this would via Home Sharing.

    Basically you would have iTunes on both your upstairs computer (temporarily), and running permanently on the server.

    After ripping and encoding your movie files, you would first import it to iTunes on your upstairs machine. You would then simply drag the converted movie file to the server. Once you'd done this you could quit the instance of iTunes you had running on the upstairs machine.

    Note: It is possible to automatically transfer new iTunes purchases between computers - but note that this only works for material you acquire through the iTunes store. Obviously movies you rip yourself you are going to have to manually click and drag.

    Lastly, its worth keeping in mind that it is your AppleTV that controls what plays on it. You cannot, for instance, sit at your computer and "beam" a particular movie or TV show to it. Instead, you use the AppleTV interface to access the media you have stored on your iTunes library on your various computers.

    AppleTV is a very powerful media playing device, and iTunes does a very good job of playing and managing a very large media library.
  20. ansalmo macrumors regular

    May 23, 2005
    That's not entirely accurate - you still need AppleTV in the mix, but I can sit at my Mac and tell iTunes to play a movie on a selected AppleTV.
  21. Ginginca macrumors newbie

    Oct 22, 2011
    For what it's worth ... here is our setup and I'll let you know what the family likes and dislikes about it.

    Our entire house is very networked ... so you might find some help in seeing what we did. (Not high tech or expensive ... just connected and integrated).

    If you're looking for a box to connect to an EXISTING TV, use an apple TV rather than a mac mini. If you have an older mac mini kicking around, by all means use it. But if you want a multi-room setup it would get really expensive - or you put a mac mini on the 1st, and ATVs on the next ones.

    I experiment with the setup periodically, to add new features, and see if we're using our resources in the best way.

    Serving to the ATV:
    Unless you plan to jailbreak your ATV, all the media files will be going through iTunes. After a little bit of trial and error, we selected to use my main iMac to handle this because it NEVER goes anywhere (unlike a macbook right?). I'm sure a windows computer would have done the job too. I just don't personally own one :D

    Storing the files:
    I didn't want to store the video files directly on the iMac's internal hard drive.
    They are on a WD World Book. (According to apple this should not be done because it slows the file load, having to be transmitted twice - once to the iTunes computer and then again to the ATV. We don't run into any issues with that.)

    Each TV has either an ATV2 or an ATV1. (Beware - ATV2 has only HDMI out so it doesn't connect to older TVs). Some ATVs here are hard wired and one is wireless.

    Everything we own was converted to MP4 or MOV. With regard to television episodes, we ran them through an app (iflicks) that embeds the meta data right into each file while it converts. (I got tired of using the "get info" feature in iTunes).

    The system is solid, but I personally prefer the ATV1 over the ATV2. But that's for another day ;)

    Import to iTunes:
    Yes, for any video file to appear on your ATV, it has to be dragged into iTunes first.

    Simultaneous (and integrated) playback:
    Whether it's movies or music, anything can be played anywhere and everywhere on our network that we have an airplay device (airport express too - to connect to classic style audio gear). LOVE THIS!!! And anyone in the house can control it ... from their iPhone or iPod. So YES, you could run the iPad as a place to trigger any of your media files.

    This is SWEET when we're outside, having put speakers on the patio too.

    Here's what's missing/weak from this setup:

    - File format limitation: Had to jailbreak and install plex on the ATV2s so I don't have to convert media files and drag them into iTunes anymore. (Just a time-saving step for myself). ATV now plays additional formats.
    - Apple remotely can't control the volume of the iTunes playback other than by grabbing your iOS device. (Might as well grab the actual TV remote at that point).
    - Older style ATV1 won't run Plex. (Presently that one has boxee installed). It's "okay" but not the lovely graphical world and super slick user interface that we're used to with Apple. (BUT IT DOES CONTROL THE VOLUME on the Apple remote).
    - There has to be a computer running, serving iTunes (all the time) to get content to a ATV2. I wish it would serve from a NAS, external HD, or have one built-in like the ATV1. </wishlist>
    - BTW our VHS tapes won't fit into the iMAC for conversion to digital. But a larger hammer might do the trick :rolleyes:
    - No matter what the system you end up with, a person will have to dedicate some time to managing the media. But YES once it's there on the system it's even cooler and slicker than sliced bread!
    - Streaming internet content. I figured if Apple can do it for youtube, MLB and such ... then it can be done for other internet streaming sources. (But not the subject for this post).

    Overall ... my watching habits have been transformed. In 2011 I have only watched live television twice.

    Feedback from the family ... they LOVE watching from the ATV system ... the LIKE watching content through plex (on an apple TV), they DISLIKE the user interface on the other addons. (I don't want to be negative so I won't name them since they have their fans too.)

    They wish the ATV2 performance was a solid as the ATV1. (Gotta reboot it periodically - been like that since day one and already replaced one under warranty).

    They wish there was a keyboard on the back of the ATV remote (like on a boxee).

    I personally wish that Apple would adopt additional file formats for video.

    I personally wish that there was a volume control on the ATV remote ;)

    I personally wish that I could run this identical system with all computers turned off (just using NAS for example).

    We haven't yet snipped the ties to the cable company completely yet, but I think we are VERY close to seeing that happen.

    When you have a multi-room setup, try to keep the interface and solution the same in each room.
    Having identical setups and menus means no learning-curve when you switch from one room to the next. But in our case we're using ONE ATV1, which means when we slip off the Apple Menu (to watch other content) the visual part of the menu and usability is a different experience.

    The network router you use is very important. Some don't hold the connection very well to the ATV & iTunes.

    Total Investment:

    About $100 per TV (X2) and a few HDMI cables, plus one original ATV which was I think around $250. And about $100 for each airport express. Everything else we already had.
  22. MultiBat thread starter macrumors member


    Jan 12, 2011
    Thanks for taking the time to write all that!
    It was really useful!

    I think I might go with the ATV setup.
    If there are special features I can always encode those as well.

    Thanks all for the input in this thread. I think I need to dig into the encoding stuff and see what is possible regarding multiple audio tracks and optional subtitling.
    Then there is also the metadata stuff to investigate.
  23. spacepower7 macrumors 68000

    May 6, 2004
    For anyone wanting to do this stuff I highly recommend using a cheap $50 external DVD drive.

    1. Unless you have a Mac Pro you are limited to 8x ripping on the internal DVD drive. Many of the internal Mac drives have RipLock which slows down the ripping process to 2-4x. Better off using a cheap external Dvd drive ripping at up to 20x.

    2. Ripping hundreds of DVDs is going to put alot of wear and tear on the internal Mac DVD drive which is a bigger pain in the butt to replace than a USB external.
  24. mrjef31 macrumors newbie

    Jul 7, 2011
    Quick question......I store everything on my 3 TB WD hard drive, can I attach this to my airport and have both my Mini and MBP point to it for iTunes?.....I plan on using my Mini as a server. thanks in advance
  25. ISO:HELP macrumors regular


    Oct 23, 2006
    My advice is as follows..

    I got the ATV2, Jailbroke it...put xbmc on it... Also have an ad-on A very very ( not real name), that gets me most any tv show or movie out there..My gf loves it...I love it..

    I set up a home share with my macbook to all 3 apple tv's in the house....Using an airport express and with a little time I learned how to access the 3 tb WD HD to the macbook> and to the computer> to the apple tv's in my house..

    I love it...plays avi, flv, most of the videofiles i have ever "collected". It really is amazing what you can do with a computer and some know how..

    People love my set up to the bose...

    so imho get the atv2 and learn how to homeshare..

    good luck


    This is some great info..

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