How to turn my Mini into a Movie jukebox

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by ericinboston, Apr 13, 2010.

  1. ericinboston macrumors 68000

    Jan 13, 2008
    Hi all,

    I consider myself very technical, but not that up-to-speed with the bazillion ways to watch/create/convert video these days.

    I have a Mini from Sep 2007 (right after the refresh). I'd like to load it with rips of my dvd collection. Then, connect the Mini to my HD tv and use the Apple remote (that came with the Mini) to play back a movie. I've Googled this topic quite a bit and I've found either websites from 2005 which are no longer applicable or sites that post 1.5 hour videos of how-to rather than a nice 2-page document. I would have thought I could have found (relevant) info on this topic within 5 minutes but I guess not. :)

    What I am unsure about are 2 aspects:

    1)Should I be ripping the dvds straight to full quality VOB files (and all the other stuff like IFO and BUP files) or should I/can I rip/convert the dvd to a lossless file format that is smaller than VOBs? I do not want to lose quality on my end movie files as I am not a fan of lossy compression.

    2)Once I have my wonderful movie files, what application should I use to play them? My goal is have a few hundred movies loaded on my Mini and to be able to easily navigate and find and play my movie. I do not want to use VNC. I would think iTunes would likely make this point very simple but maybe I am wrong.

    Lastly, I would of course like to do this with freeware. Possibly iTunes can do both #1 and #2 but I am not sure. I am aware of the sizes of dvd movies (4-7GB on average for a full quality VOB rip) so I'm not worried about that.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated in advance and if you have URLs to How-To guides or maybe even screenshots of how it all looks, that would be cool.

    On a side note, I already have a large archive of VOB files from dvds I've ripped on my it would be great to just copy them over to the Mini.

    Thanks so much in advance!

  2. srexy macrumors 6502a

    Nov 19, 2006
    Head over to the Apple TV/HTPC forum and sniff around there for a while. You should find out all you need to know and if you don't - ask the same Q there.
  3. OrangeSVTguy macrumors 601


    Sep 16, 2007
    Northeastern Ohio
    MacTheRipper can rip your DVDs and encode them to H.264 if you choose. There's many types of formats it can do. Have you ever used Apple's Frontrow? It's a pretty decent app to use with the Apple remote.

    Are you storing all of your movies internally or externally? 5-7GB a pop will fill up your HDD quick!
  4. omni macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    This really is a question that should be in the appletv/home theater forum. But I'll try to answer briefly.

    Not to be a jerk, get over the concept of lossy as h264 encoding these days is amazing. I watch stuff on my 60" and can't tell a difference for SD stuff.

    If you have a mini - here's what I would do: rip the DVDs with mactheripper or some other ripper. Then encode them in handbrake. From there you can either watch them through front row or look into a solution like Plex. I haven't ran plex but others rave about it.

    Not sure how deep you are so to speak in the apple ecosystem but it's very possible to rip DVDs that look great for both tv and iPhone/iPad and needing only 1 file.
  5. wysinawyg macrumors member

    Aug 3, 2009
    Now the irony here is that apparently you are a fan of lossy compression as your VOB files are examples of lossy compression.

    As they are already a lossy compression unfortunately you can't get them smaller without losing (theoretical) file quality. Whether you will notice the loss of quality moving from a VOB to a good h.264 encode is another matter.

    iTunes (with Front Row) does, but not if you keep the files as VOBs. Broadly the two options are:

    1. Use handbrake to turn your VOBs into h.264 and use iTunes/Front Row.

    2. Kepp the VOBs and use Plex or similar third party media centre program to give you a remote controllable interface.

    Lots more information on the AppleTV and Home Theatre forum.
  6. ericinboston thread starter macrumors 68000

    Jan 13, 2008
    Apologies about the posting in the somewhat-wrong-forum...but I didn't know a Home Theatre forum existed here.

    1)I am a fan of lossless technology (audio and video) for a number of reasons. One of my reasons for video is that I don't feel like spending 30-40 mins to rip the dvd, then 1-1.5 hours encoding the dvd. Not to mention that in my experience with a bazillion encoders (like Handbrake) that I find the final result off-sync with audio or somewhat incompatible with media players. Furthermore, I would simply prefer to have the perfect copies rather than some watered down flavor...I have the storage for 200 dvds (200 x 4-5GB each (just the movie, not the trailers and menus and all the other junk on the dvd) is roughly 800GB-1TB. $75 these days for storage that large (small)

    2)I have ripped all of my dvds over the years via my Windows's super simple and it gives me exactly what I want from a copy perspective.

    3)As far as I have known/read for the past 5+ years, VOB rips from a dvd are LOSSLESS. Yes, some applications will allow you to squeeze/compress the dual-layer dvd into a single layer dvd size while still producing VOB files which means you are reducing the quality of the movie. I don't do that. Unless you can point me to a particular article on the web, you are mistaken about VOBs (again, unless you purposely tell the application to reduce the quality). Now, in the studio where the movie editors are actually creating the master and then pressing it to dvd, sure, the dvd format is a lossy version of the master. However, again, to my knowledge, the VOB files that get spit out on your hard drive from a software application are 100% perfect representations of what is on the dvd.

    I should have mentioned to everyone that I am aware that I can create an image ISO of my dvds but I never do. A)I don't want all the menus and stuff and B)I really don't see much advantage of the ISO format in my use case.

    I will read more of the replies here but wanted to reply to these few questions before the thread continues. Thanks again, all!

  7. plinden macrumors 68040


    Apr 8, 2004
    Actually, Front Row will play direct rips just fine if you put them into movie-specific folders in the Movies folder. You can even get artwork if you drop a Preview.jpg file into the movie folder.

    See the images here - I didn't look any further for more specific tutorials.
  8. wysinawyg macrumors member

    Aug 3, 2009
    Well, you're contradicting yourself here and you may feel its splitting hairs but its important. The article from the web you wanted:

    "It describes a combination of lossy video compression and lossy audio data compression methods which permit storage and transmission of movies using currently available storage media and transmission bandwidth."

    The VOB file is a lossy compressed (MPEG 2) copy of the movie you're trying to watch. It is the same quality as the DVD but its still a lossy compressed file and that is why you can't transcode it into something else without losing quality (or gaining size).

    Its the same as transcoding mp3, no matter how good the quality of the mp3 is and how high the bit rate you can't transcode into a different file without losing quality or gaining size.

    That contrasts with the WAV audio off a CD which isn't a lossy compressed copy of a song (albeit that it isn't a complete recording of the actual sound).

    Its the fact that WAV isn't lossy whereas VOB (well the MPEG 2 stream within the VOB) is which means that you can create a smaller lossless version of a WAV but you can't do the same for a VOB.
  9. OrangeSVTguy macrumors 601


    Sep 16, 2007
    Northeastern Ohio
    That's pretty cool idea! Now is there a way to use the custom artwork for .mp4 files? That's how I store all of my movies, I use handbrake to encode them to mp4 so they can be in one file.

    Would be nice to go through with Front Row and see all the movies with their album work.
  10. wysinawyg macrumors member

    Aug 3, 2009
    Doesn't it show up if you add a picture in Subler or one of the other tagging programs?

    mac.jedi's script over on the ATV forum adds custom artwork to the files as part of the tagging process and I'd kind of assumed that would show up in Front Row as it was embedded.
  11. Tilpots macrumors 601


    Apr 19, 2006
    Carolina Beach, NC
    MactheRipper 2.6.6 and Plex is all you need.

    Just Rip the DVD using Mac the Ripper as a full disc extraction. You won't lose any quality and you will preserve the menus and bonus features on the disc. Name the folders in a Plex friendly format and...

    Then use Plex to play the files back. It's got great eye candy and if your movies are labeled correctly, it does all the work for you. Plus it does a whole-heck-of-a-lot more. It's brilliant, really, and only getting better very soon with an imminent .9 update.

    These are definitely the programs you want to use. Definitely.
  12. OrangeSVTguy macrumors 601


    Sep 16, 2007
    Northeastern Ohio
    Yes! Subler works great. Thanks a million! I actually tried googling for this not too long ago and couldn't find anything.

    Here's a link for others to find it more easily. It's easy as you just drag the image to the app and click save.
  13. ericinboston thread starter macrumors 68000

    Jan 13, 2008
    I am not contradicting myself. You and I are speaking the same language and understand everything the same. I'm not sure why you are seemingly attacking me, however.

    Let me put it even more clear for you. The dvd is a piece of media. Period. Making an exact copy (within technical limitations of the word "exact" as nothing in this world is "exact" down to the atomic level of what humankind can reproduce) of a dvd into files is by way of the VOB file format. Making an ISO image of the dvd is also a possibility, but by definition, ISO files are/were designed to be an image of a disc...not a playable media type (in that some applications can open an ISO and "play" it as a virtual cd/dvd).

    How the dvd was originally encoded/converted/mastered/etc. does not matter. What matters is that I (the consumer) want an exact dupe of the dvd in a video format. VOB is that file format.

    You had some good examples of MP3s and WAV. I would extend your conversation and make it analogous to this:

    WAV are the perfect soundfile representations of an audio cd.
    VOB are the perfect videofile representations of a dvd (actually you need the BUP and IFO files, too)

    Also...a cd is a lesser quality representation of the studio audio master (which the studio master has been for a VERY long time recorded/encoded much higher than the 16bit/44.1 cd redbook standard). And thus a dvd (even a bluray) is a lesser quality representation of the studio video master.

    Us consumers do not have the masters...therefore, lossless folks like me prefer to always have a 100% representation of MY source material (the cd or dvd). I can always choose to encode it later into some wacky AVI/MPG/MOV/DivX container/format/filetype later on if I really need to save some drive space or make it portable for devices like iPods.

  14. wysinawyg macrumors member

    Aug 3, 2009
    Sorry not meant to be an attack but I still don't think you're getting the difference or else you wouldn't have asked your original question.

    It does genuinely matter that WAV is a lossless format whereas MPEG2 (and hence the VOBs) is not. Your original question was whether there was a:

    "lossless file format that is smaller than VOBs"

    and the answer to that is that there cannot be because the VOBs are themselves lossy MPEG2. You simply can't produce a smaller, lossless version of a lossy file.
  15. ericinboston thread starter macrumors 68000

    Jan 13, 2008
    I think you are missing the mathematics behind this. On a dvd is a movie. Forget how old the movie is or what film the producers originally recorded it you, the consumer, this is the best that you can hold in your hands. That said, to get a perfect rendition of that movie from that particular dvd, you should use the VOB file format. When software applications "rip" the dvd movie, the content is simply converted to a file format that represents a perfect, LOSSLESS copy of that dvd's contents. There is no lossy conversion process that is going on to save me hard drive space...or conform to some Divx spec...or make it playable on Quicktime or other application. At the end of the rip, you have a perfect representation of the dvd in a bunch of VOB files (or if you wanted to great 1 big ISO). Just like if you handed someone a recipe in English and asked them to convert it to Spanish...everything is the same, it's just in a different format. If you ALSO told the interpreter to shorten the recipe to 2 lines and throw away whatever he sees fit, then yes, that would be like converting WAV files to MP3 or converting VOB to some other file format/container/CODEC/etc.

    To the person holding the dvd, the dvd is the best he or she can have. Yes, in the dvd creation process the film was converted and downgraded so it would fit on a 4.7GB media, but the owner a)probably has no clue about that and b)doesn't care...he or she simply wants a perfect representation of the dvd. You and I can have this same discussion for the next 100 years as us consumers get Bluray and whatever comes next. Consumers will ALWAYS have a poorer rendition than what the movie studios/audio studios record on.

    Not entirely true. Definition is in the eye of the beholder and I'm not sure how you are using it. Again, in pure mathematics and defining the source as the 1 and only source, you are correct...I cannot take a dvd, convert it to a LOSSY format (like Divx) and THEN take that Divx file and make a SMALLER LOSSLESS representation of it. Now, hypothetically if Divx was very lazy and did a very poor implementation of file management and made LOSSY files that were LARGER than the original, I could contradict my point...but developers do not write code like that. :) The whole point of lossy file formats are to save disk space while also limiting as much as possible what has been thrown out to the eyes/ears of the end user.

    The movie studios record in a much higher format than DVD or even Bluray. I'll call it Format X. And let's say that Format X requires 100GB of disk space per minute of footage (I'm exaggerating this to show a point). So a 120minute movie would suck up 12,000GB of space (12TB). When the studio decides they want to sell this movie to the general public, their current offerings are DVD and Bluray. Each of these 2 consumer formats holds far less disk space than the movie's 12TB. So what do the studios do? Over time they work with technical industries to develop a medium that can either perfectly (lossless) or not-perfectly (lossy) represent the movie. Considering that Bluray's hold a max of 50GB, my scenario would show that we are a very long time away from creating a single consumer disc that holds 12TB of space. This is where movie studios realize that they need to deploy some compression technology to get their 12TB movie onto a 4.7GB dvd, 9.5GB dual layer dvd, 25GB single layer Bluray, or 50GB dual layer Bluray. But I still stress this point: In the eyes of the consumer holding the media, that is "the best" they can have (until some year down the road when a new format is born)...and many people (like me) want a perfect representation of that media on my computer in a lossless file format.
  16. wysinawyg macrumors member

    Aug 3, 2009
    I still think you're missing the point here.

    I don't disagree that VOB is the best you can get off a DVD source, but that still makes it a lossy file; just a lossy file that is as good as DVD (which is also lossy).

    The important point is that when you play that VOB file (or the DVD), the MPEG2 decoder takes your 4.7GB of information runs its algorithms and gets you a playing file that is effectively X times 4.7GB (where X is greater than 1, but I have to admit I don't know what it is but I think in the order of 10).

    Just like your DivX example above, unless MPEG2 was written atrociously to begin with (which it wasn't) there isn't anything you can do to make your 4.7GB smaller and yet still upconvert it to the X times 4.7GB file that you need to display the image in the same manner as the DVD.

    Lets say for instance X is 10 (which as I say I think is pretty close). That means to provide a full length movie your MPEG2 decoder takes the 4.7GB of information on the DVD and turns it into 47GB of information. A lossless encoder can't differentiate between the 42.3GB made up and the 4.7GB which were on the disc, so any transcode (lossless or not) away from the MPEG2 stream is either going to fail to cut the size as much as the original MPEG2 did (becuase unlike the MPEG2 it can't lose any information from that 47GB) or its going to potentially cut out some of the information present in the MPEG 2 (although not necessarily any you'd really notice).

    That is fundamentally different to WAV where the 500MB of info on the CD represents 500MB of information used by the audio player.

    I'm not saying you can do better than VOB from a DVD so it is "lossy", I'm saying you can't run a lossless algorithm on your VOB and get a smaller file (because VOB is lossy in that it only provides about a tenth of the information needed to show your film).
  17. ericinboston thread starter macrumors 68000

    Jan 13, 2008
    :) This is why I enjoy bumping into folks like you...who have technical know-how and can write a good thread.

    Yes, you and I are 100% on the same page. Granted it's taken us awhile to write it out. :)

    However, I would like to get back to the Lossless topic as a whole. Lossless is simply file compression without quality loss. For example, ZIP and RAR files are lossless compression...because when you compress your resume and then uncompress it, you're not missing words or employment listings. :)

    So let's forget about the entire topic of movies. I have this file which is a VOB. I would like to apply lossless compression to it. That's all I'm asking. Is there a file format/conversion process that does this while also allowing mainstream software applications to decode/play the lossless format?

    Yes, RAR or ZIP would be a tool but they would a)likely only provide 1% file size reduction which is pointless and b)there are no software applications that will "play" a ZIP or RAR file.

    It doesn't matter what's "in" the file (sound, video, resumes, pictures, etc). I want to compress it losslessly. We all know text files compress much better than binary files. However, some tools have been explicitly written to understand and compress a single file format (WAV is a great example) losslessly (Monkey's Audio tool). The coders basically have spent time on understanding how that 1 particular file format is written (WAV again as example) and created a specialized tool to compress it. The tool is only good for that single file format.

    For a very long time there was no way to compress WAV files losslessly. Then, in the late 90's, Monkey's Audio came out (in the Windows world) which provides a 30-40% size reduction...and numerous software audio players will play the .APE lossless format just fine.


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