Organizing Movie Discs

The Problem

movie shelf

I’m an avid movie collector. I love watching movies and have added a lot of my favorites to my collection over the past ten years or so. I have around 400+ movies in my collection — mostly Blu-ray for obvious reasons (HD > standard definition). They are stored on some shelves in my basement but I started to run out of space to store them all. Those plastic cases really take up a lot of space — I had to find a better way to store them.

I did some research on the interweb and found some other methods on how people store DVD movies. Then I found Samba Tech Media Storage Solutions who make DVD sleeves, binders, boxes, and dividers. That was exactly what I was looking for. I ended up getting a bunch of the DVD sleeves and dividers from them and then just picked up a couple of smaller plastic tubs from Walmart to store them in.

The Hardware

  • Mac mini computer – this is my main workstation at home and is basically just a media server.
  • OWC Slim 6X Portable USB 2.0 Blu-ray Reader – I got 2 of these drives to rip discs even faster.
  • Drobo 5D – this is a large, redundant storage device with 5 hard drives in it; this is where all my media is stored.
  • Apple TV (4th generation) – this is the device where I watch most of my movies through and allows the Plex app to pull up movies stored on my Drobo.
  • Roku – this is my streaming media device I use for my workout DVDs in the basement.

The Software

  • Handbrake – this software is used to transcode the physical disc into a digital media file.
  • Plex – this is the server software I use to manage all the finalized, ripped movie files.
  • Make MKV – this software allows the disc drive and Handbrake to read Blu-ray discs.

The Process

With each DVD/Blu-ray movie that I wanted to rip to my computer, this was my process:

  1.  Take the DVD/Blu-ray movie and put the disc into the disc drive attached to my Mac mini.
  2. Launch Handbrake software and select the disc as the source. Select the Apple TV preset so it automatically formats the output file to look the best on the Apple TV. Selected the foreign audio track to capture the English subtitles if there were any in the film.
  3. Once Handbrake was done ripping the disc, I moved the M4V file into my Plex Media folder on my Drobo for the Plex Server software to catalog it and gather all the metadata like movie poster artwork, director, year, etc.

The Result

It took me over 2 months of ripping movies nearly non-stop but I’m finally finished. Each Blu-ray disc took about 5 hours to rip and since I had to go to work during the day, I was only able to rip about 4 movies a day between both disc drives I have.

Now when I want to watch a movie, I can browse my collection using the Plex app on the Apple TV or using the Plex app on my iPhone or iPad. I can either watch the movie right there on my device or I can go to my 4 bins of movie discs, track it down, and play it in the Blu-ray player. The Blu-ray discs themselves will ultimately give me the greatest movie experience because they are the highest video and audio quality and also contain all the bonus features.

movie bins

Even though all the ripped DVD’s are now stored safely on my redundant storage drive, the Drobo, I also use a secure offsite backup service called Backblaze. This allows me to backup an unlimited amount of data to a secure datacenter and is perfect to further protect my hefty investment in my movies. Once the backup is up to date, if there were a disaster like a fire or flood or theft at my house, I could still restore my data from my offsite backup. I strongly recommend every household have an offsite backup to protect your valuable data like family photos, home movies, and documents.

Movie Organization

If that wasn’t enough already, here’s where my OCD really shines through. I have a very particular way I like my movie collection organized. These are the main categories by which I have them organized:

  • Director (by year)
  • Franchises (alphabetically)
  • Sarah Flicks (by year) — these are my wife’s movies
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe (by year)
  • TV Series
  • Kid’s Movies (by year)
  • Workouts
  • #-B
  • C-E
  • F-O
  • P-Z

This probably looks like I’ve completely lost my marbles but it actually makes it very easy to find what movie I’m looking for. I’ve organized the movies in the same method in Plex on my Mac mini so all the categories match up and I can quickly locate a particular movie.

By ripping my purchased videos to my computer, I’m now able to quickly stream them to my Apple TV and Roku without having to fumble through the discs and watch all the trailers and other ads. Most importantly, completing this project has brought me peace of mind that all my movies are backed up to a safe location and filed away. It’s a very satisfying feeling.

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