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Build a media server

Posted on 2011-03-15
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-05-11
I need to build a media server for a client.  I say build not buy due to a lot of customer requests.
He has about 1000DVD and a few Blue-Rays.
He is currently using a Escient system that he likes but wants to go all digital and it does not handle Blue-Ray at the moment.

Required specs:
Can operate the server, ie browse movies and select one to play, by remote on the TV screen
Can play both DVD & Blue-Ray
Must be dummy proof on the burning of movies to hard drives, ie 1)put the disc in the drive 2)close drive 3)walkaway and check on it later 4)take disc out of ejected drive and close drive or repeat #1 for another movie
Will also need multiple drives to begin with so I can burn all of his movies in less time.

Here is how I currently see it laying out:
One case to house the drives (located in a remote location)
One case to hold the MB, IO card to TV, remote receiver for control, one drive for future disc input (located close to the TV so needs to be black and quite), etc.
One case to hold the original 5-10 drives to do start up disc input (will connect to the MB case but will be removed for final install)

I need help with the following:
Software, both OS and disc burning (need to be sure disc protection is not a daily issue) and onscreen menu is pretty :)
Case suggestions for all cases
Main case specs (MB, Ram, etc)
Best drives for this use (size, speed, connection, etc)
How do I figure storage needs (1K movies now but will grow)
Connection to TV cards (would like to use HDMI x2, always have a backup)

And any other input will be greatly appreciated.  I have built many computers and servers before but this is my first media server.

Question by:Bojik
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LVL 14

Accepted Solution

igor-1965 earned 668 total points
ID: 35139628
Well, you need a NAS and a standalone network media player / HTPC.
for NAS just google for FreeNAS or unRAID. For example:

For HTPC, you could build a Linux box with XBMC ( or (in case if your client owns it) to play directly from TV that supports DLNA).

But let's face the truth - to rip off 1000 DVD (and BluRays) you need Windows and Slysoft AnyDVD / AnyDVD HD software. It takes about 20 minutes per DVD. If you vote for DLNA playback then could use MakeMKV software to wrap-up the DVD rip as MKV container (no encoding happens and there is no loss in quality). Or just copy DVD VIDEO_TS folders to NAS. You could count yourself how long it will take depending on how many DVD / BD devices you will be using. Ultimately, this task has nothing to do with movie playback and it is better to separate HW that will handle these tasks.

IMHO, it is much easier to buy NAS server and a standalone network player. I personally could recommend Synology Diskstation (you will need at least 4-bay model equipped with 2TB disks, better 5-bay model to be safe on size requirements). Plus, Dune BD Prime as a player. The price difference to the home-brewed NAS / HTPC won't be such big as you might hoped.
LVL 70

Assisted Solution

by:Gary Case
Gary Case earned 1332 total points
ID: 35140254
"... Must be dummy proof on the burning of movies to hard drives, ie 1)put the disc in the drive 2)close drive 3)walkaway and check on it later 4)take disc out of ejected drive and close drive or repeat #1 for another movie ..."    ==>  About the only system that will truly work that simply for adding movies to the server is a Kaleidescape [ ]  ... and these are priced FAR above what a typical consumer would want to pay for this function  (they're marketed for high-end homes, yachts, private jets, etc.)

I've got a friend who has one of these ... and they ARE very slick -- but he also spent ~ $25,000 for his system.   But it DOES make importing movies trivial;  has a VERY slick remote control to browse and play media;  is easily expandable;  etc.     In short, if the cost was lower, it's the system we'd all want to use :-)

There are, however, plenty of ways to load the movies that are ALMOST as simple as the 4 steps you listed ... but they DO require some additional steps to confirm a good rip;  to move the ripped movie to the server;  to update the catalog of movies (depending on what program you're using for this the steps will be somewhat different);  etc.      About 20-30 minutes per DVD is a reasonable expectation of the total time involved IF you're storing the movies uncompressed ... and that will require about 5 minutes of "human time" in the process.   If you plan to compress the movies to reduce storage requirements, that time can grow a good bit, depending on the compression codec you use [anywhere from an extra 20 minutes or so to a few hours/movie].

For my system, I use an UnRAID server to house all of the media (I've got 24TB on the server),  and a Windows 7 system as the main HTPC that sits with the HDTV.     The HTPC is housed in a very nice Antec Fusion Remote Max case [ ].    To add a movie, I rip it;  re-compress it;  copy the result to the server;  and update my database, which I keep in DVD Profiler ... a nice program that makes it simple to browse the collection and, using the LoadDVD plugin, allows the movie to be played with a single mouseclick.      The Fusion Remote Max has a built-in IR receiver for a remote control -- I use a Harmony that's set up to turn the system on;  turn it off;  control PowerDVD for playing the DVDs; etc.    Unfortunately DVD Profiler isn't "remote friendly" -- so I use a Logitech DiNovo Mini (a REALLY nice little unit) to browse and select DVDs.
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Expert Comment

ID: 35140355
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Author Comment

ID: 35143573
That is kind of what got me here, the client saw a Kaleidescape but can not justify spending that much on a system for a vacation home.  So I told him I would build him somthing for less.
Gary, that antec is the perfect box.  How is the fan noise?   The only thing I am no to crazy about is the iMedian software.  I have played with this a little and am not to crazy about it.
Igor, I realy like Cinemar and think it will suite my client well.  I also liked th Dune BD as the player.
So here is where I start needing the real help:
I could use the Dune player with a NAS
I could use the Cinemar DVDLobby software on a custome box with a NAS

But in both cases I have to use a different computer to rip his disks to the NAS, like Power DVD or TotalMedia.

Then the headache begins....Power DVD not only rips movies but also plays them, but I want to use DVDLobby.  Is there not a program that just rips DVD/Blue-Ray (and is 3D compatible, not mentioned yet but I can hear him asking about 3D as soon as I am done :))?

But then what about new movies?  Will he have to rip new movies on a computer then upload them to the NAS to play from the DVDLobby box?
Like I said I need to make it pretty dummy proof.  If I need to have a external drive for him to insert the DVD into that is connected to a back of house computer that can be set up to 'rip disc when entered' and put the file in the correct place, I can do that.

I guess I need more help with what software goes with what hardware than anything else.

And any ideas on the multipal drive case for ripping all of his movies?  Can I just get 4 or 5 external drives and connect to a computer running the ripper software?  Or is ripping more than one movie at a time to much work for the average computer (or software)?
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Expert Comment

by:Gary Case
ID: 35144928
I don't use the iMedia -- I have FrontView turned off.    But the IMon software works great with a Media Center Remote (or a Harmony, which is what I use).

Ripping multiple movies at once works fine -- I have 3 DVD drives on my main system, and can rip 3 at-a-time with 3 instances of my ripping software (DVD Fab).

I presume you're aware that PowerDVD Copy will NOT rip CSS-protected content (i.e. virtually all commercial DVDs).     There ARE, of course, ways around that ... but EE's policies prohibit discussing those techniques.

DVD Lobby is indeed a very nice system.    But as with any system, you have the issue of getting the source DVDs onto the server and the catalog.    As I noted earlier, except for Kaleidescape, there WILL be some manual intervention required.    Kaleidescape makes it VERY simple ... and, uniquely among ripping solutions ... preserves the CSS protection of the copy (so it "passes muster" with the movie studios).

Author Comment

ID: 35148474
So I assume that the hardware side of Kaleidescape is some what buildable, and you and igor have got me going in the right direction.  But is there a software that is close to Kaleidescape?
Also, looking at the specs of the DVD Lobby it looks like I will be able to have it set up with little user interface.  But other than a iPad interface or a web enabled remote, DVD Lobby is not remote friendly.  I have installed a Philips Pronto for him that is web capable so I will probably go with the DVD Lobby family unless you think there is a Kaleidescape knock off I should look at.
I have no problem preserving the CSS on the DVD's but can you point me in the right direction to find some info on that issue, or send me an email <e-mail address removed -- against EE policy>  Thanks

Author Comment

ID: 35148634
Also, I did a little web search and found a couple of guide lines on storage size needed, but do you have any suggestions on a guide line for the storage he will need?
From what I can tell it is about 4.5GB to 8GB for the main DVD movie & 8GB to 15GB for the main Blu-ray movies.  Right/Wrong?
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Expert Comment

ID: 35148872
3.5-9.5 GB per DVD, 20-50 GB per BD.

I don't know programs preserving CSS protection. As garycase said Kaleidescape is unique in this feature. Otherwise we both mentioned the programs able to copy commercial DVDs. AnyDVD HD also can handle BDs.
LVL 70

Assisted Solution

by:Gary Case
Gary Case earned 1332 total points
ID: 35150533
"... From what I can tell it is about 4.5GB to 8GB for the main DVD movie & 8GB to 15GB for the main Blu-ray movies.  Right/Wrong? "   ==>   Close for DVDs, low for BluRay.

A single-layer DVD has a capacity of 4.38GB;  a dual-layer holds up to 7.96GB.    A "movie only" rip will clearly use less than these figures.     Most modern DVDs are dual-layer, but very few movies use the full capacity of the disk -- the "extras", menus, etc. use a lot of the space.    If you plan based on an average of 5.5GB/movie you'll be fine.

BluRay discs have a much higher capacity -- 25GB/layer, with most discs being dual-layer with a 50GB capacity (unlike with DVDs, dual layer discs have exactly twice the capacity of single layer ones).   But very few movies use more than 35GB.       I have very little experience with these, as I don't store them on hard discs (due to the capacity requirements) ... but I think it'd be reasonable to plan for an average of 30GB/movie.

As I noted earlier, preservation of CSS is unique to Kaleidescape, which means it's the only LEGAL way to rip protected DVD movies to hard drives.

Author Comment

ID: 35151237
Thanks admin

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