(Just a long random info kind of post for our setup for watching our DVDs while we camp without taking along the actual disks.)
As we ramp up for a longer trip (month and a half), we've been trying to figure out what to do for TV while we're on the road. I'm too cheap for satellite since we don't use it at home. In fact, at home- we don't have any cable service- we just use Internet streaming services (Hulu+ and free channels on our Roku). But, that requires a lot of data and while I have a 10gb/month plan, I need it for working full time while I'm on the road.
We have a crap-ton of DVDs that we have collected over the years- likely 100 kid movies/TV show DVDs and another 100 or so non-kid movies (and a couple of non-kid TV series). We used to carry 20-30 DVDs with us, but it was cumbersome having that many fill a cabinet - plus, even with that many, the repetition got boring.
(Here's where I need to add a legal disclaimer- I'm unsure of the copyright legalities of ripping my own DVDs (that I paid real money for) for my own enjoyment. Some DVDs come with electronic copies, but they are restricted on what/where I can play them on and "file size"-wise are significantly larger than what I can do on my own.)
So, here's what I've been doing:
- Purchased and installed AnyDVD for about $50 - this breaks any copy protection on the DVDs so that the next program can actually read the bits and bytes to my computer
- Installed Handbrake for free - this reads the DVD bits and bytes and copies them to a file on your computer
- Purchased and installed MetaX for $10 - this is optional but helps my spastic-ness with allowing me to assign icons to my movie files and tag them with info about about the movies. It saves me a ton of time by including a built-in Internet search for movie data.
- Bought a 1TB Seagate Wireless Plus hard drive for $169 - this drive actually creates a WiFi network so that phone/tablet devices can connect to it and stream videos directly from it
- Bought a Roku 1 for $50 - this lets me watch steaming content on our TV
As I indicated above, we actually bought the Roku for our home use when we got rid of cable. Cutting the cord saved me $80/month so it was easy to spend $50. The nice side effect is that it hooks up to the Seagate Wireless Plus drive to let me stream movies from the hard drive to the TV that it is hooked up to.
Installing the AnyDVD, Handbrake and MetaX are all simple - just run the installer programs and accept all defaults.
The one-time ripping of the DVD collection is what takes the longest. You have to do each one individually. For me, since I'm spastic:
- I searched out the best Handbrake settings for good quality yet decent file sizes. I've used this individual's settings and seem happy with the file size vs. quality:
- I re-type the chapter names when they're available (not that I've actually found where you find them in any of the apps).
- All of my files are stored in individual folders by DVD. This keeps TV shows together.
- All of my files are stored specific to the name of the DVD for movies or episode name for TV shows. The TV shows are probably the worst since you have to lookup each episode name.
- I use MetaX to search each DVD to apply a pretty thumbnail icon and set metadata about the DVD into the files.
On the Roku, I had to:
- setup the Roku to connect to the wireless harddrive
- install the Roku Media Player channel/app
Once the Roku setup was complete, using the Media Player channel, it immediately found my wireless harddrive as a network storage. I was able to browse to it and see all of the content on it. Playing a movie/TV show was a matter of browsing to Videos --> Movies or TV Shows --> and picking what I wanted to play.
For phones/tablet devices, Seagate has a Media app itself. You connect the device to the wireless harddrive's WiFi network and then run the app. It lets you browse the content on the drive and play whatever videos that you want. It also lets you view photos and whatnot on there but they're not as clear as I'd like. This will let the kids watch stuff while we're driving on the long drive days or my daughter back in her bunk when she's up way before the rest of us.