In part 1, I covered some research and selection of the types of external drives I am using for the storage and streaming (eventually) of my movie collection. This section covers the ripping of movies onto a format which can be streamed around the home, and played onto your television.

When I first started the DVD streaming portion of my home automation system, I experimented to find the best method and format. As a start, I ripped an old Movie (Batman Returns) and a new movie (Transformers) in 4 different formats, and then the wife and I picked a scene from both movies and took a look to see the quality we preferred. I will talk about how I ripped the movies in a moment.

What surprised me, was that in one of the formats, the quality of both movies, when played on my 50inch plasma was better on the streamed movies than when played directly from the disk, either inserted into a DVD player, on the PS3 (which has up scaling turned on).

The formats I tried was Xvid (to AVI, full resolution),Direct AVI (full resolution), DivX (to avi, full resolution) and MPEG-4 (upscaled on rip to 1920 x 1072). You also have to remember that unless the movie is streamed via a transcribers, direct lift files (VOB) wont play on the PS3 or some other media players including Xbox – its says invalid data. So it had to be ported.

Anyway, it will come as no surprise that the MPEG-4 up scaled looked great. The others were very watchable, and were almost identical to the DVD upscaled on the PS3 (hard to tell a difference), but the MPEG4 was better looking than the DVD played on the PS3. We paused a few frames on a batman Returns scene (when catwomen grabs the clowns zapper and reads the brand name on the zapper) on all formats and on the DVD played on the PS3. On the upscaled DVD, the picture had fuzzyness and artefacts (lumps and splodges), but on the MPEG4, it was crystal clear. So for me, the MPEG4 was the winner.

I then did some tests on the ripped resolution. At this point, I was more concerned on the picture quality than say on the size of the file and the ability to beam it around the house. I tried MPEG4 formats in upscaled (1920 x 1072) and standard (720 x 480). I was surprised to find that with the same close inspection of frames, there was no visible difference – both were better than played direct from DVD, and both looked great. So I opted for the standard 720 x 480 MPEG4 as my format to hold movies in.

So now I have my format, what about sizes. Well, lets take batman returns again. On the DVD, the VOB files (video and sound with all languages) is 4.2Gb, whereas on the MPEG4 coded data, its a few bytes under 2Gb (just keeping the English as the language). This of course means, I can fit more movies onto my drive. This includes the full 5.1 surround sound English soundtrack – its all the other languages (French, Spanish, Russian, Turkish, etc) and not-so special features which pad out the DVD disks.

As for ripping, well I am using a wonderful program called IMTOO ( You have to pay for it (its about $45 (whats that, about £30)), but not only does it have all the options, its fast, and I also use it to rip films even smaller so they play on my Archos (if you have an iPhone or a PSP, it will convert for these devices and many more as well). There are other ripping solutions around that I have tried (DVD Shrink, Handbrake, DVDFab), but IMtoo never fails to impress me.

A rip of a movie (2 hour movie) to MPEG4 on my DVD reader takes about 40 minutes. I have two DVD drives on my computer, so I can do two at a time, and can kick 2 off when I get home, another 2 an hour later, 2 more as I go to bed, and 2 more in the morning. So I am converting 8 movies a day (can do more at the weekend). It therefore wont take that many weeks to get them all on the new drives.

After about a month, my DVD collection was almost completely transferred to drives, and the physical disks transferred to lock-tight plastic storage. The problem I now have to think about is the BluRay disks.

At the start of the exercise, the idea was to remove all the disks scattered around the house, and have all the movies stream electronically and watch them on my plasma via my PS3. Its going well on the DVD front, as a ripped DVD is between 2 and 4Gb in size, so you can fit about 350-450 DVDs on a 1TB drive. Great.

But, BluRays are a lot bigger. Most BluRay disks are duel layer and can therefore hold a max of 45.7Gb of space. However, I know (see below) that you can remove all the Spanish, french, etc languages, subtitles and get the movie down to around 20-25Gb without loss of sound or picture quality. However, here is the thing. At an average of say 22.5Gb per bluRay film, you can only fit 43 BluRays on a 1TB drive.

A 1Tb buffalo drive (the nice sturdy, quiet ones I am using) costs £80 from amazon, so that works out at £1.86p per film to hold on the drives. The question is, is it therefore worth it. 43 Bluray disks in slim (7mm rather than the normal 15mm) covers don’t take up that much space (30cm). But it does mean that we start to build up the disks again around the house, and the number of BluRay disks is bound to expand over time – so I will be back to square 1, at some point in time.

Whilst I ponder that, I thought it might be worth pointing out how I would store them (in case anybody else wants their movies on-line)…. Most likely of course, this post is a waste of time, but let me explain anyway.

BluRays are copy protected, like DVDs. So, if you have a bluray drive on your computer, you put in the disk and you copy the files, if you try to play them on your PS3 or PC, your computer will say ‘get stuffed’.

So, I use two three programs to grab movies from my BluRay disks ready for streaming.

1) SlySoft AnyDVD HD – ( this removes the copy protection from the disks, and allows you to rip the disk content to your PC
2) TS Remux ( This allows you to edit whats in the files
3) Nero HD – this allows you to reburn a brand new bluRay disk with your new files.

With step 1, you will end up with the BluRay files including trailers and other content. TSRemux is used to read the files and trim out what you want. I select just to keep the movie, and then select just one sound track (remove the german etc) and remove subtitles – this then shrinks the files. Finally, I burn the BluRay files back onto a blank single-sided 25Gb disk (it will now fit, a typical French soundtrack for a BluRay movie is 5gb in size).

For streaming, its even easier. The single movie file (generated from step 2, or which has been burnt onto a blank bluray disk after step 3) is the BluRay movie minus copy protection. It’s a single “M2TS” file. This is the file that the PS3 will recognise and play – full BluRay HD quality with the full 6.1 or DTS surround sound.

My only question now is, do I rip and store (which will also protect my disks from scratches and wear) or do I just play from disk whenever I want to watch a BluRay movie.