Project: Hands-free (or as close as possible) DVD Backup


I’ve recently bought a 2TB LaCie LaCinema Classic HD Media HDD as the solution to my overly complex home media solution. The previous solution involved a networked Mac Mini hooked to the TV, streaming videos from an NSLU2 Linksys NAS (unslung, obviously) or my desktop in another room, using my laptop to VNC in to the Mac and control VLC.

Not exactly a solution my wife could easily use.

The LaCinema is a wonderful piece of kit; very simple interface, small but mighty remote control, is recognised as a media device on your network, can handle HD video, and pretty reasonable for the capacity and functionality. Plus it’s so easy to use I can throw the remote to the missus and she’ll be happy to use it.

Now comes the hard part: transferring a couple of hundred DVDs to the LaCinema internal HD. Ripping CDs is easy, since you can configure even Windows Media Player to detect a CD being inserted, access the CDDB, create the correct folders, rip the CD, even eject it when done.

Nothing comparable seems to exist for DVDs, which is extremely frustrating. You always need to have manual interaction to either specify the name of the DVD you’re ripping, the streams you want to rip, the size and format of the output video file, etc.

I can’t be arsed with all that faffing around for my sprawling DVD collection, so I thought about creating a solution.

I’ve gone for a windows service with a workflow-esque model that has the following steps:

1. Detect a DVD being inserted
2. Look up the film/series name, year, genre, related images online
3. Determine which sections and streams to rip
4. Rip to local PC
5. Move to media centre

Over the next few posts I’ll go into a bit more detail on the challenges each stage posed and the solutions I came up with. I’ll post the code online and would love for some constructive feedback!

This isn’t about me making something that everyone should look at and go “oooh, he’s so clever”, it’s about having a solution for ripping a DVD library that everyone can use and tweak to suit their own requirements. As such, help is always appreciated.

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