I got a “prototype system” up and running for a media center solution using my new Windows Home Server as the storage for the video. I set up a new shared folder called “DVD” on the home server and fixed it so it’s not using file duplication (no need eating up double the amount of space for each movie), then ripped a disc to it.
My laptop is running Vista Ultimate, so I set up the DVD Library to automatically watch for movies in the DVD shared folder and enabled it to play VIDEO_TS folder structures following the instructions here. Doing this worked perfectly and it played the ripped disc as though I had put it into the local drive. Exactly what I was looking for. It even played without glitches over the wireless network, which was surprising, but very cool.
The next step is to figure out how I want to deal with the media center itself. I know I’m going to need some sort of dedicated machine, so that will probably end up being a Mac Mini, similar to the “death of DVD” story I was reading. The question is, what software do I want to run?
- Under Windows Vista Media Center, I have two choices:
- The out-of-the-box DVD Library, which is the simplest way to go but doesn’t offer much in the way of searching/sorting by genre, cast, etc.
- My Movies, a plugin for Media Center, which provides a much richer interface but also is higher-touch. There’s a server component I’d have to install on the Windows Home Server that, frankly, scares me because the WHS is working so well right now, I’d hate to start hacking on it.
- Sticking with straight Mac, I have some choices, too (probably more
than I’m aware of):
- Front Row, which, as of version 10.5, finally supports playback of VIDEO_TS folders. Doesn’t look like it’s much richer than the DVD Library in Vista Media Center, but if I went Mac Mini, it’d require less to be installed on the Mac. (No Boot Camp running Vista, for example.)
- Matinee, which looks pretty thin. I’m thinking if Front Row supports VIDEO_TS, I’d probably be best off with that over Matinee.
- DistantDVD, which is also pretty thin but is specifically geared towards what I’m trying to do - play the video off the network. It doesn’t show any more info than the DVD Library, though, so, again, if Front Row supports VIDEO_TS over the network, that might be the way to go.
There are technically a lot of other choices for both platforms, but I’ve ruled out non-Windows-Media-Center choices for the Windows platform because I really don’t need most of the options the other servers offer and I don’t want to hassle with a lot of extra configuration and hackery. I didn’t list any different platforms for the Mac because, frankly, I’m ignorant. I’m really hoping to keep it simple, though, so as much out-of-the-box, it-just-works as I can get, the better.
It looks like it boils down to a small hierarchy of choices:
- Do I need to have cast/genre/etc. information with the movies or is
the title and cover art enough?
- If I need more than title/cover art, My Movies seems to be the way.
- If I don’t need more than title/cover art… Do I want to use
out-of-the-box Mac stuff or do I want Vista Media Center?
- If it’s OOTB Mac, which would be the easiest, it looks like Front Row is probably the answer.
- If it’s Vista Media Center, DVD Library.
I’ll do a little more research on Front Row, but my media center solution is getting close…