Friday, November 18, 2011

Conquest of the DVD Cases: The End of The Box!

After fourteen years of buying DVDs and dealing with those poorly designed and seriously annoying cases the actual discs come in, I can very happily announce the beginning of a new era! What you're looking at is the way in which I'll be enjoying movies in the 10th Box from now on: the LaCie 2TB external drive.

That, connected to my LaCie D2 blu-ray burner, will whisk not only my standard DVDs but also the few Blu-rays I own (at the moment) to the big screen without taking the time to locate the case, open, extract the disc, put the case away, load the disc into the player and hit play. Now everything will be two clicks away. My complete collection on one hard drive with the ability to swap movies in seconds!

The end of 'The Box' has arrived!!!

For the past couple of years I've dreamt of a process where DVDs could be sorted and viewed similar to how you listen to music and view movies and TV shows on iTunes. Certainly downloading video content to a hard drive and playing it on a computer is not new. People have been doing it (official and bootleg) for years. iTunes now offers a huge library of movies and TV shows that are in standard and HD quality. My biggest issue with this was that you couldn't get some of the bigger blow-out special editions that had been released on DVD in this format.

At first iTunes offered movies only with maybe the trailer attached. In the last two years more movies have been made available with several special features produced exclusively for downloading. This still did not answer what became the one DVD box set I own that everything had to compare to: "Blade Runner: Deckard's Briefcase".

For those who may not know, this is a SERIOUSLY complete set with 5 discs that includes an INSANE amount of behind the scenes content, five different versions of the film and the acclaimed three hour documentary "Dangerous Days" which chronicles the ENTIRE process of the making of this classic. Can you get THAT on iTunes?! The answer is a resounding 'NO'!!!

I continued to strive to find the iTunes experience while enjoying my DVD collection, gi-normous special editions and all! Unfortunately the process of delivering such massive content online is still not here. The future has arrived (thanks to Steve Jobs), but one element of that future continues to be out of reach. I began to realize that I had to find my OWN future! The tools were out there, I just needed to put them together in the right combination.

A few years ago I was introduced to a free software available to download online called Mac The Ripper. This would become a crucial piece of the puzzle I was putting together. It allows you to extract the entire content from a DVD (including connective menus)...AND remove the Macrovision (copy guard). Also, as external hard drives began being produced in much larger storage sizes and Blu-ray burners started hitting the market I knew my time was about to arrive.

BTW, the Blu-ray drive plays not only standard DVDs and Blu-rays, but also allows me to play the latter due to my Mac laptop's inability to handle that type of content. The Blu-ray burner can do the job when those files are called up from the hard drive and certainly they would be much larger than a standard disc, requiring more space. All I needed was an HDMI upconverter box and cables to run to the receiver and projector.

Done and done!

Last Saturday night, with everything in place, I loaded a newer movie from my collection into the LaCie D2 Blu-ray burner (pictured) with particularly outstanding picture and sound quality; "Superman Returns". This would be the test I'd been waiting for. The movie took about twenty minutes to finish transferring to the hard drive....and at 2:15am, as Rebecca slept in the other room, I switched on the projector in the 10th Box, dimmed the lights and clicked 'play' on the laptop.

Suddenly up on the screen appeared the menu for the film and I was off...watching the opening credits with full surround sound and brilliant picture exactly equal to the output of my DVD player (trust me, I compared A LOT!!) I chuckled at the brilliance of it all! My entire DVD collection could now be loaded onto an external drive the size of one double disc DVD case. In the depths of night while the rest of LA slept, I suddenly found myself to be a Golden God!

Since then, every night I get home from work the first thing I do is fire up the system, loading movie after movie. I know it's going to take awhile what with the size of my collection and the twenty minute load time for each disc. But in the end I'll be enjoying my movie experience so much more!

One additional element now allows me the greatest ease to control my entire library. I did a little research online and found an iPhone app. called Hippo Remote Pro which gives you unsurpassed controllability of your computer or laptop's onboard DVD controls and files. Click on the app. icon for more info. I'd heard about software out there that allowed remote operation before, but this was the best of all worlds in the palm of my hand! Connecting via WiFi to your network, it's an all-in-one remote on your phone; a true gift to the Golden God who also happens to be a Mac Whore! I'd actually installed it about a week before connecting everything to do the big screen test. I can't get over how truly amazing this thing is!!

On a final note, I just want to say again how much of a pain in the ass those DVD cases were for more than a decade. I'd probably have to say out of all the different designs, the easiest one to get the discs out of was the Warner Bros. snap case. Made of biodegradable cardboard, the disc was cradled on an incredibly easy to remove spindle. But unfortunately a number of the so called 'keepcase' boxes were at times a nightmare. The studio and manufacturers' only aim was to make sure the disc didn't come loose during shipping, with little concern to whether the consumer could actual remove it during everyday use. I even had a couple of discs snap in two because they sat deep in one of those clear plastic trays with a spindle that did absolutely NOTHING when you pressed the center!

Some cases were super flimsy, some were difficult to unsnap, and still others were big, unwielding box sets you got tired of even attempting to open because it was a fifteen minute process just to get at the disc; multiple flaps opening to the right and left, books that were in the way or had to be carefully removed, and again, disc trays I stared in stark amazement at wondering what complete moron would possible think this was a good idea! I recently discovered that even Blu-ray case disc trays are poorly designed.


Now, the box has no meaning. I can order online or go into a store and, instead of being turned away because the storage case is damaged or severely unacceptable, I can move forward knowing that the only thing that really matters now is the data files on the actual disc, which now becomes merely a means of storage instead of an actual playable device.

I always wished they'd just released movies in a jewel case like CDs. The argument was that Joe Six-Pack from the red states would get confused about what he was buying. The studios also liked the rectangle cases because they could display the 1-sheet artwork on the front. That became moot very quickly as newer, more modern designs that could have fit on any sized box became the norm.

And because I also enjoy looking at album art when I listen to music, I'll be looking at something quite different than a digital image of the DVD box the disc or discs came in. The original theatrical 1-sheet for each of these movies will represent and connect to the files on my hard drive. Not some cobbled together, hipper or re-imagined version of the 1-sheet for say...."Jaws". With one click of these 1-sheets my movies will start in digital age splendor. Another way the box will be removed from being in the loop at all.

Needless to say, I am seriously overjoyed with the technically new and drastically more efficient way to watch movies in the 10th Box! Goodbye, DVD cases. It was not nice knowing you.


At November 18, 2011 at 4:56 PM, Anonymous Allen said...

As David B. DeMille would say: "God bless it!"

At November 18, 2011 at 5:23 PM, Blogger LA Filmcutter said...

That's right!!! You know me too well! LOL!

At November 20, 2011 at 6:06 PM, Anonymous Allen said...

P.S. I want a schematic so I can replicate the 10th Box Theater System here on the East Coast.

At November 21, 2011 at 11:13 AM, Blogger LA Filmcutter said...

Do you mean like how everything is connected, etc.?

At November 21, 2011 at 2:10 PM, Anonymous Allen said...

Yes. We're getting the lamp for the projector by/for Christmas and will be changing things up downstairs.

At November 21, 2011 at 4:09 PM, Blogger LA Filmcutter said...

O.K. here's what you'll need, and ALL of these components are available from B&H Video. The LaCie Blu-ray burner and external drive are available at the Apple Store as well...

LaCie D2 Blu-ray Burner:

OR you can just feed DVDs into your computer or laptop directly. Macs do not play Blu-ray content which is another reason I use the burner. Ultimately the unit will be the 'player' for the content on your computer. However you'll need this software to actually play the content:

LaCie D2 Quadra Hard Disk - 2TB (or larger if needed):

Going from your computer / laptop to an HDMI destination you'll need this -

TV One DVI to HDMI Converter:

DVI to DVI extension cable (this is just an example, not the exact one I have):

Note: the projector you now own does not have HDMI input. Instead you'll need a DVI to RCA video adapter:

HDMI cable (if going to HDMI 'in' on TV)

A stereo phone jack splitter to plug into your computer / laptop that goes to your receiver:

Mac The Ripper:

Any questions? Please let me know!

At November 23, 2011 at 3:11 AM, Blogger Allen Pinney said...

Cool. Thanks! (Time to get to work.)

At November 23, 2011 at 10:00 AM, Blogger LA Filmcutter said...

Awesome. Glad to help!


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