My Video Jukebox


Some of you regulars know I have been working on a video jukebox for quite some time now. I own a massive dvd collection in the thousands and one thing that irritates me to no end is having to find a dvd when I want to watch it. So one day I had the idea that I must be able to put the dvds on my computer and then simply have a menu to select them from. This saves me from having to hunt around for my dvds and simply surf, select, and play. It also means my DVDS dont get worn out as fast and are safely stored away for good keeping. Also super handy when your half drunk and want to watch a movie but cant get off the couch. Having complete access to your entire film collection with a remote control is uber slick. Did I mention its easy and cheap to do?

First its important to note this will only work with dvds. It wont work for stuff you 'download' off the internet. It only works with DVDS you own and backup. I am sure you could make it work for other purposes but we do NOT condone piracy. Backing up your own dvds where it is legally allowed is fine but stealing is never right. So dont ask me to help you modify a jukebox so you can. Now onto my simple overview of what I did.

First off you need software, hardware and last but not least a little research. Fortunately for you I have done all the research and their has been alot of profanity and cursing along the way to getting what I now believe is a perfect video jukebox. As far as hardware goes I have a Windows VISTA machine with 3 Terabytes of Storage space. Yeah TERABTYES. Its a crap load of storage space and can hold easily 1,000 movies. Terabyte Hard Drives are also no longer anywhere near as expensive as they used to be. Just dont buy a western digital. I had nothing but problems with the ones I bought and ended up trading them all in for a full refund and bought maxtors instead.

If you have a computer already you can turn it into a Media Center using Windows Media Center. It comes with Vista and was also available on XP machines. There are other free media center programs out there which I tried out but they are very buggy and at the end of the day Media Center is the best for a variety of reasons. I bought an HP Media Center PC to be my JukeBox because they are good machines, they are CHEAP ($500 for a REALLY good system) and they include a remote control. Mine came with a wireless mouse,keyboard and remote. The mouse didnt matter but the keyboard was damn handy which we will get into. The big selling feature for me was the remote since then its just like your regular dvd player. No need to sit at your computer which lets admit... is not at all a fun experience to control your tv or your jukebox.

The software as mentioned is Media Center. The software is very slick and once you load your DVDS onto your computer using a DVD backup program ( I used DVDFab ) you can use the software to search through your collection and find what you want to watch. There is nothing at all complicated about it. All you need to do is tell MediaCenter which drive your going to keep your movies on and then everytime you put a DVD on your computer it automatically gets added. How easy is that? Its pretty damn easy.

Through a simple process you can download an XML file for your movies so that you can have the dvd cover, cast, and synopsis for each movie on your DVD JukeBox as well. That way you can remind yourself what each movie is about when you get over 500 on your jukebox.. which I have. Plus makes searching fun.

All I do now when I want to watch a movie is fire up my jukebox by pushing power on my remote, and then surf through and pick the movie i want, and hit play. No longer do I spend hours staring at a wall of dvds wondering where a movie is. Especially if it is not in its normal alphabetical order... which happens alot. Of course the next step in the process is taking things further and making it so that you can search by actor,director,genre,release date, and more! You can even flag movies as watched, not watched, etc with a simple mod called My Movies. You can even build your own custom lists of your favorites, etc.

The wireless keyboard is a nice touch because then you can easily lookup titles just by typing in the name. So when you have over one thousand films in your collection and know the name you just type it in, example Terminator... and it takes you to that movie and you just hit PLAY.

So to recap you need a computer running windows Media Center. At least a 500gb hard drive, although I suggest nothing smaller then 1 terabyte and its really not that expensive and last but not least you need a DVD backup software so you can back up your legally purchased dvds on the jukebox. Being aware that you should only do this if it is legal to do so in your area. I have kept this simple since I was not sure how much detail people would want but if you like this article and want a play by play step by step on how I built mine just get the equipment and ask away. Heck I might even do a part 3... since you will recall this is my second attempt at this. This time it was a huge success.

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