When I bought a PC last year specifically for running Windows Media Centre, one of the uses was to act as the repository for the DVDs and Blu-Rays that we own. My aim was to transfer the contents onto hard drives connected to the PC so that we could browse the library and pick a movie to watch, without needing to delve into drawers and rummage through the cases.
My original concept for the storage configuration was to use an external storage system containing 5 x 2TB drives, arranged as a RAID 5 array. Unfortunately, the system turned out not to support RAID 5 so I then picked striping to maximise the storage usage. A subsequent problem with the array configuration led me to ultimately rethink the strategy and I’ve now set the drives up as individual drives. In other words, Just a Bunch Of Discs (JBOD):
I’ve been gradually transferring my movie collection from optical discs onto the hard drives which is why the H: drive (Movies) is showing red – I’ve pretty much filled it up.
The drive usage is as follows:
- C: – the Windows OS and installed applications
- D: – storage for TV recordings, photos and music
- F: – a backup drive for D:
- G: – films recorded off TV and also TV series
- H: – DVD movies, Blu-Ray movies
- I: – more DVD movies and home movies
- K: – a spare drive!
The reason for the somewhat haphazard arrangement of drive letters is a consequence of starting out with one use of the drives (i.e. striped) and then changing to a different layout.
The PC has four internal drives, connected to Intel hardware to create a RAID 5 configuration. I’ve discovered – the hard way – that the RAID array can get a bit “upset” occasionally, particularly if the optical drive overheats, and the system then spends several days rebuilding/repairing the array. As a consequence, I’ve started configuring Microsoft’s Sync Toy to perform regularly backups of crucial data (photos, music, documents) from the D drive to the F drive.
To access the collections, I use Media Browser:
This is an extremely powerful, flexible and highly configurable plugin for Media Center. It is, in fact, one of the reasons why I love Media Center so much. There are a variety of themes you can use to change the appearance of MB and I’ve opted for the Diamond theme.
As I transfer the movies over to the storage, I then use Media Center Master to fetch the metadata for the new content from sources such as IMDB and TheTVDB.
The metadata is used by Media Browser to enhance the visual experience of the library and also to provide additional functionality.
For example, if I select The Incredible Hulk, I am taken to options and more information about that film:
As you can see, I can then select the actor information for the film. From there, I can select an actor (e.g. William Hurt) and see if I have any other movies in my library with that actor:
Further value from the metadata is realised when you use the Media Browser’s ability to group by genre:
This makes it a real pleasure to look for something to watch based on the type of film you are after, e.g. comedy, thriller, etc.
For TV programmes, my wife & I have some firm favourites that we like to watch every now and then. Here, I combine the ability of Media Centre to record new programmes as the titles match (e.g. “Poirot”) with Media Browser’s enhanced metadata to store the episodes in their respective season:
Media Browser tracks which recordings you’ve watched and marks them with a tick.
For programmes that I want to watch and then delete, such as FlashForward, I keep those recordings in the normal “Recorded TV” location and access them through the normal Media Centre interface.