Inexpensive Movie Server ?

Does anyone have thoughts on a way of putting together an inexpensive movie server? This is for me personally so unfortunately, it's not a open budget like some of our customers :)

We currently have a Tivo for broadcast TV, which works great, and an Escient MX series controller for all of our DVD and audio needs. The issue, is that we are starting to pick up a few blu-rays and I have some HD-DVD's that obviously aren't as easy to access. The Mrs. loves the interface on the Escient, so I would like something like that which provided rich data on the movie...automatically.

Option 1 is to sell of the BD player, HD-DVD player, all HD-DVD's and put that towards the ridiculously expensive BDP-CX7000ES (cheapest I've seen is $1400 online). I'm not 100% sold on the online GUI, and have no clue how well it is interfacing with AMX yet. I could further optimize this by getting an Escient Vision demo unit that some dealer is offloading since the product is dead, but that would only be helpful if they ever release the update to incorporate the sony changer.

Option 2 is the DIY route. The biggest hindrance I'm seeing is user interface, or AMX control. I've looked at the Cinemar route, which seems to have a great interface, but then I run into the problem of control via AMX. I want to avoid the G4 computer control route. All of our devices are located in the garage, and we'll have a direct connection from the system to our TV (HDMI), so I don't necessarily need a client/server type system, but if this is the way to go, then so be it. I'm also wondering about the possibility of using the new Windows 7 Media Center and a Media extender of some sort. Granted Full duplex control with feedback via serial or IP would be best, but even solid IR control would work since I'll be seeing all the feedback on our TV.

Does anyone have any thoughts on an inexpensive route of how to accomplish this?

Again, two driving factors are cost and simplicity. I don't want the Mrs. to get upset if we buy a new movie, and it takes 18 steps before we can watch it to Rip, rename, lookup/manually enter movie data, encode, convert, etc. I want to Rip and have it easily grab associated metadata and to have it imported into my library.

Is this too much to wish for at an affordable price point? If I just need a reality check that's fine too :)
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Comments

  • viningvining X Member Posts: 4,348
    What about a windows media PC and using an Autonomic Home module? I've never tried it but it should work and as your library grows you could add an NAS. IOMEGA also had some interesting stuff I was searching through the outher day. An IOMEGA StoreCenter and a ScreenPlay Director box???? No idea how you'd control it though, ir remote? :)
  • ericmedleyericmedley Senior Member - 3709 Posts Posts: 4,151
    I personally using the AppleTV and liking it very much. It's $229.00
  • alexsquaredalexsquared Junior Member Posts: 166
    ericmedley wrote: »
    I personally using the AppleTV and liking it very much. It's $229.00

    I'm assuming that's just your front end, though, correct? What are you using to log and categorize your collection?
  • ericmedleyericmedley Senior Member - 3709 Posts Posts: 4,151
    I'm assuming that's just your front end, though, correct? What are you using to log and categorize your collection?
    Apple Itunes
  • CT-DallasCT-Dallas Junior Member Posts: 157
    The meta data, and steps required to get a new movie onto the system will be the chief driver of price.

    I have used a Kaleidescale, HTPC from Inteset, Home Made HTPC, MAX Server, AppleTv, Western Digital HD Media Player, and Netgear EVA 2000. Ultimately, nothing compares to the simplicity of use of the Kaleidescape. From capturing the video from the DVD, to adding it to the library, to obtaining meta data - there are a lot of steps involved behind the scenes and the features of these devices vary greatly on how many the user needs to perform to achieve the same task.

    The combination I have settled on for my home is the LG BD 390 blu ray player and a network storage device.

    The blu ray player has discrete IR, videos on demand from Netflix, Vudu, and Cinema Now, and it can read files from any network attached storage device. If you have wired ethernet at the player - great, if not, it has onboard N wireless. All for $230 - I got mine at Fry's: http://www.frys.com/product/5897913

    I was surprised to see SD card slots on my HP printer show up as an option - so it really is any form of network storage. I rip dvd files to a NAS and can then view them from the dvd player.

    The UI has a folder view, so naming convention on the folder is important. In this solution, there is no meta data.

    Previously, I used a home built solution using Meedio to generate the UI, DVD Profiler for the meta data, and a DVD rip utility to copy the image. I found that while cool for visitors, it was a pain as the sys admin. Having installed Kaleidescapes in client homes, I wanted something that simple without the price tag - and it just isn't there. Although, from time to time you can get a DEAL on a used kscape system from kscapeowners.com -- a kscape user group.

    I am now eyeing the iConnect from iOmega that will serve as a DLNA media server for multiple USB external hard drives. This $100 piece would allow you to network external USB drives and the DLNA server element will allow your PS3 or XBox to receive the content as well.

    For me, I did not want to hack my appletv and put XBMC or boxee on it. Aside from that, you couldn't view ripped content, it had to all come from the itunes store.

    The Western digital HD Media Player is also a cool piece, but the version I have is not networked and I did not want to solder in a network connection to make it work. Subsequent releases should be networked, but the only thing i would gain there is cover art if I put it in the folder and called it folder.jpg. This could serve as a $100 end point in a distributed system, but for $230, having the bluray player in the room is worth the extra money. There are certainly other bluray players that can play networked content, but the VOD services this provides make this model a strong offering at this price point.

    This is quite the quest. Your personal preference will drive most of the solutions, but for me, after throwing
    a crazy amount of time and money trying to get close to the Kscape, you will see that my latest solution gets back to the basics and just serves up the movie. My family enjoys it and to them it is simple. They have seen the other permutations and this one fits our lifestyle.

    Good Luck!
  • ColzieColzie Senior Member Posts: 470
    CT-Dallas wrote: »
    For me, I did not want to hack my appletv and put XBMC or boxee on it. Aside from that, you couldn't view ripped content, it had to all come from the itunes store.

    No, you can rip to iTunes. You have to use a 3rd party ripper/encoder. Handbrake does the job nicely.
  • ColzieColzie Senior Member Posts: 470
    Oh, and to answer the OP, I too use AppleTV as a music/movie server.
  • CT-DallasCT-Dallas Junior Member Posts: 157
    Chad you are correct. When I purchased the appletv, I already had over 500 movies ripped to hard drives. I tried a few utilities that would que them and transcode them into the apple video format. The challenge then became getting them into itunes and going through the process to get the meta data for them. I ripped the main movie only, so it would not work with an auto recognition from itunes when it found the newly formatted videos. In the end, I gave up. If you were starting from scratch and had nothing ripped, it would certainly have been an easier way to go. Sorry I did not clarify that.
  • alexsquaredalexsquared Junior Member Posts: 166
    I have nothing ripped. I would plan on ripping dvd's as the full ISO. Not sure yet what format for bluray.
  • alexsquaredalexsquared Junior Member Posts: 166
    Update

    As an FYI, I believe I have a path I'm going to pursue. I plan on doing a dedicated storage medium (ie computer with windows home server), that will possibly have raid, but will also likely be backep up by a service like Carbonite (unless there are reasons why I shouldn't). For playback I plan to use a Dune Base (either 3.0 or 2.0) with either the myMovies or yaDis plugin. It appears this solution will be reliable and will provide a great UI. I won't get feedback on the TP, but that is the least of my worries. Has anyone gone this route already? I will post feedback once I complete this (probably a few months out unfortunately).
  • dmenkedmenke Junior Member Posts: 24
    UnRAID as a backend server

    I have a server running UnRAID from Lime Technologies.

    http://www.lime-technology.com/

    It's pretty sweet, and can be expanded with plugins, if you have a little Linux kung-fu.
  • mushmush I programme in the dark! Posts: 285
    ericmedley wrote: »
    I personally using the AppleTV and liking it very much. It's $229.00

    Are you interfacing to your AppleTV with AMX?
    If so, what about cover art etc?

    Cheers

    Mush
  • truetrue Junior Member Posts: 307
    mush,

    I wrote a module for AppleTV and released it as open source software, for free. It supports cover art, now playing feedback and other features. Lots more features are slated for future releases but demand for the module is fairly low and I have little incentive... I've received $20 and an AppleTV to hack on in total for my work. :/ You can download it for free from here, http://www.truecontrol.org/, and if you find it useful please help me out - especially considering the price and license lockdown of the competition :)
  • mushmush I programme in the dark! Posts: 285
    true wrote: »
    mush,

    I wrote a module for AppleTV and released it as open source software, for free. It supports cover art, now playing feedback and other features. Lots more features are slated for future releases but demand for the module is fairly low and I have little incentive... I've received $20 and an AppleTV to hack on in total for my work. :/ You can download it for free from here, http://www.truecontrol.org/, and if you find it useful please help me out - especially considering the price and license lockdown of the competition :)

    Thanks, I'll look into it.
  • yuriyuri Junior Member Posts: 861
    true wrote: »
    mush,

    I wrote a module for AppleTV and released it as open source software, for free. It supports cover art, now playing feedback and other features. Lots more features are slated for future releases but demand for the module is fairly low and I have little incentive... I've received $20 and an AppleTV to hack on in total for my work. :/ You can download it for free from here, http://www.truecontrol.org/, and if you find it useful please help me out - especially considering the price and license lockdown of the competition :)

    Wooh, I'm not going to use it but this looks VERY good! Good job!
  • ericmedleyericmedley Senior Member - 3709 Posts Posts: 4,151
    mush wrote: »
    Are you interfacing to your AppleTV with AMX?
    If so, what about cover art etc?

    Cheers

    Mush

    Mush, sorry to answer this so late. I am just doing IR as I only have G3 panels in my personal system. I am working on my own module right now and the one posted here seems to work nicely too.
    e
  • John NagyJohn Nagy CineTouch Product Manager Posts: 1,498
    BOXEE>>????

    Anyone crack the RF only control system for the BOXEE?
    It's a compelling source, but no published way to control it? Or did I miss something? Hope so.

    If control is possible, I'm hoping for SPECIFIC menu entry commands, so you could for instance start PANDORA with your DOORS playlist with a single (or automated in any case) command.

    The ROKU is terrific, but with IR control of the OSD only, you can't navigate without a display, you can't use it to jump to anything, you can't get to a place certain, you can't rely on a macro to get you anywhere, you have to see it to run it. Bad planning. I use one every day, but I'd prefer to be able to jump to NETFLIX or PANDORA right from the panel. Nope.
  • viningvining X Member Posts: 4,348
    John Nagy wrote: »
    The ROKU is terrific, but with IR control of the OSD only, you can't navigate without a display, you can't use it to jump to anything, you can't get to a place certain, you can't rely on a macro to get you anywhere, you have to see it to run it. Bad planning. I use one every day, but I'd prefer to be able to jump to NETFLIX or PANDORA right from the panel. Nope.
    They used to have a nice open protocol for their Sound Bridge device which was probably the nicest I've ever worked with. It is a shame they didn't do the same for their Netflix boxes.
  • ColzieColzie Senior Member Posts: 470
    I'm not sure why you guys are saying there is only IR control of the Roku.

    The Roku has what looks to be a very good protocol for IP control. I have not dug into it yet but look forward to doing so. This information is available by downloading the Roku SDK.
  • John NagyJohn Nagy CineTouch Product Manager Posts: 1,498
    Colzie wrote: »
    The Roku has what looks to be a very good protocol for IP control.

    I see... thanks. It provides only rudimentary (top level) feedback. Meaning you can call a specific app, but not navigate within it with feedback, you still need an OSD. It implies that the app ID is unchanging so you could start in NETFLIX or PANDORA on demand, but only at the top menu. From there, it's all down, left, left, down.... in the dark without an OSD. It does add access to some additional commands like letters for search.

    While nice to see this much, I'm not sure it's worth implementing as is as it adds little and has an overhead of a fairly complicated initial handshake/discovery. The end of the doc hints that it isn't over... so there may be improvements later that make this path more interesting.
  • the8thstthe8thst Junior Member Posts: 470
    I have had positive responses for simply sending the Roku gui to the touch panels and using transparent buttons for up down left right and select.

    Its not perfect, but at least they don't need a TV on to navigate the music channels. This was done with only inwall panels. I will test with an Axis encoder for wireless panels if I ever get one in the shop.

    I should also mention that I have only done this when the Roku was only for music sources and the resolution was set to SD, so I do not know if it outputs HD and composite at the same time.
  • John NagyJohn Nagy CineTouch Product Manager Posts: 1,498
    the8thst wrote: »
    I do not know if it outputs HD and composite at the same time.

    It does, nicely. I'm using it as you describe in a couple locations, but the unrealized desire remains being able to start it in a mode, especially for use on timed events like an alarm clock. Navigation by a human is required.
  • shr00m-dewshr00m-dew Junior Member Posts: 394
    the8thst wrote: »
    Its not perfect, but at least they don't need a TV on to navigate the music channels. This was done with only inwall panels. I will test with an Axis encoder for wireless panels if I ever get one in the shop.

    I tried this one time with some escient pieces (using an X-Y joystick). The video had enough of a delay to make it unusable. It worked fine, but was an exercise in patience.

    Kevin D.
  • bogdandrbogdandr Junior Member Posts: 7
    XBMC

    Stay close to XBMC idea.
    Soon will appear an XBMC complete control solution for AMX.
    Autonomic Home is limited to BD, DVD for Movie section, WMV and avi for Video section ~ is not able to display and control mkv files.

    I am still looking for the perfect HTPC ~ an idea will be to use Nvidia GT220 or up and maybe HFX passive cooled systems.
  • viningvining X Member Posts: 4,348
    The vortexbox will handle rip as .mkv so you can stream to boxee and popcorn hour or you can automatically covert to mpeg for compatability with logitech revue or PS3. The DVD meta is still a work in progress but for a few hundred bucks a full linux OS 1-6TB of storage and auto ripping of CD and DVD ain't bad.
  • rverstappenrverstappen Junior Member Posts: 11
    Plex for movie and TV show server

    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned using Plex (www.plexapp.com). Works great (on Macs). It has an HTTP interface for control and so I wrote a simple module for controlling from AMX.

    BTW: I have also found a way to control iTunes (yes, iTunes!) on MacOS, including grabbing now-playing info.

    Let me know if anyone is interested in more about this.

    Cheers!
  • roognationroognation Junior Member Posts: 138
    John Nagy wrote: »
    Anyone crack the RF only control system for the BOXEE?
    It's a compelling source, but no published way to control it? Or did I miss something? Hope so.

    Sorry to resurrect this old post, but the loss of the Sling Catcher has forced me to the Boxee and I was hoping to find some slick control...I created a new thread here:
    http://www.amxforums.com/showthread.php?8548-Boxee-Box-D-Link

    Thx!
  • bobbob Independent Programmer Posts: 296
    Hey rverstappen,
    would be great if you could post your module for controlling Plex. Thanks much in advance.
  • John NagyJohn Nagy CineTouch Product Manager Posts: 1,498
    Note that all the control protocols for PLEX changed last year, and the last check-in at that GIT shows 3 years ago.

    SO... unlikely to work at all on currently available PC clients.

    I'm active in the PLEX forums, where I've rallied for more/reinstated IP control of PLEX HOME THEATER. It used to be fairly complete and easy, but when they did a full rewrite of PLEX for PC last year, they dropped a lot of control and changed how the rest worked entirely.

    PLEX is amazing, but problematic for integrators in that they have no tools or strategy for obtaining playable content. To avoid the legal issues that plague KSCAPE and worry REQUEST and other that offer integrated ripping, PLEX just ignores intake. They're just a player (and a damn good one).

    So basically, an integrator could be found by law to be complicit, actually a co-conspiritor, to content piracy through enabling, encouraging, assisting, and maintaining a system that the customer has filled entirely with pirate content.

    Not to mention the impracticality of supporting PLEX servers and pc clients on customer sites. The revisions come fast and furious, some unbidden/automatically, and breaking one thing when fixing another is common. And support is entirely via the forum with no one to call for an answer.

    So we do NOT suggest PLEX to typical customers. I nonetheless remain a fan and enjoy a system at my home, integrated and controlled in my AMX based system (using a 16 month-outdated PC client with the old protocol). But keeping PLEX going requires keeping a nerd on call. It can be challenging to explain expensive support fees for repeated tweaking control software to keep working on a "free" software system.

    I will add that the ROKU implementation is pretty good as a client. Limited control, just ROKU navigation, but there's no maintenance for the integrator to do for the players. PLEX in smart tv's tends to less be satisfying, so some users say.
    The Android and iThing clients are fabulous, but they don't do much to help an integrator. Going with a set-top-box Android requires an air mouse to operate it satisfactorily, so there goes integration again.
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