So I tried the Windows Media Center thing for several months, even going so far as to buy two DLink DSM-520 media receivers. My goal was to rip several (non-copyrighted) DVDs into a format I could stream throughout the house – essentially giving me “in-room movies” on every TV. I wasn’t happy. The mishmash of video formats is a pain to wade through, and I couldn’t get anything into a good enough quality to (a) play on my 110” screen with decent quality and (b) not take up as much room as the DVD did. Plus, the DLinks and every other media receiver I looked at had ugly UI’s – I wanted something slick.
Hmm. Slick UI. Sounds like Apple.
Enter the Apple TV and a piece fo software (free) called Handbrake, which runs on Windows, Macs, lotsa platforms. Does a BEAUTIFUL job of encoding DVDs into Apple’s favorite codec, h.264. It won’t rip encrypted DVDs, but that’s okay. If you happen to live in a country where it’s legal to rip DVDs you purchased, a piece of software called AnyDVD (for Windows) or MacTheRipper (for Macs) can decrypt the DVD so Handbrake can deal with it. Of course, it takes 6 hours to convert a DVD into h.264 – yikes. Enter a $99 hardware tool called turbo.264 – does a DVD in about 2 hours. Nice.
And the quality is top-notch: Played on the 110” screen it’s a fully progressive image in the original resolution with quality close enough to the original that you really can’t tell the diff.
Result? High-quality movies on every TV in the house, without having to fuss around with plastic discs. Chuck a 1TB drive into my server and let iTunes (free) serve up the video to as many Apple TVs as I can connect – even wirelessly; they support 802.11n, so they’re quite quick. I’ve had up to 3 streaming wirelessly at once.
Happy New year!