Got a “love-hate” relationship with your TV? Love the shows, but hate the commercials? Viewing your favorite TV Series on DVD is an excellent way to watch TV. Dropping those DVD’s down to your hard drive makes the experience close to perfect.
There are several ways to get TV shows on to your PC – the most popular is probably downloading the shows from a bit.torrent site – another way is to buy the series on DVD and then make a backup copy (where this can be done legally of course) on your hard drive.
Many current TV series are available on iTunes, and even YouTube is getting into the act. Here in New Zealand our national broadcasting networks (we have two!) started “On Demand” services a year ago and a clever user might find a way record the material fed by their streaming media.
Finding the episodes you want is the first step, getting your shows on to disc in the right format is the next step.
In the same way that WMC reaches out to the Internet to collect movie metadata, so too can it link to the TV Database site for details on television shows.
The front page of this section of Media Browser reveals the list of available series. The DVD cover images indicate the available series – the selected series gets a backdrop image.
Drilling down from the series level reveals a list of the available seasons - drilling down from the season level reveals the available episodes and drilling down to an episode brings up the episode details.
File System Structure:
The “on-disc” setup needs to follow the proscribed format — files should be “.avi” format and should be named to match the names used by the metadata providers like The TV Database — (my favourite format is the “Sexy” format: Season XX Episode YY – as in the file name “S03E01.avi” for Season 3, Episode
With this structure in place, Windows Media Center and its related add-ons will do the rest: collecting the metadata from the online TV Datase – including the episode names, images, cast, etc. – and populating the pages for you.
Shortcomings of the DVDs:
One shortcoming to this system is that many commercially sold TV Series DVD’s maintain their files in DVD format – VIDEO_TS folders and “.VOB” files with one or more episodes on each disc. Unfortunately the current crop of Media Center-type packages don’t handle this form of storage very well. To get around this shortcoming, the DVD must be broken into its separate episodes and then each episode must be converted to a “.AVI” file. It’s a time-consuming process, and there is some quality lost in the conversion from DVD to avi, but the end result is a well ordered TV Show catalogue with some disc space savings thrown in.
Another alternative might be to manually constructing the metadata files by hand or use shortcut files – this too can be quite time-consuming, and even frustrating if one or more of the “fetching” routines is left to gather metadata on its own from the Internet. The result can be that your hard manual labour is over-written by an automated process, and usually with the wrong data.
Windows Media Center may not be the best of it kind, other packages are better at internet content, or are open system, etc. The reason I’ve chosen it as my “Media Center Software of Choice” is that it copes with so many different kinds of media, and does a respectable job with each of them.
In our next post we’ll take a look at the remote control — that one hand-held control unit that replaces so many others.