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MyMovies with Vista Media Center

May 28, 2007

Ever since installing the excellent MyMovies application for Media Center 2005, I had hoped that I would be able to rip a DVD to a network share, point MyMovies to the directory of tha ripped DVD and have access to it from Media Center and its extenders. I thought that when Transcode 360 was integrated into MyMovies that this day had come, but alas that turned out not to be the case. Transcode 360 turned out not to be that great at following convoluted DVD streams (convoluted, presumably for copy protection reasons) and not to work that well with Vista (see the many messages on the subject).

So with my WSUS 3.0 troubles behind me, I decided to get MyMovies working with my ripped DVD collection. Over the past couple of days, I’ve settled on a procedure that I’ll use going forward. I thought I would share it for the benefit of others contemplating having a movie collection accessible from Vista Media Center Extenders:

  1. Rip the DVD directly to a newtork share using the free version of DVDFab HD Decrypter. I use an old DVD drive housed in a USB 2.0 case, which seems to handle copy protection on DVDs much better than the Plextor DVD drive in my main PC.
  2. Run DVDShrink 3.2 to create a single VOB for the main title with only one audio stream. I use the Open Files button on the toolbar, select No Compression on the Video side of the resulting screen, select the streams I want, choose Re-author from the toolbar, then drag just the main title to the Re-authored DVD side of the resulting screen, make sure that the Edit-Preferences-Output Files dialog has the "split VOB files into 1GB sized chunks" option unchecked, choose Backup from the toolbar and then create a sub directory to save the resulting single VOB to.
  3. I then run VideoRedo‘s Tools-QuickStream Fix and save the resulting file as an .MPG file in the movie’s main directory on the network share. VideoRedo is a full featured MPEG editor that $50 to register, but can be used free on a trial license for two weeks.
  4. I then get rid of the VOB created with DVDShrink
  5. I create an entry in MyMovies and specify the directory on the network share containing the .MPG file resulting from step 3 and am good to go.

This gets me relatively pain free movie watching on my Xbox 360 media extenders. I have tried more ambitious options in the past only to find them wanting. I tried VOB2MPEG in place of VideoRedo, but found it unreliable. I tried DVD-WMV, as I would have preferred to have .WMV files so I could use fast forward and rewind functions from the extenders, but found this to unforgiving of errors and to create files with audio-video sync problems on occasion.

This approach has the disadvantages of not being able to use fast forward and rewind (but skip ahead and skip back work fine) and of taking up a lot of space as MPG is not that space efficient and keeping the entire DVD is even worse.

This solution has the advantage of keeping the full DVD and an MPG file of the main title. The MPG file is the one actually played by Media Center while I keep the full DVD files around in the hope that one day there will be a solution that really lets me play a ripped DVD, menus, special features and all from my Media Center Extender. I can of course play the full DVD from any PC in the house, which is some consolation.

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