My wife and I own several hundred DVDs that were taking up a lot of shelf space in our house. The worst part of it is that we rarely sat and picked out a DVD in our collection to watch as they were not organized and thus would create decision fatigue. So, I set out to get our collection in order and get us watching the movies and TV shows we already own.
My First Idea
The first option I researched was to simply alphabetize the collection on the shelf, then scan the barcode on all the cases using the CLZ Movie Database app, putting them into a meta-data-filled database for easy browsing via the app. The CLZ app works as advertised per some testing I was able to do with the scanning feature.
This is a good way to go for a lot of people I’m sure, but I never really felt motivated to implement this option. I feared we still wouldn’t watch the DVDs even with them nicely organized on the shelf. So, I moved on to what I thought was a better solution for us.
Next… to Plex
I’ve come across Plex in the past but never dug too much into it. Plex is a personal media streaming server software with a good-enough-for-most free tier. This would allow us to have our collection in a Netflix-like interface for easy streaming via apps on most platforms. Most importantly for us, a Roku connected to our TV.
This would be ideal for us and would promote easy watching of everything we own. This is not a solution for the faint of heart or those not ready to go on a semi-long journey. There is a lot of work and time required to make it happen.
Lots of Ripping
First things first, each of our DVDs needed to be ripped into a digital file that would live on our Plex server, which in my case ended up being an old Windows laptop with a 1TB external hard drive connected to it. With everything set up I began the lengthy process of ripping our DVDs using MagicDVD Ripper software, which is a paid solution that works out of the box but you can also do this for free using HandBrake with a plugin.
I ripped each DVD into an MP4 format onto the external hard drive directly on my Plex server, making sure to name the files with the name of the film being ripped. This way Plex can go out and do its meta-grabbing thing, which wasn’t always perfect but still very good. It took about an hour to rip each DVD. I chipped away at our collection while working from home until eventually I reached the end of the pile about a month after ripping the first disc.
Our collection is now digitized and streaming from a Plex server! We are happily browsing through our collection on our Roku and playing everything on demand. It has been perfect for us and we are now watching our collection far more than we were. But, our shelves were still full of DVD cases.
Time to Bind
From the beginning, the idea was never to get rid of the DVDs themselves. We like having a physical backup copy for the reasons outlined by Steve Litchfield here and in case the Plex server or hard drive craps out. We do, however, want to reclaim the space on our shelves.
I was ready to get rid of the plastic cases and throw all the discs into a basic, semi-cheap and huge CD binder. But, my wife was adverse to just tossing the cover art inserts which she loved. I thought this was going to throw a wrench in the machine but there is actually a solution for a happy medium. There are binders out there that take this into consideration and the Artisan 240 Disc DVD Album is the one I went with, two of them to fit our whole collection. There is a pocket on each sleeve for the cover art of each DVD to slide nicely in.
I was also able to pull an alphabetical list of the DVDs on my Plex server to print and use to order the discs in the binders to find easier later. I used this guide to get the list.
A Quick Looky Loo
This is what the page inserts look like, 2 discs on the outside and an insert pocket in the middle:
Here are the binders next to all of the old DVD cases (notice all the space saved, yay!):
The Old Cases
There has been a bit of snag trying to recycle the old plastic DVD cases. Apparently my local recycling facility doesn’t accept them for collection from the curb side bin. The garbage collection would happily snag them for the landfill, but I’m trying my best to avoid that.
So, I tried contacting my local library to see if they had any use for them but they didn’t. The library, however, did offer to research somewhere local for me to take the old cases which I thought was a nice service. Sadly, they didn’t find anyone. For the moment I still have the old cases and I’m looking for someone who will reuse or recycle them.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions about the details for each step of this process.