Digital Media Center

Stack of DVD moviesTerabyte network storage systems are appearing for the home. With so much storage an integrated media center makes a lot of sense. Why have a pile of DVDs and CDs stacked up someplace when they can be migrated to the media center. I don’t know how many times I have opened a DVD case to find either the wrong movie or no movie inside. This results in a search for the actual movie. If everything were contained in the media center keeping track of individual movies would be easy.

Network bandwidth into the home continues to increase. iTunes and other music services have made it easy to purchase and download music, and now movie downloading is appearing as well. Why buy a DVD when its contents could be purchased and downloaded instead? Downloading leaves less plastic clutter. Also, it saves time running around to buy the DVD in the first place.

Having everything in a central location makes finding everything easy. For music getting a random selection to download to the mp3 player, or a specific selection of whatever I was in the mood for would be easy. Grabbing a few films for a road trip should be just as easy. Wired access as well as wireless access are essential.

As we transfer from physical media, DVDs and CDs, to downloaded media the ability to transfer our existing media collections into the media center will be required. I should be able to stack up a bunch of DVDs and CDs and the system would convert them in turn. This transfer problem plagues any new media. The transition from cassette tapes to CDs required conversion, so did going from VHS to DVD. Those precious family videos which started out as 8MM film, then transferred to VHS, then DVD, will now have a new home as well.

The media center must allow for downloading of new media. Films would need to be viewable on the home TV’s, on the computer, a portable movie player, and even to transfer a few to the car’s video system. Similarly music needs to be easy to transfer.

One problem with movies today is region encoding. Chinese films that I have purchased in China do not work in Japan or the US. And similarly the US films do not work overseas either. As we become more international, this type of restriction just gets more and more annoying. Hopefully downloaded content will not suffer from this restriction, but unfortunately today buying international movies is still more trouble than it should be.

Admittedly, there are also advantages to having individual DVDs and CDs. One big one is what happens to all our media when the hard disk crashes. Everything gets lost at once. With DVDs and CDs, I might lose my favorites, but at least there will be a few other disks to watch. If the media providers do not provide the ability to re-download purchased movies and songs, then the media center needs to handle backups in an automated way.

Storage has reached the point where hundreds of movies and thousands of songs can easily be stored in one place. What would be your dream home media setup?

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One Comment on “Digital Media Center”

  1. Wayne Says:

    Region encoding was just a primitive form of DRM. The media industry would much prefer it if everything were encoded per person, rather than per worldwide region, and that’s what we’re getting with many things. If only you (or one specific player, or something like that) can play it back, then I doubt they’d care much about where in the world you were.

    (Well, region encoding was also to control separate worldwide releases in different parts of the world, but if we’re talking about downloads that isn’t likely to be a big issue.)