I have been collecting films and TV shows for a very long time. It was a regular scene to find me in my room with stacks of VHS tapes, labels, and a sharpie marker, documenting my latest recordings. I would print off episode guides for TV shows, and have the TV guide out so that I could see which classic films AMC and TCM were going to be broadcasting. I would hog the family TV in the living room, and have recordings going, sometimes for full days at a time. This became quite a hindrance to the rest of the family, because they weren’t able to watch TV. But luckily I had two parents who were supportive in my needing that next big piece in my collection. AMC would run horror movies every October (and still do). I would be recording “Friday the 13th” parts one through a million. I was able to salvage one of my Dad’s old computers and load a copy of Microsoft Word on there so that I could have a digital list of my collection, a big move forward from a college-ruled notebook.
I had to resort to a small TV in my Dad’s office to do some of my recordings. I remember “The Twilight Zone” New Years Eve Marathon, and being glued to the desk chair for hours and hours at a time. I would cross off the episodes on the guide I printed off (ya, my parents had to refill ink cartridges quite a few times). Before I knew it, my VHS collection had over 700 entries, ranging from old Disney movies to horror movies, and from “The Twilight Zone” to “Seinfeld”.
I remember the day that I moved from VHS to DVD. I have younger brothers who also have a love for collecting, and gave a lot of my stuff away. I still remember my first DVD. It was volume 1 of “Speed Racer”, the classic japanese cartoon that made its way to the US, and was in syndication for a long time. My collection evolved from VHS to DVD, and then to Blu Ray. Over the years I have exposed myself to as wide a range of film as possible. I have come to love the work of directors that I would have never been exposed to had I not performed all of the research I have. The American Film Institute, and their top 100 lists were a big resource for my film exploration. I also had a Film History class is High School, that was like a buffet of knowledge for me. I inhaled all of the content, and was often the only student in class, talking back and forth with the teacher, because there were facts that I knew, and I wanted to share what I knew with everybody. Film has always worked that way with me. I get very excited about classic film, and with new work as well. I love talking about it, as my wife, other family, and my coworkers all know.
Now onto the topic of this entry. As I have outlined above, I have collected hard media for a long time. My shelves have always been packed with movies and TV shows. Over the last few years there has been a big push for digital media. Now, hard media is still king, as the numbers show. Consumers still prefer this type of media over digital downloads. I have had what is now almost considered the old school mentality of having to have a movie on my shelf. It has always created more of a tactile experience. However, I have started to convert my collection, for the most part, to digital format. There are some sets that I own on Blu Ray that have come in very collectible sets, such as “Star Wars”, “Lord of the Rings”, the “Alien Anthology”, the “Jurassic Park” trilogy, and others. There are a handful of regular Blu Ray releases that I also have on the shelf, namely my top ten list, and other great titles of importance to me.
That being said, I have been building a digital library. Being a Macophile, I have set up a home media server, utilizing my iMac and my Apple TV (two of which I own, for the living room and bedroom TV’s). I have found this to be a lot of fun, as I can collect and collect and collect, and rather than taking up shelf space, it simply takes up gigabytes of my hard drive. I invested $100 in a 2TB drive for my iMac, and also have an external 2TB G Drive. This has worked out really well. I can even use my iPhone as my remote control for my Apple TV, and access movies and TV shows quickly over my Wifi network. I have found that I enjoy having some files in digital format, especially those that I want to have in my collection, but don’t necessarily need on my shelf in hard copy.
What I really love about my setup is that I can arrange my whole collection by genre, title, length, or whatever other criteria I can pinpoint. I also like the option to push the media to either my Apple TV or my iPhone. When I am traveling, which I do frequently, I can push a movie or two to my iPhone, and enjoy on the plane or wherever I am.
It is really easy to convert media that you own to a digital format. I utilize a couple programs to do this. Keep in mind that I am a Mac user, so this may differ for you PC users out there (get a Mac!). I use RipIt to rip the media, and then Handbrake is my preferred program for encoding the video. Click here to go to Apple’s site to view the Apple TV. They are only $99 and completely worth it if you are looking to stream media. Aside from streaming movies and TV shows you might rip into digital format like we have discussed, it also has accessibility for Netflix, YouTube, and many other services.
Here is a screenshot for RipIt:
Here is a screenshot of HandBrake:
Something else to note is that a lot of movies that are being released these days include a digital copy of the film, which is nice, because all of the work that would come from using RipIt and Handbrake is already done for you. There is usually an activation code, and you can have the file downloaded directly to iTunes.
So here’s my question. What format do you prefer? Hard or digital? It is an interesting topic. People tend to be very opinionated one way or another. But I have found what I feel like is a happy medium between the two.
-David B. Harrington