The Media Player or Media Server is main source for movie and video content in your Cinema Room System. Make the right choice here and you won’t regret the investment.
When making your choice it’s best to select the device that has greatest capacity to integrate with other systems. We’ll get into the options here and you will hopefully be in a stronger position to make a selection. So what are the things to consider?
There are 2 choices when it comes to storing and playing movies; 1. Dedicated or 2. Ad-hoc. Lets take a look at the key features of both.
1. Dedicated Media Player/Server.
Software. With a Dedicated Media Server such as Vidabox or Kaleidescape you will get features and reliability unavailable with an Adhoc set up. Vidabox is a windows based system and runs on Media Centre. Kaleidescape runs on KEAOS, (Kaleidescape Entertainment Appliance Operating System), a proprietary operating system. Both do all the work related to ripping and storing so you have nothing to do except load the disc and rip or watch.
Both systems operate in a similar way by ripping DVD and Blue-ray content to the on board hard drive and finding the disc data online, so your Media Server will need to sit on your local network and have Internet access.
RAID. With these media servers you have the protection of integral RAID Storage. This is a system of storing data across multiple hard drives that offers the security of protecting your content should one of your hard drives fail but it means you have a hell of a lot less storage capacity than might seem apparent.
3rd Party Apps.There are third party applications available with Some Media Servers. Vidabox allows access to your
Netflix account for movie streaming and other Windows Media Centre third party applications and players. Last time I checked Kaleidescape does not.
Expansion. Both Vidabox and Kaleidescape can be expanded into other rooms of the home with additional room clients that will access the same database of content which makes adding another room very easy.
iPad & iPhone. These days if you have a system for accessing movies and music at home it’s got to have an iPad or iPhone application to control it and the above two Media Server options are no different. The apps for these systems are available free which you would expect when shelling out major dollars.
Installation. If you go with a dedicated Media Server you will need an approved installer to supply and set it up for you, as these are not systems that you can buy off the shelf and DIY. However, when installed you do have the added benefit of support from the professional.
Price. Pricing can vary quite a bit depending on what your configuration is. You should be prepared to spend at least a couple of thousand $£€ to get in on the ground. Storage capacity will have a large bearing on the final quote and this in turn depends on the size of your movie collection. Keep in mind that a standard definition DVD movie will take up at least 1.5 GB of storage space and a Blue-ray many times this depending on the disc. You should factor in 20% growth per year in your collection also when calculating the storage amount you require.
Content. Here’s something that you might find interesting. With Kaleidescape you can purchase collections of different video content right off the bat meaning you don’t have to spend ages building your own. Vidabox doesn’t offer this, however, some installers offer added value by providing a collection of movies as part of their deal with you. Also, your movie server affords you music and picture management also. Vidabox plugs in nicely with Sonos and gives you an always on database of music content for your Sonos music system to access.
TV Tuner. With Vidabox you can have a TV tuner fitted to your unit and have your tv content accessible via Vidabox with the recording function allowing you to store recorded TV programs for later playback.
2. Ad-hoc Media Player
If you are installing a dedicated Cinema Room then the above Media Server is the only option as far as I am concerned. However, if funds are tight then you might want to consider the Ad-hoc approach. This involves using several devices to achieve a similar result to the above.
Here’s what you are going to need;
- Media Player such as Boxee or Apple TV. This device has no internal storage and merely plays the content once you tell it where to find it on your network.
- NAS Drive such as a Western Digital MyBookLive. The NAS stores all your movies and is always on and accessible without the need to power up your laptop.
- DVD Ripping Software. You are going to need software running on your laptop to rip DVDs and Blue-ray such as DVDfab.
- RJ45 Patch Leads to connect your devices to your home network.
- HDMI cable from your Media Player to your Home Cinema Receiver.
The advantages of going with this option is that it’s low cost and when you choose Boxee you get access to a world of online content that none of the other solutions can match, at the moment. Even Apple TV will not give you access to the selection of content that Boxee does.
The down side to going the Ad-hoc road is that the set up is a lot more complex and ripping movies takes a lot longer so you are going to need some tech nerd know how to set it up. Once set up it works pretty well but full integration of Boxee with a control system such as Control 4 is not going to be possible. If you want to check out how to rip your movie to your separate NAS using DVDfab then check out this tutorial I put together a while back that covers the process.
On balance I would recommend Vidabox as the Media storage and playback solution with the addition of Boxee if you wanted to. I like Boxee for the access to online content that it provides, it’s only a shame that it can not be integrated into a third party system (That I know of at least). Kaleidescape, for what I know of it, is a little bit closed shop for my liking. Although integration of it with third party control systems is possible, the access to other providers content is a little limited.
Like all the areas we’re covering in the How To Home Cinema Guide there is a lot more detail we can go into and we may cover things in more detail in subsequent post. Here we are trying to keep it simple and get across what we think are the most important pieces of information to allow you gain enough insight so as to make an informed decision. I hope the above information helps you with this and with your overall project.