Media Marshalling – Why I still archive my DVDs

I’ve gone back and forth on this over the years.  For the most part we’re ‘cord cutters’.  For me it wasn’t about cost, but about changing viewing habits.  We found that of the cable offerings, all we were really using was the connection to sling tv so we could watch Indian serials and movies.  Well, with roku, that’s just a single paid “channel”.  Then came the Amazon Firestick, and all the video content that comes with Prime.  Netflix rounds out the offerings that are most common, and with them creating new content of their own, the likes of HBO and Starz begin to pale into a distant memory.

So, what about DVDs?  Well, most of the time, content available on DVD is available through one of our online subscriptions.  But, not always.  Netflix doesn’t have everything, and in particular, they don’t have some stuff that I would consider to be archival.  Even if they do have something, they may not have it for very long.

I have a strategy around DVD purchasing.  In general I’ll only purchase a DVD if it’s less than $10.  I can justify this as it’s less than the price of a single admission to a movie theatre.  Also, if the DVD is cheaper than the rental price on Amazon, I might buy it.  I’ll buy those compilation DVDs that are like “Oceans 11, 12, 13, and Original”.  That’s 4 movies in all, at least a couple of which I’ve seen a couple of times, and would watch again.  The very first one from the 60s was interesting, because although they “got away with it”, they didn’t end up with anything.  I’ll also purchase DVDs while in India, or on Amazon because they won’t show up necessarily in the US.  Ra-One for example, or the Dhoom movies (although the latest did show up).

I have 118 DVDs now.  I do two things.  1, I archive the .ISO file and store it on the Synology NAS.  Then I use Handbrake to convert to a .mkv file, so that I can serve it up easily using a Plex client on the roku, or firestick, or any client in the home (iPad, phones, guest laptops).  This is great.  But, running a home NAS is an interesting business.  The Synology is pretty good, and the one I have has been in almost constant operation for about 4 years now.  I’ve added one disk, so it has roughly 5 terabytes of storage, with a couple of storage bays open.  At some point within the next 4 years, I’ll be contemplating replacing that thing, at a cost of who knows what.  In the meanwhile, I hope to gosh nothing catastrophic happens to it, because other than being RAID, I don’t have a backup,  or who knows if it suffers a debilitating virus.

Which brings me to a secondary analysis.  I could leverage OneDrive, or some other cloud storage mechanism to archive all this stuff, and just use the home NAS as a local cache.  That would give me the quick access that I want, and the security of a cloud backed up thing to boot.  That would be a great solution for what I travel.  I can still have access to various files, without having to expose my home NAS to the wilds of the internet.  The cost might be about the same as purchasing a new NAS in a few years, so that’s something to look into.

On top of putting my data into an easily accessible place, I can then use it as a dataset to do various experimentations.  What is it about the types of movies that I collect.  Run some cloud based analytics on the images, dialogs, years, actors, etc.  Basically, I could run my own little Netflix scoring engine, and on my own decide what kinds of new movies might be of interest to me.  And then, I wonder if I could sell this information to advertisers, or movie makers?  Something to think about.

And so, I find myself continuing to archive my DVDs.  It’s something I’ve gone into and out of doing over the past 15 years.  Today, they’re so cheap that even though a lot of content can be found through streaming services, it’s worth the convenience to store them and make them available locally.  We’ll see if using the cloud as backup, or as primary storage, makes sense.