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The Emancipation of Physical Media


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#1 David Heath

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 10:00 PM

I'm not quite sure why I'm posting this in Creative Design but it definitely feels like the best place to put it so as to encourage a potentially interesting discussion about it. This isn't about any particular work that I've done; it's about how I, or we, manage the things we own and what design choices we make in our lives to accommodate them.

My example: I'm trying to arrange my room, utilising the small amount of space I have (I have a large room but I like minimalism) to elegantly store all my things. I've just taken about two hours to get my bookcase the way I like it. Now I haven't got anywhere to put my CDs, DVDs or videogames. I can't put them on the bookcase. I could cram them all in but it'd look terrible.

It occurred to me that apart from the odd special edition where the physical version is obviously worth owning, everything I have is either digitised or could be digitised very easily. Or wouldn't even need to be digitised (what with it being available on the Cloud already or at some point in the near future). So who has already taken the forward thinking step of emancipating their life of physical media? I'm trying to convince myself to do it because it'll happen at some point anyway. Throw away everything except nice special things. Or things which are essential. Cleanse my physical attachment to the media and art I love and have them all accessible from inside my own personal, awesome Cloud (or ten billion Terabyte external backup hard drive in case of Internet failure). There are obvious exceptions such as videogames where it isn't practical to do this just yet, but everything else can go, right? And eventually so can they.

So this is kind of a discussion about three things: getting rid of physical media, embracing minimalism as we approach an era where everything is stored somewhere else, and also my own mild OCD which causes me to take two hours to arrange a bookcase. Oh yeah, books. Digitise everything except books. I can't digitise books and I don't think I ever will, and if anyone comes round here and fucking touches my fucking books I'll fucking murder them.
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#2 Blu3Flame

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 10:07 PM

I've begun digitising my music collection into FLAC, it takes up a lot of time though. I did a couple of hundred CDs then got sidetracked. My plan is to convert everything, keeping only the very best things in their jewel cased/digipack glory. There's part of me that can't throw away the actual CDs though, so I'm planning on stripping all the cases of their CDs and keeping them in a couple of large wallets 'just in case'.
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#3 Alexlotl

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 11:43 PM

I forcibly embraced this when I moved to New Zealand with only about 8 weeks notice.

CDs - all ripped. Most, it must be admitted, already were, and there was a layer of dust on the CD rack. Since iTunes got rid of DRM, I just buy everything from there or Bandcamp.
DVDs - all liberated from their packaging and just stuffed in a few 48 disc wallets. I don't like watching films on a computer with a noisy fan, and they're sufficiently large that they'd represent a nuisance to store digitally.
Games - as DVDs, or sold.
Books - left them all in a box in the loft. Physical books are so mind-staggeringly expensive in NZ that I've bought a Kindle hooked up to a UK Amazon account. It weighs 170g, and it's always in my manbag. First book I read on it was Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, the library copy of which weighed about 1.5kg. I'm not missing physical books much.

The whole experience was an eye-opener, in a good way. I'm not sure I would have considered a Kindle, had I not managed to ditch physical music media quite so easily. I'd happily ditch DVDs if there was a better alternative, but I'm not convinced there is at this stage.

Fun thing to consider: vinyl will probably outlive the CD.
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#4 cowfields

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 08:52 AM

In many ways I regret buying a Kindle. I love the convenience of it and now that I'm reading things at a faster rate before having joined two bookclubs and just enjoying it more as a hobby, I'm more likely to finish a book on a train or a bus and want to read a new book straight away. I'd never have carried two books around for that it's too bulky. But I've got something like 8 books ready to read on my Kindle.

That said, Kindles don't really save you any money because the ebooks aren't that cheaper than paperbacks and you can also get secondhand books, and there was a near on £200 outlay after buying a case as well.

But considering the above, I have no real interest to lay out my dvds, games or CDs for display but on the other hand there's something nice about having the books on display and those things will last the test of time. Books are more timeless. It's not like the Kindle format adds 'quality' to the book like a Blu-ray might over a DVD. (well, I do find a Kindle easier to read but that's a really minute preference). So I think having a wall of books would have been nice, and I could have spent all my Kindle money on getting started with things I mean to read, and I could lend people books I loved. I disabled that possibility by buying a Kindle and now feel like I *have* to buy an ebook to justify the initial outlay.

I stopped 'collecting' CDs now that I use spotify and all of my cds were on mp3 anyway, and they all live at Mum and Dad's house. Netflix (and being poor) has killed DVD buying also so there's no real 'collection' there. When you find yourself watching something on Netflix you have on DVD just because it's more convenient than finding the discs I realise I don't really need to keep the DVDs around any more, but at the same time there are plenty of DVDs I won't be able to watch without downloading illegally, so they still have purpose.

But part of having a nice shelf of DVDs / CDs was about the display, being able to look at the collection and go "ahhh" but that feeling has gone. No DVD boxset I've got apart from maybe the Blade Runner tin one has enough merit on its packaging alone, and I've never been very enthusiastic about extras.

I should really get together the rarer ones with nicely designed packaging. All my Pizzicato Five Japanese CDs are works of art and many are boxes full of little postcards and other things rather than simply a cd and an inlay cover. Those kind of things are worth having nearby to open and view and show people.

I think the short version is that the idea of having a displayed 'collection' is gone for me and it's much more important to adorn my walls with little works of art. They might be posters, postcards, but they might be a boxset collector's edition that stands up as an object to be viewed on its own.

A film, book, or CD that can be appreciated without having to watch, read or listen to it.
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#5 David Heath

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 09:23 PM

... the idea of having a displayed 'collection' is gone for me and it's much more important to adorn my walls with little works of art. They might be posters, postcards, but they might be a boxset collector's edition that stands up as an object to be viewed on its own.


Yeah, I feel a lot like this too. Having already done a lot of the legwork in this area by converting and tagging my entire music library to FLAC I'm thinking that I might as well go one step further and do DVDs next, but what's the equivalent ripping/tagging specification that would do them justice? The only thing stopping me is the thought that ripping and storing locally costs space. I need a way of cross-referencing what I have with what I can stream from the Internet which also takes into consideration the fact that sometimes things available to stream online one day will be removed the next.
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#6 MrPogo

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 09:51 PM

Kind of strange for me; I place value and importance on the physical media at the time of purchase (won't spend more than three or four pounds on a downloaded album, but happily pay full RRP for a CD) and I'm a real sucker for any sort of special edition or fancy packaging (even just a cardboard slipcase), yet when I get the album home I'll rip it to the computer, have a cursory flip through the booklet, then sling it in a pile at the back of the cupboard and never look at it again.
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#7 Art Vandelay

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 10:13 PM

Lot's of things I own could be digitised, but I don't want them to be. CDs, books, art, they were all designed to have a tangible quality. Someone laid out my art books or prints at that size for a reason; they chose the paper to compliment it; someone designed the CD inlays as a partner to the music; I like gatefold LPs. All of these things could be accessible on a tablet or a laptop or my iPhone, but I like being able to hold them. I decided a while ago that I'll resist having an iPad because I'd rather have £400 of books instead (if that were an option of course, I'm brasic). If I run out of room I'll come up with a better way of storing them. Come to think of it, anywhere I've lived housing my physical media has been basically my number one priority in laying out a space.

I think the only thing I'll properly go digital with will be films. DVD cases take up loads of room and I'll be glad when they're gone for good. Who wants to live in a Blockbusters?
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#8 The-Pope-Smokes-Dope!

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 02:30 PM

All my music and dvd's have been in the loft for the past 6 years....I stream it all from my pc to the ps3 in the living room.....having kids who liked pulling CDs out of their cases as babies kind of forced my hand.... It much more convenient living a digital lifestyle.....

If I want to watch a film I've got I just download it.... It takes me about 4 mins to get a divx copy....
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#9 Vespa Alex

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 12:57 PM

I boxed up 75% of the CD collection when I moved house last summer and that's in the loft - I think the rest will follow soon.
I've got a decent pile of DVDs that I'll never watch waiting to be sold or given away but the majority are still on Ikea's finest in the lounge. I really don't know what to do with them as it's unlikely that many will ever get used but I can't quite bring myself to ditch them yet.
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#10 andy_s

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 02:31 PM

95% of my CD collection went to Music Magpie about a year ago and I haven't missed it at all. I didn't even bother ripping most of it. I just buy stuff from iTunes when needed and it has been fun discovering certain albums all over again. I then moved to DVD's and have probably got rid of about 75% so far and the rest will go soon. I have a Lovefilm account and that's fine - I can't think of the last time that I just had to watch x movie that night.

I haven't bought a Kindle and can't imagine doing so - there is just something about a physical book that really appeals to me. Having said that, I don't hoard them particularly. Every so often I take a load up to the book bank so that someone else can enjoy them.
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#11 sir stiff_one

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 07:17 PM

I absolutely cannot wait to get a Kindle. All the books I want to read are classics and are free anyway, it pisses me off paying for them - doubly so here where English language books are pricey - even shit quality ones that should be £1.99. I loved buying books in London and I like having books in the house, but generally now I have books that work best in that format, coffee table books. I read the papers at the weekend and they piss me off. The one I read is moving to a tabloid-ish smaller format soon which will be handier, but I'd much prefer digital versions - if I had a suitable tablet.

Film wise I don't have anything left on DVD now I don't think, maybe the odd couple in a box under the bed. Thoroughly pointless. I have a bit of a shanty town rig digitally speaking, but in practice I sit on the sofa and select what I want to watch from the network, be it movie, tv show or basketball match. Music wise I don't even have a CD player anymore besides the drive in the Xbox and the computer. All our CDs are in various boxes in my Gran's loft or up in a cupboard. I do not like using the media player and thus TV I have to navigate music though. I'd much prefer to access it on my phone and have it play magically. This should be possible but I've not found a particularly good solution, nothing quite as responsive and with the exact pauses between tracks as on CD. The other day I had a hankering to listen to the Avalanches, as album I bought many years ago from Amazon on CD. No idea where it is now. I started typing the name into YouTube, stopped, went to what.cd instead, grabbed a 320 mp3 version and had the whole album in literally under a minute. Nothing can compete with that until we have a system where you just have to think about the music or say it out loud and it starts playing.

I've got nothing against having an attachment to physical media though, it's totally up to the person. I can't see anyone getting attached to any future physical formats like they did with VHS/DVDs and CDs though. I loved my Japanese Dreamcast collection, for the box art, the spines everything. They were items I loved which also contained experiences I loved. Having digital versions is great in terms of ease of access and superior HD versions etc, but you lose the ability to love and enjoy a physical object, even if it is just a piece of shiny plastic covered in more plastic. If you could snap your fingers to create fire, that would be mega cool, but you might still enjoy having a particular lighter. No one needs a watch, but there are many other reasons to own and wear one than simply being able to access the current time.
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#12 David Heath

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 08:43 PM

If you could snap your fingers to create fire, that would be mega cool, but you might still enjoy having a particular lighter. No one needs a watch, but there are many other reasons to own and wear one than simply being able to access the current time.


This completely sums up vinyl and in particular limited edition boxsets and special editions, for me.

Does anyone have any tips for ripping and storing DVDs in much the same way that I've ripped and stored my music library (lossless compression, fully tagged, etc.)? It seems to be a much less exact science so would appreciate any help.
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#13 David Heath

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Posted 17 March 2012 - 11:22 PM

I found a good guide for digitising a DVD collection:
http://www.loconuts....ovie-collection

Unfortunately Subler appears to be available on Apple OSs only so if anyone has any app suggestions for tagging that has similar functionality please share. I tried MetaX but wasn't really happy with the interface and it didn't offer all of the options I was hoping for. Anyway, I've started the ripping process this evening using the settings outlined on that site and it all seems good for me. Am I likely to notice a huge loss in quality if I'm upscaling the output to a bigger TV, for example? Playing anything back individually using VLC 2.0 is a nice experience as the playback timeline now includes chapter overlays so you can scan more accurately for certain scenes, but does anyone tend to prefer a central hub for storing all their movie content in and playing back that way?
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#14 Darragh

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 12:16 AM

How are you getting on with these backups, David? I've been looking into this myself, and the method you posted seems like a nice balance between preserving director's commentaries/subtitles and keeping the quality/filesize ratio in a bit of a sweet spot. I'd be very interested to know how you're finding the output quality, as I want to come as close to DVD quality as I can, within reason.
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#15 lordcookie

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 12:35 AM

I'm always put off from doing this due to the volume of discs I have (around 1,100 CDs and a few more DVDs). How long does it take to rip a standard two hour DVD in the best quality possible?
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#16 Darragh

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 01:17 AM

I'm always put off from doing this due to the volume of discs I have (around 1,100 CDs and a few more DVDs). How long does it take to rip a standard two hour DVD in the best quality possible?


I tested a couple using the method Heath linked to above, and it seemed to take around 40 minutes for a 2-hour film (this is with an i5-2500k processor), but I have no idea if that's normal or terrible. If it's normal, it's kind of putting me off doing the whole lot due to the amount I have (around 600, at a vaguely-educated guess). There's also the possibility that my DVD drive has some form of copy protection on it (as many DVD drives do) which slows down the process. I'll have to do a bit of Googling!
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#17 lordcookie

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 01:34 AM

Yeah, if that is normal then there is no way I'd attempt that with my collection as it would just take way too long and recording a small selection of my DVDs seems a bit redundant.
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#18 Darragh

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 02:22 AM

Aye, it would take a pretty ludicrous amount of time, even if I had two DVD drives ripping simultaneously. I'll let you know if I find out it's just my DVD drive (a Samsung SH-222AB, fact fans!), but Google isn't proving very helpful when it comes to finding out if this drive actually has some sort of rip protection or anything, I'm just finding a bunch of firmware downloads with no indications as to what benefits they offer over the firmware it shipped with.

I hope I can sort it out, as I've grown quite fond of the notion of having access to all my movies and TV shows at high quality through a lovely front-end like Plex or something!
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#19 snowbind

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 03:28 AM

Books are the only thing that saddens me about the digital age. I have no problem with owning digital copies or a kindle, but a well stocked bookcase really is something to behold. I have a few of racks of shit around me, all of it will eventually go. It'll be digitised or stored in cupboard that hide it away. Not the books though, they can stay.
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#20 David Heath

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 09:07 AM

How are you getting on with these backups, David? I've been looking into this myself, and the method you posted seems like a nice balance between preserving director's commentaries/subtitles and keeping the quality/filesize ratio in a bit of a sweet spot. I'd be very interested to know how you're finding the output quality, as I want to come as close to DVD quality as I can, within reason.


I'm not having great fun, it has to be said.

Unlike ripping audio, DVDs seem to be much less of an exact science. The method I posted worked great for the first two DVDs I tried, but I tried a few other discs after and encountered problems. Firstly some DVDs simply aren't recognised by Handbrake (or my DVD playback software) at all. One such film is the documentary film Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. I can't seem to play this DVD using my computer (VLC 2.0) and Handbrake does not recognise it in the drive. Possibly some kind of copy protection issue is playing here. Secondly, some films which do get recognised hang after just a couple of percent completion and never finish. Thirdly, some films which do finish end up completely unwatchable due to static-y glitches throughout. Some of the Miyazaki films (not imports) do this.

So, of the handful of films I have managed to successfully rip things do work OK and each film tends to take around one hour for me, but I think a more robust plan (or simply better DVD hardware) is needed. The time issue isn't a problem. I don't have hundreds of DVDs but I don't mind doing a couple every evening. It's the integrity of the digital copy that I'm having trouble with at the moment and it would be useful to know if anyone has had any similar experiences with Windows 7 (64-bit) and Handbrake.

Books are the only thing that saddens me about the digital age. I have no problem with owning digital copies or a kindle, but a well stocked bookcase really is something to behold. I have a few of racks of shit around me, all of it will eventually go. It'll be digitised or stored in cupboard that hide it away. Not the books though, they can stay.


I completely agree with this.
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#21 Mentazm

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Posted 26 March 2012 - 09:59 AM

I've been DJing since I was 14. For 10 years I was spending about 50 quid a week on vinyl. I started digitising it all about 98ish and sold it all apart from a few hundred to fund my mortgage deposit before the vinyl market dropped out due to MP3s. Thanksfully was ahead of the curve there.

I used to have shelves full of books and DVDs until I got sick of carting them about every time I moved - traded in vast majority of DVDs to CEX and gave away most books to a mate. I've never been one for collecting games, I see them as completely disposable, so only have around 30 (non PC games - hundreds on steam obv). But yeah, now managed to minimize my entire hard media library to one bookshelf and it feels good.

I just don't see the point of having piles of stuff sitting about depreciating in value and gathering dust. Read/play/watch and move on to the next!
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