Thursday, August 14, 2008

Home Media Servers

What exactly is a media server you ask? It can be as simple as an Apple TV holding a few shows and movies from the iTunes store all to a multi-terabyte raid array holding everything from music to home movies to ripped DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. Here is an example of one such server: M One

Now you know what, but the real question is why? Many are familiar with Tivo or any CATV DVR. There is an incredible convenience when you realize that you have dozens of hours of hand selected content to choose from with the click of the remote.

In an ideal world all of your TV recordings (including pay channels), DVDs, CDs, Blu-Rays, home videos, and photos would all be on a central server. Then any TV or computer in the house could have access. Imagine watching a show in the living room, then pausing it, and then shortly after resuming it in the bedroom.

All of this is technically possible, but because of copy protection it is hardly practical.
  • Pay TV can be recorded on a Cable Card PC, but the content can't be shared on another PC, only on approved extenders.
  • Ripped DVDs and Blu-Rays can be viewed on other PCs, but not extenders
Will we ever be able to have the ideal scenario? Should we ever be allowed to freely copy and redistribute purchased media throughout the house?

Who knows how it will all pan out, but for now consumers see what they can get away with, while content providers see how many versions of the same movie they can sell. The legal loophole used is the argument the a back-up is considered "fair use" of the media.

Is it ok to cicumvent copy protection to make your "fair use" back-up?

As far as I can tell, it's illegal to circumvent copy protection. Therefore there is no such thing as legally ripping DVDs or Blu-Ray. (Kaleideskape however insists that when they rip DVDs they are keeping the copy protection in tact.)

So Kaleidescape can legally do DVDs, but not yet Blu-Ray, and no TV.

To sum it up -- Legally, you would need multiple servers and mutiple players to have all of your digital assets conveniently accessed.
  • Kaleidescape server and multiple players for DVDs
  • Vista Cable Card Media Center with multiple extenders for TV or Fios and U-verse allow shared content using inexpensive set top boxes, where the primary box acts as tghe server
  • Your personal videos can be viewed on a Media center PC
Maybe the music industry made a mistake by not encrypting CDs. Now people are copying their CDs to their iPods like mad! Shouldn't they be required to re-purchase the music in a "digital" format?

It's worth pointing out here that there is one media server in particular that is way over the top! This persons hobby turned to obsession when he began to build a 48 Terabyte media server. I suspect that that is more storage than most video post production facilities.
Here is a link to his thread on the AVS forum

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