Media Storage Solutions

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About

MainLobby is very commonly used to manage digital media cataloging and launch. But, what about the safe, available, cost effective storage of this media? Please use this Wiki thread to share do's and dont's on the storage of digital media.

Storage Strategies

Build a PC and put a lot of big hard drives in it and use some method of regular backup or RAID protection against the inevitable hard drive failure. Some say, "who cares" and just rerip those affected movies when that particular drive fails. Most do something more proactively about it as the time, hassle and downtime to rerip many feel is outweighed by the additional cost to protect the data.

Purchase a NAS (Network Attached Storage) that is a dedicated storage unit (not really a PC). This attaches to the PC data network. Many of these NAS solutions support RAID.

Add a firewire changer (like a Sony XL1B3 or a Powerfile unit) and connect that 200 disk changer to the HTPC. MainLobby is then used to control the changer mechanics of loading a disk from an appropriate storage slot. This eliminates having to rip to hard drives and the cost is very hard to beat. Note that these hardware choices are no longer manufactured so the supply is drying up.

Use a Sony CX777ES 400 disk analog changer and control it using Cinemar's DVDLobby / MainLobby software. This unit requires the component video output to be routed to your TV.

Once you have a means to store and network the movie files, you need a software DVD player that runs on the HTPC. TheaterTek and ZoomPlayer are prominent favorites.

If you have a fair number of DVDs, then the next step is to put a movie organizer in place. DVDLobby is Cinemar's premier movie catalog / launch software.

With at least DVDLobby, even a three year old can control your system and watch the latest "Wiggles" episode about 20 times a day

Higher end software solutions like DVDLobby / MainLobby allow for management of all of your AV hardware, lighting, projector, plasma, receiver, etc. to fully automate and simplify the complexity of turning on the system appropriately so that 3 year old can enjoy your investment (the significant other too). And, with these software solutions, you can do any combination of the above storage methods, or all of them at once to apply the correct storage solution for the situation. For example, the Wiggles would be on a hard drive so the 20 times per day isn't taxing on hardware or the 3 year old's patience waiting for the mechanical firewire changer to load their day's favorite movie for the 20th time. Hardly watched movies could go on the Firewire or Sony CX777ES analog dvd changer.

HD movies are another issue...much more hard drive storage needed and the HD software DVD players are just getting their software act together for decent play. And, none of them interface with DVD management software solutions so the control experience isn't as tight as with non HD DVDs.


RAID

RAID Technology

Because movies take a lot of storage space and that hard drives WILL fail (being mechanical devices), it is recommended that your movie server be built using RAID5 hard drive storage technology. This allows for pieces of a file to be spread across multiple connected hard drives that provides protection in the case that one drive fails. The drive just needs to be replaced when it fails, and the RAID can then be rebuilt without loss of media. RAID 5 requires a minimum of three drives connected to RAID5 controller card installed in the PC server. The drives should be identical size and model for best performance and efficiency. Make sure the PC power supply is rated for the total electrical load that the PC and drives require.


More About RAID

RAID is a popular way of managing large amounts of data (like what one would need for a hard drive based media system) both for sheer capacity, as well as protection against mechanical failure of a hard drive (inevitable). There are several different ways to implement RAID:

The capacity of each the RAID is limited to the capacity of the smallest drive in the array. The total array capacity is defined as follows:
RAID 0: (the number of drives) X (the capacity of the smallest drive. RAID 0 is not recommended for media systems as there is no protection against drive failure
RAID 1: the capacity of the smallest drive. RAID 1 is highly recommanded for a operating system drive or for mission critical data. Expensive as it requires twice the storage capacity.
RAID 5: (the number of drives - 1) X (capacity of the smallest drive). RAID 5 is highly recommended for storage of media as the data is spread across all drives, providing protection against one drive failure without duplicating content (using additional hard drives).
RAID10: (the number of drives / 2) X (capacity of smallest drive)


Hot spare and hot swap

Hot Spare is the label given to a drive that is available, active and designated as a spare. This designated drive is applied automatically when a drive degrades and the array is rebuilt. Hot Swap is the term applied to the process of swapping out a degraded drive, programmatically and using the RAID controller cards methods, with a pre-assigned spare.


Windows Home Server

Microsoft has released a new operating system intended for centralized PC backup and media storage. For PC backup purposes, each PC is automatically backed up typically nightly. WHS uses a unique database of file clusters to store a file once, even if each PC has the same file on it. The database tracks which cluster goes to which PC. So, it can backup many PCs with little storage on the WHS server.

For Media, WHS supports Folder Duplication. Essentially a duplicate file stored on two seperate physical drives. Not so great for large volume storage like needed for DVDs as it consumes twice the space per DVD. RAID is better for this purpose. Unfortunately, WHS doesn't support RAID. You can install hardware RAID onto a WHS server, but the WHS OS won't manage the files there (not a big issue).

WHS is based on Windows 2003 Server which is a very robust OS platform. Because of the unique database of files used, one should not use any other file management utilities outside of what is available via the WHS Console. This includes Windows Disk Management utility.

MainLobby runs nicely on a WHS server.

One "trick" is to make sure Video Hardware Acceleration is on Full if you will be using TheaterTek on the WHS box.


Security

There's a difference between backup and fault-tolerance/redundancy. Both are important, depending on the nature of the data. Fault-tolerance stops you from losing data. Backup allows you to go back (unless you're not managing it and just doing straight copies).


If video media will be stored, it is suggested that video media be stored on a second storage PC server, a SAN, or on an internal RAID 5 hard drive array with large drives. This drive is typically shared with other PC's on the local subnet network.

Make sure the PC power supply is rated for the number of supported hardware devices.



File Organization

It's best to follow a standard when backing up your media or home movies to your hard drive not only from an organization standpoint - but also to work smoothly with DVDLobby Pro 3 and DVDLobby PocketPC. You'll want to have a dedicated area on your computer for storing the media such as: X:\Video. Then within this folder, you'll create subfolders with the exact name of the media title found in DVDLobby Pro 3.

A Standard Definition DVD folder tree structure should look something like this:


X:\Video\The Name of My Movie\VIDEO_TS\Video_TS and VOB files


Within each Video_TS folder is the stored IFO, BUP and VOB files of that movie. You may also setup a dedicated media server on another computer and stream the media over your network. If this is the case, you'll need to map it as a shared network drive. You should use the same drive letter for the shared network drive on all PCs that will be requested to play the movie file.

Availability

Cost