Digitizing your physical media for Plex

You already know all about the great Plex app on Xbox One, but still have a few questions about how to actually turn your physical library into a digital one.  It’s likely your music is already digital.  From your Napster days to Spotify. Photos? Most of you switched to digital photos before we had smartphones.  Movies and TV Shows?  That’s where it can get tricky.

High quality video of even a two hour movie, let alone a 25 episode season of television, takes up a lot of hard drive space.  It wasn’t until about 2002 until we had hard drives that were large enough and affordable enough to locally store even one movie. Today you can download and store movies on our phones and watch on the go.

So how do you get those DVDs and Blu-rays to digital?  There are a number of options, and you can research and pick what you like, but the combo that keeps coming up as the best and easiest way as a choice for many is a combination of MakeMKV and Handbrake.

As long as you have the disc drive on a computer to read your DVDs and/or Blu-ray discs MakeMKV is a dead simple solution.  It has the options to pick and chose what is digitized, such as language audio tracks or subtitles,  but you can also just put the disc in the drive, click the button, and wait for it to convert.

makeMKV_interface

MakeMKV will store the movies in the … wait for it… .MKV file format which is an open standard for common media content.  Plex can can transcode and play MKV files on the fly, and it will look just as good as if you played right from the disc, but it can take quite a bit of processing on the server, and since it is uncompressed, the files can be quite large.

Those drawbacks are where Handbrake comes in. Handbrake is an open source video transcoder that will take a lot of file formats, like MKV, and transcode it to different codecs.  There are a lot of options in Handbrake to determine the level of quality you want for the video file but it is made easier with a number of preset options to choose from so you can save on some hard drive space with compression without sacrificing too much quality.

handbrake_logo

Depending on the size of your library, digitizing it can be a breezy afternoon or a month long undertaking, but once you have it on the server, with a legal copy to watch just about anywhere, anytime, you and the friends you share your library with will wonder how you ever lived without it.

A very important footnote here is to ALWAYS have a solid backup of your data.  Just like using the buddy system in a zombie post-apocalyptic wasteland, proper backups are mandatory.  If anything happens to that hard drive storing all your movie and TV shows, firstly, you might not even have those disc around anymore, and secondly, future you will be thankful to save the time avoiding that digitization process again.

Author: Merrick Moss

Cloud architect. Father of two. US Army Veteran. Sock Sommelier. Xbox Ambassador. Dad Joke Apologist.

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