Suggestion from you before I buy

Hi All, many moons ago i purchased and used a Neuston Media Player. While I was happy with how it worked (given the few media players around) my wife hated the thing. The menus were terrible and very hard to navigate. I am considering another go in the media player arena and would appreciate any comments you have about how well the WD TV Live will perform for me. My environment: 1) Four kids 6 years old and younger that I want to keep away from the physical media 2) Huge library of DVDs and SVCDs (300+) which I would like to rip to accomplish 1 above 3) need for menus that my wife and hopefully my 6 year olds can manage 4) Plan to connect an external HD as the source of the files 5) Currently have a plan old non HD TV and in no rush to replace it but will likely do so in a year. My biggest concerns are: 1) What is the best format to rip to 2) Will my family be able to use this thing or are they still toys for technolgy geeks like muself. Thanks in Advance.

My five year old has no problems watching her movies.   If you arrange the media in a logical manner (in folders and such), you probably can do the same thing.

The WD’s UI is very easy and pretty intuitive.

I’ve ripped about 60 DVD’s so far into h.264 MKV files which are about 10-30% of the original DVD size.

Keep in mind, though that the WD does NOT support DVD menus.   So all I’m doing is ripping out the main movie (or episodes, if it’s a “Series” set.) so none of the extras and “games” common on DVDs will be usable on the WD.

My wife manages just fine with the thing. No major complaints from her about any of that. My 3 year old likes that she can look at the screen and see the movie covers to choose from. Of course, there are only 12 movie covers per screen so if you have a bunch of movies that you haven’t organized into folders, you’ll do a lot of scrolling to find what you want. But, it works OK and they seem happy enough with it.

Also, I’m using a very simple setup. I’m using a Gen2 (no network support) with a 1TB My Book external hard drive to store movies and then a Corsair 16GB flash drive for any temporary media or to shuttle anything from the computer to the My Book.

Hi, what is the fastest and easiest way to rip dvds and blueray to mkv ?

To answer the OP:


  1. You can even keep your hard drive out of the living room with the WDTV Live; if you don’t plan on using the network capabilities of the WDTV Live, maybe you’d like to pay even less for a WDTV (“Live” means network-ready).

  2. Depends on how you rip them. There are currently a few bugs with playback of mpeg4-encoded content. Make a few tests before ripping your entire collection. x264 codec + mkv container seems perfect even in 1080p. As other said, there is no support for DVD menus, and if you simply store DVD images, keep in mind that some title layouts won’t work well. Namely, the WDTV Live seems to play only the largest title on a DVD iso file or in a VIDEO_TS folder. Thus, multi-title DVD images won’t work untlil you encode.

  3. Menus are basic and while there are search capabilities, they’re sub-par. As long as you can navigate through a standard directory structure, you’ll be ok. Navigathing through thousands of files or hundreds of directory can be tiresome. If you set up the directories correctly, you can show the cover art as the icon image, so that will help kids navigate, but this is not automatic (i.e. the WDTV Live won’t fetch artwork from the internet).

  4. No problem with that, but as before, if you don’t plan on using the networking capabilities of the Live, you can save about 30% of the price and go with a WDTV (either HD or not).

  5. If you don’t plan on updating soon to an HD TV, maybe you can find the WDTV Mini, which is non-HD and presumalbly even cheaper. I don’t know much about the WDTV Live display performance on analog output (it’s great using  HDMI), but I think I saw a few disappointed fellows in this board. Here is a useful link if you’re hesitating between WD’s offerings:


  1. As I said above, x264+MKV seems to work really fine with the WDTV Live.

  2. This is subjective, but it’s probably ok. What’s probably even more interesting is that for the price, if it’s not what you’re looking for, it’s not much money wasted, and you’ll maybe find other uses for it.

adeene wrote:

Hi, what is the fastest and easiest way to rip dvds and blueray to mkv ?

I have no experience with Blu-ray, just DVD.

When testing “best” case for the WD, I sampled about 8-10 different programs, including Nero Recode (which I already owned.)  Nero stunk.  I guess no surpise there, but maybe it’s more because of the buggy MP4 decoder in the WD.

Anyway, I settled on HandBrake.   It’s easy, simple, and FAST.

In fact, I rebuilt my Linux Server with Fedora Core 12 just so HandBrake would run on it.   It’ll transcode a title in about 50% to 75% of its original playtime.  (IE, if it was an hour long to watch it, it’d transcode in about 30 - 45 minutes)  

If you like Handbrake, which is FREE, and you have the option to run Linux, I’d highly recommend you do it.

My linux system  is an AMD 2.0GHz dual core.   My Windows Desktop is a Dual Core Pentium 2.8GHz.   Even though the processor is slower, the linux server is almost twice as fast as the Windows box transcoding the same title.

Anyway, I transcode using H.264 into an MKV container with original main Audio track in AAC, Video Quality set to “61%”, no subtitles.  

Nice thing, too, about HandBrake, is it runs in Batch mode if you want.   I can spend a few hours Ripping a dozen or so DVDs to my temporary directory, then go into HandBrake to pick the titles I want to transcode, then hit GO, and it’ll run quietly in the background for 12-24 hours doing all the work.

Now for the novel…

I’ve only come across ONE instance where a transcoded movie performed oddly.   That’d be “Finding Nemo.”   I watched it with my girls last night, and noticed that Nemo had an odd, dark halo around him when he was in a blue background.   Dory, right next to him, displayed no such artifacts.   

As to compression:

Different source material will yield very different transcode results.  

Example:  I have two movies, both 16:9 format, both within a few minutes of 1:40:00 in length.   One movie transcoded into an MKV of about 590 Megabytes, the other 1.8 Gbytes!  (The source for both was about 5 Gbytes and change.)  

The first movie is pretty simple, uncomplicated video.    The second is VERY complex scenery, lots of motion, lots of “action,” so the compression engine has to throw more data into the stream to keep the quality good where the user wants it.

HandBrake uses what’s called “Constant Quality.”   It’s a Single-pass encoder (most are Two-pass), and instead of setting a constant bit-rate or target, it uses the Codec’s own statistical models to keep the Picture Quality constant.

I’ve watched the network statistics on my server while playing an scene and watched the bandwidth go from about 100 kbit/sec to 1.8Mbit/sec when the action increased.   It’s cool.

So far, I have not done ANY HD transcodes, as I have no hardware to support that (even though I do own a few BluRay movies…)

Even if I did RIP some Blurays, I’d probably transcode them down to 720x480p just to save on space.  The picture quality is good, and it’s going to save me TENS of GIGABYTES per title.    

BluRay already uses MP4/h.264 compression, so ripping them (if they’re actually HD) will yield 10-20 Gbytes per hour of source material.   SD will yield one tenth of that…

Whew.  Sorry, chased that rabbit a bit too long.

300+ DVDs???

I would suggest you get a popcorn, since WDTV have no usb hub support because WD decided to weed it out of the firmware for some stupid reason (I have 7Tb and am rather p**sed off about it all).