I've archived a large number of DVDs to my hard disk.  If you have non-copyrighted material, say weddings and whatnot, on DVD, you can use DVDDecrypter to store the content on your hard disk.  It has this neat mode (ISO Read) that pretty much just copies the entire disk to your machine as an ISO image.  You could then write that image file out to a DVD Writer, and you'd have a duplicate of your most precious wedding DVD.

The interesting thing to me though, is the other things you can do with your content.  For example, using the same program, you can demux the DVD into its constituent parts.  In particular, you can split out the video as MPEG-2, and the audio as .AC3, or whatever the encoding so happened to be.  Once you do that, you can do other things.

Now, I'm trying to make my media content available over my home network so that I can watch a movie or play music from anywhere in the house.  I want to store it all on the “media server”, which is to be a fairly beefy machine running Windows 2003 Server, with Media Services enabled.  The media services basically allow for media streaming, either as broadcast, or unicast.

If I can turn my content into Windows Media Video 9 format, then I'll be golden.  It turns out that part of the free downloads for Windows Media 9 is the Windows Media Encoder program.  This is a really neat piece of machinery.  You simply indicate where your audio is stored, and where the accompanying video is, and tell it what data rate, video sight, and other parameters you like, and start encoding.  At the end of what may be a very long session on an underpowered machine such as mine, you will get this nice .wmv file that will be a nice representation of your content in streaming media format.

This is way cool.  There is one step you have to perform once you get your content from your original DVD though.  You have to convert the .AC3 stream into a .wav file, but there's a utility program called AZid that helps you do that part.

So, I've got a strategy.  Copying the original content of my DVDs to the hard disk in the entirety seems like a good idea.  It's a permanent record that's a bit more easily accessible than the original DVDs.  Since my hard disk is faster than my DVD drive, it makes further processing much faster.  It's also a legitimate archiving mechanism because if I lose, break, burn, or otherwise destroy one of my $15 DVDs, I can press a new desk from my desktop.  That seems like a good thing.  Also, whenever  I want to create a movie of a specific size for a specific purpose, I can always transcode from the original sources.

Now, I'm looking back at the 100 or so CDs that I've archived, and I'm thinking I will go through the whole process all over again.  When I first archived them, I used one of the lossy compression ratios.  I was thinking I would be archiving them for playback.  But, after doing this little job on the DVDs, I'm thinking it would be good to have the CDs as pristine copies of originals as well.  it takes up more space, but that's why I keep buying 100Gb disk drives.

At the same time that I'm archiving my wedding DVDs, I'm getting the sub title information off them at the same time.  I plan on putting those into a database so that I can do content searches to find interesting stuff.  Given that the DVDs will be available online, it begins to get interesting.  I can imagine being able to archive some National Geographic, or Discovery Channel DVDs and pull up scenes by content for Yasmin's various reports.  That will be way cool.

Basically, I'm turing my media into searchable content that can be used for more than just entertainment.  This is a good thing for book/learning people such as ourselves, we have ready access to a library of Congress amount of information right here on our little server at home.

So, that's how it is.  Rip snortin fast archiving and retrieval of massive amounts of information.  I wonder if I can query and present this information in a better way...

I guess that's another story.