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2012 Ultimate HTPC Movie Server Project *PICS*

janullrich

Member
I decided to build a Kaleidescape style Movie Server to store all my DVDs.

If you’re not familiar with Movie Servers then the general idea is that they store your DVD collection on a large storage array for playback in multiple rooms or even multiple locations (anywhere in the world), simultaneously if so desired.

Now, you may be asking yourself “why didn’t you just buy a Kaleidescape?” Well there are two reasons why I didn’t go down that route. Firstly, by creating something to my own specification I could have exactly what I wanted, which in this instance is functionality far in advance of what Kaleidescape offers (more on this later). Secondly, and most importantly, other ‘off the shelf’ systems are prohibitively expensive for my budget. The equivalent to my Movie Server System from Kaleidescape would cost approximately £35,000/$55,500. I think my system will come in under £2500/$4000.

When planning the build for this project there were several things that I needed to focus on in order to achieve the desired end result. I’ve created subsections for these below.


HARDWARE

CASE:
I needed a case and not any old case but a case that satisfied 3 important features.


  • Rackmount/HTPC type case so that it can go in my comms rack.
  • Space for 8 x 3.5in hard drives (I explain why 8 later).
  • Space for several 5.25in DVD/BluRay Drives.

This was a difficult task and after days and days of searching I was annoyed that there were no off the shelf cases that ticked all the boxes. There was going to have to be some out of the box thinking.

I settled on an XCase RM413 Pro 4u Rackmount Case. This ticked most of the boxes and could take all motherboard sizes, big enough to sort adequate cooling and long graphics card support. However it only supported 13x3.5” OR 6x5.25” and not both but I had a plan.

Here are some pictures of the case (from store not mine ):






And a video (also from the store):


I wasn’t using a server motherboard or 12x13, I was using a standard ATX mobo so I worked out that there would be space between the edge of the mobo and back of the 5.25” drives. I reckoned that I could take the HD Cage out and put them perpendicular to the 5.25” bays and achieve the 13x3.5” AND 6x5.25”. There were 3 small problems with this though:

1. No cooling for the hard drives.
2. The surface wasn’t flat because of the raised motherboard tray.
3. How could I secure the cages to the case.

Continued.................
 
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janullrich

Member
So to overcome the cooling problem I drilled 2x80mm holes in the sides of the case so the fan on the back of the HD Cage could draw in cold air over them. These were covered with some SilverStone Technology Fan Grille and Filter Kits to prevent dust getting in.

















I used a strip of thick plastic and some No More Nails (Glue) to sort the 7mm height gap and create a flat stable surface.












Continued…………..
 
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janullrich

Member
I used Heavy Duty Velcro on the plastic and the mobo tray that wasn’t in use and on the bottom of the HD Cage to secure the cages. This actually gave me a very very secure bond.























So the case was sorted and now onto what was to go in the case.

DRIVES & RAID:
To connect a bunch of drives locally as a single pool there are 2 methods, Software and Hardware. The software method involves things like Drive Extender (WHS but now discontinued), UnRAID, BeyondRAID etc. Hardware is a RAID Card. I chose the Hardware method for 2 reasons:

1. I have more knowledge and experience with hardware RAIDs.
2. Better redundancy.

I chose a Highpoint 2680SGL RocketRAID (manufacturer link) which is an excellent card and gives me access to 8 HDs. There are 2 reasons I chose this card:

· Highpoint make excellent cards at this price point and their reliability is well known.
· I needed to connect 8 SATA drives internally (you can get SAS and external connections eSATA if so desired.











I could have gone with a DAS or NAS enclosure but I was adamant I wanted an ‘all-in-one’ box. If this is something you would prefer I would recommend the Drobo Pro for 8 drives as this is superb but expensive (£1000 approx).



Continued.....................
 
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janullrich

Member
When choosing the drives I ruled out 5400/5900rpm drives and the so-called ‘green’ drives or eco drives as these don’t function well in a RAID. My previous experience with hard drives told me only to go with Western Digital, Hitachi and Seagate. 3TB drives were a little bit too expensive at the time (see future upgrades). Reading review after review I decided on Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 7200RPM (the link is to the newer model as the model I bought has now been replaced). These drives are very reliable, run cool and are excellent performers. I should say that I have had to RMA 2 Hitachi drives in the past but their RMA/Warranty process is very good (3 Year) and their failure rate is very very low.




I’ve got about 1200 DVD’s and BluRays which is growing rapidly so I needed to have enough storage for these plus plenty of expansion headroom. The size of a full DVD Rip ranges from 3-7.5GB and averages out at about 5.5GB.

I bought 8x2TB HD’s and configured them in RAID 5 giving me a theoretical 14TB with 2TB Parity but in reality only 12.8TB of useable space. Taking all this into account will give me enough space for more than 2300 DVDs.




SPECS:
Here is the full breakdown of specs for the physical hardware:
Case - (XCase RM413 Pro) Processor - (Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650) Memory - (Corsair Memory Vengeance Blue 8GB DDR3 1600 MHz) Motherboard - (Gigabyte X48T-DQ6) Graphics Card - (ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2) Power Supply - (Coolermaster Silent Pro Gold 1200W Modular) System Drive - (Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB) Storage Drives - (8xHitachi Deskstar 7K2000 2TB) Secondary Drive - (Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 3TB) DVD Drives - (5xLite-On IHAS124) BluRay Drive - (Pioneer BDC-202BK) Fans - (6xFans, 1xZalman CNPS10X Performa) RAID Card - (Highpoint RocketRaid 2680)


This adds up to about £2000 but you can easily bring this closer to £1750 by scaling back the processor, graphics card and secondary HD).


Continued.........................
 
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janullrich

Member
SOFTWARE

So now that the hardware was sorted it was time to focus on the front end of the server.

DVD PROFILER & LOADDVD

Those of you that have been playing along from the beginning will remember that I’m not just trying to build a cool HTPC but a Kaleidescape style Movie Server which would allow me and others to watch all my DVDs anywhere in the house (or out of the house for that matter).

To achieve the Front End look (see below for a pic of a Kaleidescape front end) I chose an excellent piece of software by Invelos called DVD Profiler.








DVD Profiler is a piece of cataloguing software allowing you to inventorise your DVD and Bluray Collection. It is great at what it does and is supported by a very helpful community but this on its own would not be enough.

DVD Profiler supports Plugins and a guy called Jim Richards aka MediaDogg created a plugin called LoadDVD for the purpose of using/controlling DVD Changers. After speaking with Jim and explaining my idea he was able to add a bit of additional functionality that would bring my project that much closer to the finish line.

With LoadDVD configured it would allow me to choose a dvd, click a button and the movie would play. Here’s how it ended up looking:














RIPPING & AUTO DVD RIPPER:

So I had the Hardware to store the dvds, I had the software to play the dvds but the dvds were still sat in their boxes and not on the hard drive.

They needed to be ripped but there was no way I was going to rip them one by one so I looked around for ‘bulk ripping’ and ‘mass ripping’ but to no avail so I decided I was going to have to write a program to do it.

After a lot of trial and error and several versions and iterations later, Auto DVD Ripper was born.







First you have to configure it. You need to specify the location you want the rips saving in e.g. “D:\Movies\”, you need to tell it which optical drives you want to use and you need to find the paths for DVD Decrypter and DVD Fab. I chose these 2 pieces of software because DVD Decrypter is the fastest in ripping (average about 13.5 mins) and it works for about 80% of my collection. DVD Fab is used on the newer DVDs with better protection and blurays but it is slightly slower.

continued…………..
 
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janullrich

Member
Once configured, Auto DVD Ripper will sit in the bottom right and wait for a DVD to be inserted in the 1st optical drive. It will launch the desired program and rip it to the configured location. It uses the DVD ID for the individual folder path (this is how I tell LoadDVD where it is). Then it ejects the DVD and goes to drive 2 and so on and so forth in a loop. I am doing Full Disc rips with zero conversion, compression or removal of features etc.

To summarise, the hardware was in place, the front end kaliedescape look was achieved with DVD Profiler, I used LoadDVD with a batch script to find and load the DVD on the hard drive and I used Auto DVD Ripper to mass rip my entire collection.

The project was complete!

SOFTWARE SUMMARY:

· DVD Profiler [Shareware] – DVD Cataloguing Software
· Load DVD [Freeware] - DVD Profiler Plugin
· Auto DVD Ripper – DVD Mass Ripper
· K-Lite Codec Pack [Freeware] - Codec Pack
· Media Player Classic [Freeware] – Video Player
· DVD Decrypter [Freeware] – DVD Ripper
· DVD Fab [Shareware] – DVD Ripper

MISCELLANEOUS

Some other info that I thought might be useful.

ADVANTAGES OVER KALEIDESCAPE:


  • Watch your DVD/Bluray Collection anywhere in the world
  • More functionality (downloads, internet, games etc)
  • Store blurays without the required kscape unsightly Bluray Carousel
  • Cheaper

CLIENT PC:

The Client PCs that I am using around the house are Asus Eee EB1006 with an Atom 1.6ghz CPU and 2GB RAM.












This PC is powerful enough to stream the dvds comfortably (it will struggle with 720p though), small enough to conceal behind the tv and will run silent.

REMOTE CONTROL:

To control the HTPC I was using a Keysonic ACK-540 BT Keyboard and for the client PCs a Logitech DiNovo Mini however something was lacking. There is an iPhone App for DVD Profiler which allows you to browse your collection which is good but the makers of it haven’t released an SDK to enable me to launch the DVD from that app so I needed another option. I found an app called Hippo Remote which allowed me to create my own keyboard type interfaces and it connects over VNC. I created layouts to control DVD Profiler, Load a DVD and Control Media Player Classic. So now I have full control right from my iPhone and what’s great is I can set it to work with all the PCs by just connecting to the ip address of the machine im watching.

This is the DVD Profiler App








This is for Hippo Remote








FUTURE UPGRADES/REVISIONS:

When the price of 3TB (or even 4TB) drives drop to maybe c.£100 (approx. £130-£160 now) I would like to replace all the 2TB drives with 3TB drives. I would replace all at once and I WOULD NOT do an Online Capacity Expansion as these are notoriously unreliable. I would have to connect 5 drives independently and sequentially, copy 3TB to each drive, then break the existing array, set them up as single drives, copy 2TB to each, then install all the 3TB drives, create the new array and then connect each of the 2TB drives sequentially and copy the data over to the new array. As you can see that is a VERY lengthy and complicated process and not without its risks so I need to think carefully how I will do it. An alternative might be to purchase an additional raid card to and create the array on that and then copy it over. I need to think how I would do it.

Everything I have created above was with bluray support in mind however as blurays are considerably larger in size I have yet to implement them fully. In my testing I have found that Full Disc rips of Blurays can top 40GB whereas only ripping the Main Movie will normally halve that. I haven’t ripped enough blurays in testing to work out an accurate average however I suspect they will end up around 20GB as Main Movie. As I said previously I don’t use compression or conversion and I never strip features, however as the blurays are so large I may have to look into this further but I will never compromise the quality.

It seems quite standard to have an HTPC with a TV Tuner in but I have never felt the need. If anyone can think of a good reason to implement this I will more than gladly install one. Until then I am content with downloading.

I do download TV shows and Films so it has crossed my mind to use XBMC or MediaPortal for a Front End system for these but I am yet to go for it.

The thing I will implement as soon as I get Fibre Broadband is a VPN connection with streaming so I can take my laptop anywhere in the world, connect over VPN and stream full dvds or even blurays with no lag. I can give friends and family access to my collection etc. Cool!

Lastly (for the time being) I would change the Client PCs out for more powerful machines as the EeePcs that I am using struggle to render 720p or higher so streaming blurays are out the question at the moment.

I will update this thread whenever I make any changes or updates.

Please feel free to re-post or distribute this but please always link back to this thread so I can keep track and answer any questions.

Gaz
 
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janullrich

Member
UPDATE 15/04/2012

So a lot of people have raised the same 2 issues, so rather than keep answering them individually ill answer them here.

POWER SUPPLY

A lot of people are saying the power supply is overkill. Could I have run this HTPC on less? Probably. Did I want to? No.

I used eXtreme Power Supply Calculator to calculate what I needed. That gave me a calculation of a about 1000w. I wanted headroom and expandability so I opted for the 1200w.

The 1200w is Gold rated and is 90+% Efficient, it was £20 more than the 1KW one. Here is a link Silent Pro Gold 1200W - Cooler Master.

HEAT

The other thing that has raised a few temperatures (pun intended) is the heat in the case.

I cannot stress enough how cool this case runs.

I have 6 x 80mm Zalman ZM-F1 Plus fans running at about 2800rpm and a Zalman CNPS10X Performa with 2 x 120mm Zalman Fans running at about 2000rpm.

This is on top of the fact that the case sits in a air cooled comms rack.

I have the temperatures and fans speeds on my desktop (as you can see in the screenshot post).

On average the temperatures read the following:

  • Hard Drives - 27-32c
  • Case Temp - 28-32c
  • GPU - 30-35c
  • CPU Cores - 38-45c

--------------------------------------------------------------------

UPDATE 26/04/2012

Just thought i'd update you guys with a final cost breakdown. You could quite comfortably bring this in closer to £1400/$2300 or less by scaling back a few components with little or no loss in functionality.


COST BREAKDOWN


Gaz
 
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graham.myers

Well-known Member
nice build but overkill Extreme :) Why such a power hungry graphics card? because you had it lying around. As you're using it as a server, and typically RDPing to it the GPU will never be used and will be consuming power and generating heat. I'd ditch it and get a cheap n cheerful £20 5450 passive cooled unit.

Why so many optical drives? Once you have ripped your collection then you are unlikely to still require all of them. I used the bays in mine for more hard disks and then used external usb cases to house 5 drives for my ripping. Then once done I unplugged them and just plug them back in when I need to rip stuff - I only use one now.
 

janullrich

Member
True but go big or go home. Yes the graphics card was lying around and although it is potentially overkill it fits in nicely with the fact that everything else is overkill ha :)

Cooling is actually fine as I am running 8 x fans plus it sits in a fan cooled comms rack. Hard drives run at 27-31, case temp hovers at 28-32 and cpu cores are between 35-48.

I partially agree on the number of optical drives however i do regularly purchase dvds/blurays so I am constantly ripping new films. I could remove the 3 on the right and slot in a 4/5 hot swap caddy but im not short on HD space at the moment and if I was i would more than likely go up to 3TB drives.

Gaz
 

graham.myers

Well-known Member
whats the power consumption and noise levels like? I've had a few customers ask about a rack mounted option and I've looked at XCase's 20-24 bay offerings but I've advised them that it needs to be in the garage or somewhere as I expect it to be a proper server level noise. I also said it couldnt go in the loft as it probably weighs 40kg when full - our towers are 35+. God help my back this weekend - I'm building 3 :) I think the Interlink's driver is going to pull a sickie on Monday as I've warned him :)
 

janullrich

Member
@graham.myers

Well I never built it with quiet operation in mind as it was going in a comms room, with that in mind i opted for run cooler and louder than hotter and quieter. It is fair to say it is pretty loud but it that was an issue i would opt for any of the following:

Replace with Quiet/Silent Fans
Remove 2 Fans
Water Cooling
Insulating/Noise Dampening Lining

I dont measure the power it draws but when i was speccing the PSU i calculated i needed about a 1KW psu so i went for 1200w to give plenty of headroom and expansion.

Yes it does weigh a ton, it is long and every edge is sharp so physically moving it is a pain in the arse but all worth it :)

----

@PsyVision

Thanks. Im using rainmeter with the illustro skin which i have modifed, SpeedFan provides the temps and fan speeds.

If you dont know rainmeter i highly recommend having a look. it is very easy to write and there are many many skins available on Deviantart to play with.

Gaz
 

jammyb2004

Novice Member
Wow. A little bit of sex wee came out when I read this epic thread!

Lovin' the thread but what serious overkill!

You really need to look into MKV's and compression. I don't think Japan's made enough HDD's yet for the amount of blurays you have to rip!

Very nice but a few days reading threads on this forum and you'll see guys with the same amount of content with budgets half what you spent and 1080p capable outlets!

Hope you got a solar panel or 2 powering that thing, how bright does your electricity meter glow ;) :p :)
 

ChileanLlama

Novice Member
whats the power consumption and noise levels like? I've had a few customers ask about a rack mounted option and I've looked at XCase's 20-24 bay offerings but I've advised them that it needs to be in the garage or somewhere as I expect it to be a proper server level noise. I also said it couldnt go in the loft as it probably weighs 40kg when full - our towers are 35+. God help my back this weekend - I'm building 3 :) I think the Interlink's driver is going to pull a sickie on Monday as I've warned him :)
Hi Graham, I've a 24 bay - and it's pretty quiet, I replaced the bulk head fans with Noctua's and to be honest it's probably quieter than the tower it replaced.

The size and weight are more of a concern.
 

ChileanLlama

Novice Member
When choosing the drives I ruled out 5400/5900rpm drives and the so-called ‘green’ drives or eco drives as these don’t function well in a RAID. My previous experience with hard drives told me only to go with Western Digital, Hitachi and Seagate. 3TB drives were a little bit too expensive at the time (see future upgrades). Reading review after review I decided on Hitachi Deskstar 2TB 7200RPM (the link is to the newer model as the model I bought has now been replaced). These drives are very reliable, run cool and are excellent performers. I should say that I have had to RMA 2 Hitachi drives in the past but their RMA/Warranty process is very good (3 Year) and their failure rate is very very low.
That's not strictly true, the green drives _can_ work perfectly well in a RAID environment. You just need to do some research as to which ones have been tested with which controllers.

Similarly there's no guarantee that the 7,200RPM desktop drives will work in a RAID as many manufacturers now produce (more expensive) editions for RAID use.

For this type of use it's questionable whether the extra RPM will be beneficial, but the lower heat and power requirements of green drives make for a cooler, cheaper and quieter system.
 

janullrich

Member
Guys,

I know im taking the thread slightly off topic here but i have a quick question.

The mobo i have has a dual NIC, does any one have any useful suggestions of what I could do with these? I know i can connect to 2 networks etc but why would I want to?

Gaz
 

graham.myers

Well-known Member
I used a port on the dual nic on one of my servers as a management port. So I could always connect to it even if I was swapping one of the nics.

On another server that had virtual machines running I dedicated one nic to the main server and one nic to the virtual machines.
 

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