DVDSpot.com  on the web vs. a standalone application
I’ve been looking for options to catalog my ever-growing DVD collection. I started with a package from http://www.collectorz.com/  called Movie Collector. Movie Collector is a flexible Windows application that allows you to enter a DVD UPC code or title and search on a variety of sites. Once you match it up, you can then customize the information since it stores it all on your computer. It will even store front and back cover art and generate HTML so you can add your catalog to your web site. I cataloged over 200 DVDs with this application – which isn’t even 25% of my collection. Here are some reasons why it didn’t work out very well for me:
- The information downloaded from the various web sites usually didn’t match what was on the back of the DVD case. As a perfectionist (don’t you hate that?) I ended up retyping the plot text for 50-60% of the DVDs.
- The downloaded actors list usually had flaws – either missing actors, duplicates, misspellings, etc.
- One of the benefits I hoped to realized by cataloging my collection on the computer was to be able to easily link to the various information available on the Internet on actors, producers, releases, etc. The application did not automatically set the link field for the actors. I could have written some XSL, etc. to get it to do that, but I just never found the time.
- As a result of all these, I could never bring myself to just buy a bar code scanner to enter my DVDs. I wanted the information to be accurate.
- The user interface broke more UI guidelines than you can shake a stick at. Even with all the issues Microsoft UI has, one thing you can say about MS software – including Windows – is that they spend a great deal of time figuring out how to make UI that is usable. They don’t always get it right, but most of the time they do. Examples in Movie Collector include not including keystrokes for moving to different tabs or for selecting buttons. Maybe my biggest gripe was that it required the use of a mouse.
If I could have gotten around to entering all my DVDs, I could have lived with all these problems. However, I just found it to be so tedious. I didn’t spend too much time looking for alternatives, but when I stumbled across something in my roamings across the Internet I’d check it out. Here are the requirements I looked for a solution to fulfill:
- Publish catalog on the web.
- Be as accurate as possible with respect to plot, actors, length, release date, etc.
- Display cover art.
- Search for DVDs based on cataloged data.
- Link to other information on the web about the release, movie, actors, etc.
- Easy to managed.
- Display statistics based on a variety of criteria.
- Integrate with media center software.
- NICE TO HAVE: Store a list of DVDs I’m interested in purchasing.
- NICE TO HAVE: Store a list of DVDs I’ve loaned out to other people.
- NICE TO HAVE: Store log of DVDs I’ve watched.
I took a look at DVDProfiler by Invelos . It looks like a good solution but it doesn’t have an easy way to publish the catalog on the web – my #1 requirement.
I looked at the My Movies  plug-in to Windows Media Center. This is actually a very nice interface and even has support for ripping your DVDs to your hard disk. One great thing about My Movies is that it is free (donor supported) software. I worked with it for a little bit but found that the DVD ripping feature was not very reliable. In fact, the only way I was able to get that to work was to rip it external to Media Center using DVD Decrypter. It also doesn’t look like there is an easy way to front-load entering all the DVDs. I’m sure there is a lot I missed on the plug-in, but something else caught my attention.
DVDSpot.com is a free web site that meets all my requirements except for integrating with media center software. It does allow you to export your catalog to a CSV file, though. You can import your DVDs by creating a CSV file with UPC code and title. On your personal front page the total number DVDs, HD-DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs is displayed along with a total value of your collection based on MSRP. You can tag your DVDs so that you can view all your sci-fi movies or children’s animated movies. You can perform an advanced search to view all the movies that have Keanu Reeves or Reese Witherspoon in them, or that are PG-13 and below, or that are dramas in the mountains. You can see statistics about your collection such as how many movies you own that have Bruce Willis in them or that were directed by Steven Spielberg. Each entry in the database also has a link to the IMDB.com  page for that movie which allows you to get more information about the movie, actors, producers, etc. The database is maintained by a very active set of volunteers to keep it as accurate and up-to-date as possible.
It took me a couple weeks to get my entire collection entered. Not bad considering how long I had been working on entering data into Movie Collector. As you can tell, I’m really impressed by the site. We’ve used it to figure out what movies we want to watch this Summer. One of the tags I create (they call them filters) is called “Not Seen Yet” – that way I can whittle away at that set of DVDs.
The one thing I need to figure out is how to integrate the data from DVDSpot into Vista Media Center. I’m hoping I can use the CSV file with My Movies or something like it. As a side note, there is mobilewares  is working on a Media Center plug-in called Big Screen Movies that will do some of this. Check out this post  and this post  for info on their progress. Hopefully between the two of them I’ll have a solution to this particular problem.
Click here to view my collection . If you decide to add your collection, add me as a friend.
Moved from my blog on Windows Live Spaces where it was originally posted on 8/29/2007.