ExtMEDIA: An XBMC Disc Changer Interface


A while back, [Ben Gilstad] built his first HTPC, loading XBMC on it to manage all of his digital media. He loved XBMC’s features and flexibility, but he needed a way to enjoy his DVD and Blu Ray collection on the device without too much hassle. Far before [Ben Heck] considered fitting his Xbox 360 DVD drive into a CD carousel, this [Ben] was busy hacking a Blu Ray player into his.

He bought a broken disc changer at a garage sale, and tore apart a standard SATA Blu Ray player in preparation for the optical drive transplant. An ATMega168 controls the changer’s mechanics, monitoring the carousel’s position and triggering the proper motors when discs need to be swapped out. The AVR currently takes its direction from the HTPC over its serial port via a UDP proxy as XBMC did not support a serial interface at the time he was building the changer.

The second half of [Ben’s] project is an XBMC add-on that he uses to manage his huge collection of optical discs. In order to get XBMC to recognize each disc as a valid ‘file’, he created a clever workaround involving blank WMV clips. This enables him to view his DVDs as if they were digital files on his hard drive, complete with cover art.

It’s a fantastic project, and [Ben] says that his system should be able to support any number of physical disc changers simultaneously, without much issue. Unfortunately the project went on hiatus when he lost his job, so it’s packed away in storage for the time being. Once he gets back on his feet however, he has a whole list of planned changes and improvements to work on – we can’t wait to see it once complete!

Keep reading to check out a video demonstration of his XBMC add-on in action.


19 thoughts on “ExtMEDIA: An XBMC Disc Changer Interface

  1. If it’s streaming then why not just store it on the server computer’s hdd? I love all things Ben Heck, and thoroughly enjoyed his 360/multidisc hack and vid, but this seems like a lot of cart before the horse if I am understanding the blurb correctly. The converting of files is something Tversity and Orb mycast do automagically and makes your 360 useful again.
    If it is for original XBMC, then the T3CH 3.4 SVN hack should handle it fine. Maybe not fullscreen jitterfree, but it can still plow thru things I wouldn’t consider it capable of. I still have a revolving stable of original xboxes that get sent out to friends as they get savvy enough to stream over their home network lol. Often though most don’t get past the emulators and reliving childhood lol.

  2. This is a great piece of work, but to me it just hilights why people illegally download films – no poxy discs to feck around with. It’s time for the industry to buck up it’s distribution model rather than pay lawyers for legislation.

  3. Sorry for any confusion – This is designed for an HTPC running the XBMC software. No streaming/servers/file conversion/XBOX required. The .wmv files act as placeholders for real physical media (Blu-Ray/DVD/HDDVD) and the playback is done directly from these optical discs.

  4. “but he needed a way to enjoy his DVD and Blu Ray collection on the device without too much hassle”

    you RIP them. Not much hassle in that by using the right tools, heck if you know linux you can automate the DVD ripping. BluRay ripping is not much harder but harder to automate.

    Handbrake FTW. He could have ripped every disc he owned in the effort he took to build this.

  5. More of a tangent, but my experience with XBMC throughout the years has been poor. Or maybe it was simply my media. However my PS3 has never had a problem with the same media so I’m pointing the unnecessary finger at XBMC.

    It seems like every time I want to watch something using XBMC on my {laptop, atv2}, XBMC dies and restarts a few minutes in.

    To pass the gf test on a Friday night, things have to work the first time, every time, without the use of a terminal. Sadly, in the many years that XBMC has been around, I have to put it in the “not quite there yet” category.

    This hack seems really neat and very well thought out. I wonder if it passes the gf/wife test in production.

  6. @Ben Gilstad,

    No apologies needed – welcome to hackaday.

    The crap you see is the typical mouth breathers complaining or commenting on yet another build without reading the fracking article.

    God forbid anyone f**king hack something around here. If someone takes the easy route everyone bitches that they did it the easy way. Do something creative and hack some hardware then they bitch that you did it the hard way and suggest the easy way.

    Perhaps he didn’t want to rip his discs since full blu ray rips can pile up quickly. He could buy 5tb of disc space that can fail at some point or hack together a sweet changer…gee I know what I would do.

    Rock on man it looks slick as hell.

  7. @fdawg

    I recently built an HTPC based on the AMD Zacate platform. I had quite a few problems getting it up and running with either the linux or live versions of XBMC. However, when I installed Windows 7 and XBMC everything worked perfectly right away. I haven’t had a single problem streaming my 1080p movies from my main PC. XBMC is a great platform but you do have to put effort into setting it up correctly. My gf can operate now with ease, using my harmony one remote.

  8. Nice work, but is it really that hard to get up off the couch every 90 minutes or so and change the disk? Britain might have invented the fat ass, but America is working overtime to produce it wholesale.

  9. @fartface – Sure, I could just rip them, but that solution isn’t exactly “legal”. Besides, where would the fun be in doing it that way?

    @vonskippy – It isn’t really a hassle to load discs, but that solution severely lacks “nerd appeal” – Not to mention that would pry me away from my Big Mac and 64oz soda. The software could be used by itself, which is actually how I’m using it at the moment since I don’t have the hardware with me. The software just ejects the DVD drive when one of the files is played and waits for the disc to be inserted.

    I’ll be releasing all my files once I have a chance to finish this project up. In the meantime, feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you have any questions about getting your own version up and running.

  10. @vonskippy

    think outside of the box that you call your living room.

    one might have the discs and xbmc machine in a central location in order to switch/serve video and audio to multiple rooms, much like youd have a server closet. this type of hack is perfect (and really the only solution short of a $3000+ sony BD changer) for such scenarios where ‘getting up off the couch’ doesn’t really apply/isnt viable.


    its 2011. touting that you can ‘just download’ all of this content and stream it to the xbmc machine is NOTHING new. most of us using xbmc for years have been there, done that, and sat back and watched as all of the noobs gobbled up the ‘media players’ that used sneakernet/external drives to get media to their TVs (and before that, noobs with dvd players that would play divx) only to see people finally ‘getting it’ with backend fileshares to their media with hdd-less frontends to play them back. Now you think you know better than those who WANT the quality that physical media brings, by stating the obvious?

    while you might think your x264s are extra snazzy, actually ‘HD’ and no different (or good enough) than the bluray sources; ive found that those who spout ‘Discs? What are discs?’ have no idea what they are missing. Bluray (albeit NOT free of its own issues) is vastly superior and there is damn good reason why someone would prefer the content on said disc vs a high compressed copy.

    Wake me up when linux gets bluray menu support and we can talk about building that multi-terabyte array just to house said disc images. When the cases they are sitting on the shelf they dont require power, 0 stress on your local network while viewing, are much less likely to fail vs a hdd array, and you still retain full bitrate. Not to mention parent/friend-friendly ability to loan said content out. How many people do you know with a 64GB thumbstick and the time to wait for the transfer? :P

    Cool hack.

  11. If you own the disks, rip them. You don’t have to wade through menu after menu after preview and you know that a small scratch on a DVD isn’t going to interrupt your movie watching experience. Plus, you don’t have to build this – AND – moving your collection over or even duplicating it becomes trivial.

  12. For those who don’t understand (or remember) “disks” (or “discs”): Those are the things that spouses and parents use and understand, so having the ability to play them without the need to grab and convert them first, definitely lowers the Spousal Acceptance Factor threshold when you’re building a HTPC.

    And a carousel CD changer usually has so much unused space inside that there’s plenty of space for a motherboard and one or more hard disks for the other members of the family.


  13. A bunch of 2TB drives sits there wasting power, is much more likely to fail and can’t work with a console/bluray player etc without faffing around breaking copy protection

    Especially as the price of writable bluray discs falls there will still be a good case for disk media as storage.

  14. Rumour has it that 2TB microSD cards are less than a year away, based on 18nm 35 layer chips.

    Ironically its actually cheaper this way, as a 17 layer 32GB has lots of bad sectors. More layers = more errors BUT the increase in areal density means that it is a relatively simple matter to even map out bad layers entirely and take a small hit to overall capacity.

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