November 13, 2004


The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King extended edition DVD will be coming out next month. That is the perfect excuse for a LotR marathon. However, the problem with such a marathon is that all three films are on six DVDs. I don't want the marathon to be interrupted by having to get up and change discs. Thus, I need some way to play back all the discs, in order, without pushing any buttons, and without disruptive credits. The solution? Mac OS X on a PowerMac G5, my Sony Ericsson T616, Romeo, and MPlayer OS X. The result is the perfect custom Mac OS X Home Theater PC (HTPC).

The first problem is how to get all the DVDs onto my Mac in a format that I can play back. If I just copy the VOB files straight off the disc, no player will be able to do anything with it. Plus, the audio and video won't be in sync. But, thanks to Jon Johansen (a.k.a. DVD Jon) I can read DVD movies from devices and software that the MPAA doesn't want me to, like Linux or the open-source program MPlayer. [Note to the industry: libdvdcss has resulted in me renting movies from Blockbuster, the exercising of my fair use rights, and my purchase of DVDs. So sue me.] Using MPlayer on my Mac and Linux computers, I dumped the non-credit chapters of the movies to disk.

In case people are wondering what commands I used to pull out what I wanted, here's the command I used for the first disc of The Fellowship of the Ring:
./mplayer dvd://1 -aid 2 -chapter 1-27 -dumpstream -dumpfile /Documents/LotR-FotR-1/lotr_fotr_1.1.1-27.vob
This dumps title 1, audio track 2 (DTS ES) into the file lotr_fotr_1.1.1-27.vob.

So now I have the capability of getting all three films on my hard disk in a format I can playback using MPlayer. If I put them all into a playlist, they'll play one after the other and it will appear to be a relatively seamless change. But what if I need to control the playback? I don't want to have to get up to use the mouse or keyboard. That's where my bluetooth phone comes in.

Bluetooth on my phone lets me sync its contact list and calendar with my Mac wirelessly. But more than that, bluetooth is a general communications protocol. That means I can send arbitrary signals and files between my computer and the phone. I've used bluetooth before to copy photos to and from my phone, but today I would copy some instructions to it.

There are two primary choices for Mac OS X bluetooth phone communication. Salling Clicker is a polished piece of shareware that's won a few awards. This is usually the software recommended when people are looking to turn their bluetooth phone into a remote control. The other choice is Romeo, which is an on-again off-again open source project. The only real developer is the author, but that may just be because it works so well in its current state.

Anyway, Romeo is a regular Mac OS X application that connects to my T616 using bluetooth. By sending commands back and forth between the phone and Romeo, I can control several different applications, including MPlayer OS X, turning my phone into a regular remote control for my Mac. And I'm done.

Posted by josuah at November 13, 2004 10:08 AM UTC+00:00

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