This is my poky little corner of the Internet. Originally started in 1999 (my website that is, not the Internet) it took on many forms – until 2005, when I lost enthusiasm for my own Internet presence and simply stopped updating it.

This is my (not quite as successful as I’d hoped) attempt at getting some of that enthusiasm back. Enjoy!


Adventures with DVD ripping

Those who know me will know that I’m a bit of a cinephile. I love my movies. There’s not much I’d rather do of a Friday/Saturday evening than chill out with a takeaway on the sofa and watch a movie or two.

Consequently, over the years I’ve amassed quite a big collection of DVDs. About 550, to give you a rough guess.

Given the way that technology is moving, I thought it was high time that I bit the bullet and created digital versions of them all so that I can watch them across my network at home without having to arse about at the DVD shelf hunting for the right one or trying to make a decision (naturally, as you’d expect, they’re all in alphabetical order on the DVD shelf anyway, but it still takes time.)

So I’ve started ripping them all to my PC.

Using a combination of MakeMKV and Handbrake, the process isn’t quite as painful as I thought it would be, and I’m able to do quite a lot in a single day – I’ve been able to manage 40+ in a single evening before, so given an entire weekend I could feasibly get most of my collection sorted.

People have said to me, “Why not just download rips from <insert BitTorrent site here>?” and although I could do that (I think it would just about be seen as legal given that I own the DVD and it’s a “backup” copy) my OCD tendencies are coming into play, and I’m finding that I’m fastidious about the ripping process. It has to be high quality (using Handbrake’s “High Profile” preset), has to include the English subtitles (I have been conditioned since I was a kid to have subtitles on when watching movies and TV shows, even though my hearing is fine – odd fact!) and has to have the chapters defined. Most rips I’ve downloaded previously don’t meet these criteria, so it’s The Hard Way for me.

Still, once it’s all done, my life will be a lot easier, and my home will have a lot more free space when I put all the DVDs into storage!

Now, I just have to work out the best way of making them viewable on my TVs. Ideally I’d like a front-end like Plex or Xbox Media Center, but running from a NAS device. Any clues, people?


My 15 minutes of fame…

Following on from my previous post, where I showcased a bit of aerial footage that I took of the floods in Frankwell on Boxing Day last year, I went out with my new quadcopter setup* in early February as we continued to have ridiculous levels of rainfall, and Frankwell became even more of a flood plain.

This video, which I posted on YouTube on February 10th, got picked up by all sorts of media outlets who were apparently desperate to get some decent footage of Shrewsbury’s flood problem. Here’s my video, if you’re curious:

This ended up going viral on Facebook and Twitter, and attracted over 22,000 views within a few days – far more than I expected considering that my previous video struggled to break 500 in two months!

I was then asked to do an interview and photo for a piece about me in the Shropshire Star, and also ended up being filmed by BBC Midlands Today (video link) – who, somewhat annoyingly, put a little bit too much focus on the “FPV” element of the story, when really all I use the goggles for is lining up the camera – I always strive to keep the Phantom within visual line of sight, for obvious reasons, so flying through FPV exclusively is not something I’m keen on unless I have a spotter with me (which also happens to be a legal requirement.)

I was then contacted by other news and media agencies – ITV Central News wanted me to do an interview with me flying over the Quarry park (which I had to decline due to weather conditions), The One Show on BBC1 contacted me to ask if they could use the video on their Floods Special being shown that week, and Sky News also asked me for permission to use the clip. I was talked about on Radio Shropshire, and on multiple occasions I’d be out and about doing such mundane things as shopping or getting takeaway and I would overhear people talking about my video.

All very surreal.

Fortunately, it’s all died down a bit now – I don’t particularly enjoy being the centre of attention, and it was all a little bit strange. Still, it has made me realise that there is tremendous scope out there for doing this sort of thing commercially – the number of offers I’ve received that I’ve had to turn down (because I don’t have the necessary qualifications to meet the Civil Aviation Authority’s requirements for commercial aerial work) is unbelievable. Further research required, I think!

* The new setup, incidentally, is a DJI Phantom 2, with a ZenMuse gimbal, GoPro Hero 3 Black and Fat Shark Predator v2 FPV goggles.