My Experiment With Plex Fails

by James Wallace Harris, 2/6/23

As I explained in my last post, I wanted to convert Susan’s favorite shows on DVDs to digital files so she could watch them with Plex. Because she sews and watches the same TV series, over and over again, I thought we could save money by canceling Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max.

Well, things didn’t work out as I hoped. I started with Friends and The Gilmore Girls. I bought both as complete series DVD sets for Susan for Christmases long ago. In the first two seasons of The Gilmore Girls, I had two bad discs. And I had one in the second season of Friends. In recent years I’ve discovered other bad DVDs. I tried them on three different players – no luck. The DVD is essentially a 21st-century technology, but now that we’re in year 23 I’m discovering they are not a true archival format.

At first, I wasn’t going to let a few bad discs stop me. I got Plex all set up with a couple seasons of both shows and configured her Roku TV to use Plex. Susan isn’t very picky about picture quality, but I realized that Friends episodes playing on HBO Max are in 1080p, while the rip discs are 480p. See the photo at the top of the page to compare the 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9. Not only that, but the image quality was far superior – essentially Bluray quality to DVD quality. That depressed me. I don’t know if Friends was digitally reframed for HDTV, or if it was originally shot in 16:9 but it looks great on flat-screen TVs. Seeing it on Plex reminded me of old CRTs, which is how we watched Friends when it came out.

The final straw for me was the closed caption was so much better on the HBO Max version. I told Susan I was giving up. We are going to try and just subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Max one at a time.

But I also learned that ripping DVDs is a tedious business. It would have taken weeks to rip all our discs. Just messing with DVDs and DVD players is annoying. The whole reason streaming TV is great is not messing with machines and physical media. No wonder old DVDs are cheap at charity shops and library book sales.

The experiment wasn’t a complete failure. I ripped the last three seasons of Perry Mason that I’ve always meant to watch. Watching Perry on Plex is nicer than messing with DVDs every night. I also ripped Survivors (BBC 1975-1978) a favorite series I’ve been meaning to watch again. It’s not streaming anywhere. I even ripped some documentaries on DVDs I recorded off of broadcast years ago that I wanted to save and a couple of DVD compilations of videos we took on vacation and another of my mother made by some of her distant relatives.

Plex is turning out to be something for me, not Susan.

I guess I’ll start going through my DVDs to get rid of most of them. This experiment has taught me I prefer watching movies and TV shows streamed rather than played by a DVD/BD player. I will keep those shows and movies that seldom get streamed or are my absolute favorites, which I will rip to Plex.

I guess the decades of trying to own our favorite movies and TV shows are coming to an end. I’m also glad I didn’t run out and buy that Synology NAS right away. Computers are getting smaller, and we store stuff in the cloud. Thank GNU for Dropbox.


6 thoughts on “My Experiment With Plex Fails”

  1. in the footsteps of general patton: ‘god, i hate the twenty-first century. (i’m in training to become a curmudgeon.)

  2. No, DVD’s haven’t been considered as “archival” media since the early 2000’s. Studies by several companies determined a maximum “archival” date was just over 20 years and to expect deterioration within a decade. Our company learned the hard way that DVD’s would not be a consistent archive system for our files. The first DVD’s on the market deteriorated for us within a decade.

    We had kept up with technology from early 90’s. We had quickly converted our computer archives from 3.5″ floppies to Zip Disc’s then to CD’s then to DVD’s on top of the hard drive backup’s. We even scanned our graphics to pdf files stored on our servers as another source of archives (35 plus years of graphics by 2000). All those hours of archiving……UGH.

    For video DVD’s, I’ve discovered that many collections of serial shows contain poor quality dvd’s and useless dvd’s. Remember, most are simply copies of copies of copies made by the most inexpensive of the bids. Even laser discs had poor quality production runs. Very poor quality production runs; worst were production runs where audio did not sync with visual.

    Sorry to know you learned the hard way.


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