Ladies and gentlemen, this is the sequel to a previous column, “Touching It.” It was within that piece that I espoused the merits of physical media and the importance of tangibility when collecting and owning the movies we love so much; I believe that holding the media and having contact with the object itself has an effect that cannot be replicated by browsing through a digital queue or looking at a folder on a computer screen.
There are downsides to this passion, though. I’ve come to the point where my collection has become so large that I don’t quite know what to do with it. And because we’re all big movie fans here, I think (hope?) a lot of us are in the same boat. You only have so much space in your house/apartment/room to store this stuff, and the unfortunate truth is that you’re inevitably going to run into some roadblocks when you accumulate the things you care about. Let’s discuss.
The problem with alphabetizing your collection is that it is next to impossible to maintain it unless it is no longer expanding. If you only buy a few movies a year, it’s probably not really that big a deal to carve out some space for new additions in your library. Like a lot of us, though, I buy a TON of movies, and maintaining an alphabetized collection requires space and free time that I’m not sure I have. A few years ago I decided that I could slow down and be happy with what I already owned and simply rent everything else from Redbox or check it out on Netflix, but that didn’t last for too long. I find that the rewards of owning my movies outweigh the benefits of a lighter, more portable collection.
Let me get back to organizing. We’ve already gone over alphabetizing, but what do you do with boxed sets? I have so many collections of movies that can’t be split up into their respective, single films. Sometimes there is more than one movie on a single disc. Other times there are multiple movies contained in one box. Do I alphabetize those by the star or the theme of the set? Does the John Ford box set go in “J” for John, or “F” for Ford? Or does it go at the end of the collection within a sort of miscellany? Is my life easier or harder because Scream Factory’s two Vincent Price collections include 13 movies that I can stick in the “V” section of my personal library? Price does NOT like the idea of being incorrectly filed.
All this doesn’t even go into the physical imposition of a movie collection. I’m blessed to have a wife that loves the things that I love and who supports my passions and enthusiasms…enthusiasms… (“What are mine? What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy?
It’s easy to say “it’s time to cull your collection,” but I can honestly say that there’s not a single DVD that I want to get rid of. I’ve been there and done that: as soon as I sell a movie, I end up wanting to see it again, or worse, I forget that I don’t have it anymore and get crushed when I realize it’s gone. Just the other day I got an urge to watch Encino Man for the first time in years. Well, I can’t watch it because I sold the DVD a long time ago and it’s not on any of the streaming services I already subscribe to. It’s a 4 dollar rental on Amazon Instant, but it’s a 5 dollar DVD purchase. Guess which wins? If I hadn’t traded in the disc ages ago, I could watch it whenever I want to…and remember why I sold the thing in the first place.
I’m clearly not the only person who struggles with this sort of thing, because several companies have come out with computer software in the last couple of years to help you keep track of your collection. The company I use to log all of my comic books also makes a program that keeps inventory of DVDs, and it’s something I’m considering. Some programs actually come with a bar code scanner that inputs the DVD or Blu-ray directly into your computer and takes virtually all the work out of maintaining a database of your extensive film collection. None of these, however, help you get your hands on a disc when you decide you want to watch it.
A naysayer might suggest that this is why physical media just too much trouble and digital copies and streaming services are the way to go, but I’m planted here in my stubborn ways. My movie collection simply brings me far too much joy to ever consider parting with it, and besides, having the discs themselves is the only surefire way to know you can watch what you want to watch, when you want to watch it. The world we live in has become one of ever-shifting corporate landscapes, where companies rise and fall in the blink of an eye and digital distribution deals have a shelf life of months rather than years. What’s on Netflix Instant today might be gone tomorrow, and that Ultraviolet collection in the cloud doesn’t do anyone a bit of good when your internet is down. Also, what happens if there’s a glitch and your digital collection disappears? What if I forget my password? No, physical media is the way to go, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve now collected movies for longer than I haven’t collected them, and I’m not about to stop now. The downsides are still just mere obstacles on a road well worth traveling. I’ve just got to face reality that maintenance is crucial to a happy collection, and maintenance takes money, dedication, and lots and lots of time.
Batman, “Come on! Let’s get nuts!”
Damn Heath I feel like I'm on your couch this time, just like you was with Patrick on the Event Horizon podcastReplyDelete
I will try to make you feel better about you collection, firstly I love artwork, thats what started my first obsession, how many different Artwork versions of The Evil Dead movies are there from around the world? After Collecting as many different VHS versions as i could and then working on Dvds and of course Betamax, btw my Avatar is the Commodore 64 game, I got to over a hundred then stopped and I realized there is still so many i still need and they keep bringing out more, the actual answer to the question I would say is possibly at least 300 different versions but there could be even more, this is just a guess
I have a large collection of films I own on Vhs, then Dvd and of course on Bluray but I cant get rid of any version because I know I will miss them, the Vhs has the best Artwork, the Dvd has the best commentary, the Directors cut has the longer version, the Bluray looks the best,
And finally a massive collection of all the 80s horrors including all the banned 54 as they were called in the UK that I could never be without as they are like pieces of Art to me
So as for storage they are split thus, dvds in one section, blurays in another, All 80s Vhs in a large triple closet in the dark to protect the Artworks,
Im not alphabetical but I pretty much know where everything lives
I did not comment on media, I want to own it, hold it, look at it and cherish it, physical media 4eva ;)Delete
I actually have a solution for Bond! My Bonds go under "B" for Bond and are then in chronological order. Same goes for other franchises as well. Now, box sets are dicey and they usually go in their own section (especially since sometimes they're weird sizes, like the otherwise excellent My So Called Life set).ReplyDelete
Great column! It is so funny, I have asked myself literally all of these same questions since I started collecting DVDs in the late 90’s…ReplyDelete
Split out the Blu-rays and DVDs. Arrange alphabetically, except for series. Army of Darkness comes after Evil Dead 2, The Road Warrior is between Mad Max and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, etc. The James Bond series falls under ‘007’ so it comes first. Box sets that are too unwieldy to fit in with the rest are placed on top of the shelf.
If I upgrade to Blu-ray, I’ll get rid of the old version ONLY if all the content is carried over. So I can’t get rid of my original Heat DVD because 2 extremely minor lines of dialogue were deleted for the Blu-Ray. Thanks, Michael Mann!
Lastly, always display with pride. Physical media may be dying, but I feel one day it will be reborn when the younger generation gets sick of the temporary nature and corporate BS that comes with streaming movies.
Unfortunately all my DVDs are in storage boxes in the attic since the nipper came along and stole the spare bedroom. Blu rays are double stacked on a shelf downstairs but thats nearly all used up. I need a bigger house.ReplyDelete
FThisMovie's next major project: designing the Dewey Decimal System for filmsReplyDelete
I end up agreeing with Rob Gordon: "autobiographical."ReplyDelete
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My film collection (mixed media) has close to 1500 titles, I use an Excel spreadsheet and my own Dewey Decimal style system to manage it. Additionally, many of the films are cross referenced within the spreadsheet for information like studio, director , genre etc. They are on shelves, in bins, and stacked such that Dr. Ray Stantz would believe it is the work of paranormal activity. My wife though has been troubled by the collection as of late.ReplyDelete
This feels like the beginning of a mystery story.Delete
As someone who until recently has barely had the money to pay the bills, my collection is still pretty small. I'm more concerned with sorting by director or series than with alphabet. The best example I've seen of organization was my grandfather, who spent the last 20 years of his life building a massive VHS collection. (Side note: most of these were tapes he recorded using the old double tape-player stack method.)ReplyDelete
He basically went by actors and genres, so that's probably where my tendency came from. He had a couple of small shelves in the living room for movies he watched really often, but most were kept on large floor-to-ceiling shelves in the bedroom. I remember a Clint Eastwood section, a section specifically for bluegrass concerts, and another for important news and sports events he'd recorded off TV. Once these shelves filled up, he would start the culling process, but the culls weren't thrown away or sold. They were stored in boxes and drawers and recorded in a little notebook so he'd know where everything was.
I realize this sorting system of random favorite actors and genres would be a nightmare for you, but if you're simply running out of space I'd recommend starting a system for storing away the ones you never watch....but might watch. You can't display them, but you know they're there.
Fortunately my collection is small enough to fit in one Ikea Billy bookcase. I've sorted my DVDs by genre and then alphabetically. It's not the most tight system (one of my genres is 'Nicolas Cage movies') but it works for me.ReplyDelete
Unfortunately it's starting to outgrow that case. It's been possible to ignore the problem for a while but four or five more DVDs/Blu rays and I won't know what to do. First World crisis!
Your collection looks beautiful by the way, Heath. I want mine to look just like that.
Rik, that is totally NOT my collection. I WISH it was, but it's way too organized. In fact, I believe it's a digital mock-up of a well organized collection; I'm not sure that level of perfection is actually attainable.Delete
Ah, shame. I thought it looked too neat to fit in with your story but figured maybe it was just one segment or something.Delete
It's a very calming picture to look at though.
This is a problem I wish I had… I don't own enough movies for this to be an issue!ReplyDelete
My collection isn't nearly as large as your (around 380 DVDs and Blu-rays, not including TV series). I don't buy nearly as many as I used to, I'll usually pick up 1 to 2 movies a month. I split up my Blu-Rays and DVDs, then sort alphabetically, in the case of a collection set I'll just insert it in the slot of the first in the series (for instance, 48 hrs. and Another 48 hrs. are filed in F). My big problem? I keep anything in 2 4-sided rotating towers. Each section holds about 12 blu-rays, 9 DVDs, so if I buy a blu-ray that starts in A, it takes me about 10 minutes to file it away and shift everything back. I'm also running out of room, and not sure I can find a third tower to match what I have.ReplyDelete
I used to have a collection about 300 DVD's strong plus about 30 or so separate TV seasons (I know I know I be nothing) sadly I had to downsize when I attempted a move up to F this movie town (Chicago) then had to downsize again due to that falling apart last minute so right now Im down to about 60-75. While streaming sites have made it easier to catch things I may have missed I'm with you Heath, its definitely better to have it physically, I'm sure I would have the mega wall of DVD's if my wallet could afford it, alas I must be a bit more frugal when it comes to purchasing fancy SE box sets and hope the rest comes to netflix, hulu, or Amazon at one point or another.ReplyDelete
I organize by genre. Gotta keep my horror movies together and my 80s action movies together or else it's just crazy. My problem is I want to keep all my blurays together and all my DVDs together but i also want to keep movies and their sequels together so if I own iron man 1 on bluray but 2 and 3 are on DVD if I put them together it just looks weird on my shelf. I also wanted to pose a question about upgrading to bluray if you already own the DVD. I'm wondering if you guys care at all if you own a movie on DVD or bluray or of it just depends on the movie. I've sunk alot of money into my DVD collection and I can't sell them back for much money these days. I'd love to upgrade everything to bluray and sometimes it's totally worth it but other times the bluray transfer is bad and not worth the effort. Just wondering how you guys handle that problem.. Great article Heath.ReplyDelete
I have a large collection of DVDs and Blu-rays, and I intermingle the two in the shelving. Among the titles are TV show sets and documentaries, and those are also not separated. Quick side note on upgrading from DVD to Blu-ray – I only do it if there’s a huge picture/sound/packaging improvement, or a significant extras upgrade. Back to the topic. I shelve alphabetically, which some exceptions. For example, I have a number of titles which begin with the word “Batman”, including all four Burton/Schumacher Batman movies, the 1940s serials, the 1960s Adam West movie and TV series, and “Batman Begins”. I shelve these chronologically, instead of alphabetically. The same goes for the X-Men movies, the Harry Potter movies, the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight movies, etc. However, I don’t have “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises” shelved just after “Batman Begins”. Those two are in the D’s. Also, I will always refer to the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as such. But the DVD packaging refers to the movie as “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”, so I shelve the DVD in the I’s, with the other Indiana Jones movies, although all four are in chronological order, not alphabetical. When it comes to box sets, shelving depends on the packaging of the set. If each title in the box set comes in a standard DVD or Blu-ray case with its own artwork, as if each title could have been sold separately, then I dispense with the set box (I save it, but I store it elsewhere), and shelve each title alphabetically, without regard to its former set packaging. But if the set houses each disc in a slim DVD case, or in a fold-out thing with a hub for each disc, but no individual disc packaging, then I leave the set intact, and shelve alphabetically according to the name of the set (e.g. “Humphrey Bogart: The Columbia Pictures Collection”, a five title set, is in the H’s). This can make it hard to physically locate certain titles in my collection, particularly if the box set has a title like “Classic Western Round-Up - Volume 1”, but it’s a minor issue. I keep track of my titles with a regularly updated list on a computer.ReplyDelete
i have been using a free online dvd and bluray database for years. check it out if you ahve not already. http://www.filmaf.com/ReplyDelete
Compared to DVD, let alone Blu-ray, VHS tapes are low resolution. If you haven’t viewed one for a while, therefore, it would be a good idea to play one to see if you’re still happy with the quality after becoming spoiled by the much improved quality of more modern video formats. 35mm slide scanning serviceReplyDelete