Sunday, April 12, 2009

Anatomy of an Entertainment Center, Part 2: Organization

Last month I joined several "classic film" bloggers in sharing photos of our collections. You can click the title of this post to refer back to that entry.

Some bloggers, including Casey at Noir Girl and Kate at Silents and Talkies, went a step further and gave us an additional peek at how their collections are organized using a notebook index (Casey) or Excel spreadsheet (Kate).

(Above, favorite DVD sets lined up along the top of the den TV, ready for quick viewing!)

I briefly mentioned in my previous post that I use an Excel spreadsheet to locate films, which are stored in several places. This spreadsheet is an inventory my father and I maintain of our joint collections -- we each use a separate page of the same document -- which is very handy as we ship movies cross-country on a regular basis. The inventory includes a column to indicate a film's current location, so we always know who's got which movie.

I thought I'd share a little more today about our spreadsheet system, as it might provide fellow movie fans with a useful idea or two. (Those who aren't film collectors may want to skip ahead to the next post...grin.) We came up with our system through some trial and error and gradually added new columns as we realized what information we would find useful. Other collectors may have their own ideas on what to add...I always love to learn how others organize their collections.

(Above, a view of part of our collection which wasn't shared in the original post.)

A particular note for those of you who are relatively new collectors who can easily see your entire collection at a glance: now's the time to organize, while it's easy! You may be amazed how many movies you own in five, ten or twenty years down the road. :) I know my own collection has grown by leaps and bounds over the last half decade, thanks not only to DVDs, but all the recording I do off of Turner Classic Movies and Fox Movie Channel. As of today, there are over 3200 entries on my page of the inventory...keep in mind that three to five films can fit on a single tape, so the numbers can add up quickly!

For instance, when TCM held Kay Francis Month last fall, I taped roughly three dozen movies. Most of the titles were relatively obscure films rarely shown on TV; they were recorded for pennies (or maybe quarters) apiece. The movies I record are enjoyed not only by myself, but by various family members, so it's a very affordable way to provide a number of people with great entertainment. The main issue is storage space...and organization!

My Excel spreadsheet starts out with columns for the title, year, director, genre and subgenre, 3 actors, and format (DVD or VHS; Beta has a separate page):

Click the photos for a closer look.

The Subgenre is an easy way to narrow a search beyond simply "Western," "Musical," "Film Noir" and the like. Some of the Subgenres we use are Austen, Baseball, Big Band, Disney, Holiday, Kildare, Shakespeare, and WWII. My children often use the Subgenre or Actor columns when looking for ideas on what they'd like to watch.

Then, moving to the right on the spreadsheet, the information becomes more detailed. Under "Comments" I note the most significant information about the DVD or tape. In the case of DVDs, I list the name of the DVD set, whether a film is widescreen, and list the existence of extras such as a trailer, featurettes, commentary, and more. For videotapes I make, I note the recording source, if it's widescreen, and the other films on the tape. Videos are stored alphabetically by the first title on the tape so I often refer to the inventory first in order to track down a taped film's location.

There are small columns where we use letter symbols to indicate the film's current location and the owner; films my children have bought or received as gifts are labeled with their initials. Then I list the name of whoever did the DVD commentary, if one exists, and provide more extensive information on DVD extras such as cartoons, shorts, and radio shows.

Finally, there are separate columns where I check off if a DVD has radio or cartoon extras. These columns are handy if we're looking for radio shows to listen to on a car trip, for example, or for my children to locate cartoons. Sometimes DVDs which might not interest my children have extras of interest; for instance, the recently released Natalie Wood set was filled with Road Runner cartoons which appealed to my 11-year-old. Sorting using this column makes it easier for the children to track these things down.

It may look like a lot of work, but it's really not, since each film is entered as it's purchased or taped. Plus I simply enjoy not only using the spreadsheet, but creating it. I also use Excel to organize DVDs I'd like to buy, recipes I've made, and (most recently) radio shows, as I've just resumed collecting Lux radio shows, which as many of you know are hour-long live versions of classic movies, starring the biggest movie stars of the day. My first Lux radio show purchases were on LP, when I was about 12!

Organization is always a work in progress...for instance, I like Kate's idea of including the running time in her Excel inventory. I've not tried the idea yet, simply because it would be a big undertaking to add that information in at this point; it might also present a minor challenge deciding which source to rely on for run times.

It would be nice, though, to have running length information handy; I keep a handwritten list of movie titles which are under 75-80 minutes and are thus more likely to be able to be seen in one sitting if I can't start a film until 10:00 p.m. or later. (One film I watched last week, THE GOOSE AND THE GANDER, was only 65 minutes!) As I mentioned in my original post "Anatomy of an Entertainment Center," at other times it may take as many as three or four nights to finish a movie, depending on how busy I am with work, homeschooling, and the rest of my life. :)

Hope you have enjoyed another peek at the collection behind "Tonight's Movie"!

And now I'd better go inventory the movies the Easter Bunny dropped off at our house overnight...


Blogger NoirGirl said...

Wow, Laura! You're running a library! I admire your organization and your knowledge of Excel immensely. I think it's so neat that you're sending films around the country for your family to watch. I bet you give Netflix some competition, especially being that you have all the hard-to-find classics! :)

I forgot to say this before, so I'll share it now. To keep track of all my commercial DVDs, I have Bookography/Readerware software on my computer and a barcode reader so I can scan all the codes on the packaging. Then, the software looks up the codes on the internet (Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc.), finds all the info and adds the new item to my library. It creates a searchable database with product photos and everything. It's really amazing software, for anyone who'd like to check it out. I have versions of it for our books and music collections, too.

Oh, btw - thanks so much for the link!

4:50 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Casey,

What interesting information about the Bookography/Readerware software! I've never heard of that program but it really does sound like an amazing way to organize commercial DVDs, books, and music. Thanks so much for sharing that info here, that's a great organizational tip.

Thanks very much for your kind note. I really enjoy being able to share our collection with various family members (and even our neighbors across the street, grin), as well as having a quality library available for our children.

Best wishes,

9:05 AM  

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