Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Confessions of a Blu-ray Collector: Organization

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Today I am going to tackle a topic which all blu-ray collectors, or really collectors of almost any kind, must face: how to organize your collection.  Lets start off by discussing the major segmentation of your collection.  First thing, your blurays and dvds should be separated.  When I first started converting my collection to blurays, I would simply replace the DVD with the Bluray wherever it was in the collection.  It looked fine when there were only a few blurays in there, but after a while it started looking pretty terrible, so I had to make the decision to segment the two different formats.  Blurays come first of course, since it is the superior format.  Your lowly DVDs can trail behind afterwards.

Another separation to make is your movies from your TV shows.  They are two separate media and therefore should be separate in your collection.  I have my TV shows after my DVD movies.  Actually, what I’ve just done is move my bluray TV shows after my bluray movies, then DVD movies, then DVD TV.  Though I’m still not entirely sure I’m keeping it like that.

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Okay, now to the big discussion: how to order your movies.  There are many collectors out there who believe wholeheartedly that alphabetization is the only way to go.  I am here to tell you that this line of thinking is simply wrong.  Alphabetizing may be the most boring way to organize your collection.  It is cold and lifeless.  It is your collection so come up with an order that shows a little bit of creativity to it!  Give it your own personal stamp.

So the next obvious direction to go towards is separating by genre.  Of course, this can be a problem for many, since the genres of man films are not cut and dry and you run into a lot of grey area.  For example, would Alien go under the sci-fi section or the horror section?  Does Forrest Gump go into drama or comedy?  However, here is the beauty of organizing by genre: its YOUR collection, therefore YOU decide where things go.  This gives you that personal stamp I was talking about before.  Now when you buy a new blu-ray and bring it home, you actually get the thrill of figuring out where it should go in your collection instead of robotically putting it in its alphabetical order.

Other methods of organizing could be by director (though you will find you have many directors which you only have one film by which overrun the collection), chronologically (which is neat but requires research, especially when you are organizing within a certain release year),or I have even heard of organizing by the colour spectrum of the spines (yikes)!  Another neat idea is organizing by play length.  It would be a pain in the ass, but helpful later on.

So how do I organize my collection?  I have a very unique structure understood fully only by myself.  But again, its my collection so I am well within my rights.  I began my DVD collection with the 3 DVDs I bought when I bought my DVD player, and put them in an order on the shelf above the TV.  As I bought more, they were slotted into different slots on that shelf, and so my collection evolved as such.  For example, since I am such a big star wars fans, I felt that the Star Wars movies should be first and foremost in my collection.

So the way it works is that I have what I would called “sub-genres” which are scattered throughout in no particular order.  I have my “popular sci-fi” section, my war films, my adventure-type films, “dark” sci-fi, etc.  At the end I have my “franchises” section, followed by my historical epics section, which I felt was a fitting way to end the collection.  Within these subgenres, the way I organizes them differs.  Sometimes it is chronologically, sometimes alphabetical, and often it has to do with the visual packaging.  For example, I usually like to cap off a section with a larger digibook or steelbook blu-ray.

I know that will sound rather disorganized to many of you, but you have to admit that my organization method is probably unique.  And I feel that collections should be unique to you.  Don’t get caught in the alphabetization trap.  Now, with massively large collections, you may find alphabetizing to just be easier, but for smaller collections like my own, try something different.  And for those worried about remembering the order, I know where every single one of my movies i supposed to go.  A friend once switched two of the movies to see if I would notice.  I noticed only an hour after she left.

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The idea of packaging does present an interesting question.  Should you organize by packaging?  In other words, maybe you should have a regular blue case section, a digibook section, and a steelbook section.  This would also automatically create a Criterion section, since they have those unique clear cases.  I have experimented with this, but I couldn’t get past the feeling that the movies were out of place, so I put it back and had the cases interspersed.

However, I will admit that packaging does influence where I put certain movies.  For example, I always had Citizen Kane somewhere in the middle of my collection, but when the blu-ray was released it came in this overly large, thick, case that would have stuck out like a sore thumb.  My solution was easy; put it at the very end.  Now it acts as a bookend to the collection and fits there quite nicely.  In alphabetization, I don’t have that kind of flexibility.

What about specialty cases like the Warner Bros. big box series, or special editions with some sort of collectors display?  Simple, I don’t buy them.  I don’t want that stupid Walking Dead zombie head with a screwdriver sticking in the eye as a piece of my living room decor.  It baffles me that there are so many people who do…

What about box sets?  I hate ’em.  I know that  may seem silly, but I do.  I feel that every movie should have its own self-contained unit.  This is why I love the Lord of the Rings EE set that came out.  Every film has its own case, so I can display them separately on my shelf.  I hate the fact that Star Wars and Indy are only available as box sets (but since they are some of my favourite movies, I bought them anyways).

Is there anything else?  Not that I can think of.  If you have any more questions that I forgot about, let me know in the comments.  Also let me know how you organize your collection.

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24 Responses to “Confessions of a Blu-ray Collector: Organization”

  1. Lies! Sorting alphabetically is a logical and effective method. As you said, sorting by genre doesn’t work because so many films fit in so many genres. Sorting by director is an idea I might try but that also creates problems. What I do with a series like Alien where every installment has a no director? Break up the series? That doesn’t seem right to me. Sorting by chronologically or by runtimes are interesting, but is just as robotic as sorting alphabetically and is made impossible by box sets.

    For me, I sort alphabetically for the most part. The only exception is with movie series. For example, I have The Dark Knight after Batman Begins even if technically it should be with the Ds.

    I may eventually switch to sorting by director, especially since there are a lot of directors whose entire works I want to own, but for now I’ll stick with my current method.

    • Sorting alphabetically is a logical and effective-YAWWWWN! Sorry what?
      I understand that films shouldn’t be defined by genre, but for a personal collection you can always just go with whatever genre you most closely associate it with.

  2. Great article! 🙂 I’ve just started collecting and I love organising stuff, so I’m really looking forward to dealing with this ‘issue’!

  3. Mine are organised in a very simple way – in the order I buy them 🙂

    I do separate my DVDs and Blu-rays but that’s about it. They’re scattered around my bedroom as I’ve run out of room so I can’t really order them. My CDs are in alphabetical order though. Nice piece Ian.

  4. Alright, good post, but I disagree with almost every point.

    When finding the correct way to organize things, the first thing you need to do is look to the logical authority on the subject: librarians. Go to any halfway decent library and how do they organize their fiction? Alphabetical by author’s last name. Similarly, movie collections should be organized alphabetically by director’s last name, and then by year.

    This gives your collection both a very clear and logical organization while also allowing your display to tell a real story. You look at my shelf and you can tell right away that I’m a big fan of Kurosawa, Scorsesee, Spielberg, Hitchcock, and Bergman, then when you look closer you’ll realize I also have a soft spot for Boyle, Cameron, the Coens, Scott, and Nolan. You’re right that directors with fewer films in the collection can kind of get lost in the shuffle, but I’d argue that this is how it should be. Those directors will just have to work harder to have more films worthy of the collection. What’s more, the act of sorting each directors work by year allows each section to tell another story about each filmmakers’ evolution as an artist.

    Some will argue that organization by director doesn’t work because it makes it harder to find an individual title because you might not be able to immediately remember who directed it. Shame on those people. If you can’t name a given film’s director then that film probably doesn’t belong in your collection in the first place.

    That said, this sorting method does require a little flexibility here and there. This is especially true of certain film series like the James Bond films, the Star Trek films, and the Universal Monsters sets which have multiple directors. I’ve gone ahead and filed those under B, S, and U respectively and I feel no guilt about that because these are cases where the films’ producers and franchise patterns have more authorial authority than their credited directors.

    As for my second point: there’s no need to separate Blu-rays and DVDs on my shelf. I’m not going to let my David Fincher section go straight from Fight Club to Zodiac just because Sony is taking forever to come out with a Panic Room blu-ray. The point of collecting is to have a specific library of titles and the continuity of said titles shouldn’t be broken just because you think it looks silly for some boxes to be taller than others. That’s a silly thing to try to control anyway because going to be larger than usual Blu-ray boxes like Citizen Kane and Apocalypse Now which are going to ruin your perfectly level boxes anyway, and they’re going to stick out less if you have a bunch of DVDs in the mix as well.

    Finally, I don’t think it should be a fast and hard rule that TV shows need to be separated either. I might feel differently about this if I had a larger collection of TV seasons, but since I only collect The Wire, Game of Thrones, Babylon 5, and Mad Men, it would be silly to have those separated out. It just go by showrunner’s last name for those and integrate them in, and it works just fine.

    • I’m okay with your director method since that is very definitely you putting your personal stamp on your collection. From what I know about you (through your online persona anyways), that seems to fit.

      As far as the DVD mixing, like I said I started that way as well. What is your DVD to Bluray ratio? Mine got to a point where I had only 10 DVDs left, and that few really stuck out, so I had to do something with them. As they get released on blu, they entire the bluray collection proper.

      Why do you think its silly to separate your shows? you’ve still got 4 shows, that a healthy amount to warrant its own section.

      • At the moment it’s about 50/50 between Blu-Rays and DVDs. I guess I see what you’re saying about DVDs sticking out more when they’re really outnumbered, but then again, there was a time when I had a ton of DVDs and only a couple blu-rays.

        I guess the reason I don’t think four shows is enough to warrant its own section is that my TV collection is not the all-encompassing survey of the medium that my movie collection is. It isn’t at all representative of my wider taste in television and, when separated, doesn’t really feel like an actual collection at all. Instead I just treat them as four really long movies that are part of a bigger collection and it feels a lot better. It also says something about the shows, that I think they’re artistic achievements worthy of sitting alongside all the classic movies I have.

  5. I organize my films typically by genre, though I also have the problem when a film fits into two different categories. I typically then have to decide which genre the film it fits better in then.

  6. Alphabetically…and then the not watched are put on a stack at the side. With the exception that my Disney Collection and foreign movies get its own section. Disney is by year it was relased and foreign is by actors or if it has series then those get grouped together and the single movies get tucked in between by order that I bought them 🙂
    Great post! 🙂

  7. At this point, my rather paltry collection is DVD in alphabetical order on one shelf and VHS on the other. I intend to switch the tapes for their DVD counterparts. The DVDs are organized by movie followed by animation then TV. Right now, it works for me but down the line, I’ll need a new ordering system.

  8. Main DVD section is alphabetical. Then theres separate sections for TV, Boxsets, Bond and those retarded Warner boxes hidden in the dark corners up and away from eyesight. BDs are separate and not in alphabetical order yet.
    I may try something different with BDs. But my main DVD collection will stay alphabetical, its just too big.

  9. I haven’t organized my dvd/BD collection in a while, they’re like all over the place. I only separate my dvds from the BDs but that’s it. I need to spend more time doing that, ahah.

  10. hahaha. BD and DVD separate, and tv shows separate, but all in alphabetical order. allowing me to find what I want when I want it, and for my friends to do so when they come to borrow from my “video store” on my wall. ha.

    I just can’t wrap my mind around any other way to organize them. Your collection would drive me crazy. haha.

  11. […] of organizing one’s collection in alphabetical order in his 2nd post of the series HERE (high-five to all of you who organize your movies this way), he brings up some excellent reasons to […]

  12. This really got me thinking! At the moment, I have 4 fairly generic sections I divide my movies into: Drama/Comedy/Animated/Documentary

    I own around 1000 movies and I currently have my blurays separated from DVDs as well, but something I’ve been struggling with is whether to separate some of my favorite directors and keep their films together. I’m not crazy about box sets, but the truth is – some films are hard to find outside of them and it’s often cheaper to purchase them that way. I don’t have a disposable income, so I tend to lean towards the best deal.

    For instance, I have a Martin Scorsese collection with some of his early movies. Should I allow other films outside that collection to be on their own? If I group them with the box set, what should the rule be for another director? Like Quentin Tarantino or Woody Allen, whose films I own around 10 titles each…. But where do I draw the line? 5 movies?

    One day, when I have more shelf space, I’ll probably divide them into more defining sections and genres, but for now it’s something I’ll continue to ponder.

    • The problem with separating by director is what do you do with all the films for which you only have of one or two directors? I like going by genre, and within genres keeping a directors work together, but not being too strict about it.


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