Organising a Film Collection

There comes a time in every man’s life when he must rearrange his dvd or blu-ray collection. Maybe he has moved or is moving house, has bought a new bookcase to range dvds in, or has bought so many dvds that the burgeoning entropy of the collection is giving him a headache. Whatever the reason, the task is clear. The decisions involved, however, are difficult.

I have given a lot of thought to how one might choose to arrange a dvd collection. Pseudo-OCD characters will appreciate the organisation offered by an alphabetical-by-title arrangement, but in practice this offers little utility. How often does one know exactly what film they would like to watch, but have trouble finding it? If one truly knows their collection, this is a non-issue. Organisation by actor or director suffers the same failures. Genre is another potential organisational paradigm, but films spanning multiple genres then become difficult to place accurately, reducing the validity of such a system. One could arrange by year of release, but once more the lack of utility torments.

One potential system is date of acquisition. That way, one’s collection sort of chronicles one’s life. It might be rather insightful, but would be difficult to implement to a presently disorganised collection. For me, there was one glaring, even beaming solution: running time.

So often is the film choice limited by the time available for film-watching, whether it be pre-dinner, pre-party, or simply pre-snooze. This is why I have adopted the running time order arrangement. If I have 120 minutes available for a film, I find the point corresponding to t=120 mins, and select any film to the left / above that film in the collection.

##The re-arrangement The process of rearranging the collection is interesting, if time-consuming. One step of the process is to sort the collection into bins of 10-minute width. This then shows the distribution of running times of modern films (I have very few films made before 1990; notable exceptions are Arnold Schwarzenegger’s works and the Back To The Future trilogy). The compacted distribution is shown in Fig. 1, where Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was so much longer than the previous film (by half an hour!) that the scale needed a small discontinuity (compaction) there.


Fig. 1: Distribution of film running times, shortest to the left, showing clear positive skew and a peak at 100-110 minutes. In the background: Rammstein hoody, because Rammstein are awesome.

I hope this will inspire you all to adopt your own organisational paradigm.
p.s. Be very careful when deciding to rearrange someone else’s collection without permission, for three non-exhaustive reasons: