How to watch and organize your movies – Media Browser, the best 7MC plug-in

Introduction:

I promised an in-depth look of the mediabrowser plug-in for Windows Media Center and I am ready to deliver. My experience with mediabrowser started more than a year ago after I built my first Home Theater PC (HTPC). I used for a while the Movie Library provided as default, but something was lacking. After a while, I installed My Movies but it just wasn’t reliable enough for my configuration. I store all my movies on a central server and , My Movies client just didn’t work properly. So I looked around some more and found mediabrowser, a plug-in which at the time wasn’t as mature as My Movies but worked better for my configuration.

I will start describing mediabrowser by using it’s authors own words:

Formerly known as Video Browser, Media Browser is a personal media aggregator that takes your recorded, digital, or ripped media and presents it in a simple, easy to use interface. Media Browser prides itself on delivering a fast, intuitive, media rich experience for the whole family.

[sthumbs=205|204,max,2,n,center,]

Highlights

  • Automatic metadata retrieval
  • Streaming latest online trailers
  • Media bookmarking (resume play)
  • Support for external players
  • Vodcast support (video rss feeds)
  • Third party plug-in architecture
  • Automatic updates
  • Custom view layouts
  • Multiple themes
  • Create random / full folder playlists

I’ll shortly enumerate pros and cons, and after that I will move to a more detailed description.

Pros:

– Price – currently free

– Stability – few bugs, product is mature as version 2.2.3.0 (Pegasus)

– Theme support

– Plug-in support – extensible with new features

– Open Source – developed and maintained by the community

– Supports internal and 3rd party metadata collection scripts

– Did I mentioned price ?

– Fan Artwork – you can customize your collections by using Fan Artwork

Cons: (none, really, more like minor complaints)

– gets slower on large collections (fixed in part by the experimental SQLite support)

– could use user defined conditions to validate the collection content (if you have multiple drives to store your media, some will rarely change if ever)

Installation and Configuration

The plug-in comes with its own installer. Once you go through accepting the agreement, choosing the install folder and all the regular stuff, the installation is complete. You get the option to configure the initial settings which is a useful thing to do if you intend to have any media listed. After that, a new dialog will pop-up to help setting folder’s permission correctly. Click the ‘Yes” button on this dialog as well and you are good to go.

[sthumbs=233|234,max,2,n,center,]

The Media Browser Configuration Tool lets you manage the media easily, even if it is spreaded among various storage places. You can add categories and select one or more locations for each. All existing media under those locations will appear in the selected category. This way, if you have music video-clips in several places, they will appear together in Media Browser.

Media Browser Configuration Tool has two functionality modes: basic and advanced.

The basic mode allows you to create media categories and add media to each category, as well as setting an image per each category. It also lets you manage podcasts and plug-ins.

[sthumbs=215|216|217,max,3,n,center,]

The advanced mode include more complicated settings recommended for experienced users. You can use it to select external players (to play Blu-ray folders for example). You can set the extenders and set parental control or folder security if needed. Under display tab, you can set detailed visual settings like displaying a clock, choosing a theme, etc. Many options from the display tab can be accessed later inside Media Center.

[sthumbs=226|229|228|227,max,2,n,center,]

After the install process is finished, Media Browser’s icon will appear inside Media Center’s main menu.

Plug-ins

Plug-in support is a very good way to extend the functionality of an application. At this point, Media Browser’s plug-in support seems to be very mature, it detects when a plug-in has a new version available and the update process requires only one click. Be sure to exit from Media Center though, as some plug-ins might be locked and cannot be updated. (they are standard dll’s)

Some plug-ins worth mentioning at this time (in no particular order) are Favorites, Cover Art, Films Like This, Music Plug-in, etc.

[sthumbs=225|222|219|220,max,2,n,center,]

Themes

Media Browser‘s look can be customized by using themes. The themes can be installed like any other plug-ins and are continuously improved and tweaked. The most well known are Diamond,  Chocolate,  Harmony, Maelstrom and Vanilla.

[sthumbs=224|223|221|218,max,2,n,center,]

Functionality

After you set everything the way you like it, you can set back, relax and start watching some movies. Media Browser will connect to internet and download the movie metadata, so you will have access to movie’s description, rating, genres, actors, etc. Media browser will also remember when you pause a movie, where you left it so you can resume it later. It will also remember the watched episodes in a series, or the watched movies in a category and it can be configured to take you automatically to the first unwatched item. There is a large number of options that can be configured, covering both the visual and functional sides.

[sthumbs=202|201|200|199|197|203,max,3,n,center,]

Other screen-shots covering podcast and trailers functionality.

[sthumbs=214|212|211|206|205|194,max,3,n,center,]

Conclusion:

Media Browser deserves high praises as the best plug-in available for Windows Media Center. The capability to add themes and plug-ins will satisfy even the most demanding Media Center user, it has a huge number of followers and contributors to both source code and Fan Artwork and their website is full of articles and tutorials covering in detail every customization imaginable. Take a look at their Knowledge Base. And if you enjoy it like I do, please DONATE to them to help the future development work.

And by the way, I DO recommend to boot from a SSD, please see my other post about using Media Center with Intel X25-M SSD.

Related posts:

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,