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Monday, 15 April 2013

My keep it or ditch it ???

This is a follow up post to my Part 2 in the XBMC Frodo / Aeon MQ4 Skin series.

As I stated in part 2 I am currently using My metadata for movies for use with XBMC. There is an option in either the Collection Management program or in the settings in the WHS version of My Movies to enable metadata file creation for XBMC, if enabled My Movies will then create a .nfo and .tbn files in each movies folder. XBMC can read these files and import the metadata provided by My Movies. I’ve been using this feature in conjunction with the My Movies scraper add-on for XBMC.

Now I always knew this day would come when I would have to make a decision if to keep My Movies database on the back-end server or if to ditch it. Today is that day I feel!

With the help of my new friend Samu-rai on the XBMC forums I have compared the data displayed for movies by My Movies metadata and the XBMC scraper called “Universal Movie Scraper” and the results are clear as to who the winner is and its not My Movies.

I’ve been a long time user and supporter of the My system and the team there. I don’t think I could have used Windows Media Center to the extent I did if it were not for My Movies.

Some reasons why I still like My Movies:

The My Movies system works well for disc titles, i.e. movies that have been released already on DVD or Blu-ray disc, its not so good for metadata for films that are still in the cinema e.g. pirate movies but that’s a good thing right.

The TV Series support for DVD disc rips is excellent and MCE can directly play episodes, XBMC cannot do this yet! I wrote a whole thing about the limitations of TV Series on DVD rips in XBMC here

My Movies does other good things like the personal Online Collection website and the iOS / Android app. They are planning on updating the remote control on the mobile apps to be able to control XBMC as well as MCE.

I still like using the Collection Management software for managing my titles but if I move to a XBMC scraper that kinda becomes somewhat redundant.

My Movies is also IMHO still the best automatic disc ripping / downloader of metadata, you need AnyDVD HD in the back ground and My Movies ripper does the rest. I haven't seen any solutions for a fully automated disc ripping service in XBMC.

The My Movies development team I believe do have plans to revamp their entire XBMC integration but this is not the highest priority for them which we understand as they don’t make money on XBMC client users so much if any.

They are already working on updating the XBMC metadata integration that is including in the MAC OSX version of Collection Management so that is a good thing, it just needs updating for WHS and Windows Server but I am not sure I can wait.

My Movies metadata for Bolt
[Image: Bolt.png?psid=1]
Universal Movie Scraper for Bolt
[Image: Uni-Bolt.png?psid=1]

My Movies metadata for Madagascar 2
[Image: Madagascar2.png?psid=1]
Universal Movie Scraper for Madagascar 2
[Image: Uni-Madagascar2.png?psid=1]

My Movies metadata for Nemo
[Image: Nemo.png?psid=1]Universal Movie Scraper for Nemo[Image: Uni2-Nemo.png?psid=1]

I am going to have to sleep on this one, but I am thinking I will delete all the My Movies .nfo and .tbn files and rebuild my XBMC Movie Library using the XBMC Universal Movie Scraper instead.

Which unfortunately makes the My system for me pretty much not required any more as I have no MCE HTPCs now in the house! I may keep it on the server for Disc ripping though.

XBMC Frodo - Aeon MQ4 Skin– Part2 Movie Library

In part one I looked at the music library, today we will be taking a look at the Movie library in XBMC / Aeon MQ4 Skin.

The screen shot below shows the default movie background image with the Darkness theme. You can see the movie titled “Drive”, this was the last movie I was watching and the playback progress was only 20% watched. You can use the up directional button on the remote control and select Continue Watching, to quickly continue playback of  that movie.

Movies Main Menu


I have now turned on rotating movie fanart images for the movies main menu.




To do this use the Artwork Organizer add-on to copy your artwork from the individual movie folders on your server to a local folder on the HTPC.


You then select the Customisations option from the bottom menu.


Select the Movie menu heading and then select Change Backdrop Multiple Images


Browse to the local folder on the HTPC that the Artwork Organizer add-on created for Movie Fanart


On my Linux Ubuntu system this path was: /home/xbmc/.xbmc/userdata/addon_data/script.artworkorganizer/MovieFanart

Note: You may also need to select the option in the XBMC settings to see hidden files and folders, before you can browse to this hidden location.

The top menu with the View Modes works like it did with the music library, so you can change the View Modes to: In Progress, Random, Recently Added


I didn’t mention this in part one and probably should have done, but each main menu heading has a submenu, to access this submenu you simply press the down directional button on the remote control.
You can then select things like Genres, Recently Added, Titles, Search, Update Library and more as I have hidden a bunch of submenu items in the customisations.

That’s the other great thing about this skin you can customise all the menus and the look and feel of the whole menu system, no more messing about with the now buggy Media Center Studio and battling with Microsoft to edit system .dll files that get reset.


Movie Library Views

Wall view - with Media Case turned on.


Wall view – with Media Case turned off.


As I have migrated from a Windows MCE / My system I already had a folder.jpg (Movie cover) and a fanart.jpg (Background image) for each of my movies. The covers you can see being displayed in these screen shots, are my folder.jpg images from the My system as are the fanart images.

Now I imagine if you were starting from scratch with no existing artwork for your movies then it would be the “The Movie Database” aka inbuilt scraper in XBMC, that would get you the basic artwork such as covers and a single fanart image for each movie.

There is also an add-on available for XBMC called Artwork Downloader and this is used to get extra fanart for movies and TV Shows, but can also be used to obtain posters, now poster.jpg files are movie covers same as folder.jpg, however posters take priority over folder.jpg. So if like me you wanted to have your existing movie covers be displayed in the XBMC movie library, then I had to ensure that in the Artwork Downloader add-on I did not select posters to be downloaded.

Just for the record I am currently using the My scraper add-on in XBMC and also have the My Movies software on the WHS server, set to create metadata .nfo .tbn files for movies / XBMC. This may change and I may end up ditching My on the back-end altogether! Unless they update the XBMC integration sooner rather than later.

Movie Title Information

Like with the Album and Artist Information screens I showed in part one, we also have Movie Information, this information is usually handled I believe by the inbuilt “The Movie Database” scraper.

You can see in the screen shot below I have some extra artwork being displayed on the right hand side, a logo and a clearart image. I haven’t worked out yet exactly where the actor pictures come from?
The synopsis text is currently coming from the .nfo files that the My system creates.


Movie Views continued

Movies View - 3D Wall

Cant wait to see this on a home cinema screen!


Movies View - Poster

In this screen shot you will notice I have changed the original Blu-ray cover image from to a poster cover image. Also there is a Trailer Available option, most movies scanned in to the XBMC system using the Universal Movie Scraper, then have an option to play a trailer for that movie title.

Movies View - Large List


Movies View – Panel


Movies View – Banner

Displays the banner.jpg files, looks good but missing banner artwork lets it down


Movies View – Panel Logo

Displays the logo.png files, again looks good but missing logos let it down


Movie View – ShowArt

Displays the clearart.png files


Movie Information Panel appears in from the top down


Movie View – Landscape

Displays the landscape.jpg files if available if not it displays the movie covers


Movie View – ShowCase with Extra Thumbnail Style


Movie Genres

Custom genre icons and backgrounds added to the skin setup

New Movie Trailers

For new movie trailers for movie titles that are not currently in your collection, there are two Trailers add-ons which I looked at, one called "The Trailers" and the other called "Apple iTunes Trailers" both add-ons are very similar and I believe they both play trailers from Apple.
Both streamed the trailers from the Internet well, however both have some issues with the Aeon MQ4 skin, if extra fanart is enabled in the skin for movies, then when the trailers add-ons are launched I get a Script Failed message. Turning off extra fanart makes this error go away but then you lose extra fanart background images for your movies in the library.
Also with both Trailer add-ons I was unable to setup the download options to download the trailers to a network share, they would download to a local path on the HTPC however.

I am currently using "The Trailers" add-on as that one shows a synopsis for each movie trailer the other add-on did not do this. I set it up so trailers are accessed from the Movies submenu as you can see in the screen shot below.

Movie Trailers in Poster view

Artwork Downloader add-on

As I already said, I used the Artwork Downloader add-on to try and get the extra artwork for my Movies and TV Shows, you simply tell it what types of artwork you would like it to download and then from the movie library push up on to the top menu, go to the Add-ons pull down menu and select Auto Mode. It took about 4 hours on my system to complete the artwork download, so you may want to run it over night. If you would like to see the thread I started asking questions about the Artwork Downloader add-on its here.


One important setting is in the Advanced area, you need to enable USE LOCAL FILES so that the artwork image files will be stored in each movies / TV shows folder on your server. Set this before you start Auto Mode.



The Movie Library in the Aeon MQ4 skin looks stunning, there are plenty of views to choose from and you will probably never use all of them, the extra artwork looks amazing but missing artwork really spoils the look of it all. There seems to be allot of missing artwork for the movies in my collection, so for now I think I will stick with the more basic views like Wall, hopefully in the future more artwork on the website will become available.

Overall I am very impressed with this skin and the artwork add-ons that support it. The developers in the XBMC community certainly do a great job and as you can see in these screen shots the results really show!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

XBMC Frodo - Aeon MQ4 Skin– Part1 Music Library

Today I am going to be looking at the Aeon MQ4 Skin with the Darkness theme on XBMC Frodo Version 12.1 running on Linux Ubuntu 12.10 Minimal with 3.8.6 kernel.

I’ve been working on XBMC / Ubuntu for the last 3 months and I am nearly done now, except for Live TV which will be my next project. The hardest thing about Windows Media Center was getting the Video Codec setup correctly, the hardest thing about XBMC in my opinion apart from having to learn some Linux is the Artwork. The Aeon series of skins have for some time been my favourites and Aeon MQ4 is simply stunning, its very graphical when compared to MCE and requires allot more artwork other than covers and fanart.

Still sat on the fence about Windows MCE or if to migrate to XBMC? Maybe this series of blog posts might convince you to switch.

MUSIC – Main Menu

The screen shot below, is the standard background image with the Darkness theme for the Music menu, however you can change this to rotating fanart images from your music collection, so random pictures of your artists will be displayed in the background when you are on this menu. You can do the same for the Movies and TV Shows menus and have rotating fanart of your Movies and TV Shows.

I used the add-on Artwork Organizer which is a script that copies all your artwork images from your file server, in to a series of local folders, you then change a setting in the skin customisation and point it to one of these local folders containing all the fanart etc.


Rotating or changing fanart background images of music artists, whilst on the music main menu.


Cheryl Cole


If you use the Up Directional button on the remote control you can push up to a top menu, here you can select different View Modes for both Albums and Tracks.
“In Progress” which appears to then display along the top menu, 10 albums I have been playing.


“Recently Added” – Shows the last 10 albums or tracks added to my music library.


"Random” – Shows random 10 albums or tracks depending on the View Mode you have selected.


In this screen shot I have started playing the album Bob Marley & the Wailers Live!


When playing an album the random fanart background images become no longer random and will now only show fanart images of Bob Marley & the Wailers.

However if playing a compilation album with various artists then you will continue to see random artist fanart being displayed.

After a period of inactivity with the remote control, you can see the main menu is replaced with the track times. Use the directional buttons on the remote and the main menu headings come back again.


Music Playing – Full Screen

Here you can see what the full screen looks like, I have opted to display both background fanart and a music visualization.



This series of blog posts are not intended as step by step setup guides as it has taken me weeks to work out all the artwork in XBMC / Aeon MQ4 and there is simply too much to cover in a reasonably amount of time when writing about the subject. However these posts are intended as a basic overview and will hopefully give new users migrating from MCE like me, a basic understanding of what artwork add-ons are required and what they do.


Here you can see an album playing that had no cdart and you just get a blank spinning CD disc. Also there is no artist logo so it just displays a music note.


Music Library – Album Views

Music Albums - Wall view

My default view as it looks like Windows Media Center


Music Albums - 3D Wall – A beautiful view but on large collections I find it a little time consuming to find what you are looking for as you can only view / select from one row.


Music Albums - List View

Music Albums - Showcase view

Music Albums - Low List view

Note the artist logo being displayed in the bottom right.


Track List of the Duran Duran Arena album


Album Information screen

For each album you can select to view its Album Information using the right click context menu. The album information if available is downloaded by the inbuilt Universal Album Scraper.

In this albums case there is no album description and some of the other information is unavailable. The albums you can see at the bottom are not necessarily on my system they are simply the Discography of the currently playing artist. This Discography information is displayed by the Artist SlideShow add-on I believe.


If you push the directional button down on to one of the Discography albums it just displays a large image of that album cover.


Here you can see an album who’s album information is fully populated.You can see some text which is the album description and the Moods, Styles, Themes are populated.

Note: Because I am still playing Duran Duran in the background it is their album discography that gets
displayed not R.E.M’s.


Music Library – Artist Views

This is my default view for Artists – Low List


Initially to ensure each artist had a single fanart background image and a thumb image, that’s the square image of the artist you can see in the bottom left, I used the inbuilt Universal Artists Scraper. This is powered by various metadata websites including website. I found that the Universal Artists Scraper did a pretty good job and got fanart and thumb images for most of my album artists, however for those that it did not, I registered on website and created new pages for my missing artists and I contributed, I uploaded images and bio’s I found on Google, I was then able to ensure I had basic information and more importantly images for each artist in my collection.


Once I had the basics up and running with the Universal Artists Scraper, I then later used the CDArt Manager add-on to download extra fanart, cdart, clearlogo's, banners, ártist thumbs.

Music Artists - List view


Music Artists – Wall view


Music Artists – 3D Wall view


Music Artists – Showcase view


Artist Information

Like the album information you can right click to bring up the context menu on an artist and select artist information. The Universal Artists Scraper is used to obtain the artist information metadata.


Music Genres - Custom icons and background images


Well I think that is it for part 1. As you can see XBMC with the Aeon MQ4 skin is allot more graphical than the Windows Media Center Music Library, but that also means allot more work getting artwork organised but I think the effort is worth the results of how the user interface ends up looking!

The only real issue I have now with the XBMC music library is that the Artist SlideShow add-on seems a bit buggy and has a tendency to crash after I stop playback sometimes or start playing a new album, it then does not work properly until I reboot the HTPC. Hopefully the add-on developers can sort this out at some point?

If you are in the process of migrating from Windows Media Center to XBMC we would love to hear about your progress, thoughts and feedback.