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.
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 TheAudioDB.com 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 TheAudioDB.com 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
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.