Part 3: Setup Your Movie Library
You have XBMC installed. You have your folders and files properly arranged and named. If you don’t, please do yourself a favor and go back to the second part of the tutorial to learn how to do this and then do it before trying these steps. It really will save you a lot of grief.
Now, it is time to introduce all that lovely media to their new partner. When I was trying to figure out how to make XBMC work, I spent hours figuring out what I hope to show you in the next few minutes. One basic skill you will need is the ability to navigate around XBMC and it won’t be easy at first. (Using it will be a lot easier than setting it up.) You will need a means of interfacing with XBMC. Controlling XBMC is possible with a remote, mouse, or keyboard.
If you’re stuck with only a keyboard, then allow me to recommend that you print out their guide to keyboard and mouse commands. Before long you’ll throw the sheet away, but it will save you great frustration if you have this on hand during the configuration process.
Open XBMC. You will be in the root menu of the default skin, PM.HD. Whichever option from this menu one chooses, another menu will open up and so on through the menu tree. At any point in navigating through the main menu, one can also pull up the ‘context menu’ by pressing the letter ‘C’ on the keyboard. This menu provides us with choices about how to manage the task associated with where you are in the regular menu tree.
XBMC needs to know where to look for your movies. Navigate to the Videos tab on the home screen. Press ‘Enter’ then select ‘Add Sources’ and press ‘Enter.’ Now browse to your Movies folder and select it.
In order to have access to data beyond the filename, like thumbnails, fanart, synopses, album covers, etc., the new source must (a) have the folder structure and filename syntax in a manner compatible with XBMC, (b) the source must have its content type (Movies, TV shows, Music Videos, or None) and (c) scraper source selected from within XBMC, and (d) select ‘Run Automated Scan’ and ‘Use Folder Names for Lookups’. A scraper is the source of the additional data displayed when ‘Library’ is enabled in XBMC. It all sounds more complicated that it really is, but with power often comes complexity in the world of software.
So now that you’ve selected your source folder for movies, set the content type to ‘Movies’ using the first line in the dialog box. Now scroll through the scrapers until you come to IMDb and press ‘Enter’ to choose it. You will want to enable the ‘Run Automated Scan’ and ‘Use Folder Names for Lookups’ options at this point. To gain the full benefit of the IMDb scraper feature, enable all of its settings, also. It will take a little longer to download all the extra info, but if you don’t want that stuff then why use a media center at all? This is done by pressing the right arrow to select the settings button at the bottom left of the dialog box. Press enter to open it. Scroll to each option that does not indicate it is enabled and press ‘Enter’ to enable all of the options. Now, enter the ‘OK’ button. This should return you to the previous dialog box. Again, enter the ‘OK’ button. XBMC should say that it is scanning for new content. If it does, then you have now completed one of the two most difficult steps in using XBMC.
Just to expand a bit on content types, when I refer to movies, I mean from the cinema or made-for-TV movies. When setting the content types, the movie folders should be ‘Movies’, the TV Shows folder set to ‘TV’, and the music videos folder set to ‘Music Videos’. I set my internet videos folder to ‘None’ which leaves it out of the library (no wasted time attempting to scrape data). Those videos can still be viewed in File View (see below).
Go back (escape key) to Movies on the main menu and select your local or network source, open the context menu and select “Scan for new content”. You’ll want to repeat this anytime you have added a new movie to your movies folder as well. I do not recommend configuring XBMC to scan for new content at startup. This generally goes into an endless loop of searching. While scanning for new information, the use of ‘Movie Information’ in the context menu is disabled.
XBMC has a Library Mode with options for viewing this extra data and a File View which will show you folders even if they were not properly picked up by the scraper. In File View, we’re not able to enjoy any of that great database info. However, if you put a picture in your movie folder named ‘folder.jpg’ it will appear in File View as a thumbnail for that movie. File View works basically like browsing through movies with Explorer except you can play a movie file in XBMC when you open it.
Open the task panel by pressing the left arrow if the folders are displayed vertically and select Library Mode. You will now have access to all of the data with your movies. And you can browse your video content by things like Genre, Title, Year, Actors and Directors. Be sure to set the library options to your taste before using the right area to enter your library of movies. As you scroll through the folders, information about each movie will be displayed. Use the left arrow to return to the task panel. Change the view (the first menu item) to whichever one you enjoy the most. Scroll through your library and behold the wealth of knowledge.
Now, that XBMC works, don’t stop. XBMC is quite capable of hard work in nice clothes. Let’s dress her up a bit. I hope that your first time was as exciting to you as mine was to me. However, you may have been disappointed by some of the thumbnails or fanart the scraper found. It may even have pulled up incorrect movie data from some similar flick. Not to worry. If you like to personalize and tweak things till they look exactly the way you want them, you can. Put thumbnails (up to 182x256px jpg’s or png’s) in folders to be displayed when navigating in library mode toward your movie. First delete the default thumbnail from UserData\Thumbnails\ . Then add a picture named ‘moviename.tbn’ where moviename is the same as the movie’s filename. You can also add your own fan art (1920×1080 or 1280×720 pixels, and no text). Be aware that it shouldn’t interfere with shading or text overlaid on the image since that is how fanart backgrounds are used in XBMC. If for some reason you update your library (necessary after any external changes) and the art is not recognized, you can force the issue through the graphical user interface (GUI). Select your movie. Press ‘C’ to get the context menu and from there to the ‘Movie Information’ screen. From there you will have the option to browse to any thumbnail or fanart on your network and override the art or lack of it found by the scraper. Press ‘C’ again or ‘escape’ to make the context menu go away. If the scraper doesn’t find them, you can even add movie trailers for your movies. Just download them where you find them and save them in the movie folder with the name ‘movie-trailer.flv.’
Now your tricked-out folder structure will look like (click to enlarge):
You’re not the only one who likes to dress things up. There is a community of XBMC users who have generated skins to give XBMC the overall appearance and user interface they found most appealing. While the developers’ Project Mayhem 3 is quite functional, check out some of the other skins available. I use MediaStream_Redux, not to be confused with another attractive skin, MediaStream. I like the Redux menu hints and display options so that is my skin. MediaStream may be a little prettier so I may change to that later. The Focus skin is optimal if you have fanart for all your movies.