How-to: Use batch files to organise recorded TV automatically

Windows ExplorerWhen I built my Windows Media Center PC, I was able to have the majority of features working as I wanted them to. This was using Windows Media Center 7, and a bunch of free applications working together. The only thing I could not get my HTPC to perform was to separate my recorded movies from the recorded TV. I then needed to put each of the files in a relevant folder so that Media Center Master would download the correct meta data. I performed this task manually for a while but knew there had to be a way to automate this process.

After a weekend of research and testing, I finally came up with the 50 lines of script that complete the media centres autonomy. This has effectively eliminated the need for me to go into the backend of the media centre at all. All the data is moved automatically to the correct locations, making it unnecessary to control the system with anything beyond a remote control.

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Windows Software: Media Browser

MovieBrowserWindows Media Center 7 has some nice features when it comes to viewing movie information, but it is somewhat limited. If you are interested in taking it to the next level so you can see even more information, grab a copy of Media Browser.

Media Browser can be customised to show your movie collection in various ways. Whichever way you prefer it, it fits in really well with the default Windows Media Center theme. It goes beyond what the built in Windows Media Center Movie Library shows, by adding in cast information, and a bunch of pretty background pictures taken from the movie.

MovieBrowser2I use Media Center Master to retrieve the information for the movies, but there are likely a few programs that can do this. With all this information on hand, Media Browser shows as much information, if not more than can be found on a DVD cover.

I love the cast and crew section. If I find a movie with an actor I like, I can read a biography of the actor and see what other films I have with them in.

I don’t use this all the time, but when I am struggling to figure out what to watch, having enticing pictures is helpful. I have set this up on my system as an alternative to the built in library. It is easy to put Media Browser next to your Movie Library icon with Media Center Studio.

Media Browser is great if you have a large collection of movies because it loads them up much quicker than the built in Movie Library. It even has built in support for TV series and your music if that is something you are after.

Media browser is available for free from the Media Browser forums.

Hack7mc also has a great rundown of all the features.


Windows Software: Download Metadata automatically with Media Center Master

Media Center MasterWhen a movie has been recorded off the TV using Windows Media Center, all we are given is a single file containing the recording. If we view the file in the movie library, it shows as a blank cover containing the title and nothing more.

Media Center Master is a free program that scans your Movies or Recorded TV directories and downloads a bunch of useful meta data about the show, such as a description of the show/movie, cast list, director, cast biographies and pictures, background artwork for use with Media Browser, as well as the cover artwork.

Media Center Master connects to various internet databases to find the information. If it is unable to find it on the default database, it will progress to the next. I have found it to be highly accurate in identifying movies.

MovielibraryMedia Center Master can be run as needed, but I load it at startup so that it automatically detects new recordings as they are made. The result is that I don’t need to click on anything to make the magic happen.

There are a few tricks to get this software working correctly. You will need to put each movie into it’s own folder, with the same name as the movie, but this can be automated with some scripting. The software does have some of this built in, but because recordings have different names in different countries, my own scripting was required. There is more information on this here.

Once Media Center Master is up and running, it is completely hassle free. What you record one day, will have all it’s data attached shortly after, without needing to lift a finger. This makes browsing the Movie library much simpler and more aesthetically pleasing. Even more so if you choose to use Media Browser as it will make use of all the data downloaded.

Media Center Master v1.29 is available for free from mediacentermaster.com. There is also a premium version that is capable of much more, but I only listed the features I need and all these are in the free version.


How-to: Schedule Windows Media Center to record shows remotely with Remote Potato

Difficulty: 2

Remote Potato MenuOne of the finishing touches to any media centre is the ability to schedule recordings from anywhere. Remote Potato is an excellent tool that will let you do just that. As it has evolved, Remote Potato has added support for streaming your music, videos and pictures to any computer with a web connection.

Remote potato turns your media centre into a media server and a web server. This lets us access our media centre from anywhere. For my own amusement, I scheduled my weeks viewing from Lady Elliot Island. This island is 80km’s off the coast of Australia, and is the most remote place I have ever been. Situated in the Great Barrier Reef, it is only accessible by plane. The mainland is not visible in any direction from the island. The software worked fine. When I returned home, all the shows I had scheduled were on my computer waiting for me to view them.

Remote Potato can be viewed with the stunning Silverlight interface or a very reasonable html interface. This is the first time I have noticeably seen Microsoft’s Silverlight in use and it is a real treat. It will also detect various mobile phone types and deliver an appropriate webpage to your phone. This is excellent if you want to schedule your shows while you are out and about.

Remote Potato GuideRemote Potato has an excellent TV guide which is very quick and easy to navigate through. Simply find the show you want to record and choose if you want to record the single episode/movie, or the series. If you go into the movie section, it will list all the movies currently in the guide. This makes it possible to very quickly select what movies you want to record. Channel logos can be added by using My Channel Logos.

The Recorded TV, Music and Picture sections let you view the media on your computer from anywhere. You will need a very adequate internet connection at both ends to stream video, but it is all built into Remote Potato. This will work very well in years to come as our internet connections improve.

Remote Potato is under very active development now and there are new features being added all the time. The installation is straightforward, though there is plenty of support in the forums if you get into trouble. You will probably need to setup port forwarding and create an account with Dyndns.org so that you can access your media centre using the same address each time.

For more detailed setup instructions on setting up Remote Potato, please visit DeanHatesCoffee.com as he has an excellent write up on it.

Remote Potato is available for free (donations welcomed) from Fatattitude.


Windows Software: Media Center Studio

Media Center StudioThe first time that you open Windows Media Center, you will find a wide variety of menu options that are likely to far exceed what you will ever want to use. Customizing the menus to suit your personal or family needs is an essential part of the configuration process if you don’t want to get lost in the menu options. The only problem is that Windows Media Center has no built in tools to do this. That is where Media Center Studio comes in.

Media Center Studio is a stand alone program that lets you customise your Windows Media Center menu to exactly the way you want it. It allows removal of unused icons and the freedom to move around icons in a way that is more suited to the way you use Windows Media Center i.e. If you watch mostly recorded TV, recorded TV can be highlighted when Windows Media Center starts.

Media Center Studio also offers theme support which will be a very nice feature as more themes are created. It also allows you to make your own menu strips so you could add a strip for games, another for programs, and anything else you could possibly want. I have mostly used it to compact the features I use into a more logical arrangement.

Media Center Studio displays your current default menus. The title of each menu strip can be changed, and the contents of each menu strip can be moved around with its easy to use drag and drop interface. If you want to remove a menu strip or menu item, simply untick it. Windows Media Center has a bunch of hidden promo boxes that can be removed. If you want to add your own programs, there are extensive facilities to do that. You can even give the program or game your own logo making the media centre truly yours.

If you make a mistake, there is a button to restore everything back to default, so there is no risk in trying different configurations of the menu strips. Once you become familiar with this software, any changes are incredibly quick and simple.

Grab your copy of Media Center Studio for free from Advent Media Center.