Posted in XBMC

Home Theater PC – XBMC – Part 7: Add-ons

One of the most powerful things with XBMC are the add-ons.  Everything from Youtube to various cable channels are available to watch from right within XBMC.  Many add-ons are built into XBMC and others have to be installed manually.

To find add-ons built into XBMC by default, you can either go to the section in question (e.g. videos, music, etc0 and choose the Add-ons option from thos menuse, or you can go to the System menu and choose Add-ons from there.  Specific instructions with screenshots available here.

I’ve only tried a few add-ons, but here is a list of the ones I find extremely useful. Continue reading “Home Theater PC – XBMC – Part 7: Add-ons”

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Posted in XBMC

Home Theater PC – XBMC – Part 6: Watching Videos

Once the media scanning is done, you are able to start watching your videos through XBMC.

Choosing where to view your videos
If you are just watching the videos on a PC, then you can run XBMC and follow along below.  If you are connecting the XBMC PC to a TV, you will need to make sure you have a video card with the proper outputs to connect to the TV.  I chose to use an HDMI connection because it handles the video and audio all on one cable.  I purchase a video card from Newegg that was $10 after a Mail in Rebate.  Since this is just for playing back videos, you don’t need an expensive video card at all.

This is the card I got so you can compare to others you find: ZOTAC Synergy Edition ZT-60602-10L GeForce GT 610 1GB 64-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16

Watching some videos
If you are using the default skin/theme, and have setup a source for Movies and TV Shows in the previous step , you should now have items across the menu for both of them, as well as Videos, Music, Photos, etc.  If you don’t see an item for TV Shows or Movies, you may find them under the Videos section.  You can change this behavior in one of the settings areas within XBMC. Continue reading “Home Theater PC – XBMC – Part 6: Watching Videos”

Posted in XBMC

Home Theater PC – XBMC – Part 5: Setting up the Library

Once you have run MediaCompanion to get the images setup for your movies, you can then have XBMC scan your library.

To do this, use the following steps: to see screenshots of these steps, click here.

  • Launch XBMC
  • Go to the Videos area
  • Choose Add Videos or Add Source
  • Browse to the location of your movies  (if you movies are on a different PC, find the option for Windows Network in the list in the right-hand box)
  • Give the folder a name
  • Choose the type of media you are using (TV Shows, Movies, etc).

Continue reading “Home Theater PC – XBMC – Part 5: Setting up the Library”

Posted in XBMC

Home Theater PC – XBMC – Part 4: Artwork

One of the best things about XBMC is how good it makes things look on the screen.  When you add your file location to XBMC, it will scan through the files you have, and then go online to try to download the movie poster/cover and some fan art for each movie.  If you let XBMC do this, you don’t have much, if any, control over what it finds, and it can be difficult to fix any errors.  This is where the MediaCompanion program comes in handy.

MediaCompanion is a program that gives you complete control over the information associated with your movie files.

Continue reading “Home Theater PC – XBMC – Part 4: Artwork”

Posted in XBMC

Home Theater PC – XBMC – Part 3: File Structure

Movies
To have the most flexibility with how XBMC displays your media, you should setup your movie files to each be in their own folder instead of one folder with all the videos.  It also helps to put the year in the name of the folder so it can more easily identify the specific movie in case there are multiples with similar names

Examples

  • C:\Movies\Avatar (2009)\avatar.avi
  • C:\Movies\Batman Begins (2005)\Batman Begins.mkv

If you currently have your movies all in one folder and want to change, you can use a batch file to create a folder for each one and movie the file in.  Let me know if you need assistance with that and I can go find the file I used.

TV Shows
For TV Shows you can have a single folder for each show, or you can have subfolders for each season.  You wane to be sure the file names have the Season and Episode number in them as well.

Examples

  • C:\TV Shows\Big Bang Theory\Big Bang Theory S01E05.avi
  • C:\TV Shows\Big Bang Theory\Big Bang Theory S02E03.avi

or

  • C:\TV Shows\Big Bang Theory\Season 1\Big Bang Theory S01E05.avi
  • C:\TV Shows\Big Bang Theory\Season 2\Big Bang Theory S02E03.avi

If you already have a large collection, it may take you a bit to get the files organized, but it’s definitely worth it in the long run.  See what you can do with your newly organized files in the next step.

Posted in XBMC

Home Theater PC – XBMC – Part 2: Installation

I will be focusing on the Windows install but the steps are similar for some other installs

Requirements
PC running Windows 7 (XP will work but without all the features)
Relatively current PC.  I have a Dell 745 with a Core 2 Duo chip and it works great.
Video card with proper outputs to connect to your HD TV (I use HDMI)
MediaCompanion (Optional program that gives you full control over images and artwork I will touch on later)

Installation
You have two options when you decide where to install XBMC.

  • You can run XBMC directly on the PC that has all your video files
  • You can have your videos on another PC and connect them over the network.  You can also have multiple instance of XBMC running in your house and they can all pull from a central location.

I recommend installing XBMC on a different computer than where your videos are and using a fresh install of Windows 7.  Installation of XBMC is about as painless as is possible.  Simply head to the Downloads Page, download the installer for your Operating System, and run it.  You’ll click next a couple times and it will be done within a matter of seconds.

xbmc2

If there’s a prompt to run the program right when it’s done installing, I recommend NOT running the program until you have completed the next step to get your files properly organized.

Posted in XBMC

Home Theater PC – XBMC – Part 1: Overview

So I’m going to try my hand at writing a tutorial series.  I’ve done some small things before but this one will span 7 or more posts.  See how you like it.

If you’re like me, and you have a huge collection of DVDs, you don’t want to have to keep finding the DVD you want to watch each time you feel like watching a flick.  You also don’t want the kids to have to keep putting them in and out of the player and risk scratching them up.  You can easily convert your movies to a digital format and store them on your computer, which is great, but then how do you organize them and view them on your big screen TV?

Enter XBMC

xbmc1

(So as not to have this post be many pages long, I will be breaking this up into a bunch of smaller posts.  One will post each day.  Read them all in order, or skip ahead to just an area you are having trouble with.)

So what is XBMC?
Originally made for the first generation Xbox, XBMC stood for XBox Media Center.  These days XBMC can run on the old Xbox, a PC, Raspberry Pi, Apple TV, Linux, and more.  It gives you a fantastic interface for viewing your digital movies, TV shows, pictures, etc right on your TV or computer.   It can be used with a remote control or with a keyboard and mouse.  It also supports hundreds of add-ons to further enhance the power of the system.

And best of all, it’s TOTALLY FREE!

Helpful Links
Main Page: http://www.xbmc.org
Wiki Page: http://wiki.xbmc.org/index.php?title=Main_Page
Support Forum: http://forum.xbmc.org

There are many walkthroughs and guides for installing XBMC that you can find on Youtube and other places.  In the next few posts, I’m going to go through a high level overview of how XBMC works and some things you can do with it.

Here is a pretty nice Overview video that shows a lot of the various parts of XBMC: