One Bad Pixel
Soylent Green is people!

Cataloging and Playing network media in MCE

As you may have figured by reading my blog or the forums, I have been aiming for a home theater network, in which I store all my content on my network, and playing it at one of several TVs throughout my house.

In this post, I am going to focus on my movie library. I will follow-up later with a series of posts on how to handle music, photos, and recorded content.

I have a very large DVD library. I love movies. I don’t love opening one of many binders full of plastic discs, searching through them, finding the one I want, walking to the DVD player, putting it in, going back to the couch, then have to get up to clean off the fingerprints my kids got on the disc. In one of my previous posts, I discussed creating a very large storage system that will be shared across my home network. For the past several months, I have been ripping my DVDs, then encoding them into xVid h.264, which does 2 things. First, it makes them into a single file. This is more convenient for organization reasons then having thousands of folders full of more folders, each containing several IFO and VOB files. Secondly, h.264 at 720p reduces the size of the files from around 4.5GB to about 1.75GB per movie, with no noticeable loss of quality (and retaining all the original english audio streams, IE, DTS, 3/2, etc.)

I have setup and played with just about every media playback system known to man, and while MythTV has some really neat features, its more of a geek distraction then something that my wife and kids are comfortable with. For this reason, I choose to use Windows Media Center, as it is very stable, and very easy for the family to use (and I like it because its pretty). The problem is, it has no native support for handling my digital movie library using convenient cover art, searchable titles and artists, etc. Sure, I could use a explorer-esque view of folders, but then it loses most of that FAF (family acceptance factor).

In comes my favorite database management program for managing my library. Movie Collector from is absolutely amazing. You take a DVD, scan the barcode using a barcode scanner (or type it in… If you have a large collection, the 40 bucks for a USB barcode scanner off eBay is a lifesaver), and it catalogs it and downloads the cover art, artists, genre, synopsis, ratings, and such. There is a field when adding the DVDs to enter a path and filename to the movie, to support ripped versions. The newest version contains the part that makes this whole project come together, the MCE Viewer (written and maintained by Brian Baskerville of This application installs on your Vista MCE (it’s rumored to work on 2k5, but slow because it doesnt use the lite XML format), and reads the data from the database, which in this case, is located on an iSCSI drive shared across the network. What this app does is integrate into MCE and allow my to search my database by title, artist, coverart, etc. and play the network stored media. If there is a link to the network media in the database, there will be a “Play Movie” button on the synopsis page, otherwise it is considered offline media and there just to know that you have it in the database.

That’s it! A great DVD Library, easy to maintain, easy to store, and no more scratched DVDs. Please feel free to comment or start a forums thread if you want to discuss this in more detail.


2 Responses for “Cataloging and Playing network media in MCE”

  1. Simon Says:

    my faourite database management program for movies is Movienizer

    it’s free and has lots of useful features. I like how the collection is devided into movies and persons and it’s easy to navigate through them.

  2. Jim Says:

    Movienizer looks nice, but lacks the “and playing network media via MCE” part of movie collectorz. After having played with it now for a while, I am extremely happy with it, and have finally been working on getting my DVD collection into a more useable format that physical discs.

    The collectorz db has an enormous amount of cover art, so I have had little issues finding the proper info for any of my movies. The wall view in MCE is superb, and its speed is excellent, however changing views could be a little better designed. Oh well, guess nothing is perfect.

Leave a comment!