Life With A Plugin Episode 15: Movie Collectorz
One of the absolutely huge benefits for using a media center is having the ability to catalog your DVD library digitally and have access to them anywhere in the house. The old stalwart of the Media Center world, MyMovies, is looking a little long in the tooth when you look at the sexy Media Portal skins, or even Apple's Cover Flow. Movie Collectorz is an option -- albeit a commercial one, that will help you organize your DVD collection, present it in a nice MCML program in Vista and even allow you to stream DVDs to your extenders.
|Easy on the eyes navigation screen||Thumbnail viewing navigation screen
Movie Collectorz is a commercial program (expect to pay $50 US) that will catalog your DVD and Blu-ray collection. The cataloging program has been around awhile and is seen in the quality of the program. More recently they partnered with Brian B., with MCEZone, to create a more polished look to their for their 10' UI experience. If you have been involved in the Media Center game for a while you will know Brian and some of his plugins.
The first part of the equation is the Movie Collectorz program and as mentioned above will cost you $50. Like MyMovies and DVDProfiler, Movie Collectorz searches several sources, including it's own, to get the best movies and cover art available. You can pick and choose what results and images you want and if they are not quite to your satisfaction, you can manually edit the description and art. When you first start adding movies, pay attention to the cover art from each source. I ended updating a bunch of movies that had "copyrighted material" on the cover art. Go for something greater then 300x400 if possible. As seen in the pic below, click the hyperlink to the right of the search screen to preview the metadata.
You can click on the picture in the preview screen to bring up a pop-up window showing the fullsized picture. At the bottom of the window, resize it if you can't see the full path, you will see the cover art resolution.
The process of adding a movie is relatively painless. Simply type in the movie and let it find the data with the sources you have specified. Blindly adding the movie regardless of the source can be a hit or miss affair. Spend an extra moment to verify the cover art and data prior to using it.
|Movie Collectorz - List View||Movie Collectorz - Thumbnail view
Multi-disc sets are easily added from the same data sources. From my experience, you are going to have to do a bit of manual editing to get this setup exactly how you want it. Read the instruction manual to get started! It will help you a lot to spend 5 minutes viewing the manual :).
After finalizing the movie data, add your movie-file links and you are off to the races. You may want to spend a few moments poking around the options of the program to set your filters and themes.
|Media Center options
||Add your movie links when editing your movie
Everything else is present in the cataloging program that you may want and expect including barcode scanner support, a bazillion different sorts and views, a quality instruction manual, several data sources and for the kind-hearted a loan tool. Additionally, this application is network aware! You can save the movie database anywhere on the network and edit it from any computer on your home network. Watch out on default image paths when editing from another computer :) Warning 2! You will have to reopen the database and save it on the HTPC for the database changes to be reflected in the 10' UI. I find it easier to remote in using concurrent sessions then editing from another computer
Let's move on to the 10' UI experience. As seen from the pictures in the intro there is a thumbnail view, cover view and a movie title view. These views can be further refined by custom filters or search pages. By pressing the pause button, or equivalent keystroke, on your remote it will bring up a window that will allow you to search, change views and the order of the movies.
Below is the aforementioned Movie Title view and the movie details screen. If you have linked a movie file, you will see a play-movie button show up on the movie details screen. This brings me back to my main beef with the program, you can not launch an external program to play back Blu-ray discs. It will attempt to launch the movie within Media Center's internal player and use the CODECs you have installed. It should work with Power DVD CODECs but I could not get it to work with Arcosft's CODEC. Here is a relevant thread at the Collectorz.com forums. It would be much simpler to allow launching of an external program.
|Movie Details||Movie Title sort view|
Below are a couple more shots of the search and filtering present within the plugin.
Above & Beyond
The cataloging program is superb and very easy to use. You can slice and dice your movie collection just about anyway you can imagine including filtering, automatic batch updating and even a loan tool. This portion of the Movie Collectorz is very well thought out.
Any time we can get a movie library with a quality data source and written in MCML, you are a step ahead. Brian did a quality job with the plugin and I hope he continues this in the future. It looks great and has a number of filter and search techniques to help you find the movie you want to watch. As well, this program will work with extenders as long as you have files linked that can be played with the extender. It will not transcode the files for you.
The biggest beef with Movie Collectorz is that it can not launch an external program for movies. This will be a show stopper for a lot of folks, especially those who have invested in Theater Tek and ArcSoft Total Media Theater.
My other issue remains with the network support. While you can edit the database anywhere, it does not refresh the MediaCenter.xml file that tells the VMC plugin what to do. There needs to be some work in this area so we do not have to worry about remoting in to your HTPC to edit the movie collection. Either that, give us the control to point to a xml file anywhere on the network :).
Grade: Approved For Everyday Use
No questions asked! This is a great movie cataloging program and VMC plugin. However, they do owe it to themselves and the people who pay 50 dollars for the program in the ability to launch external programs (especially TotalMedia Theater users like me).