Battle of the Media Center Movie Managers
Movies are the pride of many a home theater PC user. While your friends may have a wall of movies, nobody can argue with the convenience of locally (or network) stored movies, being able to view information, filter and display them all within Media Center, and play them from a single remote without ever having to leave the sofa.
It’s a good time for movie fans who utilize Media Center, as we have a number of competing developers who are vying for your usage of their applications. But which application is right for you? If you have been using a particular application for a while, is it worth jumping ship to the newest/latest fad program? Will this app be around for a long time or will it disappear?
For this article, I’m going to pit every Movie Manager for Media Center I can find against each other and see who (if any) wins it all. My guess before beginning was that there would not be a sole winner–instead I anticipate each application doing a few things better than competitors, and that for users the answer would be based on the particular feature they see the greatest.
A Look at the Competitors
- Arguably the most popular Media Center 3rd party plugin ever, MyMovies has continued to evolve along with Media Center. Having started back in the XP Media Center days, it continues to evolve and now has created an extensive server-client model and incorporated many new features, even integration with Windows Home Server
- Media Browser
- No application has grown in popularity faster than Media Browser (formerly Video Library), which quickly incorporated requests from users thanks to the participation and input from many developers to its open source code. It’s also recently been a topic of controversy as the developer Sam Saffron announced his plans to charge for future versions.
- Collectorz.com Movie Collector
- Collectorz.com is a retail product with an extensive attention to details. It has been around a fair amount of time, and their track record for releases is very impressive.
- Salami Movie Organizer
- Salami was designed specifically as a need product when Media Browser was released–to be THE database manager for the frontend. It has grown to be its own standalone database manager that can work with any frontend.
- Short for Yet Another Media Meta Manager, YAMMM was designed by Mikinho for the specific need of managing movie information without any user interaction. It was designed to be run headless and leverage the information available from TheMovieDB.
- Another new player in the game, manager only. Basically was designed to make life with Media Browser that much easier. As far as I can tell, has been available since April, but still holding onto that "Beta" tag.
Media Center days. Unfortunately, the user interface has also remained
the same since then!! The interface is clean and simple, but it is very
reminiscent of older Media Center, with large spaces between boxes, a
different appearance to the app overall, and just not the clean
transitions we have grown accustomed to from MCML-designed
handily sets it apart from everyone else on this list. While the
screenshots above are gorgeous, they are only a small sampling of the
many different configurations and tweaks you can make from within it to
your liking. No other application allows such ultimate control over its
appearance. While the introduction of backdrops was not revolutionary
(XBMC has been doing it for a while), it was the first on the Media
Center platform, and was very well implemented.
on MCML and benefits with that over MyMovies. The interface is very
responsive, and the graphics are nice and smooth. A few different
options for viewing are available and the ability to see the movie
playing while browsing is a unique and attractive feature.
sources of information you can identify with your movies, and all your
movies can be shown in one location. What knocks this database down to
a C-grade, is with its lack of automatic folder monitoring or importing
of any kind. While you can import your MyMovies database, I don’t
understand how an application that costs $50 can omit such a crucial
which constitutes a large percentage of my movies, so instantly that
knocked them down a grade. The manner in which Salami works is by a
rather ingenious way of screen scraping from the IMDB and other movie
information websites. The disadvantage to this over using available
API’s from other sources, is that if IMDB changes things on their end,
it could literally break the application. That aside, with Salami there
is really no central database of movies–which is a good and bad thing.
Good in that it’s simple to know exactly where your movies are, but bad
in that if you have your movies stored in a variety of folders–say, by
genre or type–then you have to individually bring in all those movies,
check for information, update and then go onto the next.
YAMMM does what it does, and it does it very well. No doubt, the users
who are looking for an app with the least amount of involvement needed
could care less about being able to manage their database. That being
said, a large population of users–myself included–want the best of
both worlds. I want my movie manager to not only automatically add
movie information, but also allow me to view and easily tweak that
information as well. Unfortunately, since YAMMM only does half of the
equation, it receives a lower grade.
Meta Browser- B
The database/collection manager within Meta Browser relies on either data and content you have already collected or 100% off of TheMovieDB.org. The latter is great for those of you with existing movie collections who are looking to migrate to a new UI. In my instance, I had a large amount of movies which had cover art, but no backdrop. After a simple movie lookup within the app–which was both fast and accurate–I was easily able to browse and add some gorgeous background artwork to my collection. The app is however in beta, and I did experience occasional crashes (turned out to be a permissions issue on my end). Another disadvantage to the use of theMovieDB.org, is it simply isn’t as comprehensive as something like MyMovies or IMDB.com…but this will change in time, as more people contribute through using it.
Cost and Longevity
Salami Movie Organizer – B
- MyMovies – Total Score = 13
- Collectorz Movie Collector & Media Browser= 10
- Salami/Meta Browser = 8
- YAMMM = 6
That being said, Media Browser’s user interface is miles ahead of it, and the leader in the pack. It’s always difficult to manage between form and function, and unfortunately none of the apps were tops in all the categories. If Media Browser’s UI has you sold, then you would be best served going with smaller database packages such as YAMMM, Meta Browser and Salami along with it, rather than the rather bulky (85MB Installer) for MyMovies.