JackLuminous, a member over at TheGreenButton.com has a very interesting plugin that has been around for a bit now. It started out as a personal project, but once it was released to the public, it became popular very quickly. I’ll give a quick run down of some of the features I know off hand, then get into screenshots and any new surprises that have come about since I last tried it.
First, I have to say that I had to test this a little differently than other plugins because Video Library requires write access to your movie directories. Video Library automatically fetches video information (metadata) and places it in a .metadata folder. I don’t allow write access to my video directories, so I had to use Robocopy to create a complete replica of my video directory structure, complete with 0 byte files. In short, it looks exactly like my video server share, but nothing works…they’re all just empty files. Video Library won’t know the difference, however, since it is only going to be looking at file names.
Also, Video Library was intented to be used like I originally had my videos stored – all thrown in one big directory (except for TV series). In order for Video Library to work with a folder-based movie structure, a VIDEO_TS folder has to be present in each movie folder. Since I’m only going to be showing a few screen shots and testing functionality, I’m only going to do this for a few movies. They’ll be detected correctly, as far as I know, but that VIDEO_TS folder has to be present for playback.
Aside from that, Video Library is just another library plugin for TV and movies. It looks great, works well and is, for the most part, entirely automated. Let’s take a look…
I downloaded the 64-bit v1.25 and installed. The installer is only about 2MB and installation is a snap. I started up Media Center and went to locate the new application icon. I didn’t find one on the main menu, but I suspect that this is because I have so many plugins installed already. A quick look in the Program Library found it.
Video Library requires some config file editing in order to work correctly (unless you have your videos stored in the default Media Center locations already, in which you should be set), so I closed out Media Center and browsed over to C:\ProgramData\VideoLibrary and found the VideoLibrary.dll.config file. The config file was very bare in comparison to my memory. I’m guessing that most of the settings are either included in the application by default now, or they’re left up to you to enter, if needed. It didn’t really matter to me at this point, so I’m just going to make one change – the value of “WatchedFolders”.
<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”utf-8″ ?>
<add key=”CombineDuplicateFolders” value=”true” />
<add key=”WatchedFolders” value=”X:\Videos\” />
That should do it. I restart Media Center, activate Video Library once again and let it start scanning my directories.
Everything appears to be working correctly, so I browse directly to my TV series folder since I know Video Library should be able to handle that the easiest.
Looks nice. Video Library uses fan art by default, whereas most of the other plugins use either poster or banner views. Fan art is not my preference, but it still looks very good. Selecting a series brings me to a display of the available seasons for that series.
Selecting a season brings me to the season synopsis screen where I’m presented with displayed metadata and a few options for playback. The ability to play a random episode is very nice – as is the “Watch Series” option. I choose to browse episodes and am greeted with my list of available seasons.
I drill down into one of my seasons and watch as Video Library starts fetching episode thumbs and respective metadata.
There is also an individual episode info screen. Very nice!
I waited a bit for it to complete downloading everything and it never really did, but I also realize that this is the first run and I have a very large collection. Despite the multiple threads Video Library uses to fetch with, it’s still going to take a long time to get everything. For smaller collections, this would be relatively painless.
Next, I decide to see how the movie side of things operates. I browse back to my root directory and find that no metadata has been retrieved as of yet. I’m pretty sure this has to do with my folder-based structure, so I start entering directories to see what happens.
Once selecting the movie, you are presented with the recognizable (from TV series) movie info screen.
Video Library will also allow you to initiate a lookup for titles from TheMovieDB.org that are not automatically fetched. The example I have is strictly due to my folder name (I have the original and new 3:10 to Yuma, so I had to name accordingly), so it’s not Video Library’s fault.
I do like the fact that it will let me play the movie even though I was unable to fetch data for it. This can easily be done by manually editing the XML file, but that’s for another time and another place.
That’s really about if for Video Library, without getting into all the XML editing that results in more display options (thumbnail, poster and banner views, etc.). Video Library does appear to run much faster when videos reside on the local system. I recall it being much slower when I used it live over my network. I’m sure it has still improved for network shares though.
All in all, it’s a very good plugin. It does rely on some pretty specific folder/file naming conventions in order to work properly, but if you have time and patience, you can easily get it working with some XML editing. I don’t find it very good for overly large collections as it doesn’t put enough up on the screen at once to make browsing quicker, but that may be a personal preference also. Less is more for some. I’d say Video Library may be the perfect plugin if you name your videos correctly and have them all just thrown in one directory (TV series being the exception). It’s definitely worth a serious look and it’s being improved upon daily. Check it out!