It had been a long time since I bought anything for Media Browser. In fact, I hadn’t bought anything since the Sapphire theme was released. I do own Pearl, CoverArt, and the Trailers plugins (Starter bundle), but Sapphire was the last thing purchased via the MBStore. Some time ago, ebr released MBTV, which was kind of an EPG consisting of a mashup of your localized content. It was pretty cool, but not really for me. Then, he went further and replaced it with MBPlus. I liked it and last week, I sprang for it. Let’s take a look.
MBPlus, of course, is a premium plugin and it’s only $10. Small price to pay for what you get when you consider Media Browser is free in the first place. There is a 14 day trial available also, so that you can try before you buy. I would recommend this since I’m sure MBPlus isn’t for everyone, but I’d say many of you also have no idea how much you will like it until you give it a real chance. It’s available via the Media Browser Configurator > plug-ins > More Plug-ins… > Other.
Once installed, there will be a Configure button for it when selected in the plugins list. Let’s hit that button and see where it takes us. The MBPlus configuration has three tabs – General, Channel Groups, and EHS. We’ll take a look at the General tab first. What we want to do first off is establish what MBPlus is going to use for content. There are two boxes for this that have familiar options as they are derived from our selected media collections. MBPlus is able to discern which locations contain TV and which contain Movies. For the HTPC that I have MBPlus installed on for this review, I only want to display content that my wife and I watch at night, so I leave the kids’ stuff out. Just put a check in the boxes you want MBPlus to look at.
To the right, there are General Options. Some of these options are pretty self-explanatory, others, well, I have no clue what they do. I mostly left the defaults as I trust they suit me best until I have time to play with it more. Still, we have options to show various icons and logos (if you have them), initiate Intros, choose the channel rebuild interval, and set some other display-related settings. MBPlus does nothing to your collection, so you don’t have to worry about screwing anything up by experimentation.
OK, let’s move on to the Channel Groups tab. I assume this may be where many will get confused, and possible even turned off by MPlus. It’s actually quite simple and straightforward, however, and it is this portion that MBTV was built on. What we see under Channel Groups are just that…groups of channels. Each block, like Suggested TV, is a channel group. Going left to right, let’s look at each option:
- Show This Group – Easy. Check for it to show up in the EPG, uncheck to hide it.
- Include Watched Items – Check to build your channel with watched items, uncheck to exclude them.
- Sort – Starting at 000, the lower the number, the higher it is in the guide. 000 is first, 010 is second, etc.
- Num Channels - The number of channels displayed for the group.
- Channel Length - This is the amount of time the channel has for stuffing content. The default of 360 is 360 minutes, or six hours.
The channel groups MBPlus provides are:
- Suggested TV – MBPlus will take a look at the TV media collections you opted to include, and generate content based upon your settings within the channel group.
- Suggeted Movies – Same as TV, except for move media collection content.
- Actors – You guessed it! If your local metadata contains actors, or if you scrape from the Internet, MBPlus will use them to generate content based upon actors.
- Directors – Same as Actors, but for Directors!
- Movie Studios – Same applies, but for movie studios.
- TV Studios – Redundancy is the name…
- Genres – Display content based upon genre.
Lastly, let’s move on to the EHS tab. It is here that you can completely allow MBPlus to takeover your current EHS and give you a “Metro” type of display that includes whatever you choose. You can:
- Select a title for your Enhanced MBPlus EHS.
- Show suggested TV and movie channels, along with how many tiles of each. You can also choose to show them as a channel.
- Show your latest TV and/or movies, along with the number of tiles for each.
- Show the MBTV channel groups you opted to make active and whether or not it goes to the pseudo-EPG when selecting one.
- Change the order of how everything is displayed in the EHS.
Once everything is set the way you want it, you have to hit the Rebuild button in order to create the database of content.
Now I’ll show off a few screens of how mine looks with the settings you’ve seen in the previous images.
Good stuff, indeed. I got this because I thought it would help my kids find new things to watch and get away from watching the same movies and shows over and over and over and over and over and over…see what I mean…and over again? Little did I know that it would really grow on my enough to put on all of my HTPCs. It gives that little extra nudge to point us in the right direction when we’re just not sure what to put on at night.
Anyway, I recommend you at least give MBPlus a try. Do remember, the $10 it costs for this plugin goes to support its author and a portion goes to the continuing development of Media Browser. Support them!
Forgot to add, at the time of this writing, a new beta of MBPlus 1.1 is available. I have not tried it, but new features are available for the brave.