This is something that is not a secret, but is also not very widely known. I would imagine that it is because not too many people have a use for it or know how it could be used.
Of course, I’m talking about creating video playlists that can be used within Vista Media Center. I’m sure everyone knows what a playlist is, as they’re most commonly used for music playback on just about any media player available. Anyway, I don’t like rambling that much, so I’ll get right into it.
First, you need a media player capable of generating a playlist with the asx extension. This is most commonly a Windows Media Streaming extension. However, Vista Media Center can recognize and playback this format in both the Music and Video Libraries. I used Windows Media Player 11 to create mine. Simply drag your files into the Drag items here section, arrange them in any order you wish, click on the Untitled Playlist menu directly above and choose Save Playlist As…. When naming your playlist, be sure to add the .asx extension and then choose Save As Type “Any Playlist” so that the asx extension is applied correctly (simply RENAMING it DOES NOT WORK). That’s it, you’re done!
You do need to place the playlist file within the directory structure of your Video Library (obviously) so that it is picked up. You can even create a JPG file of the same name (playlist.asx = playlist.jpg, for example) to get a thumbnail to show up in the library – nice.
“Why do I need this?”, you ask. For me, it was for my son. He loves Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones, Dora the Explorer, etc. However, most of these episodes are only a little over 20 minutes long, so as soon as one was over he would come wanting another. He falls asleep to the TV, so at night, this was a bit of a problem. By creating a playlist for all the individual episodes, he doesn’t have to get bored of watching the same feature-length movies he has. I created a new “Playlists” directory and tossed them all in there. Other uses could be for music videos or collections of playlists to group several shorter TV episodes together – similar to what I do for my son…just for yourself (i.e. 2-3 episodes of Scrubs). It’s a much easier solution than joining videos and whatnot.
For you MCE 2005 people out there, you’re not left in the dust. There is a playlist creator available that creates compatible wvx-based playlists. Now, I could not get this to work, so your mileage may vary. It created the lists perfectly. However, my son’s MCE2K5 system was unable to play them. That is what prompted me to upgrade to Vista since I knew it worked. The download for the playlist creator is at XPMediaCenter.com.au and it does require registration to download. Link to the thread is here.
There is also a plugin available that allows creation of playlists within the Media Center interface, but you can hunt for that on your own. I wasn’t interested in it, so it doesn’t get linked :)