Now that I have a Home Server and an HTPC I started searching for other ways to use them. I have always wanted to make a DVD library that could be accessed very easily from my TV and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. All I needed was the software to manage the library, that is where ‘My Movies’ comes in.
- Index all your movies automatically
- Share collection on multiple clients
- Browse, read about and watch your movies
- Full parental controls
- Copy DVD’s to disk with just your remote
The My Movies software provides a central place to manage your collection of movies. Through its interface you can add movies to your collection, specify where on the network they are stored, view and add detailed information about movies including actors, box covers, and other features.
The software is intended to work together with Windows Media Center (WMC). Because of this you will either need Media Center 2005, Vista Home Premium or Ultimate.
My Movies is able to add as many movies as you want. You enter movies by the barcode and then the software downloads all the information it can about the movie. This saves you from having to enter movie information yourself. If a movie is missing some information, you can enter it and then upload it for others to use.
The parental controls allow you to block movies and add passwords so that kids cannot watch them without your permission. It uses the built-in media center controls, so you have to set them up first.
The user interface is very simple. The client is split into two programs. The collection management program and the WMC interface. The collection management program is for managing your movies. The WMC interface is for accessing and watching the movies on your computer or TV.
The collection management program is fairly straight forward. I could not find any instructions on how to use the program or even what the buttons and boxes on the interface are for, so having a simple interface is important. The first screen you see is the collection screen. On the left is a list of all the movies you have added so far. You can click on any of the headings (name, order they were added, or how complete they are) to sort the list by that heading. The rest of the screen is taken up with the movie details. You can see everything from the title, rating, format, pictures of the front and back covers, to a list of all the actors.
At the top left of the collection screen is an add button. When you click this button a new window opens. This is the Add screen. There are several different ways to add movies on this screen. Across the top are tabs that indicate the different ways. The best way is to enter the UPC/Barcode that is found on most movies. This will let My Movies search its database to find a match for yours. If you don’t have a barcode or My Movies does not find a match, then you have several other options. You can check the disk id, this is done by putting your disk into your computer and My Movies will determine the disk id and if it finds a match in its database it will display it. If you don’t have the barcode or the original disk you can choose the third option and search for the movie by name. You type in the name of the movie and My Movies will attempt to find matches. In case no matches are found you still have two other options. The fourth option is to manually type in the movie information and add it to the database. This is used to add movies that are not already be in the My Movies database or don’t have a barcode. The last option is for adding movies that have not been released yet. I am not sure how you get a movie that has not been released, but in case you do, you will add it here.
Watching movies with the WMC interface is really nice. With my movies I ripped out all the extra features and the menus so all I needed to do was press the watch button and the movie started playing. The Movie info screen is where the watch button is. This screen also shows you some basic info about the movie like audio formats, a front box shot and a short description.
Filters can be used to reduce the number of movies that show up in a list. I actually did not find these very useful because you could not build a custom list very easily. Instead of adding movies to the list, you set up rules that the filter would use to limit the movies that are shown. By default you are only allowed to create 3 filters. After that you need 250 points for each new filter. As you can see I have not used any filters. I don’t foresee any need for them in the future either.
If you are like me and you don’t find filters very useful you can use categories. Categories are used to build your own list. As far as I know you can build as many categories as you want no matter how many points you have. Then you manually add movies to the categories. A movie can be added to more than one category so it is a perfect way to setup a list of your favorites. As you can see I have set up three categories so far and I plan on adding many more as I need them.
Under the settings screen you can define what shows up in the menu on the WMC screen. This is nice for me because I can get rid of the filters menu since I never use them.
There is another part of the program that is not a major feature, but it has the ability to affect how you interact with the program. This is the point system. The points are used to unlock features in the program. Points can be acquired by buying them or by contributing to the My Movies database. For each dollar you donate you get 25 points, for every full movie you add you can get up to 42 points. As you get more points you will unlock additional functionality. The maximum number of points you need to unlock all the features is 2500. Some of the features that can be unlocked are extra filters, configuring the online collection page, and backing up Blu-ray and HD DVDs.
As I mentioned above, My Movies is really easy to use. It can be time consuming if you are just starting, but after you get the movies into the database then you really have very little that you need to do. I have added over 250 movies to my database. I store them all on my Windows Home Server. I have used 1.23TB of disk space storing all these movies. I spent several hours a day for about a week to get all the movies ripped and added to the My Movies database.
I was able to add most of my movies by using barcodes. There are two ways to enter barcodes. The first way is to enter each one by hand. The second way is to have them scanned by a web camera. I tried this with my laptop which has a built in web camera, but I was unsuccessful, the built-in camera was not recognized. Of those that I was able to add about 80% of them were 100% complete. The ones that were not complete — I was able to complete a lot of them, and because of that I have earned about 700 points. I do have several movies that did not come with barcodes. These movies I was able to add using the manual method, but they have to remain local, because the software will not upload them without a barcode.
Watching movies with the WMC interface is really nice. After you install the My Movies client you need to start the WMC interface from the My Movies start menu icon. It will then ask you if you want to integrate My Movies in the WMC interface. If you say yes it will ask you where you want the menu placed. I chose to place it in the main menu. When you look at the title menu you see the list of all the movies that have been added. This view includes small icons and a title. If you want a more compact view then you can
click the button again and it will just show the titles. When you choose a movie you are shown the details. To watch one you simple press the Watch button. Like I mentioned above, I ripped out all the extra features and the menus so when I pressed the watch button, the movie starts playing immediately.
I found a couple quirks while using the WMC interface. The first is that you cannot use the scroll wheel on your mouse to quickly move through a long list of movies. This is dissapointing because the regular WMC interface allows this. The second is that if you try to start the WMC interface from the My Movies start menu link you will not be able to watch movies. This one took me a while to figure out. I finally had to ask for help on their forum. You must start the WMC interface from a WMC link.
Warranty and Support
The My Movies website has documentation and a forum where you can get support and most of your questions answered. The documentation does a good job of explaining how to setup the my movies software, but it does not show you how to use it. As I said before I could not find a user manual or anything like it. However, I have not had any trouble getting questions answered using the forum.
After all the time I spent entering my movies into the software I am glad I don’t have to do it anymore. The effort was well worth it. I can now sit down to any computer, that has WMC, and watch any movie I want. Because I have an HTPC hooked up to my TV I can do that same with it. This is a really great system for managing your movies if you have the space to store them all. The fact that the software is free is icing on the cake. If you are putting together a project like this, then you should check out this software and see if it will work for you.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|