MyMovies has been one of the most popular add-ins for Media Center over the years, and after the long wait between version 2 and 3, the next major upgrade is already upon us. 

Managing a user’s movie collection has been the focus of MyMovies up until now.  With an attractive interface within Media Center itself, a stand-alone tool (Collection Management) for managing the meta-data and file locations and connectivity to movie collections via iPhone, iPad and Android, pretty much every base has been covered in the world of movie management. 

However, the handling of TV series in a file structure has never been a strong point of the MyMovies software.  With the advent of version 4, this is set to change.


During this preview I installed the Pre-Release 1 version of MyMovies 4 onto a clean system and also over the top of an existing 3.18 version.  Both installs went smoothly thanks to the simple setup wizard, and all my settings were preserved during the upgrade.  As with previous versions, MyMovies downloads and installs a copy of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express if it isn’t already on the system and creates a new server instance called MYMOVIES in which to store its data.  SQL Express isn’t a huge memory or resource hog and indeed has a smaller footprint than the MyMovies Collection Management tool itself.

Collection Management

Collection ManagementThe Collection Management tool allows a user to get behind the scenes at the meta-data stored against their movies.  Some users may never see this tool, since the adding of media to MyMovies can be done easily through the Media Center interface simply by inserting a disk and letting MyMovies rip and append the media to its library itself.

However, it is in the Collection Management screen that the first changes are evident.   For version 4, the Collection list appears to have grown a tree, and the Profile data page has a new ‘Media Type’ setting as well as some general tidying to add space.  This Media Type setting gives the first hint of the new TV Series functionality. 

Importing TV Shows

Collection Management following TV importMovie handling has changed little from the previous version.  However, there is a new option in the File menu to import TV Folder content.  When pointed at a XBMC-type folder structure (see here for more information) this function automatically imports the TV files (disk images and folder rips are not yet supported – only files), and the reason for the tree structure in the Collection list becomes clear.  TV shows appear in the Collection list in a logical hierarchy – show title, season and episode, with Season 0 reserved for one-off special episodes or DVD extras.

Collection Management showing TV tree expandedWhere possible, TV show information is downloaded from the MyMovies webservice during the import and while TV shows unknown to the web service can also be added (although I was unable to make this work in this Pre-Release version), there is currently no way to contribute additional information in the same way one can with Movies.  Hopefully this will be added to the final release. 

For the sake of performance when downloading from the webservice, only data for episodes that exist as files is downloaded, with an appropriate icon in the Collection list to indicate where the data hasn’t been downloaded, a file is missing and so on.

Folder Monitoring and Recorded TV

MyMovies will also monitor a given folder and automatically add any new shows to the library.  Don’t get too excited though; monitoring of Media Center’s own Recorded TV folder doesn’t currently work since Media Center doesn’t store its Recorded TV files in the folder and filename structure that MyMovies expects (see above.)  There is certainly scope here for the community to weigh in (WTV-MetaRenamer springs to mind) since, as we’ll see shortly, the TV Series functionality in the Media Center GUI is rather splendid and, upon release, will be replacing Recorded TV in this household at least.

In the screen-shots I used a TV show I’d ripped from a DVD (as .mp4) and one I’d copied from my Recorded TV folder (left as .wtv.)  I manually renamed the files in the correct format and created a XBMC style folder structure.  Both imported without problems (once I’d got the naming correct – instructions can be found here.)

TV ArtworkMyMovies-TV Artwork

Once imported, there are plenty of artwork options available.  The backdrop, banner and poster can all be selected for the show or uploaded from a local source, and separate images can be chosen for individual seasons and episodes – the defaults work well for the shows I used in testing, with a frame grab used for episodes (again, this can be overidden with local content.) 

The defaults work extremely well in the Media Center GUI, although I believe the frame grab is downloaded from the webservice rather than extracted dynamically from the video file.

Media Center Integration Options

MyMovies-IntegrationHelpfully, MyMovies now includes more control over how it appears in the Media Center Start Menu.  With the addition of the TV Series functionality MyMovies inserts 2 strips into the Media Center Start Menu by default, which may not be to everyone’s taste.  It is straightforward to change this to just one strip with Movies and TV if required (and also remove the redundant inbuilt Media Center Movie Library strip.) 

While tools have existed for some time to allow one to fiddle with the Start Menu, it is very welcome to find this functionality already built-in.

Media Center GUI

MyMovies-MC3Movies has been changed little (if at all) in version 4, so the star of the piece is the new TV Series interface.  The first level of covers displayed (with a number indicating unwatched episodes) are for the TV Shows themselves and, as with Movies, back-drop art will appear if required (depending on the view chosen.) 

MyMovies-MC5Within the TV Show is a list of seasons, with a cover for each season and finally within the season is the list of available episodes. 

Navigation feels fluid and very natural, to the point where I would prefer to use this interface for my Recorded TV rather than the inbuilt Media Center version.  There is also the usual plethora of views available to cater for every taste, and every speed of system.  


Bearing in mind that this is Pre-Release 1, the software is remarkably stable.  During my review I didn’t experience a single crash, although there are clearly still some rough edges that I expect will be smoothed out prior to the final release (in April, at time of writing.)  Adding a TV Series to a collection is now ridiculously simple and the TV Series Media Center GUI is a joy to use and addresses my only real complaint about the previous version of MyMovies.  It even hugely improves the Recorded TV functionality of Media Center itself.  What’s not to like?

I for one am very much looking forward to the final release.

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