28 November, 2013

XBMC Subtitles

I've had a request, after my previous XBMC post, to write about the subtitles in this HTPC application. So here goes.

One of the things that you can easily do in XBMC is to get a subtitle for any movie or TV series that you watch. Most of the time the process can literally be a single-click away.

XBMC is a very extensible platform, through the use of plugins, that you can add to it. One of such plugins is a subtitles plugin. It allows you to connect to one or more subtitle sites on the internet and can be configured to automatically fetch the first subtitle that seems suitable to the title you're currently watching. In some cases it may make mistakes and either download subtitles for the wrong episode or maybe subtitles which have a bit of delay. If that happens, you can simply initiate the download again and then it will allow you to select the subtitle file manually.

So let's see how this can be setup.

Open your XBMC and move to the right where you will find the System menu.

When you enter it there will be the Add-ons section.

Once you enter that, go to the Get Add-ons and there, under the XBMC.org Add-ons entry, you will find the Subtitles section. The only selection there will be the XBMC subtitles. Open that and you will have an option to download it.

Once it's downloaded you will need to set how it will behave. Enter the plugin again and choose the Configure button. First you will set up the languages that interest you.

Then you should decide which subtitle provider or providers you will use. This may depend on your language selection, since not all subtitle providers will offer subtitles in the language of your choice. For English subtitles I have good experience with OpenSubtitles.org. Be mindful that some subtitle providers require that you create an account. In that case, you will have to provide login credentials to the subtitle plugin so that it can retrieve the subtitles properly.

Finally you should go to the Advanced Options tab and check a few entries there. If nothing else, go all the way down the list and check the option which says Auto Download first "sync" subtitle. This will enable the one-click capabilities for you later in the playback window.

We configured the Add-on settings. Now we need to let XBMC know that it will be using this plugin for subtitles. In order to do that, we head back to the System menu and on top locate and enter the Appearance section. Here we move to the right, where there is a - Settings option under the Skin entry.

In the Settings screen we locate the Add-on Shortcuts section and then on the right look for the Video OSD entry. There we need to make sure that the XBMC Subtitles is selected.

After you're done, go back to your TV Shows or Movies section and open the title that you would like to watch. During playback all that you will need to do is to click on the subtitle button and the appropriate subtitle will be downloaded automatically.


26 November, 2013

XBMC – When watching movies or TV shows is just easy - Part 2

Part 1

Even though you can install XBMC on virtually anything, from an Android phone, iPhone (if jailbroken), Raspberry Pi device, and there are even Linux distributions that are made with sole purpose of running XBMC, I’ll again do the KISS thing and simply install it as an application on my Windows PC. You can go to www.xbmc.org and on the right hand side you will see a nice, large "Download" button that will help you to transfer the installation package to your PC.
When you transfer it (it's around 50MB at the time of writing) you simply go through setup like you would with any other piece of software. Defaults will work fine and when setup runs its course, you have the application itself installed and ready to run.

When you first run it, you will be presented with a nice, large user interface that is designed (also) for TV use. As such, you can completely disregard mouse and simply use your arrow keys to move around the interface. Enter will get you in a particular menu, while Backspace will go one level up. Full list of keyboard shortcuts can be found here. Of course, mouse will work just as well.

Now we will want to let XBMC know where media files are located. We will enter the "Videos" menu, then "Files" and finally "Add Videos..." section.

 First we will add movies to the database. You will get an option to name the media files in the location. If you have more than one location where you store movies then name your location, so that it makes sense to you. I will simply call it "Movies". Then browse to the location where your movie files are. This can be on your PC or somewhere else on your network. Maybe another PC or on a NAS server. In my case it will be a local drive with Y: letter assigned to it.

When you locate the folder where your movies are stored, you confirm it. Then you will be able to let XBMC know, that the folder contains movies in the content selection. This allows XBMC to scan the folder and identify the movies and put up all sorts of nice things about them, such as title image, list of actors, summaries and so on. When you get asked if you want to refresh the info for all items in the path, answer "Yes".

Movies are added, so you need to add your TV series as well. Process is the same as before. Only difference is that you now you specify content as "TV Shows". When you're done you again answer affirmatively to the "refresh info" question. You should now have Movies and TV (or whatever you named them) in your list of libraries.

And that's it! You're done! After the scan of your files is finished and you back out of the menus, you will be able to see two new entries in the main screen. One will be "Movies" and other will be "TV Shows". If you move over them, you should already see what content XBMC was able to find and catalogue.

And if you enter the individual selection, you will be able to see your media files and start watching them.

This completes the initial XBMC posting. Sometime in the future you can look forward to information about remotes, subtitles, TV streaming and similar.

Enjoy this greatly,

XBMC – When watching movies or TV shows is just easy - Part 1

It didn't start out like that, but this post will be divided into few parts. It's a bit too long for a single entry, in my opinion. So, here's the 1st part:

You probably watch movies on your PC now and then. You may also watch TV series there. I used to use quite a few different applications to do that over the years. I eventually went for the KISS approach (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and was using Windows Media Player with some codecs thrown in. It did its job quite well. Especially with my unwillingness to install extra software that was either bloated or not too user friendly (at least for my taste). That’s one of the reasons why I was avoiding VLC player, for instance. Even though it is extremely capable player and plays practically everything that you throw at it, it’s simply just a bit too ugly and just slightly less intuitive than what I want for my daily use.

With things like movies and TV shows I am a bit of a organizational freak as well as a hoarder. I like to have things arranged into seasons. I like to know if I have actually watched something already or not. I don’t mind if I can see some sort of art-work associated with that movie and/or TV show. And I also like to have English subtitles for everything. Even the shows that actually are in English. Sometimes you can’t watch stuff at full volume or with headphones and sometimes you don’t want to concentrate too much with unusual accents and subtitles can help out a lot.

One day I crossed my internet-browsing path with a piece of open source software called XBMC. It’s quite simply one of the best written pieces of software that I’ve ever used. Especially if you consider that it’s free of charge. I love using it and really cannot recommend it enough to anyone who uses PC to watch movies or TV shows.

It’s very likely that in the future I’ll delve into some additional use-cases and tweaks for XBMC, but for now, let me just explain how it works and in the following parts, how we can set it up.

Apart from its ability to let us watch movies or TV shows, XBMC can be used also to watch live TV. That does require either a TV tuner in your PC or an IP TV subscription. But on top of that you can also use it for your audio collection and listening pleasure as well as for watching pictures.
The whole program is extremely customizable and made with TV screens in mind. That means that it will work if you watch it from afar and does not require mouse as a primary (or indeed at all) method of interaction.
It also allows you to access media from any number of sources. Either local disks of your PC, network locations such as other PC shares or your NAS device that you may have somewhere at home or some other source.

Before you install XBMC it makes sense to check how your media files are stored and, if necessary make some adjustments. While you can have your movies stored on different location, as well as your TV series, it's best if the two types of files are not mixing on the same location.
For start let's assume that you will have two basic folders. You name one "Movies" and another "TV". Into each one you put your respective content. Again it's a good idea here to make subfolders with names that reflect titles of your media. For instance: "Star Trek The Next Generation". And in there you can dump all the files with episodes of that show. If you have more than one TV show it's fairly likely that you already have organization like this. For TV shows, if you wish, you can make subfolders for every season, but you don't really have to. After this you're ready for XBMC.

I hope this whets your appetite a bit :-)
Next time I'll go over the setup process and how we add some media into the player.


Part 2