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Welcome

Welcome to assassinhtpcblog.com. This is the most comprehensive and most detailed tutorial on the internet in regards to how to setup and use your HTPC.

The WMC guides are based on using primarily Windows Media Center (WMC) and/or Media Browser as their “Frontend”. I also have guides for XBMC and JRiver which are both excellent choices as well.

Part 2: WMC and Media Browser Setup

Table of Guides (with quicklinks):

Introduction to Part 2

In these guides I will show you the software that I recommend to install on your HTPC. Having built many HTPCs these recommendations are what I consider not only the best but also the easiest to use. I have tried all the various forms of video and audio codecs, codec packs and playback software and my recipe and setup will work for 99% of all of your needs.

You will be able to easily and reliably bitstream all HD audio and HD video codecs to your AV receiver. You also will be able to play all known codecs including MKV using Windows Media Center and Mediabrowser. This is a stable and reproducible way of operating your HTPC which will pay for the cost of this guide many times over in hours saved and increased enjoyment of your setup because it will not only work — but work well.

This guide represents my knowledge having built and “tweaked” dozens of HTPCs over the last 5+ years. This guide alone will save you literally dozens of hours trying to get everything setup “correctly”. As this guide represents hundreds of hours of research and experience I hope that its contents will stay privileged to only those who pay for it. Doing this will ensure that I continue to spend time and resources updating these guides which of course will be made available to the paid subscribers who have made it possible.

A few points to address before you begin:

  • If you are upgrading or changing from a previous setup then you should completely remove all software and codecs before proceeding. If you are starting from scratch then this does not apply.
  • You will need to obtain/rip at least 1 movie file to configure parts of this setup.
  • Folders will not show up in mediabrowser until you have 3 or more movies shared in a folder (e.g. your “HD Movies” folder will need 3 movies inside it to show up in Mediabrowser). Please plan your folders accordingly.

BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS

Software Required and Installation Guide Overview

The easiest way for you to totally comprehend your HTPC is if you understand its major parts of software. For that I offer an analogy of a brand new car that you just took off the showroom floor:
  1. Windows Media Center (WMC): Not to be confused with Windows Media Player which is a media player only. WMC is the “engine” of your new machine. This is what does the actual playing of your media on your HDTV.
  2. Mediabrowser (MB): This is what gives your car its sexy “appearance” both inside and outside. This is almost completely customizable and the way it looks is only limited by your imagination.
  3. Media Center Master (MCM): This is the “navigation system” of your machine. It is responsible for downloading the new information to tell your machine what everything looks like ahead and the data that you will need.

Inside the engine you will need a few parts to make it run. These are your codecs and splitters.

  1. LAV Splitter: A modern codec splitter that I have found to be the easiest and most reliable way to play all your HD Audio and Video files as well as bitstream them to your AV Receiver. There are only a few other codecs and codec packs that you can use but if you are wanting to easily bitstream HD audio to your HD capable AV Receiver then I recommend LAV. If you would rather use ffdshow (the only alternative to LAV that allows HD bitstreaming of audio) I will post a link at the end of this guide to an excellent tutorial which you can use.
    1. What is bitstreaming? Bitstreaming is sending a unaltered version of the sound to your AV Receiver to let it do the decoding and processing. Most people find this a much better and more pure solution than to try to make your HTPC decode the signal. For example a ripped MKV file can have an HD Audio signal (DTS-HD for example) bitstreamed directly to your AV Receiver over HDMI. This will allow your AV Receiver to accept this signal and decode it through your speakers.
    2. Also please note that HD Audio is only able to be sent through an HDMI cable to an HD Audio capable AV receiver. So if you don’t have HDMI you can bitstream non-HD audio (Dolby Digital and DTS for example) to your AV Receiver via toslink/spdif fiber optic cable.
  2. Graph Studio (Optional): This is what we will use to fine tune the parts inside the engine and one of the 2 options that I will show you on how to setup bitstreaming audio.

So let’s summarize the parts that I use to make my HTPCs:

  1. Windows Media Center (WMC) – Included with Windows 7
  2. Mediabrowser (MB) – Free to download
  3. Media Center Master (MCM) – Free to download
  4. LAV Splitter – Free to download
  5. Graph Studio – Free to download

Preparing the “Engine”

First let’s get the engine ready. By installing Windows you already have WMC installed but it is too weak to function by itself. First let’s download the parts that we need to make it stronger. If you have installed a previous version of LAV and there is now a newer version available simply uninstall the old version and re-install the newer version using this guide and follow each step again. Doing this will not change any of your other settings and will give you the most current splitter available.

Alternatively you can use the Shark007 codec pack. The Shark007 pack is very versatile but also more complex to use. If you are using your HTPC for simple playback then I would recommend to start with LAV as it is more simple to use and setup. However, if LAV does not give you the desired results you want then the Shark007 option is excellent as well and the guide makes setting it up much less complicated.

Please note that you should install LAV -or- Shark007 but not both. Pick the one that suits your needs the best. For most users I recommend using just LAV how I have described in these guides.

After using this guide you will be able to playback the following:

Containers
MKV/WebM, AVI, MP4/MOV, MPEG-TS/PS (including basic EVO support), FLV, OGG, and many more

Video Codecs
H264, VC-1, MPEG-2, MPEG4-ASP (Divx/Xvid), VP8, MJPEG and many more

Audio Codecs
AAC, AC3, DTS(-HD), TrueHD, MP3/MP2, Vorbis, LPCM and more

Bitstreaming
AC3, DTS, DTS-HD, TrueHD, and more

LAV Splitter:

Download the LAV Splitter program:LAV Splitter 0.58.2 (32 and 64 bit) [updated 08.15.13]

Save this file to your HTPC. Run this file as an administrator.

Click next.

Select where you want to install this program. I would install it on the same drive as your OS.

Install both 32 and 64 bit components for 64 bit operating systems. Install only 32 bit for 32 bit operating systems.

Click next.

Make a start menu folder.

Click next.

Check all available file formats if you want LAV to handle all of those file types. I typically leave it at the default settings.

Click next.

Complete the installation.

Now LAV has been installed on your HTPC. Your engine is almost ready. There are a couple different ways to setup bitstreaming for your HTPC. I will show you the easy way (recommended) and the technical/harder way.

Bitstreaming Setup Option 1 of 2: The Easy Way (recommended)

At the end of installing LAV you will see this option. Select to “Open LAV Audio Configuration”

Now you can set your bitstreaming options.

Here I have selected Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD. Notice that I did NOT select the bottom option regarding framing. I suggest that you leave this unchecked and test your system. If it DTS-HD doesn’t work then come back and change this setting. [Important: Do NOT try to bitstream modes to your end device (AV Receiver for example) that it cannot support. For example, if you have an AV Receiver that cannot decode DTS-HD then don’t select it to bitstream. When you do this you are sending a UN-decoded DTS-HD stream to your AV Receiver. If your AV Receiver doesn’t support this format then it won’t play or will play but won’t have any audio. Also, almost all HDTVs only support Dolby Digital so if you are connecting your HTPC directly to your HDTV you should only send Dolby Digital as a bitstream.]

Leave all the other tabs at the top unchanged. Hit “apply” and then “OK”. (Hitting “apply” is essential otherwise your settings will not be saved).

LAV Splitter will now close.

You also can come back anytime and change these settings by going to Start –> Programs –> LAV Filters –> LAV Audio Configuration

That’s it! You are now bitstreaming HD Audio to your AV Receiver!

Bitstreaming Setup Option 2 of 2: The harder but more technical way

Now you must download a program called “Graph Studio” to easily change the settings of LAV. Only download the version relevant to your OS.

Graph Studio 32 bit

Graph Studio 64 bit

Unlike the other programs Graph Studio does not actually install anywhere. Its an executable file.

Save it to your HTPC and run as an administrator.

Initially you will see a window like this:

Now we need to tell Graph Studio that we want it to check how LAV is working on our HTPC. To do this select “File” and “Render Media File”.

It is a good idea to pick a file that you want to be able to bitstream. Here I will pick “Avatar” with DTS as an example which is located on my HTPC.

Select “Open”

Now you can see how LAV is working on your HTPC (Your screen may differ from mine depending on your setup. The important thing here is to locate “LAV Audio Decoder”.

As you can see “Avatar” is an MKV file whose video will be decoded by the “Microsoft DTV-DVD Video Decoder” with input to the LAV “Video Renderer”. The audio will be sent to the “LAV Audio Decoder” and then to the “Default DirectSound Device”.

Next left click on the “LAV Audio Deocder” box to select it. Now right click on the “LAV Audio Decoder” box and select “properties”.

This will pull up the bitstreaming and sound settings box.

Now let’s select the sources that we want to bitstream to our AV Receiver.

Here I have selected Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD. Notice that I did NOT select the bottom option. I suggest that you leave this unchecked and test your system. If it DTS-HD doesn’t work then come back and change this setting. [Important: Do NOT try to bitstream modes to your end device (AV Receiver for example) that it cannot support. For example, if you have an AV Receiver that cannot decode DTS-HD then don’t select it to bitstream. When you do this you are sending a UN-decoded DTS-HD stream to your AV Receiver. If your AV Receiver doesn’t support this format then it won’t play or will play but won’t have any audio. Also, almost all HDTVs only support Dolby Digital so if you are connecting your HTPC directly to your HDTV you should only send Dolby Digital as a bitstream.]

Leave all the other tabs at the top unchanged. Hit “apply” and then “OK”. (Hitting “apply” is essential otherwise your settings will not be saved).

LAV Splitter will now close.

You are now bitstreaming HD audio to your AV receiver!

[As mentioned there are only a few alternatives to LAV including ffdshow that can bitstream HD audio. Damian has written an excellent guide here which shows you step by step how this is done. You will see why I prefer LAV though as it is quite uncomplicated in comparison]

BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS

Installing and Setting up Shark007 Codec Pack

This guide is to show you how install and setup Shark007, setup Media Browser (MB) to allow playback on extenders, and bit-stream audio.

This guide is an alternate to the guide above where LAV is the sole codec used for both video and audio. While this guide is a more complex way of bitstreaming audio, it is also more versatile as there are literally hundreds of thousands of possible combinations. This is useful if the more simplified version in the guide above is not working properly or if you are wanting to use extenders such as the XBox 360 to extend WMC to other HDTVs.

Please note that you should install LAV -or- Shark007 but not both. Pick the one that suits your needs the best. For most users I recommend using just LAV how I have described in these guides.

If you are only running a 32-bit Windows 7 System then the base Win7Codec Program will set all your video and audio codecs for you.

If you are running a 64-bit Windows 7 System the Win7Codec Program will set your video and audio codecs for WMP and any other 32-bit programs on your HTPC. The x64Component Add-on will set your audio and video codecs for WMC, to include MB.

First let’s go to the Shark007 website to download the newest release.  If you are running a 64-bit system you need to download and install both the “32bit Win7Codecs” and “x64Components Addon.”  When you click on the link it will bring you to the MajorGeeks.com mirror site.

Click on Download Locations and then you may run the install file from there or save and run it from your HTPC.

Installing Win7Codecs.  Choose your language and click OK.

Click Next >.

Choose your desired directory (note the 32bit codec pack saves to the “Program Files (x86)” directory).  Click Next >.

Choose Complete install and click Next >.

Click Finish and Win7Codecs will install to your HTPC.

Now go back to Shark007 website and download/run the “x64Components addon” installation file.

Click Next >.

Choose your desired directory (note the 64bit addon saves to the “Program Files” directory).  Click Next >.

Click Finish and Win7Codecs 64bitComponent Addon will install to your HTPC.

Now we will initialize the 32-bit codecs.  Right-click on Settings Application and choose Run as administrator.

Click OK (you may see this prompt if you have UAC disabled in Windows).

Win7Codecs will automatically reset to installation defaults the first time it is opened.  If it does not click on “Shark007 Suggested Settings” . When complete click Exit.

Next, we will initialize the 64-bit codecs.  Right-click on Settings Application x64 and choose Run as administrator.

Click OK (again, you may see this prompt if you have UAC disabled in Windows).

Win7Codecs x64Component Add-on will automatically reset to installation defaults the first time it is opened.  If it does not click on “Shark007 Suggested Settings” .

The remainder of this guide will focus on the settings for each tab in the 64-bit application, since this is what affects our playback in WMC.  I personally have my 32-bit application set to the installation defaults because I do not run any 32-bit programs on my HTPC, however the 32-bit application can be setup just like the 64-bit application.  The 32-bit application has all the same tabs, their layout just may be slightly different.

On the Config tab my only change is to select No Subtitles since I never watch any of my movies with subtitles and it’s one less filter my movies have to run through before it gets to the big screen.  However, if you want subtitle control leave the default DirectVobSub (Enabling Subtitle Control will walk you through setting up subtitles).

On the Audio tab, check TrueHD/DTS HD-MA (if your AVR cannot decode HD audio streams click AC3/DTS only instead).  After setting bitstreaming, notice that disable auto speaker configuration now becomes checked and Same as input becomes checked instead of 2.0 Stereo (the installation default). Click on “setup LAV audio” to change some settings for bitstreaming.

Inside the LAV setup screen select the bitstreaming formats that your HTPC and AV Receiver can accept. Remember that HD Audio (Dolby True HD and DTS-HD) can only be sent via HDMI. When finished click “Apply” and then “OK”

On the AVI tab, select LAV Splitter.

On the H264 tab, enable Do not use FFDshow, Use MPC-HC codec, and Use LAV codec.

On the MKV tab, check Use LAV’s splitter.  I am also going to uncheck Disable the DivX Media Foundation splitter… the DivX Media Foundation is required for playing back MKV’s on an Xbox Media Extender.  I have also unchecked Disable MKV Explorer properties as everything has been working fine with it enabled.

On the MOV tab, I am going to stick with using LAV’s splitter as my video codec of choice.

On the MPG tab, overall MPEG Playback will be assigned to LAV splitter, MPEG2 specific Playback (DVD) to Set MPEG2 (system default), and MP4 Playback to LAV’s splitter.

On the SWAP tab, I will remain with the default for XVID and MPEG2, and set AAC to use Microsoft codec by default.

Please note that some users my want to try to set AAC audio in DirectShow Players to Use FFDshow64’s codec and check Disable Microsoft’s Audio Decoder.  Disabling Microsoft’s Audio Decoder is required for some files with AAC multi-channel audio (mostly mp4’s) to bitstream.

I suggest going back through each tab and ensuring your changes “stick.”  A lot of the time I find when I leave a tab the settings revert back to the default.

On the Misc tab, click on Save ALL Settings.  This will create a restore point to come back to if you mess things up when “tinkering.” Click Exit.

The settings will now be saved. Click “OK”

Rendering a test file in GraphStudio shows that both LAV Audio and Video are being used

Our last step is to make sure all our different file types can be played on our Xbox 360 Extenders.  Open Media Browser Configurator.  Under Extender Settings add the following file types: dvr-ms, wmv, avi, mkv, mp4, m4v, mov, wtv, m2ts and mpg.  Exit when complete.

Congratulations!  You are now bitstreaming all your HD, AC3 and AAC audio to your AVR, as well as being able to watch all your files on your Xbox 360 Extender using Media Browser, enjoy.

Guide created by paid user Wilky13 and assassin

BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS

Setting Up Windows Media Center

By following this guide your HTPC will become loaded and configured with all the software that you will need to get started using your machine.

Now, let’s open WMC by itself for the first time and tell it what type of equipment you have attached. Scroll down to “Setting” under “Tasks” and hit enter.

Next select “General”

Next select “Windows Media Center Setup”

First let’s setup your audio. Select “Set Up Your Speakers”

This will bring you to the Speaker Setup Wizard which is pretty straight forward. Select “Next” to begin.

Next select the way you have your HTPC connected to your AV receiver. Here I chose “HDMI” as an example. Select “Next”.

Next select how many speakers are in your home theater. Here I selected a 7.1 surround setup as an example (you may also try 5.1 if selecting 7.1 does not work for you. If you are bitstreaming the end result will be the same whether you have a 7.1 or 5.1 system). Select “Next”.

That’s it! WMC now knows how many speakers are in your setup and how your HTPC is connected.

Now you will be brought back to the main setup screen. Next let’s setup the video signal of your HTPC.

Select “Next”.

Tell WMC that you can see this screen on your preferred display (which should be your HDTV). Select “Next”.

Next tell WMC what type of HDTV display you are attaching. Here I chose “Flat Panel” as an example. Select “Next”.

Now tell WMC how you have your HTPC’s video connected to the AV receiver or HDTV. Here I chose “HDMI” as an example. Select “Next”.

Now tell WMC whether you have a widescreen (16:9) or standard (4:3) TV. Here I chose “Widescreen” as an example. Select “Next”.

Next confirm your resolution and exit the wizard. That’s it! Your HTPC’s audio/video and HDTV are now setup and ready to use!

Now you are back at the main setup screen. Tell WMC test your internet if you have it connected via a wired or wireless connection. If this is not connected then skip this step.

If you have a TV tuner device connected to your HTPC then run the “Setup TV Signal” wizard. Otherwise you can skip this step as well.

Now exit out of WMC. We have everything setup and configured for your specific Home Theater!

TIP: Want to skip forward in WMC while a movie is playing? For example, to skip to the 10 minute mark in a movie that is playing hit “1” and “0” on your remote. Then press “Play” (notice I did NOT say “enter”) and WMC will skip to the 10th minute of the file playing.

BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preparing “The Appearance”

Now that our “engine” has been setup properly let’s supply it with a fantastic looking “appearance”.

Please note that some pictures from my Media Browser guides may vary slightly from your setup but all settings options should be represented or described. Media Browser updates it setup screens regularly and I will also update these guides where appropriate.

The “appearance” of your HTPC will revolve around a program called Media Browser. There are other programs out there such as XBMC that also make fine “front ends” but in my opinion Mediabrowser is the easiest to use. It also can bitstream HD audio which XBMC cannot do.

First let’s download and install Media Browser:

Media Browser

Save the file to your HTPC and then install it to your OS Drive.

Now let’s install Media Browser. First double click the downloaded file to install.

Next agree to the license agreement.

Select the destination folder and other install options.

Click Install

Media Browser now is installing

Let’s configure the initial settings. If mediabrowser configurator does not open automatically go to Start –> Media Browser Configurator and run it for the first time.

Media Browser has 3 “parts”.

  1. The actual program called “Media Browser” where you play your movies (there is also a menu inside the program where you make some setting selections)
  2. “Media Browser Configurator” where you select many of your settings outside of the mediabrowser program
  3. The “Media Browser Service” which is always running in the background.

For now we are going to be focusing on #2: The Media Browser Configurator

This is the main screen (above) that you will see the first time you open MB Configurator. This is the area where you add your media libraries. I will go over this again in more detail later in this tutorial but here we will add my “practice” tutorial folders. I will try to keep these folders as uniform as possible from guide to guide so that you can use them as a reference. As you will undoubtedly have different media than what I have listed here just use these practice folders as a reference for what media you might use in each folder.

The tutorial folders are located on the largest hard drive on my HTPC are are labeled:

  1. HD Movies
  2. Movies
  3. TV Shows

Inside these folder I am going to place 3 files (mediabrowser doesn’t notice your folders until you have 3 files in them).

HD Movies – Dumb and Dumber, I Am Legend, The Dark Knight

Movies – A Christmas Story, Caddyshack, Up in the Air

and TV Shows – Deadwood (3 seasons), Eastbound & Down (2 seasons), and Modern Family (2 seasons)

Now let’s share these folders and their files with media browser by showing it what we want in each collection.

In the left panel you can see my three media collections. I just happened to name them the same thing as the actual folder that they are in but you can name them whatever you like. For instance I could select “Rename” and rename the “HD Movies” folder to “HD”. On the right lower panel you will see the folder(s) that are included in the “HD Movies” Media Collection. One awesome thing about MB is that you could add 10 different folders from 10 different hard drives or computers on your network to the “HD Movies” Media Collection and Media Browser will display it as one singular collection of movies. Pretty nice and easy.

Next we are going to assign a custom icon that I made to the “HD Movies” collection. This is completely optional but if you want to find some great custom icons there are literally hundreds over at the mediabrowser forum. You can do this later too if you like.

TIP: Looking for some great icons? Here is a great place to start.

Due to popular demand I will also add these icons in this tutorial for you to tryout and use. If you would like any additional icons made send me an e-mail and I will try to make them for you (I really am a 1 stop shop!). Right click on these logos and select “save as” to save them to your HTPC to use.

Here you can see the custom icons that I have created for these three folders. Since we are associating one with the “HD Movies” collection let’s select the HD Movie icon.

Now you can see the custom icon that we associated with the “HD Movies” collection. You’ll be able to see it in action later in this tutorial. Do this for the rest of your collections but remember that this step is completely optional. You can always return to do this later too if you like.

Now let’s download a few plug-ins to get started. There are numerous plug-ins to experiment with however they are not all free. The ones that I am going to show you are all free and will all make your HTPC look and work great even if you choose to install no other plug-ins. To start click on “More plug-ins”.

Next let’s click on “Themes” and I will show you one of my all-time favorite MB themes (and as a bonus its free!).

To the left you will see a list of themes. Some are free and some are not. Let’s select and install “Chocolate”.

After many years the “Chocolate” theme continues to be one of my favorite themes. Unfortunately in the latest version there is a bug where it will hang or crash after you change the view. Perform these steps to fix it.

1. First download this version of Chocolate from my server. Extract the files to see the .dll file.

2. Next copy the chocolate.dll into “C:\Windows\ehome”

That’s it! You have now patched one of the best themes for Media Browser.

Chocolate is the only theme that we will be downloading for this guide although feel free to try others later. Finally let’s also download “High Quality Thumbnails” and “MediaInfo Provider”. When you are finished you will have a downloaded plug-in screen that looks like the following:

Now let’s move to the next tab marked “display/playback” and make the following selections as seen below. Make sure to choose newly downloaded “Chocolate” as your theme. Enter your zip code (not the Yahoo! ID) for the weather. I entered Indianapolis, IN.

Under the “Metadata” tab I now recommend to check “Allow Internet Providers”. This will enable Media Browser’s internal scraper but I will also show you how to utilize an even more power scraper for possible retrieval of even more metadata and artwork. I will show you much more details on how to use the internal Media Browser internal metadata and artwork collector (i.e. “scraper”) in a later separate guide located here.

Our initial setup in MB is complete. Now let’s close the Media Browser Configurator and open the Media Browser Service. This is located in the bottom right corner of your desktop near your clock in the “Show Hidden Icons” area.

Left click on “Show hidden icons” and then right click on the MB Service icon. Here it is the icon in the bottom left corner. Choose “Show Interface”.

Once inside make the following selections as seen below. Make sure to select “Allow Slow Providers” as this is important step for later.

Now let’s open media browser the program for the first time. Open WMC and select Media Browser.

This is the screen that greets you. Pretty boring, right? Well not for long.

In the top right corner you will notice gears (or on some themes a wrench). Click on this which will open the menu.

Once inside the menu select “Config”

Under the “General” tab make these setting changes.

Next click on the “Media Options” tab. These are my settings:

Next is the “Theme Options” tab. These are my settings. You can also setup the “Parental Controls” using the next tab if you wish (I leave it at default).

Finally these are the settings I have under the “Chocolate” theme options.

Now if you are like me you think that the default mediabrowser backdground is pretty boring. I will show you how to change this. I suggest that you find a very large picture that you like and use it. There are many that you can find if you do a “Google Images” search and set the size parameter to “large”. Here I will show you a backdrop that I have made as seen below:

First we have to make a quick change in Windows to allow you to be able to see your mediabrowser programdata folder as it is hidden.

Go to Start –> Control Panel and select “Folder Options”. Here you will see the setting that you need to change (select “Show hidden files, folders and drives”):

Now let’s go to your OS drive and find the “Programdata” folder which previously was hidden.

Inside the “Programdata” folder locate the “MediaBrowser” folder and open it. Inside that folder open the “Startup” folder:

This is what the inside of my “startup folder” looks like:

I am going to copy and paste the backdrop that I posted above. Make note of the name of it as I am going to change it.

Mediabrowser only recognizes background art if they are labeled “backdrop” and only recognizes folder art if they are labeled “folder”. So let’s rename this backdrop art correctly:

So in summary folder art needs to be named “folder” (without the quotes) and background art needs to be named “backdrop” (without the quotes).

Later you will get to see all these changes in action. Be patient.

TIP: Want to learn about the specific remote control commands in Media Brower? Take a look here.

TIP: Speaking of remotes you can use your iPhone or Android device as a remote control by following the steps here and here.

BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS

General Setup for Media Browser Folder Structure

Folder structures need to be in a particular format to be easily recognized by mediabrowser. I recommend that you google “Media Browser Folder Structure” or click on the link below and read more about all the ways you organize your media (there are many). But I will of course describe the basics.

http://community.mediabrowser.tv/permalinks/1208/what-is-the-recommended-folder-structure-for-media-collections

A simple movie in media browser should be inside a single folder. The folder name is actually the most important to have correctly labeled – not the movie itself. Let’s use “The Terminator” as a movie that we are going to add to your “HD Movie” folder on your HTPC. In this example my largest drive is labeled as “F” but this can vary on your HTPC.

One thing to note that the folder itself needs to be labeled correctly. The actualy movie name does not matter. So you could label “theterminator.mkv” as “theterminator_1080p_2011_blurayrip.mkv” and mediabrowser would still be able to locate and play it correctely — as long as the folder is labeled correctly.

F:\HD Movies\The Terminator (1984)\Theterminator.mkv — (the bolded area is the movie folder that needs to be labeled correctly).

Now let’s add “Terminator 2” to the library:

F:\HD Movies\Terminator 2 (1991)\Terminator2.mkv — (the bolded area is the movie folder that needs to be labeled correctly).

This is basically how your general movies need to be structured. There are many many many other options and as stated I recommend that if you want to try these out you do a little reading beforehand.

Next let’s briefly discuss how to add TV series which is slightly different as they have multiple seasons. Let’s use “Modern Family” as an example. Seasons are denoted by the letter “s” and episodes by the letter “e”. So for example the very first episode of The Modern Family would be labeled “s01e01”. It would be inside the “Season 1” folder which would be inside “Modern Family” folder. Got it? This is how the first 3 episodes of Season 1 would look:

F:\TV Shows\Modern Family\Season 1\s01e01

F:\TV Shows\ Modern Family \Season 1\s01e02

F:\TV Shows\ Modern Family \Season 1\s01e03

Now let’s look at the folder structure for Season 2. The first episode of Season 2 would be labeled as “s02e01”. It would be inside the “Season 2” folder which would be inside “Modern Family” folder. So if you clicked on the “TV Shows” folder your would see “Modern Family”. If you clicked on “Modern Family” folder you would see “Season 1” and “Season 2” folders. Here is how the first 3 episodes of that “Season 2” folder would look:

F:\TV Shows\ Modern Family \Season 2\s02e01

F:\TV Shows\ Modern Family \Season 2\s02e02

F:\TV Shows\ Modern Family \Season 2\s02e03

Here is an example of how Season 2 of “Modern Family” looks inside my “Modern Family” folder:

So to see this you would go to your large hard drive –> select the folder where you TV shows are located –> inside that folder you would see a “Modern Family” folder –> inside of that “Modern Family” folder you would see 2 folders labeled “Season 1” and “Season 2” –> inside the “Season 2” folder you would see the following…

Got it? Pretty easy and intuitive once you get the hang of it. MCM and MB do most of the work once we tell them what files they are dealing with as you will see.

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Preparing “The Navigation System”

We have now completely prepared the “engine” and have mostly prepared (see below) the “appearance” of your new HTPC. Next let’s concentrate on how to setup and use the “Navigation System”.

This system is powered by Media Center Master which is a great free program that will download multiple backgrounds and metadata. It is superior to the built-in “Navigation System” that comes within Media Browser in every way. Its faster to load, more thorough, obtains many more pieces of artwork, etc.

Recent versions of Media Browser come with a much improved internal metadata system (i.e. “Scraper”). If you would like to try this integrated internal system instead, skip this guide and use the next guide which shows you how to use Media Browser alone to obtain and store metadata and artwork. However, please note that while the internal scraper of Media Browser is easier to use you will sacrifice the powerful versatility of metadata management which you gain with using an additional program like Media Center Master. Alternatively you can use both by having the internal scraper of Media Browser enabled as well as running Media Center Master intermittently or when adding new media which is what I currently do and recommend.

So let’s get to work. First let’s download the most recent version of this software which is usually the top version of the list located here:

Media Center Master

Next open the folder where the file was downloaded and run it as an administrator. Follow these steps until it is installed and choose to run it now.

Install this on your OS drive like you did with the other programs.

After finishing MCM may take a few minutes to update.

After MCM opens this is the main screen. Notice it is completely blank.

Note: As of 05/2012 Media Center Master and Media Browser made some changes that drastically affect how they work with one another which may cause metadata to not show up inside Media Browser. To correct these changes make the following adjustments to the settings. I also think that since xml files are extremely small this step allows you to have 2 types of xml files should settings change again in the future with either of these two programs.

First open “Settings & Preferences” under the “Application” tab

Now make sure that “create mymovies/xml copy for old version of MediaBrowser” is checked. Now MCM will add a “movie.xml” and “mymovies.xml” metadata file for each movie or tv show in your library that can be read and used by Media Browser

Now let’s tell MCM where our folders are located. Go to “Application” and then “Set scan folders”

Select “Add New” and add your media folders. Here I have selected the three “practice” folders as seen above.

Select “Done”. Now you should see the folders added in the top right panel.

On this screen you can see what MCM has listed. As a reminder in the three sample tutorial folders (HD Movies, Movies and TV Shows) I have put a few files in for practice for you to see:

  1. HD Movies: Dumb and Dumber, I Am Legend, and The Dark Knight
  2. Movies: A Christmas Story, Caddyshack and Up In the Air
  3. TV Shows: Deadwood (3 seasons), Modern Family (2 Seasons) and Eastbound & Down (2 Seasons).

Before we start let me show you a “before” snapshot of what the folders look like for “The Dark Knight” and “Modern Family Season 2” as examples.

“The Dark Knight” shows just the movie and the subtitles (SRT) file:

“Modern Family Season 2” shows just the episode files:

Now let’s tell MCM to automatically scan for new folders every time that it is used.

  1. Next go to “Application” again and select to have “Use Auto Scan” enabled. This will automatically scan MCM for any new movies and data every time that you open it.
  2. Shortly after you do this step MCM will automatically being scanning your files and downloading all metadata and artwork (Give it a few minutes to start on its own).

As the files are completed you will notice that their “status” turn from red to white in the top left panel. This indicates that they are complete and all information has been found.

When MCM is completely done with your library you will see a screen similar to the following (notice all the red is gone indicating that it not only found all the files but was able to download all the information for them). When you select one of the movies on the left panel you can see what information and artwork was downloaded for you:

So now let’s take a look back inside those two folders and see what MCM did for us:

“The Dark Night”

Before MCM:

After MCM:

“Modern Family Season 2”

Before MCM:

After MCM:

After MCM metadata folder (seen above):

As you can see MCM really went to work. Each movie and show now has multiple pieces of artwork located locally in the same folder as the actual movie file. And those other files? Those are the metadata files which have all the information about each movie or show. Wasn’t that easy? It is by following my HTPC guides and tutorials!

I usually run MCM every time I add new videos to make sure that everything is loaded correctly and up to date.

Other Tips for MCM

If you want to refresh a single file you can select that file on the left panel and right click and tell MCM to “Fetch meta data” or even “Fetch meta data as Movie”.

Sometimes MCM can’t find a movie. When this happens it will open a screen prompting you to go to IMDB and manually look up the movie.

  1. When this happens select the “IMDB Lookup” hyperlink on that popup which is located just above the “OK” button. This will open up the IMDB search screen.
  2. On the IMDB screen type and search the name you are trying to find. Once you locate the movie you are trying to add, open its page in IMDB.
  3. Here is a screen shot of the url (web address) bar for the movie “Get Shorty”. Next select and copy that last portion of that address as shown below. Now go back to your MCM screen and paste this information in the “Enter An IMDB ID:” area. Hit “OK”.

MCM now knows exactly what movie you were trying to add and will fetch the information for you.

That’s it. It’s that easy. I usually open MCM after every new movie that I add because I want to get the most recent information.

For a large library of a few hundred movies fetching all the artwork and metadata can take several hours. This is completely normal as MCM is very thorough and retrieves every movie separately.

Close MCM when you are finished.

TIP: Want to have this done automatically? Just leave MCM running in the background and set it to auto update. Soon after you drop a new movie or tv show in to their respective folder it should download and update the metadata and artwork automatically!

If you were a user of my guides prior to 05/2012 you may have noticed that Media Center Master and Media Browser have made some changes to how xml files are handled. One of these changes to remove “mymovies.xml” metadata files in your media folders (which resulted in metadata not showing up in Media Browser). If this occurred to you these steps show you how to update your media easily without losing any data. If you are a new user of these guides then the following few steps do no apply and you can skip to the next section of the guides.

First make sure that you are running the most recent version of Media Browser. You can install a new version over the old version without losing any of your settings (you may have to re-download some of your add-ons)

Next open “Settings & Preferences” under the “Application” tab

Now make sure that “create mymovies/xml copy for old version of MediaBrowser” is checked. Now MCM will add a “movie.xml” and “mymovies.xml” metadata file for each movie or tv show in your library that can be read and used by Media Browser

Now highlight all of your media and right click to bring up the menu. Select “Export to other metadata formats”

If you look in your media folders you will see that you now have both “movie.xml” and “mymovies.xml” metadata files. This is what you need for Media Browser. As a bonus should these programs change what is required in the future you will have both type of xml files already in your media folders.

Now open Media Browser and update your library. You should now have all of your metadata back!

BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS

Using Media Browser’s Internal Metadata Scraper

One other possible option instead of Media Center Master (which I described previously in another guide) is to use Media Browser’s internal “scraper” to configure the “Navigation System”. In the past the Media Browser internal scraper had been pretty weak compared to some of the more powerful options like Media Center Master. However, if you are looking for ease of use or simply just want to try out Media Center’s internal scraper then I will show you how in this guide.

First open the Media Browser configurator and select the “Metadata” tab. Here make sure that “Allow Internet Providers” is selected as this setting will tell Media Browser that you want to use its internal scraper. Tell Media Browser to “Save Locally” which means that it will save the downloaded metadata and artwork inside each movie’s or tv show’s folder for quick access. The default number of backgrounds is 4 but I actually prefer many more. So I eventually changed this to 20. I also want the artwork to be as large as possible so I chose the largest size available.

Now let’s open Media Browser and take a look at your library or libraries

Notice that your movies are not showing up. That’s because we haven’t told Media Browser to scrape the metadata and artwork yet. So let’s do that now. Go to the wrench in the top right of the screen and click it.

Click on “Update Library” and tell it to run in the background. Then click “Continue”

I took this screenshot right before Media Browser updated the library

And this one immediately following. Notice the metadata and artwork that Media Browser collected automatically

After a few minutes (or a few hours depending on the size of your library) let’s look at the main screen inside Media Browser again. Now we are starting to see things populate. Let’s click on the “Movies” folder to open it

Inside you will see all the movies inside the folder. For this demo I have 8 movies in this folder. Let’s click to open “Die Hard”

Once open you can see the metadata displayed that Media Browser collected. And if you wait a few seconds you will see Media Browser automatically start to scroll the artwork in the background

My initial tests with the Media Browser scraper have been very positive. I still think that programs like Media Center Master, which I outlined in a previous guide, are a more powerful and versatile way to manage your metadata and artwork. But for ease of use Media Browser’s internal scraper might be the “set it and forget it” approach that some of you are looking for.

BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS

Updating Your Library and Viewing Media Browser

One of the most important aspects of having a HTPC is knowing how to correctly update and refresh your media library, all the metadata and the artwork. This section of the tutorial will show you how this is done.

Open WMC and run mediabrowser (or just select your mediabrowser desktop shortcut). On the main screen locate the “gears” in the top right corner. This is how to select the main menu of mediabrowser which is how you update your library. Also look how great our custom backdrop looks!

After selecting the “Gears” in the upper right corner you will see this menu. Select “Config”

Now you can see the “Update Library” button. Select this.

Mediabrowser will tell you that it is going to update in the background. Select “okay” and then “Continue”.

Important Tip: You can refresh and individual movie or folder by pressing “Ctrl” and “R” at the same time.

Now our main screen should look like this:

If you select the “HD Movies” folder you should see this:

If you select “The Dark Knight” you will see this:

And every 8 seconds you will see a new backdrop as mediabrowser rotates the artwork automatically!

Now let’ take a look inside the “TV Shows” folder:

Here you can see the 3 shows that we added. The numbers inside the star indicate the total amount of episodes of each show. Let’s look inside “Modern Family”:

Here you can see the folders for each season of “Modern Family”. Let’s select “Season 2” (you can change the way this looks. I will show you how later):

Now we can see all the shows. Let’s select “1 – The Old Wagon”:

There is all your metadata! All you need to do is hit play to start enjoying your videos:

TIP: If you want to do a more thorough or “deeper” refresh of your images and metadata I will show you how to do this as well. I would only use this for when you have tried the refresh listed above and it hasn’t produced the end result that you want or need. You may need to do this when you choose a new theme, download a new version of Media Browser, try new Cover Art plug-in settings, etc. So let’s get started.

First located the Media Browser Service icon located in the bottom right of your toolbar (near the clock) under “Show hidden icons”. Double click this to bring up the menu

Here you can see some of the things that we can refresh. I am going to go ahead and refresh everything

You may receive this warning. Click okay

Here is everything selected to refresh. Now select “Refresh Now”

Now let’s open up Media Browser and refresh again inside just for good measure. Chose “Configuration” to open the configuration menu

Now click “Update Library” and then “Continue”. That’s it! You have now refreshed Media Browser!

Tip: Did you know that you can search for a specific title from within Media Browser? Just hit Ctrl+S to bring up the search box and search for your title

BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS

Enabling Subtitle Control

This guide will show you how to easily enable and control subtitles for your media in WMC.

***Please also see the next guide where I show you how to toggle your subtitles off and on via remote control***

Software needed (choose only the version compatible with your OS):

DirectVobSub

Download this zip file and unzip it. Then run the install program as administrator to install.

Install. Select “Next”

Select “Next”

Select destination. Select “Next”

Select “Next”

Select “Next”

Select “Install”

Click “Finish”. I left the configuration at default but you can change this if you want to.

Now open WMC and start Mediabrowser

Play your movie that you want to enable subtitles

Notice the subtitles are “off” in the screen below (If the subtitles are on by default you may need to open the configurator through the start menu and selected “hide subtitles” to turn them off as the default)

Next click the Windows button on your keyboard to pull up the subtitle menu. The DirectVobSub icon is the green arrow you see here. It may also be located in the “hidden icons” area to the left of the flag. (Alternatively if you have a WMC remote you may be able to toggle on and off subtitles manually with your remote depending on its compatibility.)

Once inside the DirectVobSub menu let’s change the subtitles from “No subtitles” to “English (txt)”

WMC will stutter for a second as it buffers and then you will see the subtitles appear on your screen

To turn the subtitles off go back into the DirectVobSub menu and change the subtitles to “No subtitles”

And now they are off again! Now you can control your subtitles easily in WMC!

TIP: When in full screen hit the windows button (between the alt and ctrl buttons to the left of most keyboards) to bring up the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. Then simply pull up the subtitle menu and make your changes. Click on the full screen movie that is playing and you will go back to the full screen movie that is playing. No need to even minimize the screen to make your changes!

BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS

Toggling Subtitles on and off

You can use this guide along with the previous guide to toggle your subtitles on and off using Directvobsub. To do this first install Directvobsub using the previous guide. Next install MCERemotePlus v1.3 (free).

First download and unzip this program. Next run it as an administrator to run the program.

Now you will see the program running in your “hidden icons” area to the left of your clock on the desktop. Right click on this icon and select “open”

Select “Run on Startup” to make sure it is selected. Also make sure Directvobsub is selected to use as the subtitle program.

Next select on the command that you would like to assign a new button on your remote control or keyboard. Here I have chose to change the default button for “Subtitle Toggle”

And here you can see that when I hit the “Tab” button on my keyboard it reassigned the “Toggle Subtitle” command to the “Tab” button! You can do that same thing with your WMC (MCE) remote control.

That’s it! Now you can control your subtitles easily with the press of a button!

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Changing Audio Streams in WMC

One of the great things about the way I setup HTPCs is the audio stream can be changed live and during playback. Let’s take a look at a video that I ripped to MKV in an earlier guide. Using a program called MediaInfo (64 bit or 32 bit) or I can get a look at what’s available in the MKV file that I made earlier of “Miracle on 34th Street”.

Here you can see that this is a MKV file with 1 video and 2 audio streams. There are 3 subtitle options as well which I walked you through in an earlier guide. For this guide I will show you how to change from English to French audio easily. You could just as easily change from 5.1 channel audio to 2 channel audio or vice-versa if needed.

First play the movie from mediabrowser. Once it is playing click the windows key on your remote to pop up the toolbar. Once there open the DirectVobSub menu as seen below. You can see that subtitles are currently hid and we are listening to the English audio stream (I can confirm that this was indeed correct)

Next select the “A: 2/0 [fre] (ac3, 48000 Hz, stereo, 192 kb/s)” to change to the French audio stream. Again I can confirm that the audio changed immediately and seamlessly.

That’s it! Now you can change your audio on the fly!

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Switching the Default Audio Device Automatically in WMC

For some specific situations it may be desired to use a different audio output for WMC than what you would otherwise use on your HTPC. One situation may be where you want a music player (iTunes for example) to play your music with your analog output but want WMC to use the HDMI so you get digital and/or HD sound (this could come in handy if you had a Zone 2 on your AV receiver that needed an analog input for music, for example). This guide will show you how to automatically switch WMC to use a particular audio output while retaining your other settings for your other software programs.

With this being said for most users this guides really isn’t applicable unless you have a specific need like I mentioned above.

First download the application here and install it

Now launch WMC and go to the “Extras Library”

Once inside the “Extras Library” open “AudioRendererUpdater”

Now we can see some options. We can change our default device for WMC and even how and when its applied

For those that need this type of flexibility this is a very good option to have for your HTPC.

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Testing Your HD Audio Setup

This guide shows you two ways to test your HD Audio and bitstreaming options. I have completely revised this guide as finding reliable and accurate HD Audio and Video samples has been difficult. However, I have finally located these files and am sharing them on my server for users of my guides.

Option 1 is preferred as it is reliable, always available (located on my server) and accurate. Option 2 has many more options but I have found them to be inaccurate in their labeling and content. I will provide both options for you but again highly suggest that you use Option 1. Please note that you must have an HD Audio capable receiver to be able to decode bitstreamed HD Audio sources.

Option 1: Less samples to test but much more reliable

First, download the files from my server.

DTS-HD MKV File

Details of this file:

Dolby TrueHD MKV File

Details of this file:

If you want to see how this works from within WMC make a one or two temporary “Dummy” Media Browser folder in one of your Mediabrowser libraries. Inside these folder place these sample files for playback (more on this below if you want to test with another method).

Open WMC, locate these files and play them back. Check your AV receiver for bitstreaming. Listen for speaker placement correctness while the airplane circles overhead.

Option 2: More choices to test but much less reliable

There is another completely different way to test your setup although I have found these files to be much less reliable and accurate.

DISCLAIMER: The files on the website listed below are highly variable and many are inaccurate as far as what they contain. It has come to my attention that this is particularly true of the HD Audio sample files. If anyone knows of any free, legal and reliable HD Audio samples please let me know (assassinhtpc@hotmail.com) and I will be happy to host them and list their download links here.

I have compiled some of the shorter ones here to decrease download wait time but alternatively there are many many more located here.

Download sample Dolby TrueHD (7.1) from the list here

Dolby Digital (5.1)

Download sample DTS-HD (7.1) from the list here

DTS (5.1) (Please note that on the website linked above there are none listed as just “DTS”)

Since we want to see how this will work from inside Mediabrowser using WMC let’s make a temporary “dummy” Mediabrowser folder in one of your Mediabrowser libraries. For instance in your “HD Movies” folder make a temporary “dummy” folder called “Test Media”. Here’s how it looks in my sample guide library:

Inside the temporary “Test Media” folder I have laid out my different kinds of files like this:

And inside of each of these folder I have placed the respective file type for that folder. For instance here is what is inside my “DTS-HD” folder:

Okay, so now that you see how I have all my temporary dummy folders arranged with these sample files let’s take a look at how they look in Mediabrowser (remember to update your library if they don’t show up at first). Notice there is no backdrop or no data but that is just fine because there shouldn’t be. We are going to delete this whole folder once we have tested it out.

Let’s click on “Test Media”. Now you can see each of the folders that we created to test. Now let’s click on “DTS-HD”

Now you can see the information about the file types in the lower right corner. Let’s click play to try this out.

DTS-HD is playing!

Next let’s try “Dolby True HD”

Dolby True HD is playing!

Now that you have tested everything out delete this folder if you wish. You can also try out some of the other files from the link above if you want or if the ones I have listed do not work for you.

BACK TO TABLE OF CONTENTS

Mounting and Playing an iso File

Some of you want to use iso files (also known as “disc image files”) for playback in WMC. I will show you how this can be done using this guide. To make iso files you will need a program like DVD Shrink and possibly also AnyDVD to get around any copyright protection for backup of your purchased DVD/Blurays.

First we need to install a program to “mount” the iso which will trick Windows into thinking it has a disc in a disc drive. There are a few programs that you can use for this but I have had good luck with Slysoft’s Clonedrive (free).

First let’s download Clonedrive here

Install it as an administrator. Next install the program

You can choose to associate more file types. I was mainly focusing on .iso files so I left this as default

I select “virtual sheep” as it makes it easy to see which drive is your “mounted” drive as you will see in the next picture

Can you spot the virtual drive? (actually there are 2 but the new one should be easy to spot)

So now we have our iso mounting software installed and know that it is going to use drive “M” as our virtual drive. Next let’s open MB configurator as an administrator and click on the”extenders + iso” tab.

First select “Change Location” and point MB to the VCDMount.exe file. Next choose your drive letter (remember mine was “M”). Finally enter any formats that you want to mount. Here I added “.iso” to make sure that MB knows that I want it to use Virtual Clone Drive to mount my iso files to virtual drive “M” for playback. Finally you may have to try “Use Autoplay” both selected and unselected to see which one works on your particular setup.

To test this let’s open Mediabrowser and go to a file that we know is an iso. For this guide I am going to use an old “fireplace” iso that I had lying around. I will temporarily place this in my non-HD “Movie” folder so you can see how it works. Here you can see the “Radiant Fireplace” iso that I am going to play. As a side note you can run MCM to obtain metadata and artwork just like with any of the other file types (obviously there isn’t any for this random iso that I am using as an example)

Here you can see in the bottom right corner the file type of “iso”

Here it is! A random video of a fireplace to show you how to mount an iso file!

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©Copyright 2011 by assassin @ assassinHTPCblog. All rights reserved. This guide and its contents are copyrighted by assassin @ assassinHTPCblog.

This may be used for personal use by the purchaser only; users are forbidden to reproduce, republish, redistribute or resell and material from this guide without the permission of assassin @ assassinHTPCblog.

 

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Comments

Andrew Johnston

what about playback of HEVC encoded files?

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