There are times when you just want a quick list of your most recent movie titles when someone asks if you’ve seen any good movies lately.
If your memory is as bad as mine and you can’t even remember what you ate for lunch, it’s very handy to be able to whip out your business card with a URL pointing to a list of your most recently watched.
Two developments have sparked the recent explosion of Media Center packages (in my view).
The first, of course, is Windows 7 and its Windows Media Center package included for free. The second is free public access to online media databases like The Open Movie Database (TMDb).
Everybody wants a great visual catalogue system. Nobody wants to spend half their waking life typing in the details of each title.
Too much of a good thing:
Forgive me for dropping into the first person for a bit. I’m pretty sure the progress of my interest in Media Center stuff is fairly similar to that of my colleagues, but I don’t want to make a bunch of unfounded assumptions about other people.
I love collections. I still have enough cover CDs from technical magazines to fill a couple of suitcases, but before long it became apparent to me that having a lot of stuff is useless, and in fact, counter-productive because you spend more time looking for stuff than you do actually using it. What’s required is a good way to lay your hands on the item you want quickly, and so the search for a good digital library system began.
Today there are many fine products available for finding, storing, and presenting your digital collections. In addition to Windows Media Center (and the Media Browser add-on) there is XBMC, Media Portal, Boxee and more that I haven’t even had a chance to look at yet.
Each of these fine programs provides a wealth of extended functions and dazzling visual front ends, but I still struggle with that simple question “Seen any good movies lately?” I’ve got too many titles to wade through and only a large, slow application to do it with.
“Just the facts, ma’m”
There is another class of digital movie collection packages that focusrs on the basics. Collecting, organizing, and presenting the titles. It was among this group that I found what I think will turn out to be the answer to my dilemma.
(Visit AllMyMovies at http://www.bolidesoft.com/allmymovies.html)
“All My Movies” came up in a google search one day last year when I was looking for media center applications. I had a play with it, but put it back on the shelf for not being up to the 7MC standard (“7MC” is geek-speak for Windows Media Center for Windows 7) but tried it again in my search for simplicity. There is quite a lot of functionality packed into the latest AMM (ibid). The one that grabbed my attention straight away is its ability to output a list of titles in HTML (web page) format, based on a selection of titles from it’s database.
My first answer to “The Question” was to print out a list of titles from Windows Explorer in date order so the newer titles would float to the top of the list. It kinda worked, but because I made changes to the information, titles like “The Big Store” (Marx Brothers comedy from 1941) would also show up just because I had changed the listing a bit in my file system.
My friend Sean (the one who asks me “The Question” ) would then ask “What’s this one about?”, so to complete the answer it was obvious that I needed a picture – preferably the movie poster or DVD cover to jog his memory, and a link to IMDb or TMDb to provide a comprehensive answer.
Pros and Cons:
AMM has loads of features that I hope to explore in the fullness of time but, right now, it looks like a good match for my immediate requirement for an HTML movie page generator. There is an excellent selection of formats to choose from, and you can even output the information to text.
On the down side, it does cost money, while most of the other programs I’ve looked for have been free. On the flip side of that are the many ways it’s possible to reduce the cost, or even get it for free – like the “guess the movie” competetion found on their website. If you’re strapped for cash I’d try those options first.
The second drawback I’ve found is that this version doesn’t talk to TMDb (The database of choice for “Media Browser” and my personal favourite).
I wrote AMM and asked about it and got a nice note back from Max Smirnoff to tell me that he would get on to that straight away, so I’m very hopeful that before long I can capture all the required movie details simply by getting AMM to scan my movie folder.
I’m going to stick with All My Movies for a while. It will take a bit of time to make the changes required for my design, but right now it appears to be just the kind of package I need and my guess is that it would work for anyone with a set of requirements like mine. Plus, they’re nice people to deal with. When was the last time you got an email back from Bill Gates telling you he’d get right onto your suggestion?
So – “Have I seen any good movies lately?” You tell me: