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TV101 - Introduction to TV Series & Episodes

Instructional Step-by-Step How-To's to using CMC with My Movies
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Pauven
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TV101 - Introduction to TV Series & Episodes

Post by Pauven » Sun Mar 11, 2018 12:15 pm

Please read this post before diving into the more advanced topics, as there are some basic concepts introduced here you will need to know to succeed.

MM Browser v1.8 introduces "preliminary" support for TV Series and Episodes. This post will detail what to expect when using this new functionality.

First, the support is "preliminary" because this is still a work in progress. As you will learn from reading through these tutorials, TV Series & Episode support has been a tough nut to crack - mostly because My Movies has design limitations. We hope to improve the support in the future, though we felt the current state was far enough along to be usable.

MM Browser TV Series & Episode support was designed around My Movies 5.24. As Binnerup has made significant changes between versions, for best results it is recommended you use My Movies 5.24. Some earlier versions may not work at all with MM Browser, much less the new TV Series & Episodes functionality.

MM Browser is designed to work best with My Movies v5.24
MM Browser is designed to work best with My Movies v5.24
TV101-00.jpg (45.94 KiB) Viewed 4041 times

The 3 most important lessons to learn are these:
  1. MM Browser handles TV Series and Episodes very differently from WMC + My Movies Plugin
  2. The quality of the data in My Movies directly affects the quality of the data in MM Browser
  3. There will likely be a significant effort on your part to properly configure your episodes in My Movies
That #3 is especially important to note. For many users, the amount of configuration required in My Movies to support Episodes in MM Browser is going to be just too much work, and for now, this is out of our control as we can't change the way My Movies behaves, only Binnerup can improve this situation.


MM Browser's Display of TV Series
This is the most notable change versus WMC + MM Plugin. In WMC, TV Series were in a separated area, and selecting a series brought up the series information page, and listed the episode details. Sometimes, selecting an episode would directly play that episode, though sometimes this feature did not work correctly.

Unfortunately, you will encounter similar episode playback issues with MM Browser, and for the same reasons: bad data in My Movies. By reading through these guides you may learn a few tricks for fixing these issues, though be warned, some issues may not be fixable.

In MM Browser, TV Series are displayed inline with Movies and other content. If you are displaying all titles, you will see Movies and TV Series side by side, intermingled.

TV Series shown Inline with Movies
TV Series shown Inline with Movies
TV101-01.jpg (500.7 KiB) Viewed 4045 times

If you just want to see Movies or just want to see TV Series, the Media Type filter will allow you to do this.

Media Type Filtering on TV Series
Media Type Filtering on TV Series
TV101-02.jpg (413.59 KiB) Viewed 4045 times

When you select a TV Series in MM Browser, it will open up like a Box Set, displaying all titles in your collection that belong to that TV Series. We call this "TV Series Grouping". This Box Set style grouping behavior is for 2 reasons:
  1. If a disc isn't correctly configured for Episodes, then you can still easily access the individual discs for the TV Series. This requires almost no setup in My Movies, so everyone can enjoy TV Series Grouping.
  2. My Movies makes it nearly impossible to export the <Series> version of the mymovies.xml file, which is required to show TV Series information the way it is presented in WMC.
TV Series are presented similar to Box Sets, showing all Titles/Discs that make up the Series
TV Series are presented similar to Box Sets, showing all Titles/Discs that make up the Series
TV101-03.jpg (264.47 KiB) Viewed 4045 times


MM Browser's Display of TV Episodes
Currently in MM Browser v1.8, to display Episodes you must first Play the title just as you would a Movie. When you Play the title, you will be presented with varying options for selecting what to playback. You might see individual ISO's to mount, and/or individual Folders to play, and/or the option to View Episodes.

Select Play to bring up the Select Discs prompt, with optional View Episodes feature
Select Play to bring up the Select Discs prompt, with optional View Episodes feature
TV101-04.jpg (170.04 KiB) Viewed 4045 times

The important thing to understand here is that MM Browser only displays the options according to what has been configured in My Movies. If you don't see the View Episodes option, then you have not configured Episodes correctly in My Movies. And for some Blu-ray discs, My Movies makes it nearly impossible to correct some of this data.

If you do have the View Episodes option, selecting it will allow you to first select the Season, then the Episode. Please note that in version 1.8, currently all prior Seasons are displayed for a given disc, even if they are not playable. For example, if you select Sopranos Season 6, you will see Seasons 1-5 also listed, though they will be empty. In the future, we will be merging the seasons from multiple discs/titles into a single listing, but for now please understand that the Seasons and the Episodes listed and playable will for for that specific Title/Disc only.

Select Season prompt, which shows prior seasons which are currently not selectable
Select Season prompt, which shows prior seasons which are currently not selectable
TV101-05.jpg (169.31 KiB) Viewed 4045 times
Select Episode prompt.  Note that the &lt;Set File Path... in the Episode Name indicates more My Movies configuration is required.
Select Episode prompt. Note that the <Set File Path... in the Episode Name indicates more My Movies configuration is required.
TV101-06.jpg (210.1 KiB) Viewed 4045 times

On the Episode selection screen, the episodes you are selecting from may be linked to individual encoded files (i.e. Sopranos_S1_E07.mp4), DVD Titles, or Blu-ray playlists (MPLS).

We have seen at least one DVD TV Series that used Chapters instead of Titles for marking episodes. Currently, MM Browser v1.8 only support Title numbers for marking episodes. We will be looking at adding support for Chapter marking in a future version.

The good news is that MM Browser v1.8 supports direct playback of episodes from DVD/Blu-ray ISO. The bad news is that this requires a fair amount of setup work in My Movies, plus the My Movies design limitations make this harder than it needs to be. A big part of this challenge are the various mymovies.xml files.


Types of mymovies.xml Files
MM Browser is designed to read the mymovies.xml files that My Movies creates and places alongside your media files. In the beginning, we falsely assumed that there was only one kind of mymovies.xml file, and that was the one we found alongside pretty much all discs, the <title> mymovies.xml file.

As we dug into TV Series & Episode support, we then discovered that there are at least 2 other file types, and they are also named using "mymovies.xml" in the name. One is the <series> mymovies.xml file, and the other is the <episode> mymovies.xml file.

You can distinguish between these 3 different mymovies.xml files by opening them, and noting at the top the first tag, which will be <title>, <episode>, or <series>.

It turns out that My Movies is very particular about writing these <series> and <episode> files. To be honest, we haven't quite figured out how to force a <series> file to be written, as we've only succeeded once, and don't know how we did it.

The <episode> files are only written if a playback file is assigned in the "File Path" box on the Episode, and by design this requires a single playback file per episode (i.e. Sopranos_S3_E01.mp4).

Assigning an MP4 file to an Episode's File Path in My Movies
Assigning an MP4 file to an Episode's File Path in My Movies
TV101-07.jpg (168.56 KiB) Viewed 4042 times

This becomes a problem for MM Browser, as the Episode Name and other episode specific details are ONLY exported in the <episode> file, and by design My Movies only writes these for re-encoded media with an individual file per episode. That means that MM Browser's ability to playback episodes directly from DVD/Blu-ray ISO would not benefit from the various episode details that My Movies refuses to export for ISOs.

But we have found a solution!

It turns out that simply by assigning pretty much any file to the Episode's File Path box, the one requirement being that the file must actually exist, will force My Movies to export the <episode> mymovies.xml files. Built-in to MM Browser v1.8 is an automatic feature to create empty text files with specific names that can be assigned to Episodes in My Movies for just this purpose, and once My Movies generates the required <episode> files, we can have nice Episode Names and other details (work in progress) inside MM Browser.


Next Steps
Now that you have read through this TV101 introduction, we invite you to learn practical examples by reading our advanced tutorials. These guides are listed in increasing difficultly, so we encourage you to read them in the numbered order.
  • TV201 - TV Series Grouping
  • TV202 - Assigning ISOs to TV Series Titles
  • TV301 - TV Episodes for Encoded Media
  • TV302 - TV Episodes for DVD ISO's
  • TV303 - TV Episodes for Blu-ray ISO's
President, Chameleon Consulting LLC
Author, Chameleon MediaCenter

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