If your PC is the hub for your home entertainment system, keeping track of your video collection isn’t easy. Whether it’s footage you’ve captured with your own DV camcorder, gaming trailers you’ve collected from the Internet, or archives of all your DVDs, it’s easy to wind up with loads of media files and yet have no easy way to find that one piece of video you’re dying to see. No matter what types of videos you crave, keeping them organized is an essential task. It’s also easy.
We’d love to tell you that there’s a single free program that’s ideal for keeping track of every kind of video content you own—but we can’t. We have, however, discovered a pair of free programs that can make almost any video collection easy to manage. For organizing anything other than commercial DVDs, we recommend Microsoft’s free Windows Live Photo Gallery, an update to Vista’s Windows Photo Gallery that works with both Windows Vista and Windows XP. For organizing your DVD collection, whether you prefer to play your movies from their original DVD sources or from hard-disk backup copies, you’ll want to use Rock Solid Software’s MovieManager. Both apps offer flawless organizational options for your treasure trove of titles, and we’re going to show you exactly how to use them.
To get Windows Live Photo Gallery, go to the Microsoft Live website (get.live.com) and click the Get Windows Live button at the bottom of the page. By default, all Windows Live products except Family Safety for Windows Live OneCare are preselected. If you want only WLPG, uncheck the other options and click Install.
Download the application to your desktop and double-click it to fire up WLPG (Vista users will also need to provide administrator-level credentials if User Account Control is enabled.) The installer will display the programs you selected and offer a final chance to install any applications you might have neglected to check the first time around. Choose what you need, then sit back and relax while Photo Gallery and supporting tools are downloaded and installed.
WLPG might ask if it should open various types of image files. If you want to set it as the default photo-opening program for your PC, click Yes to continue. On Windows Vista, WLPG displays all the videos it finds in the current user’s Videos folder and the Public Videos folder. On Windows XP, WLPG displays the videos in the current user’s My Videos and Shared Videos folders.
To work with videos stored in other folders (such as videos made with Windows Media Center), click File, select the “Include a folder in the gallery” option, and browse to the folder you want to add to the gallery, such as Public\Recorded TV. Click OK after highlighting the folder. Click OK to close the “This folder has been added to the gallery” dialog. Repeat as needed to add folders on local or network drives.
Tags are key words that describe a video or group of videos. They provide an effective means of video organization and searchability. To create a tag in WLPG, click the Create a New Tag link in the left pane and type in the name of the tag. Repeat the process for each new tag you want to create. Use tags to indicate subject, location, format—any identifier that would be useful.
You can apply your tags to any video (or still image) in your collection by selecting the file and dragging it from the center pane to the tag of your choice in the left pane. Property tagname appears when you’re holding videos over a tag as a confirmation that, yes, this is the tag you want to add to the videos. Release the mouse, and the tag is applied to the selected video clip or photo. You can add multiple tags to any video clip (or photo).
You also add tags to a video clip by right-clicking the clip and selecting Add Tags from the context menu. Add Tags fulfills the same role as the Create a New Tag option. Any tags you’ve already created for the clip will auto-populate in the text box; simply enter a new tag to join the ones you already created.
Once you’ve tagged your video clips, it’s easy to find the clips you want by selecting the related tags—expand the tag menu in the left pane and click the tag you’re interested in. Only videos (or photos) with the matching tag will be shown.
MovieManager 2.02’s advanced capabilities and integration with Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) make it a great app for organizing your commercial videos. If Java isn’t already installed on your rig, click the Java link on the MovieManager download page (http://moviemanager.ca/) and install it first. If you are installing MovieManager on Windows Vista, right-click the install program and select Run as Administrator.
First, open MovieManager’s configuration options by clicking the Tools menu and selecting Preferences. To specify which movie players MovieManager can use, click Movie Player, then browse to your movie player of choice, such as Windows Media Player 11 or any other media player with DVD support. Make your selection and then press Apply.
By default, MovieManager supports avi, mov, mpeg, mpg, qt, wmv, and iso file extensions. If you want to add or delete file extensions, or make other changes in movie database handling, open the Load Database submenu. The program uses Internet Movie Database information to fill in (or replace) your movies’ details. To prevent certain types of information from being changed, select options in the IMDb Lookup menu.
MovieManager can output an HTML list of your movie collection, but this comes out sorted by title. If you want to alter your sorting options, fire up the HTML Output submenu. You can also use this menu to change the file name and location of the list.
If your DVD collection is full of big-name films produced in the last five years or so, save time by loading sample data for more than 120 recent films and modifying this information as needed. To load the database with sample data, click Tools, then Load Sample Data.
MovieManager stores a treasure trove of information, including title, episode, genre, movie file location, and classification (film rating). To modify a movie listing, select the film from the Movies tab and change information as needed. We recommend that you at least input the location of the movie’s VIDEO_TS.IFO file into the location field. Then change the date in the Added On field to the current date and assign the movie a personal rating. Click Save to save your changes.
Once you update a sample record or add your own movie and save the record (see step 5), you can use the Genre pulldown menu above the Movies listing to select movies by genre. To add genre information to a listing, type the new information into the genre field, preferably after the existing genre categories. Each genre category is separated by a comma.
You can search for listings using a number of qualifiers—such as episode, genre, year, or duration—click the Search icon (binoculars), select a single qualifier, type in your the search terms, and click the Search button. Click Close to return to the Movies listing, which now displays the films that match your search parameters. To view all films again, choose Select All Movies in the Genre menu.
To load your own movies into MovieManager, click Tools and then Load Movies; next, specify the locations of your movie files. Note that you can browse to local or network locations. By default, movies you load are appended to the database: The program uses the name of the folder where they reside to scour IMDb for the film’s information.
Be wary of two potentially dangerous options when importing. The first is “Replace Database Contents.” Use this only if you do not want to use any of the sample data that you’ve downloaded in MovieManager. The “Remove Movies from Database When the Movie Files are Missing” option is useful only when the movies exist on your hard drive. Otherwise, you’ll be nuking all the information you enter whenever you lose a network connection or don’t have the DVD in the drive.
Finish the import by clicking Save to preserve your changes, then click Load db to locate your movies. To update a movie listing with IMDb information, double-click the movie to load it into the movie information window at the program’s right. Make sure the movie location information is displayed. Click Save to save the listing, then click Goto IMDb. Your default web browser opens on the best match in IMDb.
Because of title duplication, you might need to navigate through IMDb to find the right movie. Once you find it, highlight the ttnumber portion of the URL and copy it (e.g., the “tt0091203” in www.imdb.com/title/tt0091203). Return to the MovieManager program window, paste (or type) the ttnumber into the IMDb Key window and click IMDb Lookup to fill in missing data. Click Save again. Repeat as needed for each of your new movies.