Ember Media Manager

Ember Media Manager Tutorial

A media center isn’t nearly as awesome if your media is mislabeled or inadequately prepared. Stay with me to understand the way you use Ember Media Manager to whip your media into shape and make your collection fantastic for your home theater pc.

So why do I require a Media Manager?

Quite possibly you’ve never read about a media manager or should you have; you’ve wrote it off as something for those fanatical types to futs with. Media managers are vital for making sure what your media center displays is exact, custom tuned, and inevitably flaunts how magnificent your media collection is.
Precisely what is a media manager? A media manager is really just an application that catalogs your media and creates images and metadata in the directory that your media is saved in to ensure home theater pc applications can access that data so as to display the needed information for the movie (ratings, reviews, cast listings, etc.) and media for the movie (box art, movie posters, fan art, etc.).

Why would you want one in the event your media center currently has built in media scraping?

A lot of media centers do have some kind of scraper built in; a scraper is just a small script that browses through online databases such as Internet Movie Database to find media matches. Unfortunately media scrapers vary from good to totally crappy and correcting their mistakes using your home theater pc remote control or even a media center keyboard is monotonous. Additionally, just about every HTPC stores the info it scrapes locally. Do you know what this means? If you crash your media center and have to reinstall, all of that data must be re-scraped; unless you have a good backup system (check here). Set up an additional HTPC elsewhere in the home? Time to rescrape again or gamble at exporting and importing the info should your media center software even supports it.  If you are a Plex user, this won’t effect you because all the metadata is stored on your main HTPC. Scraping usually takes hours on a big media collection. Together with waiting for the media collection to scrape you then have to go through and correct the errors yet again. It’s tedious and there’s no reason you should do it.
Now, should you add a new home theater pc to your home network; all that HTPC has to do is browse the data from your media shares and insert it, as opposed to running all night re-scraping your media.

Ember Media Manager Overview

For the following tutorial we’ll be utilizing Ember Media Manager, a popular and open-source media management tool. Ember Media Manager was originally designed for XBMC home theater pc’s but you can change your configuration settings to scrape data for other popular media center programs. In this guide, however, we’ll be utilising it to configure media for XBMC.

Installing and Configuring Ember Media Manager

Setting up and configuring Ember Media Manager is a breeze once you learn the proper settings to key in. In the following screenshots we’ll walk you through configuring Ember Media Manager to have an ideal home theater pc experience. Remember, we’re setting things up for XBMC, you’ll need to tweak the settings to fit the way your HTPC accesses movie information, thumbnails, and fan art.

The very first thing you want to do is download Ember Media Manager Revisited. Ember media manager revisited is the most current version of Ember Media Manager, the reason it’s revisited is that development was discontinued and the installer phones home, but with revisited, you don’t have that problem.
When you have the appropriate file just extract the contents wherever you would like to store Ember Media Manager, open up the directory, and run it the first time.

Language selection aside, the first real prompt you’ll come across is a request for the placement of your video files. Simply click Add button, name your source, type in the source path, as well as set your source selections. Scan Recursively instructs Ember Media Manager to dig down through folder directories and check out movies in sub-folders. Given that we keep all our movies in a very simple one-movie-per-folder configuration, we left this unchecked. “Only detect one movie from each folder” is crucial for most of the thumbnail and artwork overall performance in XBMC. In the event you currently have all your movies jumbled in a big folder rather than sorted into individual sub-folders we highly recommend performing a quick clean-up before going forward. Finally “use folder name for initial listing” needs to be checked so Ember Media Manager will make use of the folder names to download the movie names ahead of the initial scraping.

Ember Media Manager Add Movie

PLEASE NOTE: We highly, strongly, passionately recommend you copy some of your movie directories to be a test. We selected a few movies from our collection and put them specially in a folder labeled /Ember Media Manager Test/. This way you can get well-versed in Ember Media Manager without taking a chance on making sweeping and difficult to repair changes to the whole media collection. Once you feel confident with Ember Media Manager you’ll be able to switch the source back to your primary media folder. Once you’ve setup the test folder for your movies; perform the same for your Television shows.

Once you’ve set your movie source, Ember Media Manager will prompt you to pick how it should save posters, fan art, and NFO files. If you’re setting things up for XBMC you’ll choose to check folder.jpg, movie.tbn, poster.jpg, fanart.jpg, <movie>-fanart.jpg, and <movie>.nfo. Most of these, such as folder.jpg and <movie>.tbn are semi-redundant but they also serve a purpose. Folder.jpg will include a thumbnail that both XBMC’s file browser and other file browsers like Windows Explorer will recognize and <movie>.tbn is the standard structure for movie cover thumbnails within XBMC. Putting them both in makes browsing on multiple programs much easier and decreases load times in XBMC. NFO files are simple text files that store media metadata. Ember Media Manager will create data in each movie folder that has all the scraped movie info. That way, down the road, XBMC will not ever search for it. It would pull your customized data from the film directory.

As soon as you setup the film folder you’ll repeat this process for Tv programs. Skip this if you have no shows. If you do, listen to our previous warning! Create a test folder! You’ll simply select the source in the same fashion and check these options in the settings menu of Ember Media Manager:

For this round you’ll check folder.jgp, fanart.jpg, season-all.tbn, <ep>.tbn, and after that in the seasons section seasonXX.tbn, folder.jpg, and fanart.jpg.

When you’re finished selecting your sources, click Next to finish and launch Ember Media Manager. You’ll see the full program (which, for a moment will probably be empty). Down in the lower left corner youíll see movie and TV show titles whirling by as Ember Media Manager scans your folders. The first scan is not a scrape, it’s just Ember Media Manager getting the file names and pulling up any clues it finds in the folder. We had 17 movies, as an example, in our test folder and based on what was kept in the folders along with the movie file itself Ember Media Manager pulled up info which ranged from simply the title, to fan art, ratings and much more. This is entirely determined by whether or not you’ve scraped the files before with another media manager or if the files you obtained already had the extras attached.


Don’t be surprised if you have no media information what so ever in Ember Media Manager. For a virgin collection; or maybe a collection you hand-ripped that’s probably how you’ll find it. Don’t fear though! At the end of this guide you’ll have completely updated and sparkling media collection.

Scraping Your Media Collection with Ember Media Manager

At this point you have the application set up, you’ve finished an initial scan, and then you need to start filling in the additional information pertaining to your media files.

Let’s get started by using “The Station Agent” for example. It’s in Ember Media Manager but it has hardly any data; it’s just a raw movie file. That’s not too interesting and it gives our media center absolutely nothing interesting to load up. Let’s execute a single scrape of that individual movie to show you how the process works. You won’t have to individually scrape every movie, mind you! Ember Media Manager does an admirable job bulk scraping. If you’re a newcomer to this business of media organization and scraping, however, we’d like you to view the process in step-by-step action. Select a movie and right click on it, we’ll be utilizing “The Station Agent”, and choose (Re)Scrape Movie.

For nearly every movie, save for the odd foreign film or barely-known indie film, Ember Media Manager should almost instantly kick back a result. It found “The Station Agent” within seconds.

Select the match and click on OK. Ember Media Manager will scrape for yet another moment and after that provide you with a display of movie posters. Some movies simply have just one poster, some have many. Pull down the largest image you are able to, you never know how high-resolution the media centers and High definition tvs of tomorrow will be-itís a tiny bit of future-proofing.

As soon as the movie poster selection comes the fan art. Fan art as it were, can range in everything from movie photos from popular scenes, promo wallpaper released from the studio, custom images created by fans, and also totally unique fan-generated artwork. Most movies have quite a few images to select from. In the event you can’t make up your mind Ember Media Manager features a caching feature built-in. In the event you check off many fan art only the one you choose in blue would be the primary fan art, all the others will be locally cached together with the movie within the /extrathumbs/ category for quick future access.

When you’re done picking out movie posters and fan art, Ember Media Manager will kick you onto the Edit Movie dashboard for the movie youíre working on. There you are able to review all the changes it has made including things such as the cast list, plot summary, rating, genre tagging, as well as the poster/fan art/extra thumbs you’ve obtained.

If everything looks good click on OK in the corner. What was an empty gray box that said “No Information is Available for This Movie” is now a colorful movie summary with a movie poster, fan art, ratings (both critical ratings and parental warning ratings) in addition to icons showing the resolution and audio quality of the movie. Like what you see? Take a moment to right click the movie you just scraped and choose “Lock”. That is a brand new function in Ember Media Manager that allows you to lock an entry you’re satisfied with to make sure that future scraping wonít accidently replace your hand picked graphics. Entries for locked items have got a mild blue background.

The very first movie scrape went so effectively, let’s scrape everything! Ember Media Manager will make it simple to scrape your collection. Click on the Scrape Media icon found on the menu bar to the right of the Movies tab. A pull down menu will appear. Here in the menu you can choose what media you would like Ember Media Manager to scrape. Since we have a new collection with (save for that movie we scraped) no movie data, we’re gonna scrape all the movies, require Ember Media Manager to prompt us if it’s confused on a movie match, and download all items. Usually Ember Media Manager does a great job deciding which movie is which, nevertheless it occasionally has a problem like whether or not the “Transformers” movie under consideration is the 1984 version or the 2007 release.

There is one issue with mass scraping. Ember Media Manager just picks the most used movie covers and fan art for you. If you’re a customization nut you’ll need to manually scrape each video. We like to strike a compromise; we enable Ember Media Manager do the bulk scrape, then we run through the listings and see if there are actually any covers or movie posters that we’d want to change. Generally speaking the default picks are OK with us and letting Ember Media Manager to complete the heavy-lifting saves a considerable amount of time.

When you’re done with movies, it’s time for it to do your Television shows. Television shows are carried out almost identically, with some small differences the process is so similar we’re going to skip with all the step-by-step screenshots and simply give you a run down of the differences.

The TV Shows tab is located right next to the Movies tab in the main interface. You just click on it and browse your Tv series listings. The important distinction between the films and TV Shows interface is you can’t bulk scrape your shows in Ember Media Manager. There are several more steps involved in the process for Television shows which include choosing the language the show is in, grabbing season thumbnails, and then obviously the season/episode scraping. Therefore you’ll need to right click and re-scrape each Television show. You may highlight multiple shows after which you can select re-scrape to scrape all of them, but you’ll still be prompted when it’s finished with each show to make choices for the subsequent show in the list.

Scraping for a big show with many seasons and 100s of episodes may take Ember Media Manager a few minutes; Friends took a good ten minutes of scraping, as an example. As opposed to movies: where Ember Media Manager has to scrape just a few images, Tv series scraping involves getting several seasons worth of cover and fan art, episode summaries, episode screen grabs, and extra info. Thankfully because you’re scraping the information and putting it with your media, you should only need to do it once! Much like with the movies if you scrape a TV show and you’re really pleased with the results don’t fail to remember to right click and lock the entry so it doesn’t accidentally get rescraped later on.
If the test of Ember Media Manager’s movie and Tv series scraping abilities went well, go on and copy over the folders from your test directory back into their respective media directories. Then go into the menu bar in Ember Media Manager and then click Edit -> Settings and in the Files and Sources section under both Movies and Tv series, modify the source location from the test directory to the main directory. It’s another step or two we know, but it’s advisable to learn the ropes with a powerful tool like Ember Media Manager inside of a test directory than it is to make a mess within your existing media directory. Once you’ve switched the source directories in Ember Media Manager you are able to scan your whole media collection to get everything up to speed and enjoy your gloriously structured collection!

Viewing Updated Media in XBMC

All that work isn’t worth much if you canít enjoy it on your Television. Go fire up XBMC and update your library. XBMC should rescan all of your directories and use the locally cached data as it searches for local information before sending the scraper out onto the internet to fill in the gaps. Thanks to your handy work in Ember Media Manager there shouldn’t be any gaps to complete.

Now I do realize that Ember Media Manager is a PC only solution, I am looking for a Mac equivalent.  Honestly, the best Mac media manager I can find is the built in scraper included with Plex.  It has a lot of the same functionality as Ember Media Manager, but on the Mac.  Let me know if you have any suggestions in the comments so I can take a look and write something up.

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