There you are. You’ve got a bunch of media on your server in your home office. You’ve got XBMC on the AppleTV in your living room. And you want to know the best way to connect your copy of XBMC will all your awesome content.

Preparation

I’m going to assume you know how to share your content. If you happen to be running Windows 7, you could always use this guide to share your files. If you have your media hosted on a NAS, everything should be ready to go in the first place. And if you are attempting to share using an Apple or Linux server, I’ll trust you to find guides for sharing plastered around the net.

Likewise, this guide assumes you’ve already figured out how to install XBMC onto your device and got it running on your TV. This guide picks up after you’ve got XBMC up and running, but before you’ve added any videos.

Let’s get going!

Above you will find a video that walks through every step that I describe below. So if you feel more comfortable following along with a video, definitely do so! If you’d rather have a written description, read on.

Adding Movies to the XBMC Library

Notes: Before you start, you should note that XBMC pays careful attention to what are called “nfo” files or files with the “.nfo” extension. These files are simple text files that describe a video or movie or other piece of media. They are useful if you are using an external media manager. If you are not using an external media manager, you are honestly better off simply deleting any stray nfo files that are present among your movies. They are more likely to prevent your library from reaching its full potential than actually be helpful.

Step 1: Highlight Videos on the home screen and click Files. On the next page click Add Videos.

Step 2: Click Browse. Now, particularly if you are a new user or you aren’t totally certain that you have complete control over your uPnP server, you should click Windows network (SMB). The SMB protocol shows the entire shared folder, including pictures, videos, and everything else you might want for XBMC awesomeness. It is definitely recommended over uPnP at this time. A great many XBMC-related scraping complaints invariably have to do with the decision to use an external uPnP server over SMB or NFS. The problem with using an unknown uPnP server is that the server may tell XBMC the wrong name. If XBMC is told by the server that your movie Parenthood is called Parent Trap, there’s simply no way for XBMC to outsmart the stupid uPnP server. You are going to discover Parent Trap in your library. Long story short: SMB is better than an unknown uPnP server for XBMC.

If you are comfortable with it and understand what it is, you are welcome also to use NFS, which is (at least theoretically) faster than SMB, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, SMB is absolutely the way to go. Likewise, if you know what you are doing, you are welcome to try AFP and FTP. They do effectively the same thing for XBMC purposes.

Step 3: Navigate to your shared folder. Click OK. (See the video above for a detailed example of this in action at this time.) Now name this source. If it is a movie folder, you could name it “Movies” or “Some of my movies” or “Princess Consuela Banana Hammock.”  Honestly, it doesn’t matter what you name the folder, so long as the name is something that will help you, the user, remember what’s inside.

Step 4: This is an important one, and something that many people forget/skip. You absolutely must “Set Content.” That just means that you are telling XBMC whether the folder you just added is a movies folder or a tv show folder or a music video folder. This is useful for XBMC and the user, because it allows individuals to change the “scraper” that is used to connect the video files with data and images about the video file. The better the scraper, the prettier and more filled out your library.

For this step, since we’re adding movies, set your content to “Movies.”

If you have your movies stuck in individual folders, feel free to check that box. If not, don’t worry about it.

If you are asked and this is your first time through, answer “yes” to whether you want to refresh info for all items.

Step 5: Wait while XBMC scans your media.

Step 6: Now XBMC will present you with a new “Movies” button. Go ahead and click on it and scan through your list of movies. In particular, try to keep an eye out for mistakes by the scraper. XBMC and its scrapers have gotten very smart over the years, but there are still occasional errors. For example, in the video above, XBMC thought I was scraping a documentary about Borat the television show, rather than the internationally produced film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

Step 7 (Optional): If you have identified an incorrectly scraped movie, enter the movie’s “Information” page. On a keyboard, you can do this by clicking the ‘i’ key. Click the Refresh button. XBMC will then offer you a list of movies that might be more accurate. With luck, you’ll see your movie among the list.  Select your movie. XBMC will then replace the information it had connect with the video file with this new information.

Step 8: You’re done! Make some popcorn and watch a movie or something!

Adding TV shows to the Library

Notes: The biggest headache with adding TV shows to your library is the proper sorting order. The air date and the dvd release order can sometimes be very, VERY different, and XBMC will have no way to know which one is correct. XBMC defaults to Air Date, because most shows tend to follow that pattern. But some, like Joss Whedon’s Firefly, get very, very whacky if you follow the air date rule.

If you are using a bluray or dvd rip of a show like Firefly, it is recommended that you follow the below guide, and then do the following:

Navigate to Files->TV Shows (or whatever the name of your tv show folder is)->Firefly (or whatever your show is). Click ‘c’ (or whatever button you use to reach the context menu). Then click “Change content.” Scroll down and click on Settings. Then choose from “DVD Order” or “Use Absolute Ordering.” For Firefly “DVD Order” should work. Click OK to get back out of the dialogs. Finally, Update the Library. Your show should now be listed in the correct order.

Now, with all that said, how do we add TV shows in the first place?

Step 1 – Step 4: Repeat the movie steps above. Once again, it doesn’t matter what you name your Source in step 3, so long as whatever you name it is memorable and makes sense to you. Finally, in step 4 be sure to Set Content to TV Shows.

Step 5: Wait.

Step 6: Scan your content.

Step 7 (Optional): Fix your content the same way you did with your movies above.

Conclusion

And that’s it! The above video includes a number of additional tricks, like what to do if you have TV shows or Movies in multiple folders on different drives, how to add cool logos to your setup, and how to make Movies and TV Shows appear on your home screen. So if you aren’t totally certain how to make any of that happen, feel free to give the video a watch.

If you have any suggestions for another tip, say so in the comments below!


  • Ian

    I’m interested to know why you think it is better to delete the nfo files. I export my library from xbmc occasionally just to have the nfo backup.

    • NathanBetzen

      Mostly because you can never make broad sweeping changes in XBMC when you have nfo files. So now that XBMC has the new Collections feature as part of library scraping, you can’t take advantage of it if you are using nfos. 

  • Andreas Ioannou

    How to XBMC from setup to addons for beginners