Organize music and movies: the complete guide to managing your media

19th Jun 2013 | 10:00

Organize music and movies: the complete guide to managing your media

Build the ultimate platform-agnostic media collection

Having all your media on tap without having to find or swap CDs and DVDs is a major attraction of building your own digital media library. Trouble is, there are so many platforms out there, how do you prepare your library to work nicely across such as wide a range of services? In this guide we reveal all.

First, we're going to assume your videos are stored in Apple's MP4/H.264 format. Even Windows 8 natively supports this format, along with most third-party devices such as Android mobiles and smart TVs.

Next, you need to name or rename your files so that the 'media scrapers' employed by many media servers can easily identify them and match them to the information stored on online databases such as thetvdb.com and themoviedb.org.

We'll then show you how to directly embed the metadata used by your media server into your media files through a process called tagging. This allows your files to be correctly seen across a wider range of platforms, including iTunes, giving you maximum flexibility.

Naming conventions

Start by naming your files. The filename convention depends on the type of file (music track, TV show, movie or music video) as well as the media server you're using. Most are flexible enough to support the following conventions, which are favoured by open-source media server XBMC (see the XBMC Wiki for full details):

  • Type / Folder / structure / Syntax Example
  • Music / Music\Artist\Album / artist – track name / a-ha – take on me.mp3
  • Movies / Movie\movie / title (year) / star trek (2009).mp4
  • TV Shows / TV\TV Show\Season / tvshow – s01e01.mp4 / 30 rock – s03e12.mp4
  • Music Videos / Music Videos\Artist / artist – track name / dexy's midnight runners – come on eileen.mp4

Don't be afraid to use spaces and punctuation - so it's schindler's list, not schindlers_list, although remember certain characters - particularly colons (:) and question marks (?) - aren't supported by all file systems.

Think about adding the year to the TV Show name folder if its title is likely to cause confusion - for example, Battlestar Galactica (2003). The s01e01 part of the show refers to its season and episode number - if an episode is listed under the Specials section in thetvdb.com, use s00 for its season number. Consult the wiki for advice naming up multi-episode or split-episode files.

Rename your files

How to name and tag your media files

Knowing the naming conventions helps when you're starting from scratch, but if you find yourself with a string of movies, TV shows or music tracks to rename, then you'll need the help of a free, cross-platform tool called Filebot.

It's a great tool for organising your media files, but we're specifically using it here to correctly - and quickly - rename incorrect files, including ripped CDs where no track information was available.

Start by loading in the files you want to rename - we suggest restricting yourself to a single TV show or music artist at a time. Now click the Match button and choose Edit Format to tell FileBot how to name your files. For TV shows, type {n} - {s00e00} - {t} into the box and click Use Format.

Click the Switch to… button to switch to movies then music naming conventions, typing {n} ({y}) into the box for movies, and {artist} – {t} into the box for music before clicking Use Format.

With the format defined, click the Match button again, but this time select a database to use from those offered - typically the first entry is best (thetvdb.com, themoviedb.com). FileBot will then attempt to find a match and display the renamed file in the right-hand pane.

If it's correct, click the Rename button to name your files correctly. FileBot will flag any potentially illegal characters like colons and question marks, allowing you to strip them out with a single click.

Tag films and TV shows

How to name and tag your media files

With your files named, XBMC, Plex and other media servers employing scrapers should now detect your files and add them to their database. If you want to embed tags into your media files for the benefit of iTunes and its ilk, read on.

The quickest and simplest way for Mac users to tag their files is via Plex Media Server, even if you're using another media server such as XBMC.

Install Plex Media Server (PMS), then add your folders to its database and wait while it scans them for metadata - see the Plex documentation for a guide to setting it up. Now visit the homepage of Plex Media Tagger, a free Python script that can interrogate your PMS database and embed the information there into your files as tags.

How to name and tag your media files

First, download the zip file to your Downloads folder, then double-click to extract its contents. Locate the folder beginning ccjensen-PlexMediaTagger and rename it to PlexMediaTagger, then move the folder to Documents for ease of access.

Now, with PMS running in the background, open Applications > Utilities > Terminal. Type the following two commands to tag all your files catalogued in PMS's database with the metadata it's scraped from the internet:

Cd documents/plexmediatagger

Python plexmediatagger.py –tfb

This will tag all of your TV/film media. You'll see a progress bar appear as the files are processed. If you want to refine the process, you'll find a full set of available commands at the Plex Media Tagger website. For an example, check out the following command:

Python plexmediatagger.py –tfb –batch-mediatype=show –tag-tv-prefer-season-artwork –batch-breadcrumb='>30 rock'

This command will only tag TV shows containing the name '30 Rock' in the PMS database. It will also instruct Plex Media Tagger to embed the season artwork for each episode in place of an episode thumbnail.

The -tfb command ensures that the files are retagged even if they already contain tags - use -tb instead if you want existing tagged files to be skipped.

Tagging files in Windows

How to name and tag your media files

Sadly Plex Media Tagger isn't capable of embedding media tags into files in Windows, so you'll need a different approach - one that isn't free. The best tool for the job is MetaX, which costs $9.95. An unregistered version is available for testing purposes - it's fully functional, but will only save the tags to five files before demanding registration.

Launch MetaX and start by clicking the Preferences button. Switch to the File tab and tick TV Shows under Title Tagging, then enter %6 into the TV Shows box to ensure the episode title (such as 'Rose' for Doctor Who) is inserted into the Title tag.

Next, switch to the Data tab and untick Amazon to remove it from the list of providers. Click OK. Then load your media in batches - say, one TV show season at a time. Once in place, select all of your shows in the right-hand pane, verify the search terms and click Search!

After a short pause you should see the results. For TV shows, click the one with the TV logo, which denotes thetvdb.com. This will apply all the correct metadata to each episode of the selected season. Verify this by clicking each entry in the right-hand pane and checking the Short and Long Descriptions.

When you're happy with the results, click the Write Queue button to save the tags to your selected files. It's not as fast or elegant as Plex Media Tagger, but MetaX is still quicker than tagging by hand.

Tagging music videos

How to name and tag your media files

The best way to tag your music videos is by using the metadata stored on the MusicBrainz.org database in conjunction with its free companion app, MusicBrainz Picard, which runs on Mac, Windows and Linux.

MusicBrainz.org has some - but not many - music videos already catalogued on its site, so you may want to consider signing up and contributing your own, unless you're happy to tag your videos with music album information instead. We like the idea of grouping all our videos together in iTunes, so have made the effort to contribute from our own collection.

It's quite straightforward: log into MusicBrainz.org, locate the artist in question and then try to find the closest corresponding release (many music video DVDs are released alongside CD equivalents).

From here, create a new release, make sure it's DVD Video, then follow the wizard to enter all the details - there are various time-saving measures in place, such as being able to copy and paste in a track listing from elsewhere (Wikipedia is a good starting point).

Once your DVD is in the database, track down a cover image and upload it via the Cover Art tab. All the information to tag the tracks from a specific music DVD are now in place.

How to name and tag your media files

Now install and launch MusicBrainz Picard. The first time you run it, open Preferences and select Cover Art. Make sure Cover Art Archive is ticked under Cover Art providers to embed the art you uploaded earlier into your music video files.

Next, select View > File Browser to add an Explorer-like pane to browse your hard drive for your music videos. When you've found them, drag an artist's folder into the middle pane, where the artist's videos will appear under Unmatched Files.

Next, click the Album drop-down menu in the top right-hand corner of the screen, change it to Artist, type the name of the artist and click the Search button to zip off to the MusicBrainz website in your browser.

Locate the appropriate release and you'll see a green Tagger icon to its right - clicking this imports the information into MusicBrainz Picard in the right-hand pane. Drag the Unmatched folder onto this release and you should find all your tracks are automatically detected and assigned the correct track information.

It pays to review this, so expand the DVD release and check any yellow or red entries to verify they've been paired up correctly. Mistakes can be rectified by dragging tracks to their correct entry in the list.

You can also edit individual tags by simply clicking and typing. Once you're happy, select the music DVD in the right-hand pane, click Save and wait for MusicBrainz Picard to write out the tags.

Import your videos

How to name and tag your media files

With the tags in place, you can now import your videos into iTunes. Just add your parent Music Videos, TV Shows or Movies folder to the iTunes library (remember to untick Copy Files to iTunes Media Folder when adding to the library on the Advanced tab under Preferences if you don't want to duplicate the files).

By default, all your videos will be found under Movies > Home Videos. Just select them all, choose File > Get Info, switch to the Options tab and select the correct type under Media Kind before clicking OK to file them in the correct place.

media movies music tutorial TRBC TRBCFeature
Share this Article
Google+

Apps you might like:

Most Popular

Edition: UK
TopView classic version