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Following on from my last piece on custom home theater systems and my new found obsession with the juggernaut of a media player this is XBMC, here are five essential add-ons that I’ve been using recently.
I must admit that I cannot remember the last time that I saw a new movie at the cinema, and there are a number of reasons why. The tickets are hellishly expensive, I get annoyed by the endless cacophony of the other patrons crunching their way through boxes of popcorn and, more than 50% of the time, the person handling the reels upstairs can’t be bothered that he’s projecting a tiny portion of the screen on the ceiling, or the wall for that matter. I do however, miss the entire experience of it. The trailers, the clever advertising and the pitch black of it all just do something for me.
With Cinema Experience, I can now have that all at home. This plugin allows you to cinemize your home viewing experience by letting you customize what happens before your selected movie starts playing. You can queue trailers to other movies in your collection that you’ve not yet seen, or stream the latest trailers available online, whatever you like. Best of all, there’s no pimply teenager sitting behind you whispering to his friends all the way though.
ROM Collection Browser
If you’ve read my last few articles you’ll know that I get very excited about playing old games with fancy new technology. I’m not sure if it’s the nostalgia of my childhood creeping in, or just an obsession with how all things from before the new millennium felt more honest but I’m definitely a sucker for simplicity in gaming.
ROM Collection Browser allows you to browse, organize and play all your old favorites on your nice, big HDTV in the lounge. It supports and launches most emulators, allows you to customize the controls on whatever input device you’re using (keyboard, iPhone, PS3 controller etc) and let’s you view the cover art and descriptions of your entire collection. It takes some effort to set it all up properly but trust me, it’s definitely worth the time and effort.
I recently cancelled my satellite TV subscription because I was tired of spending US$70 a month for a bouquet of channels that all seemed to be playing reruns of Will & Grace. It’s been a couple months now and I don’t really miss anything about, except the live sport.
SportsDevil is a plugin for XBMC that pulls in live sport streams and highlights packages from sports channels all over the world, awesome right? Yes! SD is a great plugin and you can find almost any live match being streamed through one of their channels, but as with anything this awesome, there are drawbacks. The one being that fact that most of the live sport you pick up feature foreign commentary, although you can find some english here and there. The other being that your internet connection needs to be fast enough to stream HD content without much hassle, which could actually cost you more than the satellite TV payments.
I know that this has happened to everybody reading this before: you’re watching a great movie about robots (or whatever else excites you) when the dialogue turns foreign and there are no subtitles to help you out. If you’re like me, you ignore it at first, hoping that whatever they’re saying doesn’t have anything to do with the plot. But then it goes on for longer than expected and before you know it, you have no idea what the hell is going on anymore.
The apty titled Subtitles plugin for XBMC will make sure that never happens. What it does is quietly sit in the background, observing what you’re currently watching and silently downloading (with your permission of course) the english subtitles of the movie being played on your screen. So the next time your main character starts rambling in Russian, you’ve got it covered!
Universal Movie Scraper
When it comes to my media collection, I am terribly OCD. I make sure that every single file name is correct, that my folders are properly named according to a certain convention, and that any ID tags are properly filled out. When I saw how XBMC took this one step further, I almost fainted. Now I could pull in every single facet of info on my DVD collection (which were all put in a box once I backed them all up to my hard drive), from the cover right through to the actors. I was terribly content with this, until I stumbled upon UMS.
Universal Movie Scraper takes the level of scraping one step further by pulling in reviews from all over the internet. Critic and user reviews for IMDb, the infamous ‘tomato meter’ made famous by Rotten Tomatoes as well as info from TMDb and a whole bunch of others.
Image via Flickr by Jabberwocky381