Since Vista’s release, I’ve had mixed success in getting Vista Media Center working the way I want it to. Driver problems, codec compatibility…it’s not been the easiest road. And considering that XP MCE 2005 is such a stable and mature product, it was generally much easier just to stick with that.
However, the situation has improved and Vista MCE is looking much more healthy. However, there’s one feature which was annoyingly absent. In XP MCE 2005, if you set up a videos folder which contained ripped DVD files, it would happily play them back as if they were the original DVD.
I don’t mean DVDs ripped using an MPEG encoder, but rather if you copy the VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS folders off the DVD and put them in a root folder, when you selected that folder via the MCE interface, it would simply recognise it as a DVD.
By default, Vista MCE doesn’t do this. When you select the root folder it opens up the DVD subfolders, but doesn’t detect any files within them. There’s an easy way to fix this by modifying a section of the registry, which will alter how Vista handles DVDs.
Open Registry Editor (Start, Run, REGEDIT) and navigate to:
Double-click the key ShowGallery and change the value from “Play” to “Gallery”.
Click OK and exit the Editor. If you’ve got Media Center open, you’ll need to shut it down and re-launch it. Now, under “TV + Movies”, the “Play DVD” option is now “DVD Library”. DVDs will still play as normal though – just insert the disc and the movie will auto-load.
Select this option. Apart from a couple of trailers there won’t be any content. Right-click or hit the “i” (More) button on the MCE remote, and select “Add Movies” and then “Add folders on this computer” (or whichever option is appropriate).
Click “Add folder to watch” and navigate to the folder which contains the local DVD files. The best structure to have is a top-level root folder, and then subfolder for each DVD title. Put a tick next to the top-level folder, and then click Next.
Vista will automatically scan and recognise the contents of the folder and populate the DVD Library. Select any title, and it will play it as if it was a standard DVD.
As with DVD file playback on XP MCE 2005, each DVD title found doesn’t have a visual representation.
To enable this, simply do a quick Google Image search for the title, find an appropriate DVD cover and save it to the subfolder containing the VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS folders – make sure you save the image as “Folder.jpg”. Go back into the DVD Library and the DVDs will have the appropriate image assigned to them.
If all of this seems like too much hard work, try installing My Movies. It achieves the same results as the process I’ve outlined above, but has a very useful Collection Management program which helps keep all your DVDs in order, and grabs all the relevant movie information, including cover art, from an online resource. Best of all, it’s free!