I decided to take December off working on my side projects, mostly because all those little things that I used to get done on weekends were starting to slip by the wayside. They weren’t huge things but they’re those kinds of things that when you see them you always think “I should fix that” but never end up doing. My inner perfectionist hates this and will guilt me endlessly about them and I figure that was what was causing me to feel burnt out on my projects, even though I had made some really good progress with them. One of those tasks I had set myself was to organise my media collection into something more sensible, with the ultimate goal of hiding it all under Xbox Media Centre.

After more than a decade of collecting media from all over the place the organisation was, to say the least, non-existent. Everything was lumped into giant folders all helpfully labelled “downloads” or “recent downloads” or “unsorted”. No worries I thought, the first step would be pretty easy: just sort everything out into their respective categories. That’ll make the process of sorting everything out afterwards a lot easier. That process took a good few hours to complete but in the end I had around 5 top-level folders that had everything nicely categorized. For the most part I didn’t care too much about the organization of things like software ISOs and installers (realistically I should delete most of them since they’re woefully outdated) but I knew XBMC was a little picky about how media was sorted so I started looking at solutions to that problem.

Now my media folders were a total, undignified mess. Even after sorting everything into series folders the files contained therein had no rhyme or reason to their layout. I did know where I wanted to end up however, hopefully in the form of Series -> Season -> Episodes, and figured that this would have been a common enough problem that someone would have already coded up some brilliant solution to do it all automatically for me. From what I could read on the various forums indeed many people had done exactly that and all that was left to do was to find one and unleash it on my tangled mess of media.

From what I could tell the best one of the lot was Ember Media Manager Revisited which had the added benefit of not looking like it was coded in VB6 by someone’s cousin. After installing and configuring it up I was presented with a massive list of all the stuff I had. Figuring I’d trial it on the movies before trying the TV shows (which it says it’s not particularly good at organizing) I sent it on its merry way, hoping it would start sorting my media. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an option for “Go look at everything and find the best match possible and prompt me if you can’t find one”. The option of “prompt if no exact match” doesn’t work properly as it either gets it wrong or will prompt you for everything, as it seems no movie title is completely unique. Figuring that this was only the first of many options I engaged my Google-Fu to find some alternatives and gave them a shot one by one.

TVRename was one that I had stumbled across in the past (and heard good things about) and I tried it on my media. Trouble is TVRename expects the exact folder structure I wanted to be already created and can’t create it on its own. Once everything’s sorted like that it’s actually quite brilliant, but the amount of effort required to get it there is too large. Several other programs I tried like TheRenamer, Media Companion and Media Centre Master fall into a similar category of being able to rename stuff but unable to move them into a folder structure. I also tried a multitude of other programs that either flat-out didn’t work (or crashed) or required just as much work as doing it manually would.

The simple fact is there’s really nothing out there that can take a disorganised media folder and then sort it and rename it at the same time. This boggles my mind as if you’re capable of renaming something down to the level of the name of the episode you have enough information to sort it. It wouldn’t be particularly hard to add-on either as the process of creating folders and moving files into them is basic I/O stuff that any developer should be familiar with. I could be facetious and say what should I expect from people coding in VB.NET (most of the apps are open source so you can see what language they use) but honestly it’s got to be plain old-fashioned oversight.

In the end I didn’t end up getting my media organised and I’ve resigned myself to creating a simple program that will do exactly what I need it to do. It shouldn’t be too hard as all I’ll be doing is searching for season and episode numbers and moving them into appropriate folders. After that I’ll use one of the other programs to do all the funky metadata handling and whatnot as they seem much more refined at that than I would be during a weekend slog. If it works well enough I’ll even throw it up here for good measure, source code and all.  

About the Author

David Klemke

David is an avid gamer and technology enthusiast in Australia. He got his first taste for both of those passions when his father, a radio engineer from the University of Melbourne, gave him an old DOS box to play games on.

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