10 Things – Windows Media Center Movie Browser

10 Things – Windows Media Center Movie Browser

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Although many of us have used Windows Media Center Edition, there are a couple of things that may not be that well known -- one of my favorites being the Movie Browser in Windows Vista.  Let's see how it works...

Have you ever been in the mood to watch a movie but you don't have a particular one in mind -- and you really don't want to have to go through all the information in the guides to find one that appeals to you?  Movie Browser allows you to see a list of movies that are either playing currently or those that will be starting in the near future.  While using Movie Browser, you can specify the type of movie you're looking for and search using any of several criteria. 

Assuming that you have the correct hardware installed to run Media Center, using the Movie Browser is simple.  Open Media Center, select "TV & Movies" and navigate to "Search."  You can search by any of the following:

  • Title
  • Keyword
  • Categories
  • Movie Actor
  • Movie Director

If you're connected to the internet, once you select the search criteria you'll also see the cover art from the DVD (in the US).  You can even view metadata that may include things like reviews, ratings and cast.

As an example, I did a search for movie actor Brad Pitt.  The resulting list showed 44 movies:

Movie Browser 1 

Clicking on any one of them gives the option to:

  • Record it when it airs
  • Read the Plot
  • See the Cast Info
  • Read Reviews
  • Look for Similar Movies

My favorite feature on Media Center in Windows Vista is the ability to find a movie and set it to be recorded when it's next scheduled to be shown on TV, even if it isn't currently listed in the guide.  Once you select the movie, Media Center will automatically record it for you the next time it’s playing on TV.  Although this capability isn't new to Windows Vista, it's still something that isn't known by a lot of Windows Vista users.

In the example above, you'll see that Ocean's Thirteen is not scheduled to air within the timeframe indicated in the guide.  But, that doesn't mean that you'll need to continue checking continuously to see when it's going to air.  Once I chose Ocean's Thirteen from the menu, the option changed from "Record" to "Record in the Future."

Movie Browser 2 

Once I selected "Record in Future," the movie was set to record when it plays on television.

Movie Browser 3 

And helpfully, whenever Media Center is opened, you'll see the red "Record" dot to remind you that you have a pending recording session scheduled.

14 Comments
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  • when you want to defend Media center when they dont even support Clear QAM which is what eveyone wants ... not eveyone wants to buy a damn antenna for HD when FCC must carry has cable sending it in the clear

    even Sagetv and gbpvr can do it .. wake up fix last years problem today

  • Hey all,

    Well, I switched back to English my language-pack-customized Vista Ultimate because some random reason, and there it was, the Movie Browser.  I was like... How did not I notice this before??  Yesterday I switched my Vista back to Spanish, and well.... Movie Browser is gone.   Switched back to English and it is back.  

    I guess it is related to the "Only in the US" limitation, but the implementation to determine if it is "in" the US is quite poor then.   I do live in the US, Houston to be more accurate.

    Hope someone figures this one out.  Now I have to choose, my favorite language, or a *really* cool feature Media Center has    :-s

  • Sion
    1 Posts

    This functionality just doesn't exist in the UK version of vista's media center.

    Why?

  • MartinSWE: Yes we Europeans seem to be second class citizens as far as MC online content is concerned. I do not have the actor or director options either and the scope of the search seems to be limited to the TV Guide making the "record when on" feature useless as you cannot just type a title in if it is not found.

    Also the "More TV" feature is stagnent - very few options and ITN is still highlighting a news story that is years out of date!

  • Is this feature available in europe?? For some reason I can't see the actor or director options in my media center.

  • Brytown
    32 Posts

    im going to agree with forever destiny too this os was WAYYYYY beter out the gate then XP was. and its usable day to day then xp was. (asuming you have the right hardware and not the 2000 dollar pc u payed for 30 years ago thats "state of the art") I find most people complaining dont have good hardware or dinosaur devices on a "good chip" Or they have the basic version of vista and found out they probaly should have saved a little more to get something beter like home prem of ult.

  • I can't agree more with ForeverDestiny.

    But rickymooston has 1 little point, they should have had an option "Use Windows XP behavior" or something like that.

    But just to say to rickymooston, yes, now you look on several help docs, but didn't you do the same with NT/2000/XP? So what is the problem? Once you learn, your set.

  • well if you do ever get used to vista i found that it has more bonuses then negatives. Actualy... a whole lot more. Sure there is problems within the OS. Think about this. remember the early versions of Xp. They were terrible. Now its usible. Vista is already usible but has some small problems here and there. Just relax and if you report your problems to microsoft they will probubly hear you.

  • Why do you have to take away functionality.

    Sorry, you have to understand that most users are lazy busy people. Why not keep the legacy search around.

    In Windows XP, I could could easily find all the pictures on my computer.

    Now I have to browse 100s of help pages and web sites to find out how to do something that was easy before. Sadly, people often don't know the names of picture files.

    So, I'm not happy with the vista team because you don't respect backward compatiblity and I'm only using your OS because its bundled with my computer. I'd rather use XP.

    Hate me? Sorry about that.

  • someone
    156 Posts

    These are serious usability issues several users on the internet seem to be facing from what appears on thousands of forums and groups. I'm posted these here so that they'll be taken notice of. As it is, MS is not going to fix them either here or in the newgroups/forums.

    1. There is no sidebar in XP's explorer. I dont understand what you're talking about. If you mean the "Task pane", well, then it really offered relevant options such as "copy", "delete", "rename" not "burn".

    2. Just because you use Firefox doesn't mean users don't have this IE toolbar issue.

    3. "Connect To" is NOT expandable on the new Vista Start menu. It is only on the Classic Start menu. I checked before I wrote. And even small changes make all the difference. It's not that you only need to create new connections regularly if you're on dial-up. There are many different types of connections. Search the internet and you'll notice quite a lot of (I'd say almost all) users are not happy with the network UI.

    4.  Since when did changing settings from a UI get more of a "fiddling with" task than changing registry settings directly?

    5.  "slow copying/moving speeds for even small files" is a separate performance issue I put in the same point. I'm aware how to turn off MMCSS by removing the dependence from the registry and that the issue does not affect Fast Ethernet.

    6.  You would believe that only if it happened to you. True, XP's explorer also didn't remember ALL settings but it did remember more than Vista's.

    7.  Looks like you really want to find fault with this point, then you can't so you simply make Vista "look good".

    8.  I merely stated the issue I'm facing and that it worked in XP that way and I've so far found no workaround. And I'm really surprised to find PPPoE is a "rare" or "messy" type of connection.

    9.  Yes, I'm aware that you can specify URLs in Open dialogs. But I certainly cannot understand why I need to see URLs in the "Look in/Save in" DROPDOWN list which is supposed to be browsable.

    10. I'm specifically talking about the time when all the files are not yet indexed. Say I copy a large group of text files and then want to search some them for specific strings, do I simply have to wait till they're indexed?

  • Brytown
    32 Posts

    @"someone" This forum is not for tech support you should go to windows.com forums to post things of that nature, I havent had a problem with anything on that list of yours and i use IE...

    I did not know about any of theese things. I dont have my cable hooked up to it i like alot of the features ive looked at it with videos and pictures and music. I hear or have heard that there is a "facelift" coming to it. Will it be anything like Oragami Aplication for UMPC Vista. I just reacently saw this on a ASUS it looks even better than media center cant wait to see!  - Brytown

  • WMC sounds incredibly useful.  Too bad the only time I've had it was during the Vista beta.

    someone: Please save your complaints for an appropriate thread.  However for this one time I will humor you with some counterpoints.

    1. The exact same issue exists in XP with the sidebar options being hard coded (they turned it into a toolbar in Vista).  This is not new to Vista.

    2. I don't have this problem.  Largely because I use Firefox.  ;)

    3. Most of the Network settings were collected into one panel, which I think is better than what they had before which was like three panels or something.  Connect To isn't expandable?  I thought it was, check your Start Menu preferences.  It's an option in there in XP and I'm pretty sure Vista too.  The rest of your UI issues are... borderline at best.  They sorta make sense, and even if not, adding a new connection isn't something you do regularly, if at all (hardware detection takes care of most of it, unless you still use dialup).

    4. I've always skipped that panel anyways and used the registry.  The File Associations dialog never gave you enough choices, and it was all too easy to screw up existing file types, like to the point where clicking on directories launched a search in that folder.  Ugh.  Anyways can't blame MS for trying to keep things simple.  File Associations are a nightmare, and it's not something easy to fiddle with.

    5. You can turn this off (granted, for some reason it wrongly lists Windows Audio as a dependent so turning it off turns of all audio unless you tweak the registry first)... plus if you knew what you were talking about, you'd know the effect is only noticeable when you're transferring at speeds over 100mbit/s.  I'm betting you've never had this problem.

    6. This happens when explorer is terminated (process kill, BSoD) instead of a normal shut down.  I agree that explorer should be saving settings when the user sets them instead of at shut down.  But... this has been like this for a while, it's not a Vista issue, it just happened to me the other day in XP.

    7. I agree that in some cases the simplification or new features has crowded frequently used old ones out.  Such as adjusting Line In volume.  Not possible anymore without clicking through two dialogs.  However I don't think it's THAT bad, and many of the changes are good.  I personally love the treeview Start Menu.

    8. Vista has a rewritten TCP/IP stack, one of the new features was to specifically support multiple internet connections used at once.  I'm not sure of the specifics of your configuration though, but it sounds messy, and a miracle that it works anywhere at all (j/k).

    9. You are aware you can specify URLs in Open dialogs?  Windows will download the file into %TEMP% and return that filename to the app.  Works in most programs.

    10. The search does this.  Perhaps you need to wait and let it index all your files first.  There is also a bug in Vista which prevents it from searching files from the Start Menu if all of C:\ is indexed (this will be fixed in SP1) regardless of what you have the Start Menu set to search.

  • someone
    156 Posts

    10 things that made me go back to XP:

    1. Toolbar in Vista's Windows Explorer (this is like that hardcoded Vista startup sound issue). MS should do something about it. Just try searching for "Vista Explorer toolbar". Users are stuck with 'Organize, View and Burn'.

    2. Same issue in Internet Explorer 7

    3. Horrible network-related UI (e.g. New connection wizard in Network & Sharing Center instead of Network Connections, taskbar network icon settings and behavior, 'Connect To' not expandable as a menu in Start menu)

    4. Cannot customize file types anymore.

    5. MMCSS slowing down network throughput and slow copying/moving speeds for even small files.

    6. Explorer settings not getting saved.

    7. Less fluidity in the UI, even doing small things requires clicking dozens of times

    8. Simultaneous virtual DSL/ISDN connections over PPPoE do not work, only 1 works at a time, whereas they did in XPSP2.

    9. The new Open/Save common dialogs show URLs in the Look in/Save in dropdown list!

    10.No way to find files/documents containing specific strings in spite of having such advanced search functionality.

    Microsoft should ask the people's opinion for some of the more popular "issues" currently in the Vista community.

  • I love the movie browser, and it's undoubtedly one of Vista Media Center's best features. Especially since you can filter it by genre.