NETGEAR NeoTV 550 - Organising your Movie Wall


The NeoTV 550 does a fine job of handling TV Series, Box Sets and also multiple discs for a single movie (i.e. the main movie disc and one or more "extra" discs) so I thought it worth devoting a section to explain exactly how it works and how you can make best use of this feature. This is the first streamer I've ever used that handles these situations properly without having to use add-on applications so I was keen to make full use of it (and I do hope that I'm not the only one otherwise I've just wasted my time putting this how-to together!).

When I initially ripped and tagged my videos I gave little thought to how I would like them displayed on the UI of a streamer and as a result I've had to make a few adjustments to the folder structures and the use of tags and folder images to make sure everything works nicely. It wasn't time consuming or indeed difficult to do but when you've got many hundreds of discs you might find it confusing trying to work out what is going on when you view your collection by cover art in the UI of the Neo. I therefore recommend that you create a test share with a few examples in it just to familiarise yourself with how it all works.

To eliminate any doubt before we start, you do not have to do any of this in order to be able to browse your videos on the NeoTV 550. Nor do you have to do this in order to make navigation easier. There are already several different ways to browse your media on the Neo but being able to browse by cover art is akin to browsing through videos at your local video store and is a feature lacking from many other streamers out there today. This guide therefore is simply to help you avoid seeing duplicates or default icons instead of real movie covers when you browse your collection by Cover View (or "Movie Wall" view) on the Neo. It will also explain why you're seeing covers you weren't expecting to see on there.

There are probably many different ways of organising your media and so please don't think this is how you HAVE to organise things in order to make it work.

What do we need to make this all work?

The key components which allow you to customise the behaviour of the Movie Wall are .jpg files. These are simply jpeg files appropriately named. Normally you would use the cover art (the image from the front of the disc case) for them but you can use whatever image you like to represent each disc or folder. For example, I use the official blu-ray logo to denote the folder containing all my blu-ray rips. I use an icon of an old CRT television to denote the folder containing all my classic TV Shows and so on.

You can also use .TAG files. These are files which basically contain the ID3 tag information for each video. In addition to the ID3 tag information they can also store embedded cover art. Embedding cover art inside the .TAG file changes the behaviour of the Movie Wall when using the All x Video(s) View so be mindful of this. The same applies to embedding the cover art inside the video file itself. I've explained the effect this has below.
You can create these .TAG files using a piece of software called the "Tag Tool" which comes with your Neo. You can alternatively or additionally use something like MyMovies or Media Center Master to create them. The primary use of generating .TAG files for each video is to store information such as the video title, actors, synopsis, genre etc. and I personally think tagging everything nicely is time well spent. It makes for a much more family-friendly set up.

There are two main Movie Wall views on the NeoTV 550: Folders view and All x video(s) view. Both views are available directly from the Video menu option on the Neo main menu. I'll start off by explaining the Folders view since that is the easiest to understand (and by far the easiest to explain!). So, let's assume I've got my media organised as follows:

DVD Folder Layout

(NOTE: Click the image to open it in a new window. It might make things easier when you need to refer it.)

As you will notice from the above screenshot I've got a few different variations of movie organisation, firstly to illustrate how it works in each case and secondly to give you some idea of just how flexible this feature on the Neo really is.

Video -> Folders

Using the Folders view on the Neo relies on you being aware of what files are stored where. If the files on your computer/NAS/server are stored all over the place then you can make things easier to find if you create one or more shares and then create Symbolic Links inside them. You would then point the Neo to those shares instead of pointing it to the physical files themselves. See my Symbolic Links how-to for more information.

When you select Video|Folders from the Home Menu you first see the names of the top level shares on your NAS, computer or server. If you now press the Popup Menu button you will switch to Cover View. By default you will see your shares represented by a default folder icon. If you put a folder.jpg file in the root of each share then this will be used instead of the default icon. In the example above you can see that the folder.jpg (1) file will be used as the icon for the MediaShare share.

It's probably easier to understand how the Folders view works if you think of how Windows Explorer operates on your desktop computer when you have the Thumbnails Option checked (from the Explorer menu choose View|Thumbnails). In Explorer folders are represented by a random .jpeg file found inside each folder. The NeoTV will use a .jpeg file named folder.jpg instead of picking one at random. If there is not a folder.jpg file present in a folder then the Neo will simply display a default folder icon. So, in my example above the folder.jpg (2) jpeg will be used to represent the DVDs folder, the folder.jpg (3) jpeg will be used to represent the Harry Potter folder, the folder.jpg (4) jpeg will be used to represent the Harry Potter - The Goblet of Fire folder and so on.
Once you've drilled down through the folders to the video files themselves the Neo will either display each video using a .jpg having the same prefix as the video itself (so, in my example the HARRY_POTTER_HALF_BLOOD_PRINCE_D1.ISO movie will be represented by the HARRY_POTTER_HALF_BLOOD_PRINCE_D1.jpg jpeg) else it will use the folder.jpg file found in the same folder as the video. So, HARRY_POTTER_HALF_BLOOD_PRINCE_D2.ISO will be depicted by the folder.jpg (5) file.

In the Folders view any cover art which is embedded in a tag file or inside the video file itself is ignored.

Now, let's have a look at the Video|All x video(s) view.

Video -> All x video(s)

NOTE: The Video|Folders view above does not use any tags you may have created. However, the Video|All x video(s) option does. The other main difference between the two views is the All X video(s) screen will only show a single movie wall. Once you've clicked on an image you will drop down to a list view.

When you select Video|All x video(s) you will see all the videos in your collection in a nice long alphabetical list. Interesting but not particularly helpful. If you now switch to Cover View (by pressing the Popup Menu button) this view will be changed to display your covers. BUT, if you have TV Series, Box Sets or multiple disc movies in your collection then it won't simply display the same list as previously. Instead it does something very different; it applies a collation algorithm to display your collection in a nice structured way with TV Series, Box Sets and multiple discs depicted by a single cover. Obviously it is impossible for the Neo to do this if it cannot determine what videos in your collection form part of a set so you need to have some sort of structure to your collection. So, exactly what structure do you need I hear you ask? Well, read on and you'll find out!

I think it's fair to say that getting this view right will cause more head-scratching than the Folders view above but with a little bit of insight you'll discover that it's really rather straight forward.

Firstly, the Neo will search all your .TAG files and pick up any cover art embedded in them. This cover art will be displayed on the main Movie Wall regardless of whether the video forms part of a disc set or not. So, in my example you can see that the HARRY_POTTER_HALF_BLOOD_PRINCE_D1.ISO movie will appear on the main Movie Wall because it has an image embedded inside the tag. (Tags without embedded cover art are approximately 1KB in size). It follows that the HARRY_POTTER_HALF_BLOOD_PRINCE_D1.jpg file will be ignored.
The same rule will apply if you’ve embedded the cover art inside the video file itself.

The Neo will then traverse all the folders in your collection and where it finds a single video file inside a folder it will display it on the main Movie Wall. So, in my example above you can see that there are two videos which meet this criteria: HARRY_POTTER_PHILOSOPHERS_STONE_D1.ISO & HARRY_POTTER_PHILOSOPHERS_STONE_D2.ISO.
The image it uses to display them on the Movie Wall will be a .jpg file with the same prefix as the video itself, so HARRY_POTTER_PHILOSOPHERS_STONE_D1.jpg & HARRY_POTTER_PHILOSOPHERS_STONE_D2.jpg respectively. If there is not such a file then it will look in the folder for a file called folder.jpg and use that instead. So, in my example it would use the folder.jpg (8) and folder.jpg (9) files respectively. If no folder.jpg file is found then it will use the default file icon.

If it finds multiple videos in the one folder but no corresponding folder.jpg file then all videos with a media specific .jpg file (e.g. HARRY_POTTER_ORDER_OF_THE_PHOENIX_D1.jpg & HARRY_POTTER_ORDER_OF_THE_PHOENIX_D2.jpg) will be displayed on the main Movie Wall. The rest of the videos in the folder will be displayed under the default folder icon. HOWEVER, if there IS a folder.jpg file present, in this case the folder.jpg (6) file, then all videos will be grouped together and displayed under it and none will be forced onto the Wall. In other words, the folder.jpg file will override the existence of file specific .jpg files and prevent them being forced onto the main Movie Wall. This allows you to have video specific images when using the Video|Folders view but to keep everything under a single image when using the All x video(s) view. Very neat.

Folders containing a .jpg file but no corresponding video file will be ignored. ie. folder.jpg (1), folder.jpg (2) and folder.jpg (3).

So to summarise, my Movie Wall would consist of the following:

Harry Potter - The Goblet of Fire displayed using folder.jpg (4). When I click on the image I would then see the two discs: HARRY_POTTER_GOBLET_OF_FIRE_D1.ISO & HARRY_POTTER_GOBLET_OF_FIRE_D2.ISO. As mentioned previously the Neo uses your tags to display the videos in this view so I would see something like Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Disc 1 of 2) and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Disc 2 of 2) instead of the actual filenames. The folder name would be displayed in the UI when you highlight the image using your cursor.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Disc 1) would be depicted by the image found inside the HARRY_POTTER_HALF_BLOOD_PRINCE_D1.TAG tag file. The embedded image in the .TAG file has forced it onto the Wall.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Disc 2) would also be displayed on the main Movie Wall because it becomes a "single video found inside a folder" owing to the fact that HARRY_POTTER_HALF_BLOOD_PRINCE_D1.ISO has met the "image inside a tag" condition. It would be depicted by the folder.jpg (5) file since there is no specific jpeg image associated with this particular file.

Harry Potter - The Order of The Phoenix would be depicted using the folder.jpg (6) file and when I click on this image I would see both discs in a list. Remember, if you want the two discs to be displayed on the Movie Wall separately using their own .jpg files then remove the folder.jpg (6) file from the folder.

Harry Potter And The Philosophers Stone (Disc 1) ie. the tag info for HARRY_POTTER_PHILOSOPHERS_STONE_D1.ISO using the folder.jpg (8) file as the image.

Harry Potter And The Philosophers Stone (Disc 2) ie. the tag info for HARRY_POTTER_PHILOSOPHERS_STONE_D2.ISO using the folder.jpg (9) image.

And that in essence is all you need to know.

Just one more thing to mention and that is if you're tweaking your collection to get things just right, make sure you remember to clear the library each time (Settings|Media Locations|Clear Library) before you do a rescan. If you don't then the Neo might remember what you had previously and so you'll not get an up to date representation of your changes.


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