With the release of Netgear’s latest and greatest media streamer,
one of the greatest visual aspects of this device comes from the
collection of cover art and fanart. The NTV550, or NeoTV as it is
often referred to, uses a combination of graphic images to produce
what is frequently called “The
Movie Wall”. The key to this stunning look is the combination of
images and the elusive .TAG file. Netgear currently provides a tool
on their installation CD called TagTool, however you will find that
this tool is currently crippled; It will not fetch metadata from
Amazon any longer, and fetching from IMDB only works now if you
create a user account, and set your preferences to the “old” IMDB
layout. Even then, it won’t fill in the description field anymore,
so you’re stuck with cutting and pasting the description manually. I
won’t discuss the TagTool from Netgear any more in this article, but
there are several threads in the Netgear User Forums that discuss TagTool in great detail.
First, let’s discuss a little vocabulary or glossary of terms. The
term cover art generally refers to an image that represents the DVD
or Bluray cover from the commercially released disc. Some sites may
even provide you with the “movie poster” as seen in theatres prior
to a movie’s release. So the terms cover art and poster are often
interchanged. Depending on the source these files maybe very large
in size and resolution. Fanart is generally created by users or
produced by the TV and movie studios. These are frequently large,
high resolution, widescreen images. These are frequently called
backdrop images as well. All the image files need to be in the JPEG
format, so the extension will be .jpg. Two more important terms are
fetching and scraping. These both refer to an automated way of
pulling the metadata from the internet. Typically using an API that
was written by the source, such as IMDB or TVDB.
For ease of organization, I highly recommend creating one folder for
each movie (or movie box-set) in your collection. Third party “tagging” programs like
Media Center Master and My Movies actually require this.
Additionally, when ripping a movie, use ISO as opposed to VIDEO_TS
(DVD) and BDVM (Bluray) folder structure. Tagging in folder
structure gets a little tricky and we’ll discuss it later. I also
recommend not embedding your cover art inside the .TAG file. Updating
with new covert art is much easier when the artwork is not embedded,
and earlier versions of Netgear’s streaming devices had issues when
the size of the .TAG file became greater than about 200K. The Neo
still seems to have an issue with this but only if the embedded art
is greater than 200K. Lastly, I recommend organizing your media
storage location by media types. For example, if you store your
files on a NAS, many users are inclined to create one share called
Media and then have subfolders for each type, like Movies, Music and
Photos. You will be better off creating one share for each media
type, and if desired, you might even get more granular. You might
for example, create a share for Bluray movies and one for standard
DVDs. Or perhaps a share for home movies and one for commercial
As I previously mentioned, the Netgear TagTool is crippled. So let’s
discuss our options: Currently I know of about 4 other third party
applications that will support the Netgear .TAG format. Here is a
short synopsis of each one.
Master (MCM) – This is my top choice for creating .TAG
files. It is free, although some of the advanced features are
available only for licensed users. However, everything you need for
basic tagging, including downloading of cover art and Fanart is
included in the free version. Metadata and cover art come from
various places such as IMDB, TMDb, Amazon and for TV shows, TVDB and
TVRage. It can even handle fetching for adult movies. With its
plugin ability, other fetchers can be written if you have a bit of
coding knowledge. And if you download a lot of TV shows, his
integration with uTorrent is phenomenal. The author is extremely
quick at answering posts in his forum, and at making updates in his
code. When I first approached him about supporting .TAG files, he had
it implemented in less than a week. On the down side, his
implementation on TV series needs a little work.
My Movies –
Although free for general use, it uses a point system to enable the
downloading of Fanart. You obtain points by submitting movie
metadata to the author’s database. You can also purchase points if
you don’t wish to upload metadata or don’t have enough movies to get
you to the 1000 points required. Since My Movies uses a proprietary
database, you are stuck with what has been previously uploaded
although you can update your local database with your own images and
metadata. I can’t comment on how My Movies handles TV series but my
recollection was “not too well”. Let me state thought that it has
been over six months since I used My Movies, so there may be updates
and changes I’m not aware of.
TagSuite – This is a great little program and I absolutely
applaud the author for stepping up to the plate and creating a tool
that replaces Netgear’s crippled tool. Unlike MCM and My Movies, it
has a very simple interface and unlike Netgear’s tool, has a batch
mode for tagging your entire collection. When it comes to tagging TV
series, you can’t beat this program.
Another user written tagging tool. However I’ve not tried it.
PERL Script – Another user written a tagging tool using PERL. Had
trouble getting PERL working on Windows. Probably user error.
So, how does it all work?
So after you have picked your weapon of choice for creating these
.TAG files, what do I do with everything? It’s not in the scope of
this article to explain all the features of your chosen .TAG fetching
application. However, once you’re fetched the metadata and images,
you will find your movie folder will have a number of files in it
now. First and obviously, you’ll have the actual video file. You
should also have a .TAG file that exactly matches the file name of
your movie. It’s important to keep in mind that the Neo is Linux
based, and file names are case sensitive. So if your movie is
entitled MovieName.mkv then your .TAG file must be MovieName.TAG. And
it is important that the extension be in capital letters. It can’t
be “.tag” or “.Tag”.
You may also find a file called mymovies.xml which is created by MCM
and My Movies. Although the Neo ignores this file, I don’t recommend
deleting it. It won’t hurt, and your fetcher program certainly uses
this file. Two other possible files are dvdid.xml and movie.nfo
which are created for Windows Media Center and XBOX Media Center.
You can delete these and at least in MCM, prevent them from ever
being created. When it comes to image files, you’ll probably find a
folder.jpg file, fanart.jpg file and one or more backdropX.jpg
files. You can delete if you choose, all the backdrop files. The Neo
doesn’t use them. When you are done, you’ll probably have a
directory structure that looks similar to this:
Note as I stated earlier, you can delete the backdrop files if space
is an issue. If you are not using MCM, you may not even have them.
Thus you should have at a minimum, 4 or 5 files. MovieName.(ext),
MovieName.TAG, folder.jpg, fanart.jpg and lastly, mymovies.xml. Some
movies won’t have a fanart.jpg file available. In the absence of
this file, the Neo will take the folder.jpg file and stretch it to
full screen. I personally think this looks terrible. I recommend
finding an image to use from sites such as Google images, or if
nothing else, create a small totally black image in Paint and save
it as fanart.jpg and copy it to the movie directory. Noting again, fanart.jpg and folder.jpg are case sensitive.
If all is done correctly, you’ll have something that looks like
After highlighting a movie and pressing the INFO button on the
remote, if fanart is present, you’ll get something like this:
Ripping Movies to Folder Structure
Now I’ll cover how to tag movies when you rip to folder structure.
For a standard DVD containing IFO and VOB files, it is important
that you tag the VIDEO_TS.IFO file. Your tag must be named
“VIDEO_TS.TAG”. If you are tagging a Bluray rip, then you should tag
either the main M2TS file, or preferably the index.bdvm file. So
your tag filename becomes “index.TAG”. Not very intuitive as to
what movie this actually is, and most third party scraping apps
won’t be able to parse the movie automatically. Just another reason
I recommend ISO format. At least with ISO, you can name your ISO to
exactly match the movie name, such as “Avatar.iso”.
The Neo handles TV series a little bit different. As a rule of
thumb, I always start by making sure my TV shows are named in a
particular format. Basically ShowName – SxxExx – Episode
Title.(ext). Where Sxx equals the Season Number and Exx represents
the Episode Number for that Season. A real life example from my
collection is “Dexter - S05E01 - My Bad.mkv”. It is also important
to organize the folders correctly. Fortunately MCM helps create this
structure for you (as well as renaming the files), but doesn’t
properly tag the files the way the Neo wants them. That should be
fixed shortly but in the meantime, I use TagSuite to tag all of my
TV series. The structure should look similar to this, with a folder
for each series, and subfolders for each season.
Note that season 0 represents any specials that the show had, as
determined by TVDB. In this example, MCM created in the TV series
root folder a series.xml, SeriesName.tag file, banner.jpg,
folder.jpg, fanart.jpg, and backdrop.jpg files. The Neo uses none of
these files from the root folder.
If we look inside a season folder, we’ll find this:
In this case, I have a folder.jpg file that
represents the season cover. The metadata folder is created by MCM
and is not used by the Neo. Each file has an associated .TAG file
that was created by TagSuite and contains the description for that
particular episode. When we put it all together, we get this on the
Once you press OK on the remote to browse the season’s shows, you’ll
get something like this:
Note one bug I find with the Neo and how it organizes TV series. It
does not group all the seasons of one TV series together. Instead
you end up with all Season 1 folders together, all Season 2 folders
together, and so on. I hope this is a bug Netgear will soon fix. As
a workaround, you could include the TV Series name in the Season
folder name and they will group together. So if I had named my
season folder The Big Bang Theory Season 1, The Big Bang Theory
Season 2, The Big Bang Theory Season 3, then all my TV series for
The Big Bang Theory would be grouped together.
One last word about TV series. The Neo doesn’t handle TV Series in
DVD ISO or folder structure very well. Often you have one ISO for
example that is several episodes per disc. About the only way to
deal with this would to be create your own .TAG files manually. So
let’s say you have Dexter Season 1 Disc 1 on DVD and stored as
“Dexter S1 D1.iso”. You could create a tag file called “Dexter S1
D1.TAG” and then manually edit it to include the episode title and
synopsis of each individual episode. However, I’ve found that the
description field for any .TAG file is limited to 511 characters
which could limit you.
Here’s a few common issues and how to resolve
1. I see the duration of the movie as 0 seconds
on the INFO screen
This is an issue with the TLEN field in
the TAG file. The length of the movie needs to be in milliseconds.
If the third party app is writing the TLEN field in
hours/minutes/seconds then the Neo will incorrectly identify the
time and list it as zero. TagSuite and MCM do not suffer this issue.
2. I don’t see any metadata when I browse my
This can result from a few issues:
The case of the tag file does not exactly
match the case of the movie file,
The .TAG file is not in the same folder as the
The .TAG file has a lower case extension (.tag),
A permissions issue is preventing the Neo
from reading the .TAG file.
3. I’m seeing the wrong image displayed
The Neo has a pecking order in which it
determines what image to show. The hierarchical order is as follows:
Images embedded in the movie file,
Images embedded in the .TAG file,
Images with the same prefix as the movie
Verify that the movie file itself does not have
an embedded image. If you are using embedded artwork in the .TAG
file, you may need to clear your image cache and do a full re-scan.
4. I just get a generic icon for the image
Check the size of the image you are using.
The larger the image, the more work the Neo has to do with scaling
it for display. Typically an image of 200K is large enough. It will
look just fine on even the largest of displays.
5. When I press INFO on the remote, I get the
folder.jpg file stretched
No fanart.jpg file was found or
permissions prevented the Neo from reading that fanart.jpg file.
6. When I fetch from IMDB, I’m not getting any
IMDB does not support downloading of fanart. Use
TVDB if your fetching app supports it.
Well, it’s a wrap. I hope this information has
been useful. Good luck and good movie watching!
Rob (aka Muzicman61) About the author: Rob is an Official Beta Tester for
NETGEAR and is a senior member of the
Forums having recently gained FANATIC status.