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 movies.
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.
Media Center 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.
EVATAG – 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 this:
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”.
Ripping TV Series
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 Neo:
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 them:
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 movies
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 movie file,
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 file,
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 fanart
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!
Author: Rob (aka Muzicman61) About the author: Rob is an Official Beta Tester for NETGEAR and is a senior member of the NETGEAR Forums having recently gained FANATIC status.