Organizing a messed up movie collection

If you are like me who likes their media collection well organized, you might have found it difficult to sift through a huge but unorganized collection of movies that you retrieve from a friend’s external hard disk. I spent couple of hours yesterday doing the same for my brother’s collection; here are some tools that I found useful:

Kodi

This one probably needs no introduction if you are already familiar with XBMC (its old name) — one of the most popular and feature-rich media center around (also open source & cross-platform). I have been using XBMC/Kodi for about 4 years now. Basically, you point it to a directory containing all your movies organized into their individual directories having naming scheme such as “The Great Dictator (1940)”, ie, full name of the movie with the year of release in parentheses and hit the Update library option. It will fetch a lot of metadata about each movie from sites like TMDb (The Movie Database) and IMDb.com and create an internal database. Here are some screenshots:

Some tips for Kodi:

  • Use System->Settings->Video->Library->Clean library… to remove stale entries (deleted/moved movies) from the database.
  • Export video library option under the same section allows you to export the metadata fetched for each movie into their own directory in the form of a .nfo file and images. I particularly find this useful when I have moved some movies to another location and Kodi can read this exported metadata during an update (instead of fetching it from the Internet, which is slower). Of course, this also allows me to directly look up some info about the movie from its directory or run bash scripts on them without firing up Kodi.
  • A recommended non-default setting is System->Settings->Video->File lists->Combine split video items which prevents Kodi from showing multiple entries for the same movie when it exists as multiple part files on your filesystem.
  • With the Kodi 15.0 “Isengard” RC1 dev release that I tried this time, one peculiar setting that I had to change was to switch to IMDb ratings from TMDb ratings. This was not needed in the stable Kodi 14.2 “Helix” release which fetches IMDb ratings by default.

The problem with media organizers like Kodi — they need clean input (like the naming scheme I mentioned above), that’s why I needed other tools. My first requirement was to put each movie file(s) among the mess into their individual folders with the correct year. Read on…

TheRenamer

I stumbled upon this tool through some online forum which also (thankfully) had a link to a guide on how to rename movies. Otherwise, it could have been pretty difficult to make this Windows-only tool work for my use case owing to its funky, non-intuitive interface. Good part about this tool is that it could guess the titles of movies from a long list of movie files with messy filenames and present the results together for you to verify and rename. The end result after the rename was a movie file correctly renamed and put into its individual directory. I was able to use this tool as a filter before passing the movies to Kodi for 70% of the collection. It obviously uses network for the guesswork and for some odd reason a lot of files ended up with a !!!NETWORK ERROR!!! I had to hunt for other options.

FileBot

This tool turned out to be a lot nicely designed than the previous, was cross-platform and worked well without surprises. It ran this only on the movie files which ended up with network error with TheRenamer and was happy to see that it worked interactively in that it presents its guesses to the user for each file it processes, so that one can choose the right movie title. End result was each file was renamed to my desired naming scheme. I ended up wondering why I did not try this tool earlier? The answer was that it lacks the ability to create individual folders, hence, another tool/script was needed.

file2folder

This was a no-brainer. You supply it a list of files, hit Move! and it creates individual folder for each file with the same name as the filename. I passed it the files obtained from FileBot and voilà, my clean input to Kodi was ready!

I could have avoided using this last tool by writing some bash script on my own, but I was using my brother’s machine which had just Windows installed and I was almost there.


Conclusion

One can trust Kodi for organizing a large movie collection. TheRenamer, though it had its quirks, did most of the work, was more customizable than FileBot and saved me a lot of time by processing lots of files together rather than waiting on me to choose the correct title for each file. Only if it were more transparent about its mysterious network error, I could have avoided using two other tools. FileBot and file2folder work well together, if you are dealing with a relatively smaller collection; FileBot, especially, is a lot more accurate than TheRenamer in identifying movie files.

Bonus Online Tools

  • I use LetterBoxd for keeping a diary of sorts of if/when I watched a film and give it personal ratings. I do not have too many friends on the website’s social network, but it still gives a fair idea about what they are watching and about their likes/dislikes.
  • Another nifty tool is S Anand’s IMDb Top 250 tracker (which seems down right now) which I use to keep track of my progress of the IMDb’s controversial and constantly changing list.

If you found this log useful, you can thank me by pressing the Recommend button below. :-)