MediaPortal 1.3.0 Alpha Released

Written by high on .

We are very proud to announce that the first Alpha Version of our new major release, MediaPortal 1.3.0 is now available for download!

In this new version we again introduce many exciting new features which will enrich your Home Theatre experience.

Adding new features and fixing bugs means that we had to do significant changes to MediaPortal's source code. So the purpose of this Alpha release is to get all those great new features and bug fixes tested by the community, and fix the remaining problems, to work towards the final release version.

Please be aware that this is Alpha Software - so expect it to have some problems and quirks. Make sure that you read the instructions at the end of this article regarding installation, upgrade and extension compatibility.

Now let's get to the changes we did. Smile

Highlights of this release:

Enhancements to the skin engine and default skin

The following significant skin engine enhancements have been made to improve the usability and extensibility of the MediaPortal user interface:

  • Skin themes - Skin designers may offer themes for their skins.  By convention, a skin theme should be selectable from the Settings -> General window where the skin selection is also made.  Skin themes provide the ability of the skin designer to offer such features as colour changes, font changes, layout changes or any combination of these or other special skin appearance or function related changes.
  • New menubutton control - A new versatile button control for displaying a list of selectable items.
  • TV guide genre/custom colouring - Provides the ability to highlight programs in the TV guide using colours.
  • Skin settings - Skin settings provide skins with user-definable (by the skin designer) property settings that can be leveraged for many purposes including making logical decisions about when or how controls are displayed and what the controls display.  Skin settings add the capability to have significant design control over GUI customization.

Skinners should carefully review all changes related to the skin engine; see Skin Related Changes in 1.3.0.

Note: As a result of these changes, plugin developers will need to make a few minor changes to their skin files. Of course, skinners will need to make the same changes for all plugins to support their skin.

The default skin has been updated to use these new control, and many graphical enhancements have been made so that it looks much nicer!

Coloured EPG (program guide) including customisable colours and colouring of programs by genre

The EPG is now heavily customisable. Programs can be coloured by genre if this data is provided in your EPG, and the various colours can be mapped to different genres.

IMPORTANT: In this first version, EPG genres cannot be configured on multiseat network clients. This is because the configuration application cannot connect to the TV database over the network. The best way to configure a multiseat setup is to make the changes on the TV server, open the MediaPortal.xml configuration file and copy the sections that look like this

arts/culture (without music, general){education/science/factual topics (general){social/political issues/economics (general)
childrens's/youth program (general)
movie/drama (general)
music/ballet/dance (general)
news/current affairs (general)
leisure hobbies (general){show/game show (general)
sports (general)
yes


into the same file on the client. This assumes that you have MediaPortal installed on your TV server. If you do not, you will have to edit the MediaPortal.xml file manually to assign genres. This will be fixed.

Big rework of My Videos

Many new features and enhancements are included. Some highlights:

Folders view screen:

  • Watched time in percentage for videos,
  • Watched count,
  • Media info icons,
  • View video-info first on click (configurable) - override with play button for instant play,
  • Scan new movies without need to position on folder(s) to add them into video database (MP will scan for new videos only shares checked for scanning in the Video Database Configuration),
  • Handling and scanning Blu-ray folder rips or ISOs like it handles/scan DVD images and folders now.
  • Default Grabber selecting and Grabbers update
  • Fanart support on movie folders
  • Added #hideinfo (true/false) skin parameter which can be added in skin control visibility condition to hide info labels and values for videos not in the database

Database view screen:

  • Media info icons,
  • View video-info first on click (configurable) - override with play button for instant play,
  • Scan new movies to add them into video database (MP will scan for new videos only shares checked for scanning in the Video Database Configuration),
  • Rename movie Title,
  • Watched time in percentage,
  • Watched count,
  • Search movie by name,
  • Search actor by name.
  • Default Grabber selecting and Grabber update
  • Fanart support on movie groups (Year, genres, actors...) - randomly selected fanart for movie inside group following rule for movies
    restricted by PIN
  • Repaired last selected item positioning in list
  • Split actors view in Actors and directors,
  • Many new views added (Indexed views -> actors, titles, directors, recently added/watched...)

Movie info screen:

  • Media info icons,
  • Watched counter,
  • Cast list rework, can be browsed with actors Picture,
  • Refresh menu command has 2 functions, 2nd function is triggered if you are in cast list and it refreshes actors for movie and update their roles for the movie (this will not download their info or pictures) (only if Movie have IMDBid),
  • Click on actor/actress will update his/her info and Picture (if available) if actor was not queried before and will open actor/actress info screen (only if movie have IMDBid),
  • Rename movie title.,
  • Actors internally uses actorIMDBid to prevent possible mistake to fetch wrong info, roles and movies.
  • Added writers and studios fields
  • Added Fanart refresh in context menu (MP will download randomly new FA)

Actor info screen (new screen works only if movie info have IMDBid, otherwise old screen will be visible):

  • Full fanart support ( fanart varies on place from where you enter this screen),
  • Actor thumb file names are unique (no more overwriting actors pictures with the same name),
  • Full rework of that screen, list of actor movies with covers and short movie info,
  • Play trailers for selected movie in movies actor list (needs online videos),
  • Auto update of missing info (in background),
  • Manual update of entire actor/actress movie list (refresh all movies and info in case you want to have latest changes on IMDB),
  • Visible mark for movie you have in video database (can be played from here),
  • All info and covers are saved and will not be fetched next time, even if we are on different actor and he/she participate in already fetched movie.

Configuration + Scan:

  • Actors info fetch while scan movies is discarded and replaced with new function in Movie Info screen,
  • Actors and roles for movie will be fetched internally if scanned movie info have IMDBid,
  • New views: Date Added (database view for easy find and play recently added videos with configurable number of days to limit how many days to look back), and Date Watched (database view for easy find last watched videos with configurable number of days to limit how many days to look back),
  • User groups and rules added

Fanart support rework for database movies

  • Changed fanart handling so that fanart will be unique per movie (uses Mp video database movieId for fanart file name),
  • Movies with the same name will not have any more problems with overwriting fanart for previous movie with the same name (case when you have movies with the same title but different versions or years),
  • One fanart covers both share and database views (less space needed),
  • Shared folders which contains database movies in share view will show fa for one of those movies inside that folder on select folder,
  • Database group views (Year, Genre, Actors) will show fanart for one of the movies inside the selected group,
  • Full support for protected content (no fanart visible for locked movies) from any view,
  • Users who not use video database do not need to worry for their custom fanart, they still will be visible.....

Development diary with screenshots

 Wiki links:

GUI

Config

Skin changes

 

Blu-ray support

However, the biggest enhancement is Blu-ray support. MediaPortal can now play most (not all, see notes below) of your Blu-ray discs, including the menus, extras, etc! Development will still be ongoing because BD-J (Blu-ray Java discs) aren't supported (yet...) but for now you can enjoy the best video & audio quality right within MediaPortal, without the need of an external player.

Notes:

  • BD-J based menus aren't supported - all BD-J based Blu-ray disks need to be played in title based mode.
  • Text based subtitles aren't supported - only a small minority of Blu-ray disks seems to use text based subtitles.
  • MediaPortal now fully supports playing unencrypted Blu-ray discs (with the exception of BD-J discs using Java menus - for which MediaPortal will display a list of titles for the user to access instead of displaying the Java menus), if the user wishes to play a commercial disc, then they will need to use a 3rd party on-the-fly decrypter such as AnyDVD HD or DVDFab HD Decrypter.

Enhanced out of the box experience (LAV Filters)

Starting with MediaPortal 1.3.0 Alpha, we will give our users the option to install the LAV Filters. This is a very powerful actively developed open source set of a video, audio and splitter filter for direct show based on ffmpeg.

Since we use our MediaPortal Extension Installer to distribute the package, you will be notified when updates are available. No more searching for the latest version on the internet - it's a one click install!

The LAV Filters will enable playback of most media types. No more codec hell, just choose your preferred form of video acceleration inside the LAVF configuration depending on which GPU you have.

Supported video acceleration types are DXVA, NVIDIA CUDA and Intel QuickSync, so you choose the best one for your HTPC hardware.

Big improvements to codec configuration

We all know how hard it can be to set up the right codecs and/or filters for the specific files in use on your MediaPortal system. To make that part easier, it’s now possible to configure all codec and/or filter properties from within MediaPortal Configuration. Simply click on the screwdriver icon right next to the specific codec/filter to set your preferred options. To give you even more control, we've also added a few new Codec sections like VC-1 & DivX.

Improvements on Video stream switching for MKV

MediaPortal now has the ability to switch between Video streams inside an .mkv (Matroska) file. Imagine you have a movie with both the 2D & 3D Video stream inside, then you can now switch between those 2 streams from the Context Menu, or by pressing the ‘V’ key on your keyboard. You can also map the ‘V’ key to a button on your remote, so switching streams has never been easier before!

Perfectly Smooth Video Playback with MediaPortal Audio Renderer

We all know the situation - no matter if you use a HTPC or not, movies and TV shows are only enjoyable if the video playback is nice and smooth.

Nothing is more annoying than having your favorite actor (or actress) 'stuttering' on the screen because several frames are dropped or repeated  to keep the video and audio in sync. 

Smooth video playback is one of the key requirements of all movie enthusiasts; but even if you have the right hardware, it is still a big challenge to achieve it. 

So, our developers set out to create a solution for MediaPortal. It is called the "MediaPortal Audio Renderer". But wait a minute. We are talking about smooth video playback here, so how is an audio renderer supposed to help?

This topic is very interesting but also a bit lengthy. If you want perfectly smooth video playback that is in sync with the audio, then you should head over to our wiki, and find out all the details about the MediaPortal Audio Renderer.


Full list of changes

You can review the complete change log for 1.3.0 Alpha by using the following links:


Compiled List of Skin and Plugin related changes

Community Skinners and Developers should have a look at the following pages to find out about the changes which will effect their extensions.

Some of these changes are mandatory to become 1.3.0 Alpha compatible:


Installation, Upgrade, Download and Feedback

Installing 1.3.0 Alpha

When doing a clean installation of 1.3.0 Alpha, then there is nothing special to worry about.

Upgrading from 1.2.x to 1.3.0 Alpha

All MediaPortal 1.2.x installations can be upgraded to 1.3.0 Alpha, without losing your settings.

Plugins:

If you are running MediaPortal 1.2.x, then it is possible that some of your already installed plugins will be shown as incompatible after the upgrade to 1.3.0 Alpha!
If a plugin is incompatible or not depends on the MediaPortal subsystems the plugin uses.

If a plugin provides skinfiles for MediaPortals default skin, then the author should also check the Skin related changes.

Skins:

Due to the new features and changes introduced, none of the 1.2.x Skins will work with 1.3.0 Alpha.

Upgrading Extensions:

The easiest way to upgrade your Extensions is by launching the MediaPortal Extension Installer, and have it check for updated versions of your plugin. But this will only work for Extensions that use our MPEI system. If the author of the extensions you use releases these as a stand alone installer, then you have to contact the author for an updated version.

Upgrading from 1.2.0 Alpha or earlier to 1.3.0 Alpha

All MediaPortal installations starting with 1.1.0 RC1 can be upgraded to 1.3.0 Alpha, without losing your settings.

If you are running MediaPortal 1.2.0 Alpha or earlier, then none of your extensions (plugins and skins) will work after the upgrade to 1.3.0 Alpha! You must update your extensions after the upgrade! 

So, please make sure that 1.3.0 Alpha compatible versions of your extensions are available before you start the upgrade!

General note about Upgrades

Manually stop TV-Service!
On some systems our installer is not able to update the TV-Server installation because its files are locked or the service can not be stopped.

For upgrades to 1.3.0 Alpha we recommend you manually stop the TV-Service, and make sure, via Windows Task Manager (enable the "all users" option), that the TvService.exe process is really gone before starting to upgrade.

Custom TV-Service properties

If you manually changed the properties of the TV-Service (like restart on error options), then you have to redo these changes after the upgrdae. The installer is not able to save and restore your custom service properties when it installs the new version of the tv-service.

Feedback

Skin related

We are very curious what you think about the changes we did to our skin in 1.3.0 Alpha. Please share your thoughts in the dedicated forum section.

Bugs

If you think you found a bug then please post a detailed report in our 1.3.0 Alpha Bug Reports Forum.

Make sure your report includes all the required information. Incomplete reports will be removed to keep the forum clean.

Download

Finally - the download. We hope that you took the time to read this release news entirely because it includes vital information about the major changes.

If you would like to support MediaPortal, we would be happy to receive a small donation!

The team wishes you a lot of fun with this new release!

 

.::. Download - MediaPortal 1.3.0 .::.

 

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