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Living With Media Center: Photos

This post will cover the out-of-the-box Photo support and feature set of Windows Media Center. The purpose is to explain how my family and I use or do not use these features in our normal usage scenarios.

Read more below.

Importing Pictures – Getting your pictures to show up in Media Center is very easy and pretty straight forward. The experience is greatly improved if you already have your pictures organized in some logical way.

Our picture collection is organized under one main folder called "Pictures" with sub-folders for each year. Within each year folder there all sub-folders for the events such as "Christmas", "Thanksgiving" and "Jacob’s Birthday".

So for Media Center I just add "C:\Pictures" as a watch folder. Media Center will scan and automatically find all the folders, sub-folders and files anywhere within "C:\Pictures". Media Center then continues to watch that folder for any updates which are automatically reflected within Media Center.

The process is fairly easy and straight forward. The only issue I have is that there are folders that you have not set to watch that show up under photos. Looking at the screenshot below you will see my main Photos folder highlighted.

To the left there is an Adobe folder that I did not add and to the right is the Video folder that I set to watch for Videos. This is not huge but I cannot remove the Adobe folder as much as I have tried and I would rather only have the Video folder show up under Videos.

Navigating Pictures – Media Center has three main navigation options after selecting one of the top level folders that you see under Photos. The three methods navigation methods are Folder, Tags and Date Taken.

  • Folder: This navigation is very straight forward. You will see folders that represent the actual folders on your computer. Your personal photo storage organization method will have a direct impact on how much you like this view.

    My organization makes sense for me and my family so this is the navigation method I use the most.

  • Tags: The tags navigation method is slowy becoming my favorite. I say slowly because it takes some effort to actually utilize this method. I tag photos with family member names, locations and events. The screenshot below shows what it looks like when you have tags set and choose to navigate using your tags.

    I will talk about how I set tags later.

  • Date Taken: This is actually a very cool way to look at your photos that I had not really explored until I stared working on this post. Here is what is looks like:

    If you navigate using the folder structure you can further sort within the folders by filename or date. It always thought that meant date taken but it did not. It was using the modified date. So if you tagged the photo or rotated it then the modified date would change to the current date and move this up within the list.

    So you need to select date taken as soon as you get into your photos and you can see everything in order based on the time stamp assigned by your camera. This works well with slideshows.

Viewing Photos / Photo Slideshow – At any point while navigating you can choose to view a single photo or view a slideshow. The slideshow is just a series of single photos with nice animations and transitions.

To start a slideshow you select it from the top of the screen. In the screenshot you can also see that I have music playing. You need to start the music first and then your slideshow so that it will accompany the photos.

Here is the first photo of the slideshow.

You can also see the overlay showing what music is playing with the slideshow. Clicking the info button on the remote gives you options for picture detail and rotate in case you need that. Here is what picture detail looks like:

So viewing photos is pretty easy and has just enough options. Everything I have described here is the experience through the extender since that is how we use it. There are a few more options using Media Center directly on the PC.

Photo Management – I have not done much photo management to date. Nothing compared to the work I put into my music collection. I basically create a folder with an event name underneath the appropriate year folder and drop my pictures in there.

I have recently started to tag my photos to take advantage of the tags in Media Center. I am using the Windows Photo Gallery application that comes with Vista.

Within Windows Photo Gallery I set it to watch the same "C:\Photos" directory. It even gives me some of the same navigation options as Media Center.

To tag a photo I just right click on the photo and select "Add Tags…" from the sub-menu.

Then on the right hand side you add as many tags for that photo as you want. So if multiple people are in the photo you can add a tag with each person’s name.

Plugins – There are plugins for Media Center to view photos from Flicker or view photos from Picasa. I have not had a need to try either one yet. I plan on trying the Picasa plugin since my family shares a lot of photos through Picasa web albums.

Media Center – Photos Experience Video

Wrap-Up – So that is Media Center with Photos. It’s easy, works great and for the most part gives you exactly what you expect. I will update this post with a video demo as soon as possible.

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4 Responses

  1. I tried Picasa and liked it. The quick photo editing and tagging features were great. I am using Windows Photo Gallery, though, because it offers more than one level of tags.One thing that might make photos easier is to rename all of them based on when they were taken. I use an applet called DIM and rename based on YYYYMMDD-XX.jpg format. That is, year, month, day format. You can take this all the way down to the time and second taken, but if you have two photos taken within the same second, it gets hard. I told DIM to arbitrarily give a three digit number after the hyphen so that each photo would have basically a 3-digit number. Then, file each photo in a month folder (within a year folder) it was taken. You can tag by event in Photo Gallery, so you won’t lose that info.Just a few thoughts… Thanks for the rundown on VMP’s excellent native handling of Photos.

  2. BTW, more than one level of tags is valuable because my first level of tags is: *Events*People*Places*ZOther(I put the Z on other to make it appear at the end). Under each of these is another level with specific events, people, and places. It works great and is a logical organization. If you use Picasa, you’d have to organize tags with names like “Places:NYC” in order to get all of your Place-based tags to appear with each other.One other problem with Picasa is that while many computers can point to a central network location where photos are, those satellite computer cannot share Albums (tag sets) – this is a pain.

  3. The DMA2100 manual states that the extender has built-in slide show effects such as fades, pans and zooms which you speak of. Whilst this slide show option is clear in the menu on my PC (tasks>settings>pictures>transition type) and works well, I cannot find this option in the same menu or any where else on the extender.How did you manage to activate these effects on your extender? I am pleased with the DMA2100 and manage my images in the same way as you but at the moment I can only view slide shows with abrupt transitions. Norman Handnh@lma.co.uk

  4. FYI, I fingured since I hear about it here I ought to drop in a link…
    DIM can be found here: http://www.alanlight.com/dim/Dim.htm
    it does require Java runtime.

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