XBMC Media Center

I am continually amazed at the high quality free and open source software available, many of which are at least equal to and some better than commercially available software. XBMC Media Center is perhaps among the best media managers around – and it’s free!

If you’re into digital media at all, no doubt you’ve accumulated a LOT of media files – digital videos, pics and music at least. As these files accumulate, finding and playing them usually requires multiple programs. How nice it would be to access all your media files regardless of format through one program.

In a nutshell, that’s what XBMC Media Center can do for you. I’ve been using this for a while and its capabilities are outstanding – I’m probably using maybe 25% of what it can do. The more media-savy among our readers will find that XBMC Media Center has a VERY robust feature set. I have listed its capabilities at the end of this article.

XBMC is available for Linux, Mac OS X (Leopard, Tiger, and Apple TV), Microsoft Windows operating-system, as well as the original Xbox game-console. It supports a very complete spectrum of audio and video multimedia file formats and codecs right out-of-the-box, and include features such as playlist playback, audio visualizations, picture viewing, slideshows, and weather forecast functions and RSS feed scroller. I am just hitting the tip of the iceberg and suggest that you check out the website for a more complete view of what XBMC is capable of doing for you.


Selected Screenshots

The opening screen shows the options available:


Select Videos and you can select from a variety of sources – these are file folders on my C drive:



Drilling down lists the video files in the folder – clicking a movie then launches the player to view the movie:



Included is a weather function – this one picked up my location immediately:



There are numerous Settings that users can vary and Skins:



Viewing pictures is basically the same procedure – pick a location, then a file folder and the pics are available for viewing:



I’ve only highlighted the basics – the following lists XBMC’s current capabilities (from their website). Based on my use of XBMC, I am totally blown away by the breadth and depth of its capabilities – one of the finest examples of open source freeware.

I would suggest that you take a look at the XBMC Online Manual – it’s quite detailed and gives a great view of what this porgram can do.



Here is a more detailed list of XBMC features, functions and supported audio/video/picture formats.

Supported hardware platforms


Platform-independent supported controller periphials and hardware options

  • Controllable via supported Remote Control (depends on platform and remote)
  • Controllable via USB (HID) Mouse (Left/Right/Middle buttons and Wheel supported)
  • Controllable via USB (HID) Touchscreen (as long as the touchscreen emulates a mouse)
  • Controllable via USB (HID) Keyboard (ASCI-keys only, not any multimedia-keys)


Xbox supported controller periphials and hardware options

  • Fully control XBMC and its features via a Xbox™ IR DVD-Remote
  • Fully control XBMC and its features via a Xbox™ game controller
  • Controllable via USB (HID) Mouse (Left/Right/Middle buttons and Wheel supported) #1
  • Controllable via USB (HID) Keyboard (ASCI-keys only, not any multimedia-keys) #1

Platform-independent supported output media formats and devices:

  • Widescreen (16:9) and normal-TV (4:3) aspect ratio video output support
  • HDTV (High-Definition) output resolutions (720p, 1080i, 1080p and higher) #14

Xbox supported output media formats and devices:

Supported physical input media formats and devices:

  • Play media-files directly from a CDs and DVDs (including DVD-Video, VCD/SVCD and Audio-CD/CDDA)#2
    • (Supported CD/DVD formats: ISO 9660 Mode1/2/XA, UDF 1.02 and XDVDFS/CDX)
  • Play media-files directly from any built-in harddisk drive #4
  • Streaming from a computer/server over a network via UPnP, SMB/Samba/CIFS, FTP, or XBMSP
    • Including all NAS (Network Attached Storage) that support UPnP or SMB/SAMBA/CIFS
  • iTunes Music Shares via DAAP (network stream from Apple iTunes 6.x on Mac or Windows) #5/#11
  • Stream supported media-files from the internet (if the stream protocol-format is supported) #5/#11
  • Stream media STORED, (NOT COMPRESSED) directly from RAR and ZIP archives
  • USB Memory Drives and USB Mass Storage Devices (FATX/FAT12/FAT16/FAT32 formated #13)
    • Including most USB Mass Storage Devices (like memory-keys/sticks) #1

Supported file/container formats:

  • Audio-CD (CDDA) playback for normal Audio CDs (including CD-TEXT support) #7
  • SVCD and VCD (Video CD / CDXA) video, (SVCD/VCD menus are not supported yet)
  • DVD-Video directly from Xbox DVD-ROM drive, Harddisk-drive or network
  • MPEG, MPG, M2V formats (inc. VCD’s .dat and .bin and DVD’s .vob)
  • MPEG-TS (TY/TS/DV) DVB transport stream format
  • M2T/M2TS/MTS (AVCHD video format) container #5
  • M2TS (Blu-ray video format) container #5
  • EVO (Enhanced VOB) HD DVD video format container #5
  • MP4 (MPEG-4 video) container
  • RIFF AVI (AVI 1.0) container
  • OpenDML AVI (AVI 2.0) container #1
  • BivX (AVI with several audio streams) container
  • Microsoft ASF/ASX/WMV/WMA containers #5
  • Microsoft DVR-MS (Windows Media Center) containers #1/#5
  • QuickTime QT/MOV containers #5
  • FLV and SWF (Adobe/Macromedia Flash Video) containers
  • NUT multimedia container
  • AVS (Audio Video Standard) audio/video containers
  • Nullsoft Steaming Video (NSV) containers #1
  • Nullsoft Steaming Audio (NSA) containers
  • MPA, MP2, MP3 and WAV containers #5
  • AAC, M4A, MP4 (MPEG-4 audio) audio containers #5
  • RealMedia (Real Video/Audio) RM/RAM/RA/RV/RMVB containers #1
  • OGG, OGA, OGM, and OGV containers
  • Matroska (матрёшка) MKV containers #1
  • VIVO (VIV) containers
  • PVA containers
  • NuppelVideo containers
  • FLI and FLC containers
  • Tracker Mods (18 formats supported) audio
  • M3U, PLS, CUE and STRM audio/video playlists #1

Supported video codecs:


Supported audio codecs:

  • CDDA (Audio-CD) playback
  • WAV/WAVE (WAVEform) and PCM audio format
  • AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format) audio
  • MPEG layer I, II, and III (inluding MP2 and MP3) audio #5
  • OGG (Ogg Vorbis audio codec)
  • WMA – Windows Media Audio v1 and v2 (WMA1/2 / DivX Audio v1/v2) #5
  • WMA – Windows Media Audio v9 (WMA9) (via WMA9 DLL’s) #5
  • RealNetworks RealAudio codecs: 1.0 (14.4), 2.0 (28.8), SIPRO, COOK, DNET and ATRAC3
  • AC3 2.0 or 5.1 and Dolby Digital EX 6.1 or 7.1 audio in video (AC3 digital cable S/PDIF 48Khz pass-through)
  • Dolby Digital AC3 and AC3-WAV/AC3-CDDA 2.0 and 5.1 audio in video software decoded to stereo analog-out
  • DTS (Digital Theater System) 5.1 and DTS-ES 6.1 audio in DVD-Video (DTS digital cable S/PDIF 48Khz pass-through)
  • DTS (DTS and DTS-WAV/DTS-CDDA) 44.1Khz/48Khz audio in DVD-Video (software decoded)
  • AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) profiles: Main, LC, HE, LTP, LD, ER, and aacPlus v1/v2 (AAC+ SBR/PS) audio #5
  • M4A and MP4 (MPEG-4 Audio) (including Nero Digital MP4) #5
  • AVS (Audio Video Standard) audio codec
  • FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) audio
  • WavPack lossless audio
  • MPC (Musepack, a.k.a. Mpeg+) lossless audio #6
  • APE (Monkey’s Audio) lossless audio
  • SHN (Shorten) lossless audio
  • ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) lossless audio #6
  • MIDI music using Timidity
  • Tracker Mod’s audio, see list below:
    • Adlib (AdLib and Sound Blaster OPL2/OPL3 and Dual OPL2/OPL3) FM audio
    • SID (Commodore 64 tunes) audio
    • YM (ATARI ST) audio
    • NSF (Nintendo NES Sound Format) audio
    • SPC (SPC700) audio
    • GYM (SEGA Genesis) audio
    • ADX/AST/ADP/DSP/YMF/HPS CRI MiddleWare and Gamecube ADPCM) audio

Supported picture/image formats:

  • CBR/CBZ comic books (RAR/ZIP archives renamed)
  • BMP picture/image
  • JPG/JPEG picture/image
  • GIF picture/image
  • ICO picture/image
  • PCX picture/image
  • PNG picture/image
  • RAW picture/image
  • TIF/TIFF picture/image
  • TGA picture/image

Features available for video playback:

  • Full-screen playback display of all supported video formats/containers via a TV
  • Auto PAL50/PAL60-switching support and auto 4:3/16:9-switching support
  • Framerate Conversion (23.9825fps), another NTSC PAL workaround solution
  • SQL database with view by file/genre/actor/year/title, sort by year/name/rating and search functions
  • Selectable options from OSD (On Screen Display) Control Panel during playback
  • FFWD (fast-forward) and RWD (rewind #1), and PAUSE in AVI/OGM/MKV/MPEG/MPG media
  • MPlayer time-based (30sec/5min) or percent-based (2%/10%) seeking forward and backward
  • Video-Autorun, auto-plays VCD/SVCD/DVD/CD’s with video file(s) upon insert
  • DVD-video playback with menus (from DVD, harddrive, network, as IFO/VOB or ISO/IMG DVD-images) #12
  • Play supported video files directly from ISO, BIN, IMG, NRG and BIN CD/DVD-images
  • Subtitle support (embedded and external)
    • AQTitle/AQT, ASS/SSA, CC, JacoSub, MicroDVD, MPsub, PJS, RT, SMI, SRT, SUB, VobSub, VPlayer
    • JSS, MLP #11
  • Play internet files/streams from HTTP and MMS (Microsoft Media Streaming Protocol) #1/#11
  • Play RealMedia internet steams of HTTP + RTSP/RDT (Real Data Transport Protocol) #1/#11
  • Nullsoft Streaming Video (NSV) internet-streams (only if VP3+MP3), (Nullsoft TV a.k.a. NTV) #1/#11
  • Streaming video from a MythTV backend PVR software over network
  • Streaming video from a VDR (via VDR streamdev servers VTP streaming) PVR software over network
  • Streaming video from a HDHomeRun DVR box over network
  • Streaming video from a ReplayTV (4500, 5000 or 5500 series) DVR box over network #1
  • Streaming video from a TiVo DVR box over network (requires hacked TiVo running ccXStream) #1
  • IMDb (Internet Movie Database) information lookup for movie-info and thumbnails
    • Can also extract specific IMDb URL a .nfo file with same file-name as the movie
  • Optional media file and/or folder thumbnails for easy localization (see thumbnail options)
  • Party Mode playlists and playlist editor.
  • Stack multi-file videos option, show/play files with 90% name similarity as one
  • Support for local moving trailer files (using the naming standard: “moviename-trailer.avi”)
  • EDL (commercial skipping) and SceneMarker support using chapter files
    • EDL (Edit Decision List)
    • ComSkip .txt (with framerate, like Comskip generates)
    • VideoReDo
    • SnapStream Beyond TV Smart Chapters (a.k.a. smartskip)
  • Switch between multiple audio streams/tracks in DVD-Video, AVI, OGM and MKV/Matroska
    • Left, Right Mono and Stereo channel selection available for all two channel audio-streams
  • Multiple video-rendering options to optimize playback of your video-formats
  • Different Post-Processing filters for better video quality #11
  • Flicker-filter (optional video flicker-filter with five levels, disabled by default)
  • Soften-filter (optional filter to decrease video sharpness and thus artifacts)
  • De-interlace filter (for interlaced video) implementation option
  • Brightness/Contrast/Gamma controls (only for HighQuality Pixelshader)
  • Video resizing/scaling and zooming functions
  • Screenshot capture function (including video overlay support and OSD)
  • AC3 (Dolby Digital EAX) 2.0, 5.1 and 7.1 pass-through from video to SP/DIF AC3 output
  • AC3 (Dolby Digital) 5.1 -> 2.0 software-decoding to PCM stereo or mono out
  • DTS (Digital Theatre Sound ES) pass-through from video to S/PDIF DTS output
  • Option to output mono or stereo to all speakers (for 5.1 surround speakers)

Features available for audio playback:

  • Playback of all supported audio-formats via a TV or external audio-receiver/amplifier
  • SQL database with view music by Top100/Albums/Tracks/Artists/Filenames or Recent Albums
    • Also option to sort by Track/Filename/Date or Size and search functions
  • Karaoke CDG-file display for music files with audio-visualization overlay support
  • CDDB album lookup support when playing Audio-CD’s (done via freedb.org)
  • Party Mode playlists and playlist editor.
  • Gapless, Crossfade, and Preamp (pre-amplification) playback support options
  • ReplayGain “MetaData” applification/normalization (loudness control) support
  • Thumbnail and album information lookup for Audio-CD’s (done via AMG/Allmusic.com)
  • Display embedded tumbnails/icons (album artwork) if integrated into a MP3 or AAC file
  • Optional custom file and/or folder thumbnails for easy localization (see thumbnail options)
  • Audio-Autorun, auto-plays CDDA and music DVD/CD’s with audio file(s) upon insert
  • Play internet-files/streams from HTTP and MMS (Microsoft Media Streaming Protocol) #1/#11
  • Play RealMedia internet steams of HTTP + RTSP/RDT (Real Data Transport Protocol) #1/#11
  • Play soundtracks ripped by/in Xbox dashboard (add path “soundtrack://” to XML)
  • Play supported audio files directly from BIN, IMG, NRG and ISO CD/DVD-images
  • Reads ID3v1/ID3v2/ID666/APEv1/APEv2 info-tags from audio/music-files
  • M3U and PLS audio playlists (inc. option to create/save M3U audio-playlists)
  • SHOUTcast Internet Radio (MP3 .pls playlists) playback support
  • Local/native SHOUTcast recording (to MP3) onto the Xbox harddrive
  • last.fm (AudioScrobbler) online-radio submission and playback/streaming support
  • Audio Visualizations (several visual generators and a spectrum analyser)
  • FF (fast-forward) and RW (rewind), and PAUSE during audio playback/visualization
  • Option to output mono or stereo to all speakers (for 5.1 surround speakers)

Features available for picture/image viewing:

  • Full-screen display of all supported picture and image formats via a TV
  • Picture slideshow, including option for adding recursive to slideshows
  • Picture thumbnails (automatically generated on demand)
  • Folder thumbnails (automatically generated after entered that folder)
  • View pictures directly from ISO, IMG, NRG and BIN CD/DVD-images
  • Picture Zooming, rotate, move around, info, pause, next/previous picture
  • Kodak PictureCD compatible (auto-launches slideshow on CD insert) #2
  • Auto-launches picture CD/DVD on insert if images in root directory

Features available for launching games and applications (dashboard):

My Programs interface features in XBMC for Xbox:

  • Dashboard replacement mode, launch other Xbox software applications (”XBE” executables)
    • (including Xbox games, console-emulators, applications and other dashboards, etc.)
  • Optional custom thumbnails for folders and the executable, (see thumbnail options for info)
  • Display embedded tumbnails/icons that are integrated into most Xbox executables for Xbox games
  • Video Mode Switching to force launching a game a specific video-mode (PAL, PAL60, NTSC, etc.)
  • Flicker-Filter settings for Xbox games, (creates a patched copy of all default.xbe with new setting)

Xored Trainer Engine (gaming cheats) in XBMC for Xbox:

  • Xored ETM/XBTF Trainer Engine enable “training” of games to cheat and/or add new functions to Xbox games #10
  • Xored ETM/XBTF Trainer Engine cannot be used to cheat on XLink Kai (as disabled when logged on to XLink Kai)

Other and generic Graphical User Interface (GUI) features:

  • Controllable via a Remote Control, a game-pad, USB keyboard and/or USB mouse
  • Virtual-Keyboard for manual video/music database searches and settings configurations
  • Flexible XML based skinning-engine with GUI skin-switching (and many skins available)
  • Range of different view modes (supports up to 10 custom skinner created views)
  • Context Menu feature (mapped by default to the TITLE button on the remote)
  • View file media listing By List, By Small Icons or By Large Icons option
  • “My Files” file-manager, move/copy/delete local and copy from network
  • “My Weather” weather forecast feature (done via The Weather Channel)
  • Several screensavers on configurable timer in GUI to choose from
  • RSS feed in main menu (you can manually disable or change feed in RssFeeds.xml)
  • Python Script Interpreter Engine (execute/run Python scripts from within XBMC)
  • Idle shutdown-timer, which shutdown XBMC when idle, configurable timer through GUI
  • Non-idle sleep timer, shutdown XBMC even if not idle after specific set manually
  • Flicker-filter (optional GUI flicker-filter with five levels, high enabled by default)
  • Language (XML) files for translated GUI (over 30+ languages so far), switch from GUI
  • International-language fonts for the GUI (via TTF-Fonts, configurable in UI-Settings)
  • GUI and video calibration (including storing calibration settings per resolution)
  • Displays system info under Settings (Build date, free space, IP, temperature)
  • Screenshot capture function, to snap shots of GUI (inc. video overlay support)
  • Configurable memory cache buffer for video/audio playback, configured in GUI

Other non-GUI features, functions and options:

  • Fully re-mappable keys for DVD Remote and the controller/game-pad (via Keymap.xml)
    • Including the possibility to map and use all RCA-5 IR codes from a universal remote
  • Auto-detection of UDF 1.02, XDVDFS/CDX and ISO9660 – mode1/mode2/XA #1
  • Auto-launch Xbox game-disc on insert with enable/disable optional from within GUI
  • Advanced and expert options available via an optional AdvancedSettings.xml file
  • Built-in Web-Server for remote control of XBMC (http//:xboxIPaddressHere.asp)
  • Built-in HTTP API interface so you can build custom remote control applications
  • Built-in FTP-Server, connect to it via an FTP client to copy files to/from Xbox harddrive
  • Supports Static-IP/Subnetmask/DNS/WINS and alternative DHCP-client for auto config
  • Clock/date synchronization from a (NT SNTP) Time Server on the network/internet
  • Harddrive (HDD) spindown on idle (spin-down disks when XBMC is idle in menu) #1
  • Error Recovery Mode (Emergency Recovery Console) – Enables the FTP-server if get corrupt XBMC system-files.



1. Experimental, unfinished, unstable, buggy and/or limited
2. Most Xbox DVD-ROM drives are very picky with CD/DVD media disks, see FAQ
3. XBMC currently only have DVD VOB and IFO parsing support, (no menu support)
3. Xbox’s FATX harddrive file-system has file & folder name/character limitations, see FAQ
5. DRM (Digital Rights Management) protected files are not yet supported by XBMC
6. Exclusive to our integrated audio/music-player (PAPlayer)
7. Samsung DVD-ROM drive only (and maybe some PC DVD-ROM drives)
8. For LCD-display add-on mods compatible with XBMC see here
9. Xlink Kai tunneling-engine running on networked computer with internet-access is required.
10. Xored ETM/XBTF Trainer Engine is only developed/maintained/supported by Team Xored.
11. Exclusive to our MPlayer-based media-player (only available in XBMC for Xbox).
12. Exclusive to our DVDPlayer (FFmpeg-based) video-player.
13. Exclusive to XBMC for Xbox (XBMC running nativly on Xbox game-console).
14. Only limited by the hardware and operating-system that XBMC is running on.

About Joe Citarella 242 Articles
Joe Citarella was one of the founders of Overclockers.com in 1998. He contributed as a site administrator and writer for over 10 years before retiring. Joe played an integral part in building and sustaining the Overclockers.com community.

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3,180 messages 141 likes

I am continually amazed at the high quality free and open source software available, many of which are at least equal to and some better than commercially available software. XBMC Media Center is perhaps among the best media managers around - and it's free!

Click here to view the article.

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