Copyright © 2001-2022 Woodgrove Digital Engineering P⁄L. All rights reserved. Last revised:14th December 2022 CREDITS LINKS

Table of Contents

Categorisation of Videos

Organisation within Categories

Interfacing with VLC

Suggestions Mode

Requested Videos Mode

History Mode

Browsing Mode

“The vUser”

Video Selection program: Suggestions page
The main display of the video selection program, its “Suggestions” page

This product is aimed at people with large DVD collections, and a methodical way of thinking, particularly, if you own a number of TV shows on DVD. This product concerns itself with presenting to you a choice of those videos that you would most likely want to watch next, assuming that you wish to watch the episodes of a show in order and to vary which shows you watch. It is not aimed at those who like to binge on one show, until you have exhausted it.

You will need to use third-party supplied software to rip your DVDs, and to install VLC in order to play the videos.

This software is designed to help you to decide upon which videos you wish to have VLC play for you. Upon selection of the desired video, the software will ask VLC to play that file, so long as it is idle. Should VLC not be idle, the selections will be placed in a queue, waiting for VLC to become idle.

As initially configured, the software expects the videos to be arranged in folders within the folder "V:\Videos". If you need to alter this, you can, but I'll describe how later. Within the "V:\Videos" folders the software expects to find a series of folders corresponding to the various types of videos that you might have. There is a default set, which includes, for example, the folder, "Movies". This default set needs to correspond exactly with the folder names within "V:\Videos". There is also provision for a second disc drive of videos.

Categorisation of Videos

The default set of folder names for the folders to be within "V:\Videos" are:

  • Movie Featurettes

  • Movie Serials (Cliffhangers 1935-1950)

  • Movie Series

  • Movies

  • Music

  • TV Documentary

  • TV Half Hour

  • TV Hour

  • TV Mini-Series

  • TV Movie Length

  • TV Shorts

Again, this set can be altered, but I'll describe how, later.

Organisation within Categories

Within each of these folders can be a hierarchy of zero, one or two further levels of folders, but this must be consistent throughout each type folder. For example, in the "Movies" type folder, one would normally expect (and this is the default expectation that can be altered) that there would be no folders, and that each movie is represented by its corresponding video file. In the "Movie Series" type folder, one would expect to find a set of folders, each corresponding to a single series of movies, such as "James Bond", with each of the movies within that series being represented by its corresponding video file. In the "TV Hour" type folder, one would expect to find a set of folders, each corresponding to a single series of one-hour TV shows, and within each of these folders, one would expect to find another set of folders, each corresponding to a season of that TV show, with each of the episodes within that season of the show being represented by its corresponding video file. In the latter example, it is required that, if there are to be season folders within one of the show folders, then there are to be season folders within each of the other show folders as well. That is, each example of a given type must have the same number of intervening folders between the type folder and the final video file.

So the folder arrangement might look something like:


V:\Videos --+-- Movie Featurettes -----------------------+-- Looney Tunes
            |                                            +-- The Three Stooges
            |
            +-- Movie Serials (Cliffhangers 1935-1950) --+-- Flash Gordon
            |                                            +-- Batman and Robin
            |
            +-- Movie Series ----------------------------+-- Charlie Chan
            |                                            +-- James Bond
            |
            +-- Movies
            |
            |
            +-- Music ----------+-- David Bowie ---------+-- Serious Moonlight
            |                   |                        +-- A Reality Tour
            |                   |
            |                   +-- Pink Floyd ----------+-- Live at Pompeii
            | 
            +-- TV Documentary --------------------------+-- Life
            |                                            +-- Planet Earth
            |
            +-- TV Half Hour ---+-- Get Smart -----------+-- Season 01
            |                   |                        +-- Season 02
            |                   |
            |                   +-- Astro Boy -----------+-- Season 01
            |                                            +-- Season 02
            |
            +-- TV Hour --------+-- Maverick ------------+-- Season 01
            |                   |                        +-- Season 02
            |                   |
            |                   +-- Inspector Rex -------+-- Season 01
            |                                            +-- Season 02
            |
            +-- TV Mini-Series -+-- Against the Wind ----+-- Season 01
            |                   |
            |                   +-- The Tudors ----------+-- Season 01
            |                                            +-- Season 02
            |
            +-- TV Movie Length +-- Columbo -------------+-- Season 01
            |                   |                        +-- Season 02
            |                   |
            |                   +-- Sharpe --------------+-- Season 01
            |
            +-- TV Shorts ------+-- Roger Ramjet --------+-- Season 01
                                |                        +-- Season 02
                                |
                                +-- Danger Mouse --------+-- Season 01
                                                         +-- Season 02

What you should particularly note in the above is that in the case of the "TV Mini-Series" type folder, that we have allocated a "Season 01" folder to the show, "Against the Wind", so as to be consistent with the other member of that type, "The Tudors", which had season folders, "Season 01" and "Season 02".

Also worth noting is that the above arrangement shows no folders within the "Movies" type folder and one level of folders within the "Movie Series" type folder.

Interfacing with VLC

You also need to have VLC installed on your computer, and its "Web" interface enabled, and its "Lua" password set to "gw-6577".

The "Movie Suggestions" program, when run, will check whether VLC is running. If not, it will start "VLC".

Movie Suggestions Program

When the "Movie Suggestions" program is run, it provides a display with four pages. These pages we refer to as "Modes". In the top left hand corner, is presented the name of the mode/page that is currently provided. The initial mode is titled: "MODE: SUGGESTIONS". The mode may be changed by clicking on "MODE: ..." or typing "m" or [CONTROL PAGE DOWN]. The mode may be altered in the reverse sequence by right-clicking or typing [SHIFT M] or [CONTROL PAGE UP].

Suggestions Mode

On the "MODE: SUGGESTIONS" page are presented a number of rows of panels. In the default configuration, there are four rows of panels. The first row is dedicated to the presentation of any serials that you are in the process of watching. The second row lists the shorter shows. These are the top-level folders beneath the following type folders: "Movie Featurettes", "Movie Serials (Cliffhangers 1935-1950)", "TV Half Hour", and "TV Shorts". The third row lists the longer shows. These are the top-level folders beneath the following type folders: "TV Hour", "TV Mini-Series", and "TV Movie Length". While the final row presents the movies. These are the bottom-level files within the following type folders: "Movie Series", and "Movies". The files within the type folders, "Music" and "TV Documentary", are not represented on this page in the default configuration. This is the display that was presented above (click here to view that display).

Navigation

To navigate about the display, use the [UP], [DOWN], [LEFT], and [RIGHT] keys as well as clicking on a panel with a mouse. Also, [TAB] is equivalent to [DOWN] and [SHIFT TAB] to [UP]. Each row may contain more panels than will be able to be displayed across the page. To access panels in a row that are to the right of the edge of the display, press [PAGE DOWN] or click on the translucent right-pointing triangle at the right-hand edge of the row in question. The translucent arrows will only be presented when there are panels that are off the right-hand edge of the display. Once the row has been so shifted to present those panels, a translucent left-pointing triangle will be presented at the left of the row. When this is displayed, the row may be shifted back by clicking on this triangle or by pressing the [PAGE UP] key. You can present the last panels of the row by pressing [END] and return to the first panels by typing [HOME]. Also, use of the [UP] and [DOWN] keys, or clicking on a different row, results in the presentation of the first panels of all rows.

Bottom Row of Buttons

The buttons along the bottom of the display, "Actions", "Edit", "Options", "Play", "Skip", and "ESCAPE: exit", are provided in all modes, but their effect may vary depending upon the current mode.

Theese buttons are first described below, for this mode, in various subsections. If their behaviour varies in the other modes, they will be again discussed in the section describing that mode.

Play

To play the highlighted show episode or movie, click on the "Play" button at the bottom of the display. The "Play" button can be activated by clicking on it or by typing "p".

Order of Presentation

The order in which the shows are presented, is, initially, determined by the number of episodes in each show. Those with the greatest number of episodes will be presented first. When an episode of a show is played, that show will be moved away from the start of the row. How far it is moved from the start is also determined by the number of episodes in the show; those with few episodes will be moved further from the start than those with more episodes. The object is that by the time you have played all episodes of a show, you should be close to having played all episodes of all the other shows in that row, provided that all shows commenced around the same time from the first episode of the first season. When you select a show to play, the next episode in sequence will be queued to be played by VLC. As the show is passed to VLC (which occurs when VLC has finished any video that it had been playing), the next episode to be played for that show is advanced.

Watched, Reserved, Archived, and Times Played

All shows are marked as to whether they have been watched or unwatched, whether they have been reserved, and whether they have been archived. When the last episode of a show is played, that show will be marked as watched and, should there be other shows marked as "reserved", it will join them in being marked as reserved; the existence of "reserved" shows is an indication that you wish to make use of this feature. The archived marking can be manually set, and is to be set when you remove a show (or movie series) from your hard drive, but don't wish to discard all the information associated with it, in case you intend to return it at a later time. It is anticipated that you may exhaust your main storage and need to shift some folders off-line. Now, any show marked as archived will not be presented on this page. As to the presentation of those shows that have not been archived, that will be governed by the "watchness" setting. This can be set to either "Watched and unwatched", "Watched", "unWatched", or "reserved shoWs only". Those marked as reserved will only display when the "watchness" is set to "reserved shoWs only". This setting is presented at the top of the display and can be switched by clicking on this text or by typing "w" to change the setting from "Watched and unwatched" to "Watched" to "unWatched" to "reserved shoWs only" and back to "Watched and unwatched". You can work through these alternatives in the reverse direction by right-clicking or typing [SHIFT W].

We record how many times each video is played. Normally, the final line will only present those movies that have been played the least number of times. Alternatively, you can elect to present those that have been played the second least number of times, and so forth. After going beyond a number of such divisions of the movies, the remaining movies are grouped together as most played, irrespective of the number of times they have been played in excess of this threshold. These options are described as "Least played movies", "Least-1 played movies", "Least-2 played movies", ... "Most played movies", and, finally "Least: don't care" to present all movies. This is presented at the top of the display. You can alter the setting by clicking on this text or by typing "l". You can work through this setting's options in the reverse order by right-clicking or typing [SHIFT L].

The "watchness" setting has no effect upon the presentation of movies and the "least played" setting has no effect upon the presentation of shows.

Skip

We've spoken about playing a show or movie. There is also a "Skip" button at the bottom of the display. This button behaves differently for shows and movies. Skipping a show will reposition that show away from the start in accordance with the number of episodes in that show. Skipping a movie will increment the count of the number of plays that it has been assigned. Skipping a movie, however, will have no impact if the "least played" setting is "Least: don't care". The "Skip" button can be activated by clicking on it or by typing "s", or [DELETE].

You can reverse the action of skipping a movie by typing "d".

Genre, Viewers, Searching, and the Options Button

You can assign a genre to each show or movie. If you click on "Genre" or type "g", you will be presented with an editing field into which you can type the genres to be included, with the vertical line character, "|", inserted between each. In response, this page will be restricted to presenting only those shows or movies that have been flagged as belonging to one of the nominated genres. You can cancel this restriction by entering a blank field, or by right-clicking on "Genre" or by typing [SHIFT G].

You can record against each show or movie which members of your family enjoy the show. This is indicated by the names of those who enjoy the show, with the ampersand character, "&", inserted between each. If you click on "Viewers" or type "v", you may enter the names of those present in order to have the display restricted to presenting just those shows that are enjoyed by exactly that combination of members of your family. You can cancel this restriction by entering a blank field, or by right-clicking on "Viewers" or by typing [SHIFT V].

You can restrict the display to only those shows or movies that contain a certain sequence of letters in their title. This is done independently for shows and movies. To set these restrictions, click on "Find", or type "f" or [CONTROL F], then enter into either or both fields the text you wish to restrict the display to. The first of these fields corresponds to the shows and the second to movies. You can cancel this restriction by entering blank fields or by right-clicking on "Find" or by typing [SHIFT F].

The "Options" button at the bottom of the display presets a dialogue box that allows you to set any of the restrictions mentioned above, as well as changing the mode. The mode may also be changed, as mentioned above, by clicking on "MODE: SUGGESTIONS" or typing "m" or [CONTROL PAGE DOWN].

VLC Interface

What VLC is up to is also presented on at the top of the display. This can be "VLC is stopped", "VLC is playing", "VLC is paused", "VLC asked to play", and "VLC not connected".

Editing Shows, Episodes, and Movies

The details associated with the highlighted show or movie can editied using the "Edit" button. The "Edit" button can be activated by clicking on it, or by typing "e" or [RETURN] or [ENTER] or by double-clicking on the panel.

For a show the details that you can edit include:

  • Folder purpose: a unique description of the folder.

  • Folder name: the filename of the folder, excluding path information.

  • Folder serial/epis.: indicates whether the episodes are serialised.

  • Folder # digits b4 title: if you include, in the names of its sub-folders or files, digits before the title of the show or episode, for the purpose of sequencing the sub-folders or files within the folder, then by stipulating the number of digits used for this purpose, you can have those digits removed from the presentation of the show or episode's title in the panels of this display.

  • Root folder for folder: the folder name corresponding to the sub-folder of "V:\Videos" that contains this folder, either directly or indirectly.

  • Folder containing folder: the parent folder that directly contains this folder, provided that that parent is not the type folder, in which case this field should be left blank.

  • Folder liked by: a list of those who enjoy the show, separated by ampersands ("&").

  • Folder rating: either "Not worth watching", "Okay". "Good, worthwhile", "Excellent", or "A Favourite", corresponding to a star rating of between 1 and 5.

  • Folder genre: one of any number of genres that have been set by default or that you might have added.

  • Folder season and Folder episode: the next episode to be played - an index into the alphabetically sorted list of seasons and episodes within this folder (it is only the show folder's fields that are used, not the season's).

  • Folder file index low and high: an operating system provided number that allows this software to identify folder and files in spite of any name changing or relocation that might have taken place. This works for NAS drives, but not for directly connected drives, so, should you change the folder, you should also adjust the "Folder name" field to reflect this new name.

  • Folder # episodes: a calculated number giving the total number of episodes in all seasons of the show.

  • Folder watched, reserved, or archived: as discussed earlier.

  • Folder nextness: determines how close the file will appear to the start of its row in this display.

  • Nextness divisor: this figure is multiplied by the number of episodes before the latter is used to set a show's nextness, moving it closer to the left of its row. Should you want to watch a show with, say, only thirteen episodes in total and also a show with over 200 episodes, then the natural consequence would be that the former show will appear at the start of the row once for every sixteen appearances of the latter. This would mean that you would complete watching both shows around the same time. If instead, you want to watch the former more rapidly than that, you might want to set this field to 16 to make that show be presented at the start as often as the other. Once the show is watched completely, not only will it be flagged as watched and, possibly, reserved, but also its "Nextness divisor" and "Nextness multiplier" will be set back to one.

  • Nextness multiplier: this figure is the counterpart of the "Nextness divisor" and increases a show's nextness so as to make it play less often. Please refer to the description of the "Nextness divisor" for further detail. These may both be set to obtain a fractional multiplier.

For a movie the details that you can edit include:

  • Recording description: a unique description of the movie file.

  • Movie filename: the filename, excluding path information.

  • Root folder for movie: the folder name corresponding to the sub-folder of "V:\Videos" that contains this movie file, either directly or indirectly.

  • Folder containing movie: the parent folder that directly contains this movie file, provided that that parent is not the type folder, in which case this field should be left blank.

  • Movie liked by: a list of those who enjoy the movie, separated by ampersands ("&").

  • Movie rating: either "Not worth watching", "Okay". "Good, worthwhile", "Excellent", or "A Favourite", corresponding to a star rating of between 1 and 5.

  • Movie genre: one of any number of genres that have been set by default or that you might have added.

  • Movie number of plays: the number of times the movie has been played or skipped.

  • Movie file index low and high: an operating system provided number that allows this software to identify folder and files in spite of any name changing or relocation that might have taken place. This works for both NAS connected and directly connected drives.

Additionally, each of these dialogues provide buttons to let you check that the corresponding folder or file exists, to play or skip the show or movie, or to import, remove, or export the image that is associated with the show or movie or type of video (not that you have access to this third option in this mode - see "MODE: BROWSING" below). To associate an image with a show or movie, you can download an image from the Internet and edit it within, say, Mocrosoft Paint. I've standardised on an image size of 300 by 400 pixels, though the height dimension (400) is a little excessive. The 300 width coincides with the default panel width of 300 pixels. So, after massaging the downloaded image to your heart's content and adjusting its size appropriately, save it somewhere handy. You can then use the "Import image" button on this edit dialogue box to move that image to the folder reserved for them (".\images" by default), and have them renamed so that the software can easily access them when needed. Note that when an image is imported it is removed from where it was saved by Paint. So, had you saved the image, via Paint, to an otherwise empty folder, that folder will be returned to being empty after the importing, making it easy to identify any subsequent images that you might wish to create/manipulate via paint and import into the software. All these buttons can only be activated by clicking on them.

Also, after editing a show's details, after clicking on the dialogue box's "OK" button or after typing [RETURN] or [ENTER], a further dialogue box will be presented, containing the details of the next episode of that show. Its details correspond to those for a movie, which has already been discussed.

Rating

The rating for a movie is reflected in the number of stars shown in its panel. This rating can be modified by clicking on the star that is to represent your rating of the movie. Clicking on the first star gives a movie the lowest rating of one star, while clicking on the last star gives a movie the highest rating, five stars.

Configuration and the Actions Button

The default settings within the software may be altered using the "Actions" button. The "Actions" button can be activated by clicking on it, or by typing "a".

The various actions available are presented upon activation of the button. These actions are:

  • BASIC SETUP  This allows you to alter some of the fundamental settings within the software, such as where the videos are to be found.

  • USERS        Here you can add entries for members of your family, so that their liking of shows and movies may also be recorded.

  • LINES        This allows you to change the default use of the rows of panels that are presented in the "MODE: SUGGESTIONS" and to add additional rows to that display.

  • VIDEO TYPES  This allows you to modify the main categories into which we arrange the videos on the hard drive. This you should do in conjunction with making the corresponding changes to the actual file structure, so that both these correspond.

  • SYNCHRONISE  Searches the folders corresponding to the various types of videos, within the root folder assigned for your collection of videos. Until this is done, no newly added videos can be presented by this software.

  • FOLDERS      This allows you direct access to the database that lists all the series and season sub-folders found within the video types folders.

  • RECORDINGS   This allows you direct access to the database that lists all the individual video files found within the subfolders and sub-subfolders of the video types folders.

  • DISPLAY      This allows you to make some changes to the sizes (in pixels) of the graphical shapes used to construct the panels of the display.

  • PRESENTATION This allows you to alter the colours and fonts used throughout the software.

  • WRITE NAMES  The DVD ripping software that I used wrote some rather unsatisfactory names into the AVI files. When VLC playes these files it will present this name. The object here is to replace those names with something more appropriate. The names are generated from the folder and file names.

  • CONTROL VLC  Should VLC change its Web Interface protocol, the entries in this database may help to correct the software's interface to VLC.

Requested Videos Mode

Now, we have already discussed playing episodes of shows and movies and how, if VLC is not currently playing a movie, any video that you ask to be played will immediately play, whilst, should VLC be already playing a movie, then the next requested video will be placed in a queue. This queue is presented in the next mode, "MODE: REQUESTED VIDEOS".

In this mode several lines represent the next-to-play video and onwards down the screen. If there are any videos queued, the first will be highlighted. The highlight may be moved up and down the list using the [UP] and [DOWN] keys, as well as the [SHIFT TAB] and [TAB] keys respectively, or up and down by pages at a time using the [PAGE UP] and [PAGE DOWN] keys respectively. Also, the highlight may be shifted by clicking the mouse on a line and may be shifted by pages at a time by clicking on the translucent down-pointing triangle at the bottom of the screen and translucent up-pointing triangle at the top of the screen. Note that these triangles will only appear when there are lines that are beyond the screen in the corresponding direction.

Each line presents a description of the video, a genre and a rating. The genre and rating may be changed here. If you click on the genre, a dialogue will open allowing you to select an alternative genre for it. If you click on one of the stars of the rating, its rating will be adjusted accordingly.

Play and Skip

The "Play" button, in this mode, promotes the highlighted line to the start of the list of requested videos, while the "Skip" button removes the highlighted line from the list of requests.

Options Button

The "Options" button provides the same dialogue box as it did for "MODE: SUGGESTIONS", but most of the settings will have no effect upon this mode.

History Mode

Video Selection program: History page
The main display of the video selection program, its “Suggestions” page

The next mode is "MODE: HISTORY", which is very similar to the previous mode, "MODE: REQUESTED VIDEOS". This mode presents a list of the last 100 videos played by VLC. It makes more sense to adjust the rating and genre via this mode than via the "MODE: REQUESTED VIDEOS".

Videos will only be added to this list if they are not already on it, so, if you play a video from this list, it will not reappear at the top of the list. Also, any video that is on this list, when played, will not have its count of times played increased.

Play and Skip

The "Play" button, in this mode, asks VLC to play the highlighted video. The count of the number of plays will not be incremented and the season and episode that a show is up to will not be altered. The "Skip" button has no effect.

Browsing Mode

Video Selection program: Browsing page
The main display of the video selection program, its “Suggestions” page

The final mode is "MODE: BROWSING". In this mode there are four rows of panels. The first row presents each category or type of video, with one category highlighted. The second row will present the folders, if any, that reside within that type folder, with, again, one highlighted. The third row will, similarly, present the folders, if any, within the highlighted folder from the second row. The fourth row will present the files from within the last highlighted folder from a previous line. So, normally, the first and last rows should always have panels occupied, but whether or not the two intervening rows have occupied panels will be dependent upon the type folder highlighted in the first row. Also, should the second row be unoccupied, the third row will always be unoccupied as well.

This mode is similar to the "MODE: SUGGESTIONS" mode in many respects, however, in this mode there is a hierarchical relationship from the upper to the lower rows, whereas in that other mode the individual rows were totally independent. So, here there are two levels of highlighting, because, when navigating along a row, it is necessary to show which were the panels within the upper rows that fathered the row that you are, now, navigating. Otherwise the navigation is similar to that described for "MODE: SUGGESTIONS", so it won't be repeated here.

Genre, Viewers, Searching, and the Options Button

Here, again are presented the "Genre", "Viewers", and "Find" options, but not the "watchness" nor the "least played" restrictions. Similarly, the effect of the "Options" button is so limited. This mode is intended to allow you to look for any video that you might want to play, rather than offering you suggestions based on which show is next to play and which movies have not been watched, at least, for a while.

Now that completes the description of the "Movie Suggestions" program.