Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Impressions of Movie Collector

Having invested in Movie Collector Pro (from, here's my impressions so far.

The software seems reasonably fast and well written.  It's quite usable.  There are tons of fields, which can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how much time you want to spend.

I invested in the wired laser-based barcode scanner, the C37.  The Cuecat looked too goofy, having to swipe across each barcode, and the Intelliscanner didn't seem to justify it's high price.  I have a spare laptop currently sitting in my movie room to do the job of mass importing my collection so wireless scanning is nothing to me.  So I have no idea how the Intelliscanner is supposed to work with the software.

Importing barcoded movies is really pretty fast.  Hitting "Ins" brings up the import screen, and if you have a barcode scanner then the cursor is pre-set to the barcode input field.  You scan, and the software will download the details and cover automatically for confirmation.

You do still have to press a button or key combo to accept the selection - a sort of confirmation step.  There were a couple of cases where the selected movie did not match my version, but it was usually an alternative or foreign-language title.  There was only one outright error that I found so far.

Importing other stuff is not so straightforward, although I suppose it's as painless as is possible.  Movies with custom covers usually would not scan because the barcodes were too small and/or blurry.  Some did, but most don't  Sometimes the covers were lacking barcodes altogether, which helps them look cool but makes auto-import impossible.

For these, you have to manually type in the UPC code or movie title.  UPC code works better for those movies that had one, but only because it's more specific.  (Covers for European films had barcodes, but there was no corresponding lookup, so they're probably not UPC codes.)  Failing that, you put in the title and search.

Either way, you then need to find your version/edition from the resulting list and add by hand.  Irritatingly enough, the cursor does not return to the barcode field after this process, so I wrote a macro to fix that for me.

The "Add" selections also change depending on if you scan or search.  If the software finds a unique match, it will automatically check the selection, and the add step becomes "Add Checked" (Alt-C).  If no unique match is found, you need to "Add Selected" (Alt-S).  There is also an "Add Anyway" button in case you have something like a bootleg that has no database entry.  Initially I found these confusing, but I didn't RTFM so take that for what it is worth.

Collections are stored as a single entry, and not as multiple movies.  For example, scanning "The Indiana Jones Collection" gives you just that.  There seems to be no option to auto-breakout the collection into the individual movies, so that you remember that that collection includes only the first 3 movies, but not the fourth.  If you want that, you need to add the movies by hand - and again, sometimes the collector covers don't have individual barcodes.

The software does support custom formats, such as DivX and DVD-R.  Unfortunately again, this field is buried 14 fields deep in the opening edit screen.  Fortunately, you can change a whole bunch of movies en masse using the multiple edit option - only available on the Pro version, naturally - which simplifies things as long as you keep track of what you're doing. 

VHS, Blu, and UMD are also in the Format list, although it seems you can type anything you like in there.  The software remembers your categories automatically, and you can pull them up as "Folders" on both the PC and Android software - very useful if you are looking to replace older formats once the new ones go on sale.  (For example, just go to the "Blu-Ray" folder to see if you own the movie on Blu yet.)

The rest of the fields range from mildly interesting to virtually useless for all but the most avid collector.  One notable exception is the "Seen It" field, which is buried 3 screens in and about 15 fields down in the edit dialog.  Being able to record what I haven't seen is a boon, as I've missed several movies this year, and I don't remember which ones.

Associated options, like where and when I first saw it, seem like unnecessary fluff to me, and I would cheerfully get rid of most of them to make it easier to edit the options that I do want.  There's a huge amount of detail, including plot, cast, studio, reviews, and other blah blah.  There's also a "Current value" field - useful if you collect rare movies, I guess, but not too many of us do that.

The software does do a good job of handling quirks.  Movies that do not match database entries are easily edited with no fuss.  You can also manually sort titles using the "Title Sort" option - useful for collections, such as Bond and Indiana Jones, that don't arrange themselves nicely in alphabetical order.  You need to watch out, however, since some of the database entries come pre-loaded with a "Title Sort" entry, and probably not the one you want.

If you have a mixed collection, count of a fair amount of editing time.  Only people with plain-jane DVD and Blu collections will get maximum throughput when adding movies.

Still, overall, the software does the job for me.  The extra options are unnecessary for me, but they don't really get in the way too badly.  If I wasn't running macros for the common tasks, however, I can see it taking twice as long as it is currently taking, which is roughly 20 minutes per 20 movies.  Not too bad, but for 1000+ movies it still takes a while.

The software will install on multiple machines, and the database is more or less fully portable between PCs.  Cover images are stored on the local hard drive, so if you switch machines the cover images will not come over.  Fortunately you can update them all with a few clicks, so no biggie.  (This does not seem to apply to the handheld apps, which import the cover images when they import the database.)

The most important feature for me - the Android app - works quite well.  Each import takes a bit of setting up on the PC side, because it doesn't remember your Android device between exports.  Which seems odd, but it may be unavoidable for all I know.

Once started the import process is quick and voila! you have a nice, pretty, sortable movie list to take around with you.  The gallery view, while not complex, is especially impressive to show off.  You do have to import manually after every change, though - it does not auto-refresh.

Overall I'd recommend the software.  Yes, the company name is ridiculous and makes them sound like script kiddies, but once I got past it the software works as advertised.

For whatever it is worth, Collectorz had the best prices on the barcode scanners, or at least equivalent to what other people were selling them for.  I didn't immediately find a way to hack in a cheaper scanner/keyboard wedge combo, so using their "supported" scanners may be worth it.  Unless you can pick up a scanner from a going-out-of-business sale for $10, it's probably not worth the effort.

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