Comparing MythTV and XBMC

MythTV and XBMC can turn your Linux system into a video playback device with all the options you've ever dreamed of.
Metadata Editing

Information about videos is known as metadata. The metadata includes movie title, runtime, cast, synopsis and a variety of items similar to what is found on IMDB.com or TheMovieDatabase.org. Both applications can retrieve metadata automatically when new files are added to folders, and both allow you to edit this metadata while browsing the collection (Figure 10). XBMC offers multiple configurable sources for metadata on a per-folder basis. MythTV's metadata sources are dependent on configurable scripts, but only one script can be configured, and it applies to all files.

Figure 10. MythTV (left) can edit individual movies. XBMC (right) works only on folders of movies.

XBMC sets metadata via the context menu. Right-click on any folder to get the menu, and then select Set Content. Choose a source for the metadata, and then run an automated scan. XBMC will let you add a movie that is not found manually, but once you've done this, there is no easy way to remove the entry if it's wrong. In MythVideo, pressing I over a movie in any browse mode will bring up a context menu. From there, you can edit the metadata data, reset it, play the movie or just view more details about the movie.

Video Playback

Once you're past the setup and management, you finally can play your videos. And, this is where the two systems shine. Both offer high-quality playback of files in AVI, MPEG4 and even ISO formats. ISO offers the best viewing, because all of the DVD features are available, including menus and subtitles. Of course, both programs also will play a DVD directly from a local DVD drive. MythVideo plays videos with no embellishments—the full window is the video. XBMC actually can wrap its menus around a playing video and will play a video in a small window while the user browses other features (Figure 12). XBMC also offers the usual media controls on-screen. MythTV uses an on-screen menu, but media controls are supported by keyboard keys without the aid of on-screen controls (Figure 11).

Figure 11. MythTV's on-screen display handles most functions except media control while playing.

Figure 12. XBMC can wrap menus around playing video (left) or place it in a small window (right).

TV Guide, Playback and Recordings

From the user perspective, TV playback under both systems is very similar to video playback. XBMC places TV as another source under its Video feature. MythTV separates videos from TV, although TV recordings still are under the TV function. The main difference between MythTV and XBMC is the way the guide is displayed. MythTV has a built-in guide that is updated by a back-end server (Figure 13). The guide is accessed from the OSD menu while watching live TV or when scheduling a recording.

MythTV can record live TV from any configured hardware. The more TV tuners installed on the back ends, the more sources for recordings. When one tuner is busy recording, another can be used to watch live TV. You can schedule recordings using any of the numerous guide search mechanisms, and you can start recordings while watching a show. You also can view recordings even while it is still recording, as long as some recorded data is available. Recordings are given priorities so that if they conflict and not enough video sources are available, the higher priority gets access to the device.

Figure 13. The MythTV guide is color-coded by genre.

There is only one way to watch recordings, and MythTV uses a tree structure for finding the recordings. Migrating recordings from MythTV's TV feature to MythVideo requires archiving them first via MythArchive. This is not particularly user-friendly, so keep your expectations low for hanging onto recordings.

XBMC uses a MythTV back end to show live TV. It also uses MythTV's guide information. However, it shows the guide information using the same view types as videos in File mode. XBMC, however, cannot record data. It can play only live TV or view existing video files. It cannot create new video files from live TV.

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XBMC as MythTV frontend

AdamHr's picture

I wrote an article about how to best configure XMBC as a MythTV frontend: http://adamhaeder.com/wordpress/2010/01/19/how-to-configure-xbmc-as-a-mythtv-frontend/

XBMC has supported video streaming for years

hyc's picture

Dunno where you got the idea that XBMC doesn't support Internet video streaming, it's been supported for ages. Of course, the support for RTMP in the new XBMC 10.x is far better than the old 9.x code. But either way, stating it's not supported is flat wrong.

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