Popcorn Hour C200 Media Streamer
Hello, this is a guide to setting up your Popcorn Hour Networked Media Tank for full media streaming happiness. I have a Popcorn Hour C200, but this guide will work for all of the Popcorn Hours, including the C300, A300, A400 etc as they all connect in the same way.
When I started, I had an absolute nightmare getting everything set up correctly and was up for nights on end reading forums. I've decided to distill the information I found into one article so you can be up and running quickly and relatively painlessly.
What the popcorn hour does is play movies. It does more than that, but that is its primary function. It is a lot more useful than a standard DVD or bluray player though, as rather than having a stack of discs that take up room, you can store all of your movies on the device, or on a computer or storage system connected to the device. They are then accessed through the onscreen menu. No more piles of cases, just one small device that does the lot.
Where should I store my films?
My set up has changed throughout the time of owning my first Popcorn Hour, which was the A110. I now have a home server, with all of my films stored on there. The Popcorn Hour is connected to the server through the router and also accessible from my desktop pc, so I can add or delete files at will.
To set this up the first thing you have to do is decide where you are going to store your films. There are several options.
Firstly you can store your films on the device itself with an internal hard drive plugged in. This was what I did before I got the server.
Secondly you can store the films on a computer or server and access them remotely with the Popcorn Hour and stream them.
Thirdly you can have a combination of the two and have some films on the device itself and others stored elsewhere. The jukebox can be set in such a way as to combine all of your films into one place, so you don't have to browse through different lists of films / jukeboxes.
I can't say which is the best method for you as it depends on how much money and storage you have. The more the better obviously. If you have films stored externally then you'll have to have the computer / server turned on when you watch a film. If on the Popcorn Hour itself, then you won't, although you'll need to have the pc on when you want to update the jukebox.
C200 rear view
What is a movie jukebox?
The most popular way of viewing your films is to have one of the jukebox options that are available. There are several, but YAMJ (Yet Another Movie Jukebox) with a skin of your choice is very popular and is the way I have mine set up currently. I use the AEON skin, with some small modifications.
The jukebox allows you to see a wall of movie covers, rather than a list of text. When you select a cover, then you go to a movie details page to read more about it and look at the box. If you want to watch it, just press play from there and away you go. It looks like this;
YAMJ jukebox with AEON skin
Before you worry about jukeboxes, then the first thing you need to do is plug your Popcorn Hour in and get it set up to your tv or projector. Obviously the output side of things is taken care of with a HDMI lead straight in to your receiver, but it's the networking side of things that people struggle with. You need to get your Popcorn Hour plugged in to your router and get it recognised as a network device. You can do this wirelessly, but HD streaming is better wired, so I'd recommend getting a long flat ethernet cable and plugging straight into your router, or homeplugging, but not going wireless as it can't support the bandwidth for HD streaming.
After you've plugged it in, then you need to get your popcorn hour and PC to recognise each other. To do this, then you need to share your movies folder. Right click on your movies folder and select share option, then allow sharing. You will then need to find this share through the popcorn hour network share menu from the popcorn menu.
If you browse to it and find it, then add it you'll be good to go. If you have a hard drive inside the popcorn hour, then you can also add that on your pc, by setting up a mapped drive from inside windows explorer. It's pretty easy to do, just select the 'map network drive' option, give it a letter then just browse for your popcorn hour. If you have a hard drive in the popcorn hour, then you can drag films straight on to the device by doing this. It is not necessary though, if you are using the popcorn hour as a streamer only, then you can skip this step.
Whether you have mapped your popcorn hour to the pc or just connected the two devices and browsed to the film share through the popcorn hour, then you can just select the network share from the popcorn hour and see a list of films, which will play as soon as you select the film in question, or take it a bit further and install a jukebox, like YAMJ for example.
Make sure you've added all shares before you press the save button
How to set up YAMJ
Installing YAMJ is quite straightforward as long as you follow the steps. The first thing to do is to get hold of it from here;
You should also download guiconfig to help set it up. Get this from here;
Ok once you have those files, set up a YAMJ folder somewhere, I have one in C/Program files, but you can put it where you like. After you've made a folder, then unrar YAMJ into it.
From here you will then need to run Guiconfig and use the program to set up the network share access for YAMJ. This is important, without this then it won't work. To do this, you need to select the movie directory to scan, then tell it where they are, then save the NMT path. After this select the location to store the jukebox (this should ideally be where your films are stored), then save.
It will then ask you where you want to save the setup file and you want to save this into the YAMJ folder that you created earlier. Guiconfig will create a 'My_Yamj' file, which will run YAMj with a double click. I think it's a good idea to create a shortcut to this file and put it on the desktop, that way every time you make changes to your movie collection, you can rerun YAMJ to update it.
The way YAMJ works is it connects to IMDB and a host of other websites and downloads film information to display in your jukebox. To make sure it downloads the correct information, you'll need to make sure your movies are named correctly. Use the 'name.age.format' convention to name them and you'll be fine. So for example if you have the film 'Bolt', then name it Bolt.2008.bluray. This way YAMJ knows which film to look for when it looks on the internet for information. The .bluray tag at the end tells YAMJ which box to display, as you can set it up to display different types of box depending on the format of the file.
When all of your files are named correctly, then double click the My_Yamj file to run YAMJ for the first time. It will connect to the internet and download all of the film info and build a jukebox. This can take a while the first time, but after you've done it, the next time you update your collection and run YAMJ, then it will download only what it needs, so it is faster.
To access this jukebox, after turning on the Popcorn Hour, you just browse to the network share where your films and jukebox are stored, select that and the jukebox will be displayed.
YAMJ with default skin. This is what you'll have out of the box, but it is easy(ish) to modify!
Setting up multiple shares, for large movie collections spread across several folders / hard drives
If you have multiple shares, then make sure that after you have gone through the guiconfig process, then press the add button before saving. You can set up multiple shares this way, so can have lots of different hard drives all with films stored on them all linked up in one jukebox.
Setting this up correctly in Guiconfig is the part that really flummoxed me the first time, I didn't realise you could just keep adding shares. If you do this then you can have multiple hard drives, all filled with films and YAMJ will compile them all into one jukebox, if you press save too early, it won't work.
The only thing you have to make sure is that before watching a film, you browse to the share to reconnect it. If your jukebox is stored in your films folder, then your popcorn hour will automatically do this, so you won't have to do anything. If you have multiple shares / hard drives, you'll need to browse to each one manually through the front end of the popcorn hour first to connect with that share. If you keep your popcorn hour on standby rather than switching it off, then the share connection will stay open, if you turn it off you'll have to browse to the share to reopen it each time. It's a pain, but there is no other way round it.
You'll soon know if your popcorn hour is not connected to the share, as you'll try to play a film from the jukebox and nothing will happen. Not to worry, browse to the share manually and then you'll be good to go with the jukebox again. Best bet is to get a server that sleeps and use the popcorn hour on standby and then once your shares are set up the first time, they'll stay open.
This is the movie detail page after a bit of tinkering
Ok so shares are done and YAMJ is installed. What now?
Once you have done the above, then you should have a drive or folder (share) with your films on, with the YAMJ index and jukebox files in there. When you open this folder through the browser in the Popcorn hour, then the jukebox will display.
All you have to do is make sure that every time you add a movie to your movie folder, you re run the My_YAMJ program, which ideally you have as a shortcut on your desktop and it will update. It is much faster after the initial run as well, so you won't be waiting long.
There are lots and lots of modifications that you can make to YAMJ to make it prettier, but if you do what I just said, then you will have it functioning and you can alter the properties files and add to it as you see fit. Installing new skins and messing around with boxes and covers and stuff is all part of the fun. If you read through the properties files and the readme files that are supplies with YAMJ and take your time, then things are fairly easy.
The first and most frustrating thing when I was setting up was getting it working in the first place and hopefully this will have given you a bit of an idea of how to do that.
I hope this article was useful, if you want to really get into the meat of your popcorn hour, then get onto nmtforums. This guide should give you the basics and get you up and running though. Please leave any comments below.
Rain Defence (author) from UK on June 07, 2014:
That's what I did, I had yamj installed on a USB drive plugged into the popcorn hour.
Frost on June 07, 2014:
So what if you have all your movies on a NAS, where do you install YAMJ? on the PCH?
Rain Defence (author) from UK on May 17, 2014:
Hi to be honest I moved on quite a while ago from the popcorn hr to an hp microserver which I use as a htpc and run xbmc. It's quite a lot better than the popcorn hr as it is all automated now and you can change any skin options etc dynamically.
The official nmtforums are definitely the place for you to to go for extra skins and info though.
Tim Lavelle on May 16, 2014:
Thanks for the article mate, definitely helped me get setup and my Jukebox running on my first attempt. When I had first gotten my Boxee Box, it was frustrating as hell to get working properly, but this article helped heaps!
As a side request... do you have any links to how we can customize the skins, maybe some doco about it? I can't seem to find any good links and I looked at the skins and the XSL/XML setup, but how can we test, load the skin, etc... if you know of any good sites, please post.