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Features and supported formats
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Currently XBMC can be used to play almost all popular audio and video formats around. It was designed for network playback, so you can stream your multimedia from anywhere in the house or directly from the internet using practically any protocol available. Use your media as-is: XBMC can play CDs and DVDs directly from the disk or image file, almost all popular archive formats from your hard drive. XBMC will scan all of your media and create a personalized library complete with boxcovers, descriptions, and fanart. There are playlist and slideshow functions, a weather forecast feature and many audio visualizations. Once installed, your computer will become a fully functional multimedia jukebox.
1 XBMC's Addons Manager and addons
Add-ons are packages that add features and functions not normally included with XBMC. Add-ons are developed by people on Team XBMC and third-parties. XBMC has a growing list of community driven add-ons for online content like YouTube, Hulu, Grooveshark, Pandora Radio, as well as skins (themes) and more available from a common official repository, while still enabling third-party developers to also host their own unofficial repositories for add-ons that any user can choose to add themselves if they like.
1.1 Scrapers (web scraping for metadata)
XBMC has the built-in optional function to automatically download metadata information, cover art and other related media artwork online through its web scrapers that looks for media in the user's audio / video folders and their sub-directories. These "scrapers" are this way used as importers to obtain detailed information from various Internet resources about movies and television shows. It can get synopses, reviews, movie posters, titles, genre classification, and other similar data. XBMC GUI then provide a rich display for audio and video files that the scrapers has identified.
Scrapers use sites like themoviedb.org to obtain thumbnails and information on movies, thetvdb.com for TV show posters and episode plots, or CDDB (via freedb and Discogs, etc.) for audio CD track listings.
1.2 Skins (themes)
Skins allow users to drastically change the appearance and fundamental user interface of XBMC. "Confluence" and "Project Mayhem" are the two official skins; "Confluence" is the default since version 9.11, and "Project Mayhem" was the previous default which is now in its third version, commonly known as "PM3.HD" (PM III High-Definition).
Users can also create their own skin (or simply modify an existing skin) and share it with others via public websites that are used for XBMC skins trading and development. Many such third-party skins exist that are well maintained by the community, and while some skins are originals with unique designs, most initially begin as a clones or an exact replica of other multimedia software interfaces, such as DivX Connected, Apple Front Row, Windows Media Center Edition (MCE), MediaPortal, Meedio/MeediOS, HDeeTV, Kaleidescape, Wii Channel Menu (Xii), Xbox 360 Blades (MC360), Xbox 360 New Xbox Experience (Xperience), and others.
The flexibility offered by XBMC skinning-engine is also useful for third-party companies who wish to make derivative work of XBMC as it makes it easy to rebrand the environment or make deeper changes to the look and feel of the user interface.
1.3 Web Interfaces
Web Interface addons for XBMC normally allow browsing a media library remotely, to handle music playlists from a computer instead of television. Others allow remotely controlling the navigation of XBMC like a remote for remote controlling of an installed and concurrently-active XBMC session running on a computer if it runs on an internet tablet or similar device with a touch interface. And yet other still acts like a media manager to allow modifying metadata and artwork in XBMC's video and music libraries.
2 Audio, video, and pictures playback and handling
XBMC can play media from CD/DVD media using an internal DVD-ROM drive. It can also play media from an internal built-in hard disk drive and SMB/SAMBA/CIFS shares (Windows File-Sharing), NFS, WebDAV or UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) shares. XBMC can also take advantage of a broadband Internet connection if available to stream Internet-video-streams like YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, and Veoh, and play Internet-radio-stations (such as Pandora Radio). XBMC also includes the option to submit music usage statistics to Last.fm and Libre.fm. It also has music/video-playlist features, picture/image-slideshow functions, an MP3+CDG karaoke function and many audio-visualizations and screensavers. XBMC can in addition upscale/upconvert all standard-definition (480i/480p/576i/576p) resolution videos and output them to 720p, 1080i, and 1080p high-definition resolutions.
2.1 Format support
XBMC can be used to play/view all common multimedia formats through its native clients and parsers. It can decode these audio and video formats in software or hardware, and optionally pass-through AC3/DTS audio, or encode to AC3 in real time from movies directly to S/PDIF digital output to an external audio-amplifier/receiver for decoding.
- Supported formats
- Physical digital media: Blu-ray Disc (unencrypted), CDs, DVDs, DVD-Video, Video CDs (including VCD/SVCD/XVCD), Audio-CD (CDDA), USB Flash Drives, and local Hard Disk Drives
- Network protocol clients: AirPlay/AirTunes, UPnP, SMB/SAMBA/CIFS, AFP, Zeroconf/Avahi/Bonjour, NFS, HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, RTSP (RTSPU, RTSPT), MMS (MMSU, MMST), Podcasting, TCP, UDP, SFTP, RTP and RTMP (including RTMP, RTMPT, RTMPE, RTMPTE, RTMPS), DHCP, NTP, WebDAV
Network protocol servers: JSON-RPC server, D-Bus server, Web server, FTP Server, and UPnP AV media server, and a multi-protocol Event Server
- Container formats: AVI, MPEG, WMV, ASF, FLV, MKV/MKA (Matroska), QuickTime, MP4, M4A, AAC, NUT, Ogg, OGM, RealMedia RAM/RM/RV/RA/RMVB, 3gp, VIVO, PVA, NUV, NSV, NSA, FLI, FLC, DVR-MS and WTV
- Video formats: MPEG-1, MPEG-2, H.263, MPEG-4 SP and ASP, MPEG-4 AVC (H.264), HuffYUV, Indeo, MJPEG, RealVideo, RMVB, Sorenson, WMV, Cinepak.
- Audio formats: MIDI, AIFF, WAV/WAVE, AIFF, MP2, MP3, AAC, AACplus (AAC+), Vorbis, AC3, DTS, ALAC, AMR, FLAC, Monkey's Audio (APE), RealAudio, SHN, WavPack, MPC/Musepack/Mpeg+, Shorten, Speex, WMA, IT, S3M, MOD (Amiga Module), XM, NSF (NES Sound Format), SPC (SNES), GYM (Genesis), SID (Commodore 64), Adlib, YM (Atari ST), ADPCM (Nintendo GameCube), and CDDA.
- Digital picture/image formats: RAW image formats, BMP, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, MNG, ICO, PCX and Targa/TGA
- Subtitle formats: AQTitle, ASS/SSA, CC, JACOsub, MicroDVD, MPsub, OGM, PJS, RT, SMI, SRT, SUB, VOBsub, VPlayer
- Metadata tags: APEv1, APEv2, ID3 (ID3v1 and ID3v2), ID666 and Vorbis comments for audio file formats, Exif and IPTC (including GeoTagging) for image file formats
2.2 Video playback in detail
2.2.1 Video Library
The Video Library, one of the XBMC metadata databases, is a key feature of XBMC. It allows the organization of video content by information associated with the video files (e.g. movies and recorded TV Shows) themselves. This information can be obtained in various ways, like through scrapers (i.e. web scraping sites like TheMovieDB, TheTVDB, etc.), and nfo files. Automatically downloading and displaying movie posters and fan art backdrops as background wallpapers. The Library view allows users to browse their video content by categories; Genre, Title, Year, Actors and Directors.
2.2.2 Video player
XBMC uses a video-player 'core' for video-playback called "DVDPlayer". This in-house developed cross-platform media player was originally designed to play back DVD-Video movies, and this includes support native for DVD-menus, (based on the free open source libraries code libdvdcss and libdvdnav). DVDPlayer is based on FFmpeg and today supports all widespread mainstream formats. One relatively unusual feature of this DVD-player core is the capability to on-the-fly pause and play DVD-Video movies that are stored in ISO and IMG DVD-images or DVD-Video (IFO/VOB/BUP) images (even directly from uncompressed RAR and ZIP archives), from either local harddrive storage or network-share storage.
2.3 Audio playback in detail
2.3.1 Music Library
The Music Library, one of the XBMC metadata databases, is another key feature of XBMC. It allows the organization of a music collection to allow searching, and creating smart playlists by information stored in music file ID meta tags, like title, artist, album, production year, genre, and popularity. Automatically downloading and displaying album covers and fan art backdrops as background wallpapers.
2.3.2 Audio player cores
For music playback, XBMC includes its own in-house developed audio-player, "PAPlayer" (which stands for "Psycho-Acoustic Audio Player"), and this audio-player core's most notable features are on-the-fly resampling of the audio frequency, gapless playback, crossfading, ReplayGain, cue sheet and Ogg Chapter support. The "PAPlayer" audio-player handles a very large variety of audio file-formats, and it also supports most different tagging standards. XBMC also have support for most popular karaoke computer file formats, and is able to play and display timed song lyrics graphics/text from CD+G, LRC, and KAR files.
2.4 Digital picture/image display in detail
XBMC handles all common digital picture/image formats with the options of panning/zooming and slideshow with "Ken Burns Effect", with the use of CxImage open source library code. XBMC can also handle CBZ (ZIP) and CBR (RAR) comic book archive files, this feature lets users view/read, browse and zoom the pictures of comics pages these contain without uncompressing them first.