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Attention.png NOTICE:
Most of the naming conventions mentioned on this page have changed for XBMC v12 (Frodo), but haven't been updated yet. For a quick list see Frodo FAQ#Local images

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An impressive feature of XBMC is its ability to display custom thumbnails (also known as an "icon") on most items displayed. You can assign thumbnails to folders, programs, music, videos, bookmarks, and of course pictures. You can choose to let XBMC automatically download thumbnails for music-albums and video/movies from the internet or you can create your very own custom thumbnails. You can also download custom thumbnails that others have created.

When talking about movies the terms "Cover Art", "Posters" (term used on TheTVDB) and "Folder Image" are all used to refer to the same thing we are talking about here. In the XBMC world Thumbnail is the generic term that encompasses all of those things, so don't get confused.

Note: Despite what the term Thumbnail implies, thumbnails in XBMC are NOT necessarily small images in terms of resolution or size on disk. A Thumbnail in XBMC can be a 800 x 1200 pixel image with a file size of over 300 Kilobytes for example, but typically thumbnails are restricted to smaller sizes than that due to performance concerns.


1 Custom Thumbnails

You can easily create your very own user-defined thumbnails on your computer with image tools like Adobe Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, Paint.NET or even Paint in Windows.
You can alternatively download thumbnails that others have created on the internet. Then you simply have to rename those thumbnails and transfer/copy them to the right location and XBMC will display them. Use JPG or PNG (with transparency) image-format, and size of the picture to anything from 128x128 to 256x256 in pixel size, (the larger the image is the better it will look on a good display but at the same time large thumbnails loads slower). On a non-HDTV displays a image that is approx 100x140 is recommended for video/movies thumbnails (which is the size that is most common on IMDb), and approx 75x75 for music-albums (which is the default size on For 720p/1080i HDTV displays a size of approx 182x256 for video/movies thumbnails, and approx 200x200 for music-albums (such music-albums can be found on

1.1 Thumbnail Cache

see also: ThumbnailCache for a thorough description of the thumbnail cache

XBMC will cache all thumbnails to userdata\Thumbnails\ using the CRC of the path of the file or folder as a filename. That is the first location XBMC will generally look for a thumbnail for a given item.

In order for your custom thumbnail to show, you may have to delete the cached thumbnail.

When thumbnails are cached they may be scaled down from the source image. How much they are scaled down depends on a setting that you can control using the <imageres> tag in advancedsettings.xml.

If you are running XBMC on a very high resolution display and you have Movie cover art, for example, that is displayed as a very large image onscreen with the skin and layout that you are using, then you may want to adjust the <imageres> tag to increase the display quality of your thumbnails.

Be aware, however, that increasing the size of cached thumbnails obviously carries an implied disk space usage, and possible XBMC performance penalty, with it.

2 Wide banner icons

Wide view for TV shows

Some of the most visually appealing forms of thumbnails are wide banner icons. They are an integral part of the XBMC look and feel and are used for the TV shows library.
With different adjustments to the skin XML files, you may disable title names or stack one icon on top of another.
To show wide banner icons switch to Wide or 'Media info 2' view. XBMC will remember what view you have for each folder. Thus you can keep your TV shows in Wide and your Movies in Fanart.

3 Thumbnails for individual items in a single directory

Name the icon file the same as the file you would like it to display for with a .tbn extension ie: Transformers.avi, Transformers.tbn. This is particularly useful for using custom thumbnails for movies.



4 Folder Thumbnails

If you store each of your media files in separate subfolders to keep things organized, you can also make the folder have a custom thumbnail image. To do this you either need to save your JPG/PNG thumbnail as folder.jpg and place it inside your movie/album folder, or you can save it as <foldername>.tbn and place it at the same level as the folder in the directory tree.

  • Remember, XBMC first checks for <foldername>.tbn before checking for folder.jpg.
  • Some documentation suggests that folder.tbn can be used. In general folder.jpg is superior as it is detected during a scan, i.e. XBMC will correctly use folder.jpg but not folder.tbn.
  • Note that folder.jpg must be named .jpg, even if it is a .png format image.
  • You can force XBMC to look for folder image (Cover Art) files with different file names to "folder.jpg" (eg. cover.jpg, poster.jpg) by setting the <dvdthumbs> tag in the advancedsettings.xml file.





Now your media folder will have a lovely custom thumbnail-image.

You can via advancedsettings.xml change the default filename of the image that XBMC uses for music folders. See the <musicthumbs> tag. for more information.


5 Program Thumbnails

In order to display the image displayed for a game, emulator or application, simply rename the desired image default.tbn and place it in the folder where the corresponding default.XBE is located.

6 Music Thumbnails

Music Thumbnails are assigned as part of a multi-tier process. First, the Tag Reader runs and caches any embedded art using the album name and album artist (or song artist, if that is all that is available). If the album name or artist is unavailable, it is cached using the path name of the song. This assumes, of course, that you have tag reading enabled.
You can also use "Get Thumb" to download the album thumbnail from (AMG) for a specific album/folder or do a scan of all your music files in all shares.
Thumbnails also get downloaded when you rip AudioCD's to your XBMC device (which is described in the Ripping CDs section).
Recommended is that you store each of your music-albums or artists in a separate subfolder to keep things organized. You can also of course make the folder have a custom thumbnail image.

Note: Running a scan automatically enables 'tag reading' so everything can be cached. Once a scan is run, all your files and their associated thumbnails are stored in the database.
The Album Information dialog (available from the context menu) will allow you to choose between the cover art available for download from and any user-defined thumbnail you may have.
Press the "Get Thumb" button to bring up a choice of the local thumbnails you have, the currently assigned thumbnail and the thumbnail.

The code which assigns thumbnails to files runs and assigns thumbnails in the following order:

1) Cached Album Thumbnail
This is all the embedded album art read by the tag reader and cached using the album name and album artist.
2) Cached filename.tbn
This includes an embedded thumbnail cached with the fully qualified name.
3) Remote filename.tbn
This is a filename.tbn on a remote share/folder which is then cached.
4) Cached folder.jpg
This is a folder.jpg which is cached based off the folder path.
5) Remote folder.jpg
This is a folder.jpg on a remote share/folder which is then cached.
6) Remote foldername.tbn
This is a foldername.tbn on a remote share/folder which is then cached.


In this example audiofilename.mp3 will use audiofilename.tbn as thumbnail:


The same goes for playlists, cue-sheets, SHOUTcast, and internet-stream files, example:


7 Video Thumbnails

You can either use your own custom thumbnails or XBMC can retrieve video thumbnails from the internet via scrapers and cache them locally.
XBMC applies thumbnails to video files in the following order:

1) Cached Thumbnail

Thumbnails are cached to UserData\Thumbnails\Video using the CRC of the path of the file or folder.

2) User-Defined Thumbnail

For files:

If movie.tbn is in the same folder it will override any other thumbnail and will be used as the thumbnail for all movie files in that folder.

IF movie.tbn is NOT present than XBMC checks for <filename>.tbn and uses that if it exists.

The thumbnail is cached the first time it is read.

For folders:

XBMC first checks for <foldername>.tbn in the parent folder of the movie folder being processed.

If no <foldername>.tbn exists in the parent folder XBMC then checks inside the movie folder for folder.jpg (by default) or any other thumbnail source file names you've specified in the <dvdthumbs> tag in advancedsettings.xml.

Whatever is found first is used as the thumbnail and cached on first read.

For TV series specifically:

The thumbnail image can be either a Poster type image OR a Banner type image. A Poster is longer than it is wide in aspect and a Banner is much wider than it is long in aspect.

The same rules apply regarding file naming conventions and by default XBMC will look for folder.jpg for BOTH Posters AND Banners despite the fact that the naming convention might seem counter intuitive in the case of Banners.

Again, you can use the <dvdthumbs> element in advancedsettings.xml to override the default thumbnail file name that XBMC looks for to make things more meaningful for TV series. If, for example, you prefer to use Banners you would probably want to set the <dvdthumbs> element in advancedsettings.xml to remove folder.jpg from the search filter and add banner.jpg to the search filter as follows:


The above example will make XBMC ignore all variants of folder.jpg when searching for thumbnails but recognise multiple variants of banner.jpg and cover.jpg and import those instead.

Note: TV series:

There is a special case with TV Series where, if you choose to use Banners as your primary thumbnails, you also need Posters in some areas of the UI depending on which skin you are using.

The Aeon Nox skin, which is extremely popular, has a very nice View mode called BannerPlex for example. If you are using that View as your TV Series View, your primary thumbnails for your TV series will be Banners BUT there are still places where you need to supply a Poster, like the "TV show information" screen that is accessible from the context menu for a Series. In that screen you need a Poster image for the big area on the left that takes up a third of the screen. By default the Banner thumbnail that XBMC imported will be stretched vertically to fill that area and it looks horrible.

The problem is that by default XBMC will only import ONE thumbnail image of one type (Banner or Poster).

Fortunately there is a special exception to this rule for TV Series where XBMC will also recognise and import a file called poster.jpg over and above the default thumbnail image.

For this reason you should NEVER name your primary thumbnail images poster.jpg and you should NEVER modify the <dvdthumbs> element in advancedsettings.xml to make it search for variants of poster.jpg.

Effectively, you should consider the file name poster.jpg to be a reserved file name in XBMC that is used specifically to solve the Banner / Poster combo issue as described further below.

To solve this problem, certain skins, like Aeon Nox, typically provide an option in the settings for the View itself that allows you to explicitly stipulate that a poster.jpg file should be used for those areas where a Poster type image is applicable.

In Aeon Nox, the setting is on the slide out menu on the left of the screen when you are viewing your series. If you have the BannerPlex view activated and you slide out that menu, then go to "Viewtype settings", then look under "GENERAL OPTIONS", you will find an option labelled "Use 'poster.jpg' for poster style viewtypes". If you turn that on, then any poster.jpg that you have in your folders when you import your media from disk will be used where a poster type image is appropriate.

Note: However, that regardless of any settings, poster.jpg will NOT be used as the All Seasons image. For that you MUST provide an all-seasons.tbn file. A quick workaround to this problem is to copy an existing poster.jpg file and rename it to all-seasons.tbn. That will actually work and import fine.

7.1 Examples for User-Defined Video Thumbnails

Single Video File

The following example "videofilename.avi" will now use the thumbnail "videofilename.tbn".

Multi Part (Stacked) Video Files

You can either use the filename of the first file in the stack or the name of the stack, so for:


Either of the below would work:


If content has been set to Movies, movie.tbn will override any other thumbs for media in that folder. In he following example "videofilename.avi" will now use the thumbnail "movie.tbn".

TV Shows
TV\showfolder\banner.jpg ( See <dvdthumbs> in advancedsettings.xml )
TV Show Season Thumbnails

In the following example, the thumbnail will be used for the appropriate season in the Video Library season node. Where xx is 01, 02 etc.

TV Show Specials
For the all seasons item
Extra Fanart Page

The concept of extra fanart exists in XBMC for some skins whereby you can have more than one fanart image for a movie or TV show. If you have more than one fanart image any fanart image after the main one (fanart.jpg) must be named using sequential numbering.

e.g. fanart1.jpg, fanart2.jpg and so on.

Extra fanart must be put into a sub-folder of the movie or TV show folder called extrafanart.

For those skins that support extra fanart you must turn on the "Enable Extrafanart" option and then you will see the different fanart images display as a repeating slideshow with a 10 second delay between each image.

Playlist and internet-stream file examples
Actor thumbnails

You can add actor thumbnails to any movie or TV show by adding an '.actors' folder in the corresponding movie / TV show / Episode directory. You may need to use the command line to create this directory in Windows.
The folder can then contain actor images using the following naming convention:

Videos\path\.actors\actor_name.tbn (spaces replaced with underscores)

8 Picture Thumbnails

XBMC applies thumbnails to picture files in the following order:

1) Cached Thumbnail
Thumbnails are cached to UserData\Thumbnails\Pictures using the CRC of the path of the file or folder.
2) Images
EXIF thumbnail in JPEG images are then read. If no EXIF thumbnail is available, XBMC will load the image and generate a thumbnail from the image. These are then cached.
3) Folders
<MyHolidayPictures>\folder.jpg is checked first. If that file doesn't exist, XBMC will generate a thumbnail from up to 4 random images inside that folder.

9 Thumbnails for Sources

You can change the thumbnail displayed for a source by editing UserData\sources.xml.

Note: Source thumbnails have to be in a folder on the local XBMC device harddrive!
Simply modify your source as shown

10 Auto switch to icon Mode

XBMC tries to automatically switch to Large Icon view when the View Mode is set to Auto in the Settings. It first checks if the skin has Large Icon view, failing that switches to Icon view. If neither is available it goes for List View.
The rules are as follows:

10.1 Programs

Auto switches to Icon view when 50% of all the items (files and folder) have thumbs.

10.2 Pictures

Auto switches to Thumbs view when the list contains more than 25% files. (In the case of Pictures, all items have thumbs as they are generated upon entering the folder.)

10.3 Videos

Auto switches to Thumb view when 50% of all the items (files and folder) have thumbs.

10.4 Music

Auto switches to Thumb view when the list contains at least 75% folders and at least 50% of them have thumbs. (Remember that playlist files like m3u, pls, etc, are treated as folders by default)

11 Hashing

The thumbnail .tbn file is created via a hashing function. As explained earlier, the hash is based off the CRC32 of the pathname (plus filename) in lowercase. Files which are local are hashed using their drive letter. Remote files are hashed using the smb:// protocol designation and optional username and password.

11.1 Examples

  • 123456789 returns 0376e6e7
  • F:\Videos\Nosferatu.avi returns 2a6ec78d
  • smb://user:pass@server/share/directory/ returns c5559f13
  • smb://user:pass@server/share/directory/file.ext returns 8ce36055


  • When hashing remote shares, use the path as displayed in the sources.xml file, which can include the username and password.
  • When hashing directories for thumbnails, include the final slash.

11.2 Sample code

The following code snippets produce the same output as the XBMC hashing function.

11.2.1 C#

public string Hash(string input)
   char[] chars = input.ToCharArray();
   for (int index = 0; index < chars.Length; index++)
       if (chars[index] <= 127)
          chars[index] = System.Char.ToLowerInvariant(chars[index]);
   input = new string(chars);
   uint m_crc = 0xffffffff;
   byte[] bytes = System.Text.Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(input);
   foreach (byte myByte in bytes)
       m_crc ^= ((uint)(myByte) << 24);
       for (int i = 0; i < 8; i++)
           if ((System.Convert.ToUInt32(m_crc) & 0x80000000) == 0x80000000)
               m_crc = (m_crc << 1) ^ 0x04C11DB7;
               m_crc <<= 1;
   return String.Format("{0:x8}", m_crc);

11.2.2 Python

Code provided by baderj.

def get_crc32( string ):
    string = string.lower()        
    bytes = bytearray(string.encode())
    crc = 0xffffffff;
    for b in bytes:
        crc = crc ^ (b << 24)          
        for i in range(8):
            if (crc & 0x80000000 ):                 
                crc = (crc << 1) ^ 0x04C11DB7                
                crc = crc << 1;                        
        crc = crc & 0xFFFFFFFF
    return '%08x' % crc

11.2.3 Perl

Code provided by baderj.

sub get_crc32 {
    my $string = shift;
    my @bytes = unpack 'C*', $string;
    my $crc = 0xffffffff;
    for my $b (@bytes) {        
        $crc = $crc ^ ($b << 24);        
        for(my $i = 0; $i < 8; $i++) {
            if ($crc & 0x80000000 ) {                
                $crc = ($crc << 1) ^ 0x04C11DB7;                
            } else {
                $crc = $crc << 1;
        $crc = $crc & 0xFFFFFFFF;         
    return sprintf('%08x', $crc);


11.2.4 PHP

Code provided by tamplan and narfight.

 private function _get_hash($file_path)
   $chars = strtolower($file_path);
   $crc = 0xffffffff;

   for ($ptr = 0; $ptr < strlen($chars); $ptr++)
      $chr = ord($chars[$ptr]);
      $crc ^= $chr << 24;

      for ((int) $i = 0; $i < 8; $i++)
         if ($crc & 0x80000000)
            $crc = ($crc << 1) ^ 0x04C11DB7;
            $crc <<= 1;

   // Système d'exploitation en 64 bits ?
   if (strpos(php_uname('m'), '_64') !== false)
      //Formatting the output in a 8 character hex
      if ($crc>=0)
         $hash = sprintf("%16s",sprintf("%x",sprintf("%u",$crc)));
         $source = sprintf('%b', $crc);
         $hash = "";
         while ($source <> "")
            $digit = substr($source, -4);
            $hash = dechex(bindec($digit)) . $hash;
            $source = substr($source, 0, -4);
      $hash = substr($hash, 8);
      //Formatting the output in a 8 character hex
      if ($crc>=0)
         $hash = sprintf("%08s",sprintf("%x",sprintf("%u",$crc)));
         $source = sprintf('%b', $crc);
         $hash = "";
         while ($source <> "")
            $digit = substr($source, -4);
            $hash = dechex(bindec($digit)) . $hash;
            $source = substr($source, 0, -4);

   return $hash;

11.2.5 Javascript

Code provided by Fiasco and baderj.

Number.prototype.unsign = function(bytes) {
   return this >= 0 ? this : Math.pow(256, bytes || 4) + this;

function FindCRC(data) {
   var CRC = 0xffffffff;
   data = data.toLowerCase();
   for ( var j = 0; j < data.length; j++) {
      var c = data.charCodeAt(j);
      CRC ^= c << 24;
      for ( var i = 0; i < 8; i++) {
         if (CRC.unsign(8) & 0x80000000) {
            CRC = (CRC << 1) ^ 0x04C11DB7;
         } else {
            CRC <<= 1;
   if (CRC < 0)
      CRC = CRC >>> 0;
   var CRC_str = CRC.toString(16);
   while (CRC_str.length < 8) {
      CRC_str = '0' + CRC_str;
   return CRC_str;

11.2.6 MySQL Function

Found this to be very useful when using a MySQL backend and moving/updating files. Code provided by User:Nxj18

create function fnXBMCHash(sourceString VARCHAR(2000))
returns varchar(8) deterministic
    declare crc bigint unsigned; -- bigint to prevent casting/overflow issues
    declare len, cur, i int;
    declare mask, xorBase, curCharCode, intMask bigint unsigned;
    set intMask = pow(2,32) - 1;
    set crc = pow(2,32) - 1; -- 0xFFFFFFFF
    set sourceString = LOWER(TRIM(sourceString));
    set mask = pow(2,31);  -- 0x8000000
    set xorBase = 79764919; -- 0x04C11DB7
    set len = LENGTH(sourceString), cur = 0;
    while cur < len do
        set curCharCode = ASCII(SUBSTRING(sourceString,cur+1,1));
        set crc = (crc ^ (curCharCode << 24)) & intMask;
        set i = 0;
        while i < 8 do
            set crc = (case (crc & mask) 
                when mask then (crc << 1) ^ xorBase
                else (crc << 1) end) & intMask;
            set i = i + 1;
        end while;
        set cur = cur + 1;
    end while;
    return lpad(hex(crc),8,'0');

11.2.7 AutoIT function

Code provided by Nexus.Commander.

func CRC32_XBMC($string_input)
	$chars = StringSplit(StringLower($string_input),'',2)
	$crc = 0xffffffff
	For $ptr = 0 To UBound($chars)-1
		$chr = StringToBinary($chars[$ptr],4)
		$crc = BitXOR($crc,BitShift($chr,-24))
		For $i = 0 To 7
			if BitAND($crc,0x80000000) = 0x80000000 Then
				$crc = BitXOR(BitShift($crc,-1),0x04C11DB7)
				$crc = BitShift($crc,-1)
	Return Hex($crc)

11.2.8 Java

Code provided by Duffy.

 public String Hash(String input) {
   int m_crc = 0xffffffff;
   input = input.toLowerCase();
   byte msg[] = input.getBytes();
   for (int i = 0; i < msg.length; i++) {
     int p = (msg[i]) << 24;
     m_crc ^= p;
     for (int j = 0; j < 8; j++) {
       if ((m_crc & 0x80000000) == 0x80000000) {
         m_crc = (m_crc << 1) ^ 0x04C11DB7;
       else {
         m_crc <<= 1;
   return String.format("%08x", m_crc);
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