This is not really the whole story with Plex...Yes, if you want your Movie and TV show metadata scraped from the web for you, then you will have to name the files accurately. This is really powerful BTW as you will get great posters/cover art, synopsis, soundtrack, etc. Otherwise you can just add a "Home Movies" section which uses the generic Video Files Scanner and it will display all videos in the directory by file name.
XBMC does not require that you rename files; it even has some advantages over FR: point it at a folder full of .rar files for an mkv movie - which for QuickTime would have to be uncompressed and then loaded into the player - and XBMC just plays the movie instantly.
It's still no substitute for FR. All the alternatives seem to me both over- and underdesigned: too many features and an impenetrable interface. And XBMC can't play iTunes playlists (as far as I can tell).
It's hard to believe that Apple keeps ignoring this when the Mac is such an ideal media centre.
I have given up and bought an Apple TV. I use an iPad and the Remote app to control ATV and access the itunes library of the iMac - audio, movies, TV. The HDMI video and digital sound are very good.
I can still send video to my projector from the iMac via wifi to the ATV (eg EyeTV live & recordings). Airparrot (mac app) is very useful for this as it mirrors video and audio to ATV. I can even use Front Row via Airparrot. However the digital sound is way out of sync when going through the ATV and so I have to use other speakers directly attached to the iMac (I have some old Lacie Firewire speakers that are OK for this).
I will keep running Snow Leopard on the iMac so that I will always have Front Row available. It would have been so much simpler to have had Front Row running under Mountain Lion!
Have you noticed that AppleTV successfully presents your (10.4+) iTunes library much in the way Front Row used to do in the iTunes 10.3 days? If it were possible to get the AppleTV Finder from the AppleTV software, we could probably get at least a Front-Row-like iTunes framework that can be used to replace the outdated framework in the CoreServices Front Row application.
It needn't be. AppleTV software is downloadable. I downloaded it myself from an Apple server. The "only" problem is that Finder.app is included in a nested password-protected dmg. Previous iterations of AppleTV are known to have been protected by one particular password ("alpine"), but that no longer works. If hackers of ATV3 find the new password, extracting the Finder should be straightforward.
I should add that, in effect, the iMac is just a server for the ATV. I play content from iTunes on the iMac directly from the ATV menu or using the Remote app on an iPad. A Mac Mini would be suitable for this purpose as the display is redundant.
The main nuisance is watching digital TV (EyeTV on the iMac). As I mentioned, the digital sound sync is poor when using Airplay between the iMac and ATV. With the current version of EyeTV this has to be done via Airparrot (a great Mac app) as EyeTV does not support Airplay. An alternative is to stream the TV show to an iPad using the EyeTV app and then send this to the ATV via Airplay. This works and the digital sound is in sync but the video quality is poor.
Another nuisance with the ATV arrangement is that all movies and TV shows must be "registered" in iTunes on the iMac in order for the ATV to find them. With Front Row I could (can) access any video in my home/movies folder including aliases to folders on external hard disks. Now when I add a movie to an external hard disk I have to drag its icon to iTunes and then set the type (movie, TV show etc), show name and/or genre before it appears in ATV.
I would still much prefer an updated Front Row so I can use the iMac as the media centre (and there would be fewer remote control devices!).
Front Row was simple, user friendly and played all your itunes media. It was brilliant. I don't see why Apple axed it. It doesn't do any harm being there. For the people who don't like it, they didn't have to use it. But all of us who love it are suffering. Infact it was so good, Sony copied Apples design.
Plex is good but it has too much going on. Other media players either aren't user friendly, have way too much stuff or not enough stuff.
I just want Front Row, so when I am in my bed, I can easly scroll through my media.
I have an apple tv, but that is in my lounge and my imac is in my room facing my bed.
I am impressed: 21 pages about a discussion that people like Front Row. And it is still going on. Yes - it was nice & simple. But it is not available anymore. And it will not be in the future...
Even more interesting: "usefull" tips like
1.) how to get it back (which will not work satisfying as far as I know and read)
2.) alternatives which (as far as I have read) does not seem to make people happy?
At MacWorld there was a similar discussion (http://www.macworld.com/article/2034670/the-computer-in-the-living-room-setting- up-a-mac-mini-media-center.html) and the users posted the major point (in my opinion):
1.) a Front Row style menu and a simple look & feel
2.) direct access to folders (like picture / movie folder / volumes) instead of administrating another structure / library
3.) access to Aperture, iPhoto and iTunes media (including DRM to play rented / bought movies)
4.) access to EyeTV movies to play the recorded motion pictures
For some users it seems that they need some more features:
5.) streaming movies from Mac to iOS
6.) AirPlay support to stream movies from iOS to Mac (with fullscreen support)
Did I forget anything? Yes: the metadata! That is a nice feature which Front Row did not offer but some media center do. And I like that!
But there are some major points which might be a problem:
a.) the file names have to be renamed to find the correct metadata (or at least to give it a try)
b.) some media centers even display other titles for your movies (because of wrong metadata) - you will be impressed about the movies you suddenly have (but you do not)
So - what is the conclusion? I have spend a lot of time since many years to find a suitable media center. Front Row did its work as expected, but is not available anymore for Mac OS X 10.7 or newer. After a lot of research I found a suitable media application with all the features I expect - you can read more about my experiences at http://www.mac-media-center.com.
And if these solutions does not fit your needs - why not to take part of it?
Thank you for that advice. nessMediaCenter has a lot of nice features and you have published a great review.
However, only Front Row gave us access to iTunes music playlists, movies including DRM movies and movies in local alias folders, online stuff such as Top Movies and Trailers, DRM TV shows and iPhoto albums. Plus it also integrated with EyeTV.
Grrr! (the sound of an unhappy Mountain Lion customer)
Thank you for your post, Michael. However, nessMediaCenter gives you access to all the things you mentioned:
1.) iTunes music playlists, TV shows and movies can be accessed at "iTunes" including DRM movies.
2.) Local folders and their media (DVDs, EyeTV movies, pictures, PDFs, videos) can be directly accessed at "Folder Pictures", "Folder Movies" or "Volumes" including alias files to other folders / volumes.
3.) Online stuff like movie trailers in several languages can be found at "Internet", and other internet content like DailyMotion or YouTube can be selected by categories and criteria (newest, most viewed etc.).
4.) iPhoto albums (pictures and videos) can be accessed at "iPhoto".
5.) Miro video podcasts (RSS) and their videos can be accessed, too.
In my opinion, this is similar to the features of Front Row. Even if DRM movies will be started in iTunes and EyeTV movies in EyeTV (or VLC if installed). This might be a disadvantage, but iTunes and EyeTV can be controlled by the remote control after being activated.
If you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch and you want to stream movies between Mac and iOS, then the media server of nessViewer might be interesting.
I hope that these little hints will move you from an unhappy to a happy Mountain Lion customer, Michael. If you have further questions or need some help, then you could use the forum at my web side.
I bought nessMediaCenter but although it works, it's incompatible with my own methods. It does not, in fact, handle aliases, ony symbolic links to folders – I like to quickly move aliases of current things into a single folder, then discard them when I've watched the file. I really don't need to see every file I have. It also fails to do XBMC's great trick of simply playing a movie in a folder full of .rar files, instantly, without the need to expand the file first. I still miss FrontRow, and I don't want to buy an Apple TV because I don't own a television!