Need advice to build a simple movie player for special needs child - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 03-24-2013, 05:39 PM - Thread Starter
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OK, I need some advice from the htpc community. My friend's son (let's call him Bill) is a special needs child who loves to watch movies over and over. My friend has purchased around two hundred DVDs for Bill but has problems with them getting scratched and abused as Bill does not know how to properly care for them. He can do very basic navigation with a remote but cannot read.

I would like to put together some sort of "mini htpc" that would act as a movie player. I can handle ripping the DVD main titles onto a hard drive but I need a easy-to-navigate front end. Ideally this device would power up quickly and directly into a picture based listing of all his movies with no other options or menu choices. Bill could then Up or Down arrow to what he wants to watch and hit the Play button via a remote.

I've played with an older WD Live unit with a external hard drive attached and got it to boot into a customized version of its OS. But there are still too many menu choices and options. This thing needs boot into a list of movies and that's ALL.
I have an expert knowledge of all things PC and some coding skills so could modify something if necessary. I'm open to all suggestions from a modifyable Roku/WD Live type device to a linux/Windows based NUC solution. But whatever it is, it's got to be completely simple and foolproof in operation.

Any ideas or suggestions?
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post #2 of 16 Old 03-24-2013, 05:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Olias88 View Post

OK, I need some advice from the htpc community. My friend's son (let's call him Bill) is a special needs child who loves to watch movies over and over. My friend has purchased around two hundred DVDs for Bill but has problems with them getting scratched and abused as Bill does not know how to properly care for them. He can do very basic navigation with a remote but cannot read.

I would like to put together some sort of "mini htpc" that would act as a movie player. I can handle ripping the DVD main titles onto a hard drive but I need a easy-to-navigate front end. Ideally this device would power up quickly and directly into a picture based listing of all his movies with no other options or menu choices. Bill could then Up or Down arrow to what he wants to watch and hit the Play button via a remote.

I've played with an older WD Live unit with a external hard drive attached and got it to boot into a customized version of its OS. But there are still too many menu choices and options. This thing needs boot into a list of movies and that's ALL.
I have an expert knowledge of all things PC and some coding skills so could modify something if necessary. I'm open to all suggestions from a modifyable Roku/WD Live type device to a linux/Windows based NUC solution. But whatever it is, it's got to be completely simple and foolproof in operation.

Any ideas or suggestions?

For simple you can't beat WMC+Media Browser.

If I was building this for "Bill" I would use WMC+MB and buy a Windows remote with IR dongle. From there it would be as easy as hitting the large "Green Button" on the WMC remote and then teaching him to look for Media Browser. From there just setup a single folder and tell him to hit select. Then move left and right until he finds the wanted movie. Then hit select or play.

Probably about 3-5 total button pushes to play a movie (not including the navigation to find one of the 200 movies).

If you like I will donate access to my guides for your cause to make it even easier. PM me if you are interested.
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post #3 of 16 Old 03-24-2013, 06:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the idea and generous offer. I haven't used WMC (I'm a SageTV and J River user) but I do have licenses lying around for XP, Vista, Win 7 and Win 8 (got the Media Pack add-on for Wind 8 when it was free). I see that Media Browser runs on Vista or Win 7. Is functionality the same for either version of WMC?
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post #4 of 16 Old 03-24-2013, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Olias88 View Post

Thanks for the idea and generous offer. I haven't used WMC (I'm a SageTV and J River user) but I do have licenses lying around for XP, Vista, Win 7 and Win 8 (got the Media Pack add-on for Wind 8 when it was free). I see that Media Browser runs on Vista or Win 7. Is functionality the same for either version of WMC?

Yes, but use Win7. Vista is a resource hog.
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post #5 of 16 Old 03-24-2013, 06:52 PM
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My 2 cents would be that any media center that can show the cover of the movie is fine. Neither of my kids are old enough to read very well but they can both point out movies based on the poster. I'm sure Bill can to.

If you are setting it up and you are used to SageTV and J River then if these have the above option they are your best bet.
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post #6 of 16 Old 03-24-2013, 06:58 PM
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My 2 cents would be that any media center that can show the cover of the movie is fine. Neither of my kids are old enough to read very well but they can both point out movies based on the poster. I'm sure Bill can to.

If you are setting it up and you are used to SageTV and J River then if these have the above option they are your best bet.

I think the less options (and thus the less chance to screw something up) the better in this instance.

That is of course the OP wants to be the on-call tech support.

That's my $.02. Good luck with the project.
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post #7 of 16 Old 03-25-2013, 08:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Yes, I would like to keep support to a minimum. The family is not PC proficient and I was hoping that there might be an embedded device out there that was completely "skinnable" where I could remove menu choices and be left with a bare bones player. If nothing else pops up, I think that I'll build up a test system with spare parts to get a feel for the functionality of the WMC + MB combination. If that goes well, I'll buy the final hardware.
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post #8 of 16 Old 03-26-2013, 04:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Olias88 View Post

Yes, I would like to keep support to a minimum. The family is not PC proficient and I was hoping that there might be an embedded device out there that was completely "skinnable" where I could remove menu choices and be left with a bare bones player. If nothing else pops up, I think that I'll build up a test system with spare parts to get a feel for the functionality of the WMC + MB combination. If that goes well, I'll buy the final hardware.

openelec with aeon mq4 skin you can rip out everything you want. I believe you can make a user for Bill where he's locked out of settings. You might be able to do both of these with Confluence even.
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post #9 of 16 Old 03-26-2013, 05:17 AM
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openelec with aeon mq4 skin you can rip out everything you want. I believe you can make a user for Bill where he's locked out of settings. You might be able to do both of these with Confluence even.

That's a very good point. Its called kiosk mode. I forgot about it but its an excellent option. Without it I wouldn't recommend xbmc as there are too many options and settings that he could (and would) mess up.
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post #10 of 16 Old 03-26-2013, 05:56 AM
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ive seen a number of universal remotes targeted to children before. if you can find a learning one with appropriate buttons i would probably buy that and teach it WMC commands.

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post #11 of 16 Old 03-26-2013, 06:00 AM
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If you go the WMC+MB route, you can actually make WMC boot directly into MB as well as make the green button go directly to it as well. That might simplify things even farther.

Can Bill handle starting the movie from the DVD menu? If not you're going to need to rip out the main title so when he hits play in MB it just starts the movie.
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post #12 of 16 Old 03-26-2013, 08:37 AM
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Also-it is very easy to set up WMC with Media Center Themer to get rid of all of the extra menus so when the computer starts up, you have it boot automatically to MC, then the only thing he can click on is media browser (no other menu options would even exist) and then in media browser he could see all of the pictures for the movie like assasin was suggesting.

To me that is the easiest, most fool proof set up and with the MS remote he couldn't get into anything to mess up (the only settings i think he could click on would be in MB. I dont know if it is possible to hide or lock that like you can in media center)
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post #13 of 16 Old 03-26-2013, 09:08 AM
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is there a setting in Media Browser (or a theme perhaps) that will allow you to set it up in say, poster wall view, and then when you select a poster it immediately starts playing the film (as opposed to taking you to a second screen that shows synopsis and cast info)?

My HTPC front end set up
Integration for whole home ATSC, CableCARD, FM radio, Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, DVD, VHS control & capture, video games, and archived & streaming media playback
Mironto's Panasonic plasma black level restoration guide
Restore the initial MLL on a 2009 Panasonic plasma
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post #14 of 16 Old 03-26-2013, 10:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pittsoccer33 View Post

is there a setting in Media Browser (or a theme perhaps) that will allow you to set it up in say, poster wall view, and then when you select a poster it immediately starts playing the film (as opposed to taking you to a second screen that shows synopsis and cast info)?

If you are using files for movies (IE MKV, MP4, AVI, etc.) I think you can. There is a setting where it auto enters folders with a single file in them. If I understand that right, that should just start playing as soon as you click on the movie poster.

One note on the remotes suggested. The MCE remotes are great, but they have a lot of buttons. Deleting start menu items will not disable them, so if Bill accidentally presses Recorded TV, its still going to bring up Recorded TV. Now, if the big Green Button is remapped to go straight to MB, he might be able to figure out to just hit that again (depends on Bill of course and what he can do). It MIGHT be smarter to get an MCE remote for the receiver, then get some type of learning remote where you could set up just the appropriate buttons he'll need and the rest do nothing. Then there's no way he might hit something wrong and not be able to find his way.
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post #15 of 16 Old 03-26-2013, 06:09 PM - Thread Starter
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I do plan on ripping the main title to mkv so there will be a 1-to1 file-to-title.

Great idea about the childs remotes, I hadn't thought much about that, I'll do some searching for big button programmable children's remotes.

I'll also give openelec a spin.

Lot's of good comments here, thanks folks!
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post #16 of 16 Old 03-26-2013, 09:05 PM
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you might want to consider a raspberry pi running open elec. it will be very inexpensive. also just saw a tutorial on adafruit on how to ad an ir sensor. then all you have to do is hook up an external HDD for storage.
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