Cover Art

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Cover Art is the term used to describe artwork shown for media. This is often an album cover for music and a thumbnail of a frame for video.

Media Center can automatically download your album cover art, series images for television and more.

It uses cover art when browsing to provide a nice graphical experience. Album cover art is displayed while listening to music.

How Images Are Stored

For audio, there are three ways that cover art can be stored:

  • In the cover art folder
  • Next to the file as Artist - Album.jpg
  • Next to the file as Folder.jpg

You can also store cover art in the file's tag, which is recommended. See Save Cover Art in the file for a brief list of pros and cons.

For video, cover art is always stored next to the file using the same filename as the video. For example, "Big Bang S01E11.mkv" will use "Big Bang S01E11.jpg" for cover art.

Sometimes a need arises to save cover art for a file that can not support artwork next to it. Imagine setting an image for a file on an optical disk. In these cases, the cover art is placed in the cover art folder.

Cover Art Folder

The location of the cover art folder can be configured in Options > File Location > Cover Art.

Take care when moving the cover art folder to select a folder that Media Center will have complete control over, including deletion of any files and folder in or below that folder.

We recommend a system like M:\Audio, M:\Videos, M:\Cover Art, etc.

Inside the cover art folder, Media Center will attempt to use human readable naming. It will look like:

  • [Cover Art]\Albums\[Artist] - [Album].jpg
  • [Cover Art]\Series\[Series name].jpg
  • [Cover Art]\Seasons\[Series name] - Season [Season number].jpg
  • [Cover Art]\Artists\[Artist].jpg
  • [Cover Art]\Videos\[Name].jpg
  • [Cover Art]\Files\[File Key].jpg (only used for files that don't slot nicely into the above, which should be rare)

You can clean up your cover art folder so that it uses the naming above by using Options > File Location > Cover Art > Clean cover art folder...

Finding Cover Art on Import

When a new file is imported (or doing quick find cover art), the program will search for cover art first in the tag and then at the configured cover art location.

For audio, if there is not an image found at the above locations, it will also check for an image next to the song with the same file name or for folder.jpg.

With video, the file [Filename].jpg image is used; if this does not exist, Folder.jpg will be used. For DVD and Blu-ray folder structures, Media Center will use Folder.jpg one level above the VIDEO_TS or BDMV folders if no other sidecar artwork is found. If no image is found, a thumbnail will be automatically generated using a frame of the video. The position in the video where the thumbnail gets created can be configured in Options > Tree & View > Thumbnails.

Manually Finding Cover Art

You can manually set cover art for media a variety of ways.

These include looking up cover art online, setting art from the clipboard, a URL, a file on disk, from a scanner, etc.

Explore the 'Cover Art' tools in the right-click menu.

Supported Formats

When searching for sidecar artwork, the following extensions are supported (in this order if there are multiple matches):

  • jpg
  • png
  • bmp
  • jpe
  • jpeg
  • gif
  • tif
  • tiff

For embedded artwork or artwork that points to an external file, any image format (assuming Media Center can decode it) is supported.

Image File Field

You can show the column 'Image File' to see where Media Center is looking for cover art. This will be one of four values:

  • Empty: If there's nothing in the field, the program will try to build artwork from the media itself (a frame grab, etc.).
  • Inside File: The text 'Inside File' means the program should read from the file tag to get the art.
  • Relative filename: The program should look next to the file for a file with the name specified.
  • Full filename (or URL): The program should load artwork from the specified location.

Artist & Series Images

It is possible to show special images for artist and series views. These images are always stored in the cover art folder (in [Cover Art]\Series and [Cover Art]\Artists).

The images from this folder will get used automatically in an Artist or Series category view.

You can get artist images from Last.fm in the 'Cover Art' menu. The image with the most votes at Last.fm gets used.

Series images for television can be retrieved using Cover Art > Get From Internet... It is possible to choose from a wide variety of images.

If auto-import is configured to 'Get cover art', it will automatically download series images for any television programs in your library (defined as [Media Sub Type]=[TV Show]).

Cleaning the Cover Art Folder

You can clean your cover art folder in Options > File Location > Cover Art. This performs the following actions:

  • Moves files named differently than the standard listed above into the current location
  • Deletes files that are not referenced by the current library
  • Clears the 'Image File' field for any files that link to a file that does not exist in the cover art folder

Audio Cover Art Modes

MC can automatically link external cover art if the image file's name and path matches with the set cover art location option. The available options in "Tools > Options > File Location > Cover Art" are as follows:

  • Audio Mode: In a specified folder
- cover art is stored in a single (dedicated) cover art folder (the folder location may be changed from its default setting)
- the filename must match the Album Artist (auto) - Album rule, for example: "The Beatles - Abbey Road.jpg" or "(Multiple Artists) - Moulin Rouge.jpg"
  • Audio Mode: In the same folder as the file (as Folder.jpg)
- cover art is stored in the same folder as the audio file
- the filename must be Folder.jpg
  • Audio Mode: In the same folder as the file
- cover art is stored in the same folder as the audio file
- the filename must match the Album Artist (auto) - Album rule, for example: "The Beatles - Abbey Road.jpg" or "(Multiple Artists) - Moulin Rouge.jpg"

The command "Tools > Cover Art > Quick Find In File / Cover Art Directory" can associate an audio track with an image file. The cover art filename and location must be consistent with the File Location > Cover Art rule currently selected. This command is useful when the audio file is not currently linked to a cover art file.


Alternatively you can link any image file by using the "Tools > Cover Art > Add From File..." command. In this case the filename does not matter - for example, Oxygene-1977.jpg will work.

You can also drag and drop any image file from Windows Explorer to the expanded cover art display in Action Window when one or more audio files are selected. More info about this method: http://yabb.jriver.com/interact/index.php?topic=59513.msg415474#msg415474


A third option would be to use the "Tools > Cover Art > Get From Internet..." command.

Physical Audio CDs

Media Center maintains a separate internal database for physical media (within the CD database). Thus, cover art associations (links) for physical CDs are not the same as those for ripped audio tracks. To assign cover art to a physical CD (as opposed to the tracks ripped from CDs), the mode Audio Mode: In a specified folder must be used, or you can manually link a physical CD with an image. Once linked, the cover art location for audio files may be changed; Media Center will remember the CD cover art links for the Library.

Automatically Get Cover Art after Ripping

To automatically download cover art after ripping a CD, enable the option:

 Tools > Options > CD, DVD & BD > Get cover art from internet after ripping

Cover Art Submission

Cover art can be automatically submitted to JRiver's online audio database. Submitting cover art enriches the online cover art database, thus making cover art available for future retrieval by all Media Center users.

This feature is enabled and disabled via the option:

 Tools > Options > General > Online Metadata > Submit cover art changes to online database

Save Cover Art in the file (when possible)

You can save Cover Art within the file itself as a part of the file's metadata (aka tags). Not all file formats support this option. For those that do, the file size will increase. This option is controlled by:

 Tools > Options > General > Save cover art inside tags when possible 

For mp3 files, Tag Saving must be enabled in Tools > Plug-in Manager > Input > MP3 Plugin and select Configure. For details about these options, see Save File Properties in Disk Files.

Saving artwork within the file or on disk is a matter of preference. Both have advantages and disadvantages, some in general, some specific to Media Center (and other music management or player software). Some considerations:

  • Embedded
    • Pro: cover art travels with each track (good for syncing, exporting files to devices)
    • Pro: allows per-track art (but MC doesn't always see it that way)
    • Con: size of file increases along with cover art size
    • Con: change of cover art causes change in file (a backup issue - changing 100k can disrupt upwards of 300Mb)
  • External File
    • Pro: single file shared with entire album
    • Con: requires extra work when converting for external destinations (MC Convert tool doesn't embed; HH sync can)
    • Con: requires extra management (file attributes, unseen in MC default views)

Saving Cover Art Next to Files

Thanks to Alex B for this information.

MC has two options for storing the cover art in the file folders (Tools > Options > File Location > Track Images Location):

Next to file ([Artist] - [Album].jpg) and Next to file (Folder.jpg)

I prefer the "Artist - Album" naming system because I don't like the idea of having thousands of identically named files on my HDs.

Both systems work. If you change the option MC will place new cover art files accordingly.

Using folder.jpg (the Microsoft way) can create a problem when a single folder.jpg is in the same directory as many music files. If they don't have embedded cover art, the folder.jpg may be displayed for all.

MC cannot automatically move the old cover art files all at once, but there is a workaround. If you have the music files in the Artist\Album folder structure and have used the old MJ/MC standard (Artist - Album.jpg) for naming the cover art files you can move most of your cover art files by taking the following steps. (You may need to manually move a few files afterwards.)

1. Make a new empty library with the Library manager
2. Import the cover art files from the current cover art folder into this new library.
3. Use the Fill Properties From Filename tool with this rule in the filename dialog: [Artist] - [Album]. Uncheck the Directories check box.
4. Use the Rename files From Properties tool for moving the cover art files.
Directories - Base Path: The base path of your music files
Directories - Rule: [Artist]\[Album]
  • If you use a different rule for your music files you may be able to edit this. Be aware of multiple disc and multiple artists albums or other special cases.
  • You can also use [Album Artist] instead of [Artist] in steps 3 and 4.
Filename Rule:
Uncheck the check box (this keeps the old filenames and can be the safest option)
or
Folder.jpg (write the exact filename in the dialog box. This renames all cover art files as "Folder.jpg".
5. After moving the files check the "Filename (path)" field for any errors and move manually the files that need special treatment.
6. At this stage you can change back to your regular library and do the following steps:
  1. Select all audio files (or the files you like to include)
  2. Right-click > Image > Remove Cover Art (don't let MC delete the disk files)
  3. Right-click > Image > Quick Find In File / Cover Art Directory.

Remember to back up your MC library and the cover art folder before starting the process.

Which files are missing cover art?

Media Center comes with pre-made smartlists, one of which is to display all files that are missing covert.

  1. In the tree, select Playlists, then Smartlists
  2. If Smartlists does not exist, right-click on Playlists and select Create Stock Smartlists
  3. Select the Missing Covert Art Smartlist.

Get Cover Art for Selected Files.

  1. Right click on file(s) in the content pane.
  2. Select Image and choose from the available options on the menu.
Play/Show (first file) This plays the image in full screen mode. It will play the image for just the first file if more than one track is selected.
Add From File Browse to the file on your hard drive. Use this if the image isn't stored in your Cover Art directory.
Quick Find in File/Cover Art Directory Automatically looks through your default Cover Art directory for the image, and links it to your file.
Get from Internet. * Download (if missing). Use this for files that have no Cover Art. It's a good option for when multiple files are selected, because it will not overwrite any files that already have Cover Art.
  • Download (always). If you have the wrong Album Cover associated with a file, use this option.

Use already downloaded cover art.

Select a Tolerance level.

Get from Scanner. Automatically get an image from your scanner. You may have to first select your scanner.
Select Scanner. Select your default scanner.
Paste from Clipboard(image or URL) See "Copy to Clipboard".
Copy to Clipboard(first file) Copy an image to the clipboard, and quickly paste it as another file's Cover Art.
Remove Cover Art Removes links to Cover Art, as well as Cover Art stored in the file's tags. You can also permanently remove the image from your hard drive by clicking 'Yes' in the dialogue box that appears when you select this option.

You can also quickly view which files have cover art by adding the "Image File" header to the columns in the content pane list. Just right-click on any header in the list, go to "Columns to Show" and select "image file".

High Resolution Cover Art

Thanks to Alex B for this information.

I suppose something like 800x800 would be enough for high resolution cover art if there is no intention to enlarge the displayed images (this is possible in a slideshow). The scanner software used must have a descreen option when printed images are scanned in a high resolution. The printed screen pattern produces usually a nasty moiré effect without descreening.

MC has native support for single image file, which is linked to a music file or placed inside the file's tag area. Actually that is not an album image but a track image. MC can find it automatically if certain conditions exist. Instead you can manually link one image file to a single track or to several tracks (e.g. to all tracks in one album).

MC has also native support for importing image files to the media library, e.g. your digital camera images. You can tag them as you like. With MC you can show image files in slideshows when playing music files. I use that capacity for playing and showing my albums.

I want to have my albums complete in MC, including music, cover art, and printed information. Usually I scan several images: front, back, booklet, inlay, CD 1, CD 2, etc. I make them at least 800 pixels wide. If there is small printed text I make them bigger. So all text can be read if/when enlarged (you can pause the slideshow and enlarge an image). I also make a smaller version of the front cover, which is used as a usual track image. I store all images in the album folder.

I import those image files to MC and tag them. Because they have the same album tag as the music files the images become part of the album in the MC library. I can see them together in the All Media view. I can search for the album name and I get a list of the music files and the image files. If I send them all to Playing Now, MC displays a slide show during the album playback. I can also make playlists of them (incl. music & images).

I have not found tagging them too awkward. Importing and tagging the image files takes only some seconds. For example, you could do that just before listening to each album. Listening to an album takes usually at least 40 minutes.

When I play the whole album with images I don't usually include the small image in the playlist because the cover is included in the "Booklet 1" image. In this case the booklet spreads are 1600 pixels wide.

View Cover Art while listening to Music

Play files and then go to Playing Now. Make sure the Display Pane is visible (if not, double-click the horizontal splitter bar in Standard Mode). If the display plug-in is set to "none", your cover art will display by default. You can double-click on the image to quickly toggle between full screen and windowed modes. See Display Plug-ins for details.

More

These are Interact forum topics discussing cover art which may help in certain circumstances.

Alex B posted a complete list of his posts on cover art here.