Dale Preston's Web Log
  
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
 

Windows Media Player and Album Art

October 6, 2009 Note: You might have noticed that this blog article was changed from the original version. Upon the objection of someone I quoted in the original article, I removed the quote along with any text that would imply the quote. Otherwise, the content remains the same. Thank you for your understanding of this minor edit.

UPDATE: I have published another post on this subject with a better solution than any solution in this article. For the ultimate solution, in my opinion, to WMP messing with your album art read my post at http://dalepreston.com/Blog/2007/11/more-windows-media-player-album-art.html

One of my biggest frustrations with Windows Media Player is its handling of album art. Apparently, I am not alone in this. Frustration with album art is a common topic on the Windows Media Player newsgroups.

I just wrote a rather detailed response to one post on the newsgroups about how to use custom album art in Windows Media Player only to have the Microsoft web-based news reader tell me that the server timed out when I submitted my post. All that typing down the tubes. Refresh and Back didn't save my work, either. So, it is apparent, I need to just write it down here so I don't have to keep typing the same things.

What got me started working on projects around album art in Windows Media Player was using Windows Media Player 8 and then 9 with Album Art visualization. I liked it because I could look quickly at the album art to visually get the artist and album for whatever track was playing. The problem was that the album art was so small - a paltry 200x200 pixels - that it was not viewable across the room. In fact, it was barely usable while sitting at the PC. My solution was to scan all of my CD covers and store them as 480x480 pixel images named Folder.jpg in the album folders. Now, when I played them in Windows Media Player with the Album Art visulization, I could see the image from across the room.

I was very angry when I upgraded to Windows Media Player 10 and my custom album art was immediately replaced with low quality, 200x200 pixel, and often incorrect album art from Microsoft's faulty online CD database. After some effort, I discovered that if I configured every option, under Tools->Options, to disable any access to the Internet, then Windows Media Player 10 would leave my album art alone. So, I restored my art from backup and was pretty happy for a while.

Next, I discovered Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. The screenshots I saw on the web showed the very cool album art navigation and a larger album art display while playing. It seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. I have Dish Network satellite TV with TIVO and there's no good way to integrate the TV into Media Center but I thought the album art navigation and displays were pretty cool. It seemed to be exactly what I wanted for playing music on the PC but the reality was very disappointing.

The first problem was that Media Center - which mostly is dependent on and follows your Windows Media Player settings - totally disregarded my Windows Media Player settings and replaced my album art! And did it with the same 200x200 pixel, low-quality, often incorrect album art that Windows Media Player 10 had previously done! I was furious!, as you can imagine. First, I tried playing with file permissions to prevent Media Center from screwing up my work but that was way too much work; playing music on the PC was supposed to be fun, not work. Finally, I settled on completely blocking my Media Center PC's access to the Internet. I changed the default gateway to an invalid IP address on a non-existent network (10.10.10.10 on my network). Finally, Media Center left my art alone.

The next problem with Media Center and album art is that, after replacing my high quality album art with their low quality substitute, Media Center then stretches the art back up to 380x380 pixels for displaying in the album art view! That is just about the craziest idea I have ever seen. Besides the obvious problem with reducing the art just to stretch it out again, the stretching process absolutely destroys the image - and these Microsoft provided images were low quality to begin with. Try it on any image. You can reduce size with limited loss of quality but you can never increase the size without destroying the quality.

I don't understand why the WMP team might think it is too hard to reduce a larger album art when smaller images are needed but not too hard to enlarge smaller album art when larger images are needed.

This was finally just more than I could take. I embarked on a replacement for Windows Media Player. Unfortunately, I found out that there are no real replacements. While there are dozens of players available, none of them do album art any better - if they do album art at all - than Windows Media Player.

I finally wrote my own application to provide a view of my album art and of what is currently playing in Windows Media Player that was viewable from across the room: http://dalepreston.com/Blog/2007/01/dplayer-my-windows-media-player-shell.html

When I saw the very cool looking use of album art in Windows Media Player 11, I thought that maybe my work writing my player was all for naught; Microsoft was finally going to come out with a good media player! Well, that just doesn't seem to be in the works.

I installed Windows Vista on a new PC and, knowing the risks, I immediately configured WMP 11 to not touch the Internet. Next, I copied all my media from my Media Center PC to my Vista PC. To my amazement, just as quickly as the album folder was created and the first track copied into the folder, Windows Media Player 11 reduced my art to 200x200 pixels!

I wasn't prepared to block my Vista PC from the Internet so I thought I'd try to live with the embedded art when working in Windows Media Player and to use my player for actually playing with viewable album art. In every previous version of Windows Media Player, when I embedded my custom album art in the files using Advanced Tag Editor, WMP would display my custom art when using the album art visualization.

Not so in Windows Media Player 11. When I embedded my custom album art using Windows Media Player 11, Media Player reduced my custom art to 200x200 pixels as it embedded the image!

Luckily, I had previously written an application to embed album art, ID3 Embed Pictures, to my library in bulk for use on my wife's PC because she only uses iTunes. In fact, she refuses to use Windows Media Player at all. Anyway, I was able to embed album art into my Vista library using my program and Windows Media Player 11 did not follow behind and reduce the art. I suppose that will be the next loophole fixed; they'll probably be checking all existing embedded art and reducing it in WMP 12.

The reason for the small art was that there might be some portable devices that had been built based on some released statement from Microsoft that the maximum size for album art should be 200x200 pixels. Of course I have been unable to find any reference to such a document or identify any players that were built based on any such document. Besides, just because there may have once been some unidentified, and probably un-manufactured, portable device that you may or may not own, I certainly do not own it. In fact, I doubt that any one does. So why are hundreds of millions of Windows Media Player customers stuck with this limit in the days of portable devices with displays many times that resolution?

To be honest, what I believe is going on here is that the Windows Media Player product team has sold out their customers in the interest of better relationships with the content providers and have limited us to low quality artwork in an attempt to protect copyrights of the music producers. Of course they totally ignore the fact that if I own a CD, I am well within my rights to create an image of my CD and display or use it as I please. Let alone the fact that, for all they know, my custom artwork could be totally custom art that is my own intellectual property and yet they destroy it without any warning, without creating any backup, and without ever giving me the choice to opt out.

Other than Windows Media Player, programs that intentionally destroy your files without asking or telling you that they are going to do so are called viruses.


The bottom line, or how to use custom art in Windows Media Player 11

So Windows Media Player is almost a very cool program but they stopped just short and ended up giving us a very frustrating to use program. But what can you do to make album art livable in Windows Media Player?

First and foremost. Never, ever, ever, ever let Windows Media Player touch your original or only copy of any custom album art. Make a backup and only work with backed up images when adding custom album art to Windows Media Player.

Next, open Windows Media Player and configure every Internet setting (they are on the Library, Player, and Privacy tabs under Tools->Options) to block Windows Media Player from updating your files or adding missing or incorrect information. Now close Windows Media Player and leave it that way until you're completely finished customizing your album art.

The next thing to resolve is to get good quality album art. The options are, as I see it, to create your own using your favorite graphics program - definitely not an option for me; I am graphically challenged. Next, you could download from Apple's iStore or from Amazon or other web sites but this is questionable both ethically and legally. Check the copyright notices or other use licensing information on the sites you may get album art from. The last way, and my chosen method, is to simply scan my CD covers and save the scanned image as a jpg file.

Apple's iStore, if you have access, can provide you with 600x600 pixel album art. Amazon.com has 500x500 pixel album art. All of this sure makes you wonder why Microsoft limits you to 200x200 pixels, doesn't it? I generally keep my original scanned image, which is usually around 2800x2800 pixels coming from my scanner at 600 dpi but I make a reduced copy at 480x480 pixels. That works best for me but in any case, I don't suggest going larger than iStore's 600x600 pixels. While Windows Media Player is able to reduce your album art on the fly while embedding it in your media files, they chose not to code it to reduce album art to fit the screen. If you use an image larger than the available empty space in WMP's Album Art visualization Windows Media Player will not shrink the image to fit.

Now that you have appropriate album art and have backed up that album art, you're ready to work on adding it to Windows Media Player.

Place a copy of the appropriate album art in each album folder and name that image Folder.jpg, replacing any existing 200x200 pixel, low-quality, Microsoft-provided album art. I usually store another copy of the image in the folder named differently so it is readily available when the next change to Windows Media Player fixes another "loophole" and my art is destroyed.

After you have added the artwork to each folder, go back to your parent library folder - like My Music; the folder should list all of your artists. Press F3 to search your library for *.jpg. When the search is complete, click on any of the results to set the focus and then press CTRL-A to select all of the tracks. Right-click on any selected track and choose Properties from the context menu. In the properties window, set the files to Read-Only.

Now, if you want embedded art, it is very simple to use my ID3 Embed Pictures program to embed your custom Folder.jpg images into each track. Be sure to configure ID3 Embed Pictures to remove existing art so you can get rid of any of the low quality stuff from Microsoft.

There you have it. If you're careful about how you use Windows Media Player, and until the next patch or version fixes more loopholes, you now have higher quality and easily viewable album art.


Comments:
I seem to be the only one in the world who dislikes organizing my music by album. I rip only the songs I like, and group them by artist, not album. If I did it by album I'd have 300 folders with only one file!
 
Dale,
Thank you so much for your postings. This on about WMP and album art helped me realize I'm not insane...others out there have the same problems. Also THANK YOU for your WMP 11 FAQ posting, esp the part about getting WMP 11 to open in Now Playing view instead of library. I used your fix and voila....WMP like it OUGHT to be....would that more people like you actually worked in MS development so they would turn out completely useful items, not partly disabled ones.
 
This is kind of like therapy. Sorry for your pain but it's nice to know that someone else has suffered through the same problem! My problem was that WMP would constantly change the artwork AND the album name along with name of the song! You see, I keep the songs with the album on which they originally appeared. Not some "Greatest Hits" compilation. Even if I rip the song from a "GH" CD. By the way, I figure that if I've paid for the song, I'm entitled to use the correct album art. I'd love to scan my old LPs but a scanner that big is industrial strength! Also, why not just use iTunes to embed the artwork? Right click the song, Get Info, Artwork tab. Works every time.
 
I don't like my album art stored as a jpeg. I prefer it to be embedded. What can I do to tell MP11 to use the embedded artwork and not create all these new jpegs which clutter my collections?!
 
I keep getting the error: "alue does not represent a valid COMMframe" any idea why? This has happened on multiple folder attemps. Please advise, thank you.
 
Email me one of the tracks that is giving you the invalid COMM frame error. My email is dalepres then the at symbol and then msn and finally dot com.
 
WMP11 seems to do alot of work when you embed artwok. It actually creates 4 jpeg images in the directory as hidden system files, two in 75x75, and two in 200x200. It then embeds the 200x200 in the id3 of every file.

I have a feeling this is actually done for compatibility with alot of things. 200x200 is the MS stated file size for artwork on PlaysForSure devices. I'm not sure about other players, but my Creative Zen:Vision M can only use embedded 200x200 tags, because MS told them that was the supported size when WMP10 came out. The hidden jpegs allow older WMP and MCE apps to access the artwork if you share the drive on a network or portable. In the long run this behavior probably helps MS with alot of trouble.

Also... you have to remember that sharing copywrited album art for any purpose other than advertising or identifying the product would be illegal. Since Microsoft no longer has a music store of their own unless you own a Zune... Well I'm suprised they offer art at all.

I guess the answer would be to add a third size in the tag or the JPEG's in the folder. Maybe in WMP12.
 
You have got to be kidding. I shouldn't even respond to an anonymous comment that shows so little intelligence or understanding of the facts but I am going to anyway.

First off, creating those 4 files has absolutely nothing to do with embedding artwork. Windows Media Player creates those files whether or not you embed artwork. It does not embed any artwork in any tags unless you specifically tell it to embed artwork.

And how could you possibly presume to know why Creative used 200x200 pixel artwork or what conversations went on between Creative and Microsoft? I am confident that the limitations were more hardware related. You just can't put 640x640 pixel artwork in a pocket sized MP3 player. Any agreement between Microsoft and hardware vendors for MP3 players to provide 200x200 pixel album art would not be expected to imply that no art larger than 200x200 pixels would be available. Your assumption is ludicrous.

Besides, I don't have a Creative Zen. So let them limit your album art size, not mine. In fact, about 600 million people have Windows Media Player and I bet less than 10 million have Creative Zen MP3 players; probably less than 1 million have them. So why limit album art for 590 million people for the sake of a few million?

Also, the word is "copyright" not "copywrite". It is about "rights" to the content, not about putting the content in print media of any type.

And if Microsoft can get a license for 200x200 pixel art distribution, they can get one for larger files - whether or not they have a music store. And even if they can't get such a license - which I doubt seriously - that does not give them any right to change existing files on my PC to reduce the album art size. The existing files on my PC are, in fact, my own intellectual property.

Just as a photograph you take of a vase that you own would be your own intellectual property, my image of the CDs that I own, taken from my own image capture device - even if a scanner rather than a camera - are my own intellectual property. Any program that destroys my intellectual property without notifying me and getting my approval is generally classified in the category of malware.
 
Hi Dale -

Thanks for all your great info. Most of my mp3s are lovingly copied from my LP and 45 RPM collection. Like you, I forbid WMP from accessing the Internet because its database assumes my music was ripped from currently available CDs - about 20-50 years incorrect in most cases.

Also, especially with the 45's I don't have "album" or even "artist" folders, so creating a folder.jpg and then using that to embed the mp3s wouldn't work. I'm currently using a combination of Media Monkey and WMP's Advanced Tag Editor to embed the correct images in my mp3s and WMAs. I have to settle for separate album art files for all my WAVs.

I'm finding that WMP sometimes doesn't save the album art after I use ATE. I'm wondering if it's balking at the size, or from reading your comments, it may not like formats other than jpg. No problem there: I'll just use ThumbsPlus to convert the art to that format.

There is also a wierd disparity among what displays correctly on WMP, the Zune desktop, and the Zune player. I find myself wiping all the zuneart files so the software will rescan and set the right embedded images, then completely wiping the player and re-loading the entire library after I spend several hours updating the embedded art.

Media Monkey also misses on some album art: again this may be due to the file type. But I wind up with the default MM CD case graphics embedded in the file. Imagine my surprise when that shows up on the Zune player! :c)
 
Hi Dale -

Thanks for all your great info. Most of my mp3s are lovingly copied from my LP and 45 RPM collection. Like you, I forbid WMP (and Zune) from accessing the Internet because its database assumes my music was ripped from currently available CDs - about 20-50 years incorrect in most cases.

Also, especially with the 45's I don't have "album" or even "artist" folders, so creating a folder.jpg and then using your software to embed the mp3s wouldn't work. I'm currently using a combination of Media Monkey and WMP's Advanced Tag Editor to embed the correct images in my mp3s and WMAs. I have to settle for separate album art files for all my WAVs.

I'm finding that WMP sometimes doesn't save the album art after I use ATE. I'm wondering if it's balking at the size, or from reading your comments, it may not like formats other than jpg. No problem there: I'll just use ThumbsPlus to convert the art to that format.

There is also a weird disparity among what displays correctly on WMP, the Zune desktop, and the Zune player. I find myself wiping all the zuneart files so the software will rescan and set the right embedded images, then completely wiping the player and re-loading the entire library after I spend several hours updating the embedded art.

Media Monkey also misses on some album art: again this may be due to the file type. But I wind up with the default MM CD case graphics embedded in the file. Imagine my surprise when that shows up on the Zune player! :c)
 
I greatly appreciate your articles about album art and WMP. Thank you! Have you tried iTunes Store File Validator? D:\Downloads\itunes validator\iTSfv - iTunes Store file validator.mht

I suggest trying it.
 
Hi Dale,

Thank you for the invaluable lesson on WMP and Media Center. I am a new user to Media Center. I purchased a new computer that came with Vista (Home Premium). I wish I had read your blog before I started uploading my music CD collection - it would have saved me a lot of time.

I went through a lot of the same issues you discuss in your article. I finally have all my music files cleaned up and have embedded the high-res album art in each file. In WMP 11 the high-res images work fine.

However, there is still the problem with getting VMC to use the high-res album art. From your article I see you wrote your own application to view the high-res album art in Windows XP Media Center 2005. I do not know if my edition of VMC is the same or different. My MC version is 6.0.6000.20750 - it apparently uses only the 200 x 200 large file.

I added my righ-res images to each folder as the Folder.jpg file but every time I start VMC it resizes the image to 200 x 200. I can restrict acess to the file and prevent VMC from resizing the file. However, the image that appears in MC is still the 200 x 200.

I am not sure if it is using the AlbumArt_{...}_Large.jpg file or if MC is using old art in the WMP r in it's own database.

There is a Microsoft article on how to delete the WMP database if it becomes corrupted, see:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/925718

When I deleted the database and then rebuilt the library in WMP all the album art was still the high res art, but when I opened VMC all I get is the 200 x 200 crappy art.

Does any one know if VMC uses a different database or the same one?

Does anyone know how to make VMC use the high-res art?

Thanks for any help, I appreciate it....Tom
 
Tom, I don't know exactly how Vista Media Center does it, but I have the same problem. In spite of all I have done to make sure that there is no way Media Center can mess with my pictures, VMC reduces the image to about 200x200 to display in the album view but it does show larger art on the Now Playing view. Unfortunately, the larger art is low resolution. I don't know if VMC is purposefully adding distortion to my larger Folder.jpg file or if it is taking my file, reducing it to 200x200 and then stretching it back large again.

No matter how you slice it, Microsoft is intentionally ignoring my own high quality art and making sure that the album art you see is low quality.

I'm not sure how they expect to be the all-media-to-everyone provider when they intentionally provide low quality media in all forms.

I just refuse to use Media Center - which is a shame because the discovery of Media Center was one of the things that really got me into music on my computer. That initial excitement quickly turned to frustration and disappointment.
 
Hi Dale,

After searching the internet for hours, I decided to post a comment on your blog... Hopefully you have an answer for this 'problem'.

I am using WMP 11 in vista. The album artwork from the music is displayed in the library and in the 'play screen'. Most of the time these two are corresponding, so that the artwork in the library and in the 'play screen' is the same. However from a few albums I downloaded, album artwork wasn't correct or was too large. So when I imported these in WMP, I changed them succesfully. But these changes only appear in the library, but not in the 'play screen'. So some artwork is still very large and ugly in the 'play screen', while it should be modified 200x200 (like the default artwork from allmusic.com).

Have you got any idea why these two doesn't synchronise?

I hope my question is clear. And thanks in advance.

David.
 
Hi Dale,
Question on WMP ver. 11.

I keep all my songs & album art stored on an external hard. When I connect the drive to a new computer, WMP on the new computer recognizes & plays everything fine EXCEPT the new computer WMP won't recognize all the album art even though those art files are there, on the hard drive. I don't want to manually download all the art again on the new computer.

Any ideas?

Thanks !!

--Mike
 
Where does windows media save the album information? Can it be ported to another computer?
 
For many years I have avoided WMP because of the way it takes over your computer. I've used WinAmp a lot, but it's gotten kind of annoying, and I went bare-bones with Foobar. For normal playing of music on the PC I like it. But after I got a Creative Zen Vision:M mp3 player, I found that I needed to sync the libraries, and Foobar doesn't have any features for that. I've been using Mp3tag to edit my tags - I really love all its features, and you can configure how your files are written in great detail, including art. I also like the fact that it's fully Unicode compatible and handles my Chinese, Japanese, and Korean music with no problems.

So I started using WMP to sync with the Zen, but still not for anything else. Problem is, when I fix file tags in Mp3tag, be it genre, year, or art, WMP hangs on to the old/wrong info and writes that to the player. Bugs me to have the Aladdin Sane art show on Heroes. Both Foobar and WinAmp have a "refresh" function that will reread the mp3 tag from the file(s) and update the library, but in WMP all you can do is delete the library (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/925718) and have it rescan everything. Urgh!

I don't care so much about the size of the artwork, since the only place I ever see it is on the Zen, but I strongly feel that there is only one place that album art should go, and that is in the mp3 tag. There should be no dependency on folder structure or image file name. Mp3 supports embedding of art, so that should be the definitive location for the art. And it is up to the device playing the file (or the user if he/she so chooses) to deal with the image size. As you quite sensibly point out, WMP should not make any assumptions about the capabilities of devices you may or may not even have.

So, no question, just an observation. I found your post very helpful for all the background info and because one of the comments had the link to the Microsoft page I listed. I've been trying to find those frickin' hidden files for quite a while.
 
Is there any way to associate album art with a CD? Since Media Player can remember artist name etc. associated with a CD once I enter it, I figure there's a sporting chance I can associate an image file as well. (I'm running MP9 on Win2K.)
 
Read only bit does not work.
I have tried setting reg:
HKCU\Software\Microsoft\MediaPlayer\Preferences\ForceOnline
and
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\MediaPlayer\Preferences
to zero and still does not work.
Going to try the group policy (DisableAutoUpdate) option to prevent it. I have not even added vmc/mce into the mix.
Seems m$ is leaving us only one choice, do not use WMP.
I really think they are retarded.
"Update only when missing" does not mean always clobber!
And READ ONLY means just that, don't act viral and ignore it.
 
Guess google needs me to setup something special and anonymous chops width
Preferences> ForceOnline & Preferences> MetadataRetrieval
hopefully no crop.
 
One work for you all. XBMC.
 
Dale,

To address your problem with Windows Media Player replacing your files you can do a couple of simple things, which will protect them better than setting the RO bit:

1) Move your MP3 & albul art files into a new folder, not configured in Win. Media Player.

2) Highlite the new folder and bring up properties. Open the sharing tab and create a folder share of MP3$ (or anything$). (note, the $ makes the share 'hidden'. The Permissions should be set to 'everyone/read- only'

3) Next, from Windown Explorer (not internet explorer), go to the tools menu and select 'Map Network drive.
- Set a drive letter you want to use for your 'MP3 folder" (I use M: for music).
- In the Folder filed, enter \\PCname\MP3$, where PC name is the name of your system.
- Check the "Reconnect at Startup" option.

Now open Windows Mwdia player and add drive M: to the "Monitored Folders (Tools /options/library/Monitor Folders)


Windows Media Player will no longer be able to overwrite any files in your music collection and you will no longer have to keep restoring your artwork.


I keep my files on a file server and allow WMP to only see the M: share. If I need to make changes, I simply access the network share through a different mapping. In you case, you can just go directly to the folder (i.e D:\MP3's)

Bill (nc27587us@Yahoo.com)
 
That's a great suggestion, Bill, and it can work for many people. The problem with it, though, is that it is a little more complicated to set up than the CACLS tip on my update to this post at http://dalepreston.com/Blog/2007/11/more-windows-media-player-album-art.html. Also, this tip prevents access to the media files and the image files. For now, I like WMP to update the ID3 tags on my MP3 files with things like last played date, rating, and play count.

In some future version of WMP when Microsoft decides to close another "loophole" and starts replacing my embedded art with their 200x200 pixel artwork, then your solution will really become important as one way to completely restrict WMP from your media files.
 
Possiby useless info but thats my speciality..

WMP 11 default artwork:
I accidentally stumbled onto an odd, possibly handy for some - trick.
If you put a picture on your "Desktop" called Folder.jpg then WMP uses that as the default artwork (Any real album artwork over rules it).
This allows you to have something other than the stupid pair of musical notes when there is no artwork available.
(I stumbled on to this by adding artwork from i-Tunes to an MP3 on the desktop).

I couldn't find this mentioned anywhere on google but maybe thats just communal blindness (Couldn't find sand at a beach).

- XLNC (The Butler)
 
I don't know if anyone has come across this problem, but I followed the instructions given above (saving art as Folder.jpg and making it Read-only) and was getting album art to display beautifully in the Library window (no shrinking, no stretching of my non-square album art). But I've now discovered that while the album art shows up in the Visualization panel of the Now Playing Window and in the Library window, it no longer shows up in the lower left-hand corner of the black bar at the bottom of WMP where the play buttons are. Instead, it only shows the blue musical notes indicating no picture. Can anyone help?
 
Here's the trick I use to organize my album art on my Vista workstation. You must also do as Dale says and uncheck any boxes that would allow WMP access to the internet.

By default there is a Pictures folder and a Music folder under my name. In the Pictures folder I have a folder called Album Art. The Album Art folder mimics the Music folder; same structure - artist name then album names. In the folders that represent the album name (under Pictures) I have one file - folder.jpg. I usually create the album art folder structure first and then copy it to the Music folder. Then I add the MP3 files.

Since my album art and music are in separate places, I don't have to worry too much about Microsoft futzing with my album art. I wrote some batch files that will clean-up any mischief by Microsoft that resets my folder JPGs to their useless 200x200 garbage. The batch files automate copying the folder.jpg files from Album Art to Music.

This does mean I have to keep separate files but since Microsoft can't be trusted to do the right thing, we all have to take extraordinary measures.

What I'd like to see is this: if a file called folder.jpg exists, nothing touches it. Assume the user knows what he wants. If there is no folder.jpg, then WMP can go get one. When displaying album art during playback, show embedded art first. Then go to folder.jpg. Then whatever default WMP uses. How hard would it be to code that much intelligence into WMP?

I hate to have to use WMP but my Samsung P2 MP3 player syncs rather well with it. Also, the P2 displays my 600x600 album art (albeit reduced) very well.

If someone created a media player that embeds album art without reduction, that syncs with non-Apple MP3 players (let iTunes do that), that doesn't touch folder.jpg or embedded art, that displays the embedded art during playback, I'd buy it. Unfortunately, I'm stuck with WMP.

Don't even get me started on Media Center.
 
Hi Dale

I was searching the internet racking my brains for about 1 hour when I stumbled across your blog. It touches on the subject of my problem, but I don't think it answered it directly.
My problem is, I have a compilation CD I bought from a record store, and I ripped it on my PC using WMP. Now I changed the album info to have each song from the compilation CD to display the original album it came from, not the name of the compilation CD. But when I try and add album art to any of the songs from the compilation CD, it puts that same album art on all the songs, instead of allowing me to edit them seperately. Is this because I ripped them from the same CD and WMP recognises the individual songs as a whole? I am using WMP 11 on Windows Vista. Any help would be much appreciated!
 
If the tracks are in the same folder, then they will appear as the same album. If you embed the album art in the file, WMP will show the right art when playing the track but the album art in WMP for the album is going to be what's in Folder.jpg.

To do what you're doing, I would break up the tracks according to the album the track originated from.
 
Holly,

I do the exact same thing you do and had the exact same experience with WMP! Dale is correct. You must break up the songs according to the original album and artist. I suggest using Wikipedia to search for the artist. Check the discography section to see if you can find on which album the song was originally released. You can add that info by right-clicking the MP3 file and going into the properties; the details tab contains the track info.

If you want really nice album art, try this site: CD/Album Artwork. The artwork is 600x600 or better. I use Dale's embedding tool to embed the artwork into each MP3. It looks great during playback and even looks good on my Samsung P2 player.

Remember to store you artwork in a separate folder. Check my March 13th entry for what I do on my Vista computer. It works for me, it may work for you too.
 
Thank you so much for your help, Dale and TooMuchTime!
You guys have finally put an end to my WMP album art frustrations!
If only I had discovered this site 3 months earlier, I could have saved myself all the time wasted reading through heaps of other sites which had no answers.
Thanks again!
 
Thank you for sharing your frustration. I have the same problem and you taught me some very valuable things about my problem. You can imagine my frustration when I noticed that the only backup copy of my high-resolution folder.jpg was REDUCED TO 200x200 PIXELS. Not only that, but it was a non-square picture as well!

Anyways, I would like to request some confirmation from you:
[Windows XP SP3, WMP 11]

Through my fiddling, I have acquired the knowledge to prevent this disaster from happening again, but I still do not have the knowledge to fix the existing mess. On one particular album, ONE file out of 13 displays the incorrect, HORRIBLE quality art. I tried isolating that file; renaming it, changing location, making copies and deleting original, changing metadata, removing from library, etc, and I found ONE method that worked.... but even that had a loophole! Apparently, even after PERMANENTLY deleting the original mp3 and saving a backup somewhere else, WMP chooses ANOTHER track to mutilate the art of the former. In the library, it even renamed the second track to what the missing former! Interesting thing is that the copy of the original I made is no longer affected by the massacre. So, would assuming that this is because WMP attaches some registry strings somewhere correct? Also note that the second track's name is nowhere related to the previous track name.
 
I am not sure whether this is a WMP bug or not. I have a reasonably random situation where one particular album art seems to randomly distribute itself as the displayed art in any of the song/album etc views. When you right click to update album art the correct art is shown as existing. If you update it the wrong one stays. I dont have hidden albumArt_{xxx}.jpg hidden files or folder.jpg. I have set windows only to update missing info. Its all rather bizzar. I often fix these manually by simply reposting album art directly only to see it undone again later?

You guys seem to know what your talking about so i would be interested in your thoughts.
 
Hey,

Nice tip but a little complicated.
I believe the default setting is to enable art reproduction in tiny portable mp3 players but it sure is annoying.
Actually there's a much simpler way to keep your artwork at the intended size... if you still have a PC running XP. Select artwork from your XP based Media Player, then transfer your files to the pc running vista - make sur both music file and image file keep the same name, and the containing folders as well.
Simple.
 
Have you actually tried that? Windows Media Player 11 will always try to change your album art to 200x200 pixels. If Windows Media Player is not running when you copy then copying like you say will work initially. As soon as you run Windows Media Player, though, and play any track from an album, the album art will be resized to a maximum of 200x200 pixels.

For my latest solution to this problem, see my Album Art Fixer program at http://dalepreston.com/Blog/2009/07/id3-album-art-fixer.html.
 
Hi Dave,
Thansk for the updated solution.
I actually did try that as I have a desktop on XP and a laptop on Vista, and as i got really frustrated by the auto resize.
I edited all art information using the Media Player on the XP-running PC - should be WMP 9 or 10, then transferred the files back to the Vista laptop.
Transferred files are read-only by default, which could have some effect.
When I play the files using WM 11 on the vista machine, the artwork resolution remains as I originally intended.
Evidence by screenshot here :
www.referencementseo.fr/images/Clipboard1.jpg
As you can see the picture occupied the full height of the window and it's 1680x1050px screen.
Best,

CH
 
You've had better luck than I have. I have watched Windows Media Player destroy my album art as fast as it is copied.
 
Just an aside: I have a Creative Zen Vision:M MP3 player that only supports embedded album art under 300x300 resolution and 50kb size. It's old at this point (late 2006) but is otherwise a great MTP player with native XviD support, FM radio, etc.

I definitely don't agree with Microsoft's decision to shrink hi-res artwork while embedding it just to meet the lowest common denominator, but I thought I'd mention that there are indeed some players out there that actually do have artwork limitations.
 
Hi...

Very interesting reading. I maintain my original PC Music Library on a PC that still runs XP because I have not found a program I like as much as MusicMatch. The main item I like is the ability to create a totally custom and random playlist I can transfer to my MP3 player. Plus I still use the edit program to identify my music and embed the photos. But my everyday PC is Win7 with WMP12.

Which brings me to the point of why I found this blog. I write technical documents for a product that plays music files such as MP3 and WMA files. On this product, while music plays it is capable of showing the album art, but only if it is embedded. What I found out is that by default WMP does not embed that art when you rip a CD, but it only created the 4 jpg files previously mentioned. What I need to do is explain in my documentation how one can embed pictures into songs ripped via WMP. Help explaining this would be appreciated.

Cheers,
 
FIRSTLY WHAT A BRILLIANT BLOG! I read it with interest, at the age of 51 , I have amassed not a lot but a modest collection of mp3 about 38gb , off lps, tapes , dvd etc , i started to add album art, then wiped entire pc and todate am making do with text only ,I use roxio pro 2010, i found something weird , when i manually added art , it looked great but , when id move on to the next mp3 to be done sometimes the field would be blank , but the next five would all be displaying the last picture id added on all the other mp3 files which i hadnt yet done! if you get my drift , which meant i then had to manually correct this so that the mp3 had the right picture , genre year etc , in effect yet more work , so i gave up , not sure where to start, gracenote is useless , my mobile is better using track id but at 25pence per track not an option, im new to this and thought i was being oh so clever using a scanner, digital camera , im going to bookmark your blog in the hopes i can learn more, it might not be my fault , i hope im not being stupid , I suspect my probs are ms related! anyway thanks for some interesting reading!!! keep up the good work
 
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