Getting started with Kodi
This is not supposed to be a detailed How-To but a brief overview of Kodi for those unfamiliar with it with some things to consider when setting up your system. Inspired by this thread.
Kodi is a mediacentre which is available for a wide range of devices. It can
- organise all your audio and video media files and on-line sources;
- share its database of your media with other devices;
- grab data from the internet relevant to your media (artwork, artist bios, subtitles, lyrics, etc);
- play any media using the device it’s running on or stream it to another device, limited only by the hardware it’s using;
- play streaming media off the internet;
- display your pictures individually or as a slide show;
- play and record live TV streams from a satellite, cable or UHF tuner; and
- support other applications such as games and weather and news reports.
OSMC’s version of Kodi is much like any other, except it includes
- the MyOSMC application to configure the operating system and install supported apps; and
- a nice, clean ‘skin’ to the user interface.
Kodi keeps a database of all media you might want to play in its libraries. It classifies media as
- Music Videos
- TV Shows
- (other) Videos
The database keeps details of each item (‘metadata’) such as artist, composer, actors, episode/series etc. For videos, this information is read from separate files in the video file’s directory and/or found from the internet by Kodi’s scrapers. Your video files have to be named in a particular way for the scrapers to work. Music metadata can also be scraped in the same way, but it is much better to tag your audio files the way you want so all the basic metadata is contained in the files themselves. Mp3tag and Musicbrainz Picard are popular taggers. Kodi can then scrape additional information about music artists (such as fan-art and bios) into the Music library.
So that Kodi knows what to include in its database, each directory on your network containing media files has to be defined as a source in Kodi, and videos have to be classified as above before scanning the files to the library. Unlike other popular mediacentres, Kodi does not crawl over your discs looking for media and it does not re-write tags in media files. All files can be played without adding them to the libraries but you won’t get the full power of Kodi, then.
You need to decide whether to share the database with other devices. It can be simply shared with UPnP/DLNA, but other devices will not be able to add to it or update it. So you wouldn’t, for example, be able to start watching a movie on one device and pick up where you left off on another device. For that, you will need to set up a MySQL server somewhere.
There is a huge range of add-ons which add functionality to Kodi. Some are shipped with OSMC but most need to be downloaded from on-line repositories. Add-ons which are available on your device are called My add-ons. Most will be disabled. To use them, just enable them. The link to the official Kodi Add-on repository is included in OSMC. Other repositories can be added, but be aware that some add-ons are designed to access on-line content illegally so caution is needed. Don’t expect support from either Kodi or OSMC if you are using any banned add-ons.
Skins are add-ons which change the look and feel of the GUI interface and can also alter the functionality. OSMC ships with Kodi’s default Estuary skin as an alternative to its own skin. Other skins would have to be downloaded.
OSMC provides several applications than run alongside Kodi. Note that these are not Kodi add-ons or programs but are installed via MyOSMC. Some may however be configured in the Kodi settings menus.
Live TV and PVR
If you have a server on your network capturing and recording TV from over-the-air broadcast, there are add-ons which will connect Kodi to it. The server can be installed on your OSMC device. OSMC provides the TVHeadend application in its AppStore for this and supports a wide range of USB TV capture devices. After installing and configuring TVHeadend, the TVHeadend HTSP Client add-on needs to be enabled and configured.
Kodi User Profiles
You can define different Kodi users, each with their own sources, libraries, interface options and restrictions, using profiles. You can also implement TV watching restrictions in TVHeadend and attach TVHeadend profiles to Kodi profiles.
Kodi’s interface is designed for hand-held IR-type remotes. The OSMC wireless hand-held control is ideal but OSMC also supports use of standard TV remotes using CEC through the HDMI interface, IR remotes talking direct to the OSMC device, wired and wireless mice and keyboards (bluetooth or proprietary). You may have to or want to customise Kodi’s settings for your particular remote.
You can also control Kodi using its built-in Chorus2 web server or 3rd-party apps.
It is recommended that audio and video media files are not stored on the same disc or SD card where the OSMC operating system is installed. This is to minimize the risk of loss of data should it be necessary to re-install OSMC. If you attach a USB disc to a device running OSMC it will, by default, be automatically shared using Samba so that all linux/Windows/Mac/iOS/Android devices on your network can see it. Or if you have enabled UPnP and/or AirPlay, media on it will be shared through the library.
Any existing media server can just be added as a source in Kodi.
Even if a device isn’t running Kodi or other UPnP client, media can still be streamed to it through any browser using Kodi’s Chorus2 web interface.
Network attached storage (NAS) makes a lot of sense for an always-on media server. It will likely support nfs, smb, UPnP and AirPlay. The choice of which protocol to use depends on what your other devices support. OSMC generally supports them all but there may be some restrictions, eg with DRM. The sensible place for a MySQL server is on the NAS.
TVHeadend is accessed via http and has its own database of settings including the programme guide and details of recordings made from TV. By default it records TV shows on its host device. It will need write access to a NAS if recordings are to be saved there. Consider installing it on the NAS.
Please read the advice on security if you want to access your OSMC devices from the internet.
Get stuck in or read Kodi’s first-time user guide for more details.