As mentioned in the PVR article, I find the list view of NextPVR harder to use than the grid view that Media Center offered. I also wanted to move a lot of the children's programming and movies out of the recorded TV view so we limited it down to the current recorded programmes or anything within the last two weeks.

Added to this, I had already installed a media server and it would be an advantage for portability if I could convert my TV shows to MP4.

Finally, we had a load of Media Center recordings that needed converting so they were available for any media player. 

And Media Center conversion is where all of this starts.

MCE Buddy is an application that started life doing just that, taking .wtv files that other applications and devices didn't like and converting them to a format where you could edit and trim them, but also view them on any device. If you thought NextPVR was flexible, you may be overwhelmed with the amount of options in MCE Buddy. I don't understand all of them, but what follows is a recounting of how I got MCE Buddy to work for me.

MCEBuddy is another Windows Service which runs with a front end application. Within the front end application, you can set up multiple folders to monitor and multiple different conversion tasks. You can use MCEBuddy to convert a file multiple times for different devices, or even just to rename files with details it has downloaded from the internet for better indexing.

It appears to be an application that has grown and had many different functions added as time has gone on. If you trust it, it can even remove commercials for you. I don't trust it that much!

MCEBuddy is actually a suite of free applications in itself and the Windows Service handles the workflows required for taking your input files, converting them to your desired output and carrying out any post-processing on the files. Since much of this processing is processor intensive, you can even fine tune down to the amount of processor cores used, the priority the computer will give to those tasks and the times that it is allowed to carry out the tasks.
Many people set MCEBuddy to churn away overnight, using some spare processing time to convert files - I had to do that to get through my Media Center backlog, but now that is cleared I've managed to tune the application to comfortably convert files in the background and at the point that they are available for conversion.

Older versions of MCEBuddy were entirely free and although you can still download an older version, if you want a supported version, it has now gone to a premium only model. $30 for the functions MCEBuddy provides really isn't a great deal.

MCEBuddy's strength is definitely also its weakness. In attempting to be everything to everybody, the application has ended up with multiple configuration screens, all with advanced settings screens. I found that it was best to try a load of settings and push one or two video files through. After checking the output (for quality, naming convention, lip sync etc) either make more changes and repeat, or then set it free on your files.

Fortunately, MCEBuddy will archive the files it has converted to allow you to reconvert anything that has failed or converted incorrectly and you can also configure it to not overwrite any of its output files, which will do away with the risk of overwriting good converted files with bad ones.

While MCEBuddy will automate a process and lighten your load in the long run, don't be surprised if it takes a little taming first!