Nateflix

A Home Media Solution

nateflix2

The Makings of N8flix

I have small children that don’t treat physical media the best. After several replaced DVDs and the frustration of finding them laying about the house, I decided to do something about it.

Objective

Take all of your Movies, TV Shows, Home Movies, Music, etc and make it accessible from anywhere. At any time.

Solution

The presented solution is comprised of multiple pieces of software and requires time to initially load up with media. Everything mentioned has been an integral part of the N8flix solution.

Requirements

In this post I will attempt to outline the steps needed to go from nothing to a solution similar to N8flix.

Hardware

A computer that will become the media server/hub
Apple TV (optional)

Software

Plex Media Server
MakeMKV
Handbrake
Subler

HARDWARE

System Requirements

The software that makes up the central hub of this media server is Plex Media Server. As such the hardware needs to meet the system requirements for that software.

Mac

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or higher.
A Mac with Intel Core 2 Duo processor or better.
At least 1GB of RAM (2GB recommended).

Windows

Windows XP SP3 or later
Core 2 Duo 1.6 GHz  (2.4GHz or better recommended)
At least 512 MB RAM (2GB recommended)

Linux

(Ubuntu, Fedora, or CentOS downloads available)
Ubuntu 10.04 (lucid) or newer
RPM for Fedora 14 or newer
RPM for CentOS 6 or newer
Core 2 Duo 1.6 GHz  (2.4GHz or better recommended)
At least 512 MB RAM (2GB recommended)

Apple TV

SOFTWARE

Software Requirements

The following is the main software used for the server (or other systems) with a brief description

Plex Media Server (FREE)

The Plex Media Server enriches your life by organizing all your personal media, presenting it beautifully and
streaming it to all of your devices. It’s easy to use, it’s awesome, and it’s free! https://plex.tv/downloads

Plex Home Theater (FREE)

For the ultimate experience, install Plex Home Theater on a dedicated computer for your TV. It’s optimized for the big screen and supports a wide variety of formats with high-definition audio, native framerates, and more. https://plex.tv/downloads

Plex Mobile ($4.99 [depends])

Get instant access to all your media wherever you are. Plex apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, and Windows 8 let you browse and enjoy on your device of choice.

iTunes

iTunes is the easiest way to organize and enjoy the music, movies, TV shows, apps, and books you’ve already got — and shop for the ones you want to get. http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/

MakeMKV

MakeMKV is your one-click solution to convert video that you own into free and patents-unencumbered format that can be played everywhere. MakeMKV is a format converter, otherwise called “transcoder”. It converts the video clips from proprietary (and usually encrypted) disc into a set of MKV files, preserving most information but not changing it in any way. The MKV format can store multiple video/audio tracks with all meta-information and preserve chapters. http://www.makemkv.com

Handbrake

HandBrake is a tool for converting video from nearly any format to a selection of modern, widely supported codecs. http://www.handbrake.fr

Subler

Subler is an Mac OS X app created to mux and tag mp4 files. The main features includes:
– Creation of tx3g subtitles tracks, compatible with all Apple’s devices (iPod, AppleTV, iPhone, QuickTime).
– Mux video, audio, chapters, subtitles and closed captions tracks from mov, mp4 and mkv.
– Raw formats: H.264 Elementary streams (.h264, .264), AAC (.aac), AC3 (.ac3), Scenarist (.scc), VobSub (.idx).
– Metadata editing and TMDb, TVDB and iTunes Store support.
https://code.google.com/p/subler/

MetaX

Windows alternative to Subler. http://www.danhinsley.com/metax/metax.html

SETUP

Server Setup

This document assumes that the server is already setup with the proper OS and system requirements as needed for Plex Media Server (see Hardware System Requirements).

Folder Setup

My server is setup such that the Media folders for iTunes and Plex are in the same location. That way when files are added to iTunes, they are automatically picked up by Plex. My media server has a 2TB HDD attached via USB. At the root of that drive I created a folder called Media. iTunes and Plex are then pointed at that folder.

Install iTunes

I use iTunes to make Apple TV and iOS local devices easily see the media to consume. I’ll add an optional section at the end about making the Apple TV work with Plex as well.

  1. Go to http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/
  2. Download iTunes for your operating system
  3. Install iTunes
  4. Launch iTunes
  5. Go to Preferences
  6. Open the Advanced tab
  7. Set the iTunes Media Folder location to your designated media location (per above)
  8. Click OK
  9. Set up Home Sharing (http://support.apple.com/kb/ht4620)
  10. For your Apple devices or Apple TV, turn on Home Sharing using the same account info.
Install Plex Media Server
  1. Go to http://www.plexapp.com/desktop/ (make sure to grab the Server software)
  2. Download the appropriate Plex Media Server package for your OS
  3. Install Plex Media Server
  4. Launch Plex Media Server
  5. Add the media folders for Movies, TV Shows, and Music.
  6. Go to my.plexapp.com and setup your free account (this allows you to see your server from anywhere).
  7. Grab the Plex player for your desktop (http://www.plexapp.com/desktop/ – make sure to get the desktop software) or mobile device.
  8. With your Plex Media Server running, your Plex Player should auto detect your server when on your local network. Refer to the troubleshooting steps for your Plex Player if you have problem with auto detection.
  9. Enter your myPlex username and password in the Preferences for the Media Server and the settings for your Plex Player to be able to access your server remotely and access your shared sections and queued video.

Plex Media Server is set to automatically scan the folders you established based a default increment of time. As you add new media, it will automatically be added to the Plex configuration so that your players will see the new content.

At this point you just need to add the media to iTunes and you’re good to go!

……….

Need help getting media content into your new server? Keep reading.

MEDIA OVERVIEW

Media Processing Overview

The following is the workflow for ripping, converting, tagging, and storing the media for use.

n8flix-flow

Install Software
  1. Install MakeMKV (www.makemkv.com)
  2. Install Handbrake (www.handbrake.fr)
  3. Install Subler (https://code.google.com/p/subler/)
Media Processing Overview

The following is the workflow for ripping, converting, tagging, and storing the media for use. The following steps assume the needed software is installed.

When you are just getting started there is probably a lot of media to convert. Most discs can be run through Handbrake without the need for MakeMKV, however following my process puts everything on the server so that you can then batch process files in Handbrake.

  1. Launch MakeMKV
  2. Insert the DVD or Blu-Ray disc into the machine.
  3. Run MakeMKV to extract the media into a single file.
    1. Typically the file you want to target is the largest one identified on the disc.
  4. After the file is extracted, launch Handbrake.
  5. Open the newly created mkv file.
  6. Set the settings to desired output (I use High Profile)
  7. Hit start.
    1. The file will start to be encoded.
    2. If you want to queue more up, just open another file and click Add to Queue.
    3. Handbrake will run through all queued files.
    4. The time needed per movie is dependent on length of video and system power.
  8. Let the encoding complete
  9. Launch Subler (Windows users will need to use MetaX or some other software)
  10. Open the new m4v encoded file from Handbrake
  11. Make sure the video and audio tracks are checked and click the search icon
  12. Subler will search multiple sources to identify the movie or TV show.
  13. Select the correct result
  14. Select the desired artwork/poster for the media
  15. Click the rectangle with arrow button to add to the queue.
  16. Start the queue and the file will be tagged with the metadata and artwork.
  17. Add the newly tagged file to iTunes.

PLEX ADD-ONS (optional)

Overview

The following items are completely optional for your setup.

Plex Pass

A Plex Pass is completely optional. I operated everything in Plex for more than a year with just the free options. Plex Pass adds some additional functionality that was important to me as the owner of the server. Plus it allowed me to see what streams are going on at the moment. At the time of this writing (1/2/2014) there is a one month ($3.99), one year($29.99), or lifetime ($74.99) Plex Pass available. Typically new features will be available to Plex Pass subscribers first and then some time later be rolled out for the general population.

The additional features are listed here: https://plex.tv/subscription/about

Notfications

I wanted a way to know how much my server was being utilized. Plex Pass gave me a feature unavailable (at the time) to free users. This feature allows me to see the current activity on my server. This is great, but doesn’t really tell me how much the server is being used, unless I am constantly watching.

I did some searching and found a perl script that someone has been actively working on to send a notification message via 3rd party services (Pushover, Growl, Prowl, Boxcar, etc) called plexWatch. I was already using similar notifications for SickBeard to know when episodes were snatched and finished.

plexWatch is here: https://github.com/ljunkie/plexWatch/tree/v0.1.9

I created a LaunchAgent on my OS X media server so that the script runs every 30 seconds to check for new information.

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