Setting up PLEX server

thrillcat

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Well, I have been adamantly against HTPC setups, but this weekend I settled on a PLEX Media Server setup, running the PLEX app on all my AppleTV 4K boxes.

A friend of mine offered me an insanely good deal on an old server machine he was trying to clear out of his basement:

Dell T710 (4U Rack Mount Server)

2x Xeon X5650 6 Core CPUs w/hyper threading (24 total cores)
UHD-friendly LG optical drive
136GB RAM
500GB SSD OS/Boot/App drive
8x1.2TB Seagate Cheetah SAS HDs for a total of 8.4TB in RAID5
Upgraded internal PERC (PowerEdge Raid Controller) so that it can recognize HDs larger than 2TB)
4 bay external array and controller card (for growing to larger HDs in the RAID

I have CAT6 running from the server into the theater, but the other two AppleTVs will be on WiFi.

So I'm currently busy ripping my collection onto the server.

I've always liked the idea of having a server, but every time I've been to a friends' place who has an HTPC or JRiver setup, it seems they're always troubleshooting and dealing with driver updates, etc. So this seemed like a good compromise. I'm still able to rip full UHD quality, but I get the advantages of not having to sit through warnings and previews at the start.

Who else is running a serious PLEX outfit, or something comparable?
 

Negatron

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I have had Plex for a while, but ever since I moved this last time... I have had trouble getting it to work again. I have a Plex docker installed on UnRaid, and it just doesn't work anymore. Since I got a Dune HD PRO, and MyMovies setup I am very happy for streaming movies. I am currently using Kodi for my music streaming from UnRaid.
I just picked up a flashed UHD ripper drive so I have been ripping my 4k movies with MakeMkv (works like a dream).

I have JRiver too, but I will only be using it as a database for CQC Software Home Automation. I have had about 4 or 5 versions of JRiver, and they have always crashed (I do not know why I keep buying I to their new versions )

Where did you get your ripper?
 

thrillcat

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The guy I bought the server from is a big PLEX guy, who's also an IT guy by trade and a theater geek by heart. He was able to track a few down over the past couple weeks, even though he still has 5 in the box at home. :)
 

Todd Anderson

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How many movies can you store on it?
 

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I have Plex running on my Netgear NAS. It's connected to my Apple TVs as well. The only movies I have on it though are my old HD DVD movies. It works well for what I use it for.

For Todd - the only limitation is the amount of storage space you have. Mine is 9TB total and I have about 5.75TB free. Not sure how much space the movies took up but it's not too much. Plus I took out all the stuff that wasn't relevant - other audio streams, extras, etc. I have 31 titles on it.
 

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A family member has a PLEX server that he runs for family and a few close friends...

Hundreds of movies, hundreds of TV series, not sure how many albums. It is a labor of love 7 or 8 years going.

He is an IT guy.

I use Tidal for music, so no need there. Since he is afar off, and has multiple users accessing the server, he has to limit BW somewhat for movies. In house, he can stream UHD. The rest of us must settle for 1080P, although some content is 720P.

We all love it.

FWIW: He has looked at JRIver, says for him it is too complex & pricey for what he feels it would buy him/us.
 

Negatron

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I have about 700 1080p movies now on my NAS, and about 30 4k. When I ripped the 4k movies the space went fast. I have a 30t NAS with less than 10tb left. Hopefully I can hold out on buying more HDDs for another year or so as I want to have the HT done before I start upgrading to 10tb HDDs in the NAS.
 

Todd Anderson

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So, it looks like a 4K Blu-ray can be a maximum of 100gig... but movies typically fall in the 60-80 range.

That could eat space up fast.

Standard Blu-rays are in the 20 gig range (give or take), with a max of 50.
 

Todd Anderson

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A family member has a PLEX server that he runs for family and a few close friends...

Hundreds of movies, hundreds of TV series, not sure how many albums. It is a labor of love 7 or 8 years going.

He is an IT guy.

I use Tidal for music, so no need there. Since he is afar off, and has multiple users accessing the server, he has to limit BW somewhat for movies. In house, he can stream UHD. The rest of us must settle for 1080P, although some content is 720P.

We all love it.

FWIW: He has looked at JRIver, says for him it is too complex & pricey for what he feels it would buy him/us.
That's interesting, Wayne. So you can log on to his server and stream to your home?
 

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Correct, Todd, there are PLEX client apps built into most Roku and smart TVs anymore, or available to add on, and a PC version. We have family in CT, NC, and NE all streaming from that server. With my laptop and Chromebook, there are 5 devices in our home that can log in, and often at least 2 actively streaming at night.
 
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Todd Anderson

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That's pretty incredible, wayne. Not really a world I've taken time to investigate.
 

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My son makes it easy for the rest of us.
 

thrillcat

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I don't have the bandwidth or upload speeds to share mine outside of the home, so I'm just using it to reduce clutter and put the discs in the attic.

I have the 8ish TB of storage now, in RAID5, but I expect it will be mostly taken up by the time I get my current collection ripped in. But that's where the external bays come in handy. I can buy 4 10TB drives and RAID them together, copy all the content from my internal 8TB over to that, and then upgrade the internal drives again - it has space for 8 internals, so in theory I could have 3 40TB RAID5 chunks for this.

Which still wouldn't give me as much storage as the guy I bought this from. :)

My next project is that I ordered a Channel Master WiFi tuner that I can connect to my antenna and the network, and use PLEX as a DVR and interface for my antenna, accessible through all the AppleTVs.

I'm still pretty much Apple Music and vinyl for listening to music, so no real need to integrate the photos and music options in PLEX.
 

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Oooooooooo! I want to hear about that Channel Master tuner! Does it have a DVR built in or does it save things to your server? I've been casually looking at these lately.

And I was going to echo your statement regarding bandwidth. I have 300 down/10 up and I don't think that would be near enough to handle it.
 

thrillcat

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I'll let you know. It does NOT have a DVR built in, it uses the PLEX server to record. It's really just a tuner that distributes the signal via wi-fi. So the PLEX server will record from it, or the various PLEX clients can view live tv through it if they're connected to the same wi-fi network. I'm assuming if you have your server set to feed outside of your home, you could use it to serve live tv to a mobile device while out and about.
 

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You've got me interested! Keep me in the loop!
 

thrillcat

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Well, the ChannelMaster TV tuner was a bust. I ordered a used one off of ebay, and when I went to reset it to configure it to my wifi, the reset button was missing. So, no go. Arguing with that seller. I made the mistake of being Handy Manny and saying "Oh, I bet if I pop it open I can access the button". Well, the button was completely broken off the circuit board, and now I've busted it open and can't return it.

Found another used one, this time off Amazon. Should be here today, so I'll keep you posted.

As for the ripping, I'm about 150 movies in, the vast majority so far are just 1080p blu-ray, and I've used about 2.5TB so far.

We watched Avengers: Infinity War in 4K off the server Friday night without a hiccup. I'm already really liking this solution. Currently messing around with customizing some theater intros to run prior to any movie we play, because I'm a nerd like that.
 

thrillcat

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thrillcat

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You've got me interested! Keep me in the loop!
Okay...the Clearstream TV tuner. Setup is a bit of a pain. I had it once, but PLEX wasn't seeing it so I had to do a reset and go through it again. And the app kept freezing while scanning for channels, so I had to do that 3 or 4 times each time through. Finally got it connected to wifi, software updated, channels scanned and connected to PLEX. From opening the box to having it up and running and seen by PLEX was probably about 90 minutes.

I connected it to PLEX as good as the instructions guided me. The guide started downloading, and I went upstairs to test on an AppleTV. Live TV worked okay, but the signal was much weaker through the ChannelMaster than it is on my Samsung TV. The TV and my old TiVo would report signal strengths from 60-95 depending on channel. The Clearstream is reporting 33 on everything, which causes it to stutter occasionally.

I tried setting up a recording, but PLEX wouldn't let me, and the error message was cut off. So I went back down to the server and tried scheduling a recording there. The error message was that I needed to create a TV Shows library (even though the instructions said nothing about it). So I did that, set it to record Wheel of Fortune, went out to eat, and when we got home, I checked the file. It was 2 minutes long. Changed a couple settings, tried another recording, got 3 minutes this time.

Doing some research, I think it's stopping the record process when the antenna signal gets too weak.

So I ordered an inline amplifier for my antenna. If it doesn't work, I'll probably return it all and try a different tuner. I liked this one, though, because my antenna enters the house nowhere near my server, and I don't want to have to run coax to the server room. So that will be a requirement of any future replacement. Haven't researched it much yet. Hoping the amplifier will help it hold onto the signal. I know it's possible, my TV / TiVo has never had problems, except for one group of channels that's further away, but I rarely watch anything on that anyway.

To be continued...
 
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thrillcat

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Best Buy coincidentally had a sale last week on the HD HomeRun tuners, so I picked one up. It was exponentially easier to configure than the Clearstream TV. Basically, I connected everything, went to a web url and it saw it and already had scanned the channels.

I did end up buying another amplifier because it wouldn't pick up my local ABC affiliate, but I blame the ABC affiliate (my first real job was there, it's barely a television station). Plex is now picking up all my channels at around 95-98% signal strength.

The DVR works great, except the AppleTV app only lets you fast forward in 10 second increments, and until the show is buffered into the AppleTV, it is faster to just watch the commercials than try to skip through them. The Plex feature to remove commercials is hit or miss. Seems like syndicated shows worked perfectly, while primetime stuff didn't work at all.

Anyway, regardless, I'm really happy with this configuration. Having zero fees for DVR and program guide (outside of the Plex Lifetime Pass one-time fee) is really nice. Game of Thrones is over, so I went ahead and cancelled DirecTV Now, at least until football season starts up again.
 

thrillcat

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Okay, well, I had noticed the low end seemed a little thinner in my theater on PLEX, and, sure enough, I did some googling and found that the AppleTV does NOT pass-through lossless audio from an MKV (or anything). It had been forcing my server to transcode to DD+.

My googling also found that the Nvidia Shield DOES pass-through lossless audio, though it doesn't do Dolby Vision, which the AppleTV does. Well, I'm running a projector in the theater, so Dolby Vision doesn't matter to me, so today I picked up a Shield and added it to the theater rack. Man it's an ugly box, but at least I can hide it in the back of the rack out of sight.

Meanwhile, the other displays in the house are TVs that don't have surround systems connected, so they're fine with DD+, and they can take advantage of the Dolby Vision as well.

So, in other words, for now I'm fine with two different devices that do one Dolby or another. I'm glad I figured it out now, and there was a solution that, in the grand scheme of things, wasn't that expensive.
 
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