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noiseredux
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Looking into Plex ...what all do I need to know?

by noiseredux Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:18 am

Spring cleaning coming up and I'm thinking about two birds with one stone. I have a bunch of spare computers and HDD's, so I'm thinking about up cycling one of them into a Plex server and ripping CDs and DVDs to it.

Having never done any sort of home network server thing before, what should I know before going into such an endeavor?
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Re: Looking into Plex ...what all do I need to know?

by bmoc Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:32 am

You probably want FreeNAS as your OS. http://www.freenas.org/

MP4 requires less horsepower to transcode than MKV. If you plan on having multiple video streams going at once, consider using MP4 files instead of MKV. I normally use MakeMKV to rip a DVD and then Handbrake with the High Profile preset to turn it into a MP4 file.
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Re: Looking into Plex ...what all do I need to know?

by noiseredux Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:43 am

Why FreeNAS? I thought Plex server was a Windows program?
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Re: Looking into Plex ...what all do I need to know?

by stickem Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:43 pm

i've used it for about 4 years now. i don't fiddle with many of the setting and haven't really had any issues where i've had to. it's pretty simple. you download the program to your computer/server, direct it to your movies or whatever folder to add, it adds all that plus movie posters and a text preview from imdb. just use the name of the movie and year and it should find everything. to add movies or delete you just add/delete from that folder on your computer and click update libraries on the program. i leave my computer on 24/7 and the 600 movies on my external hdd i've had to go into setting where the usb port doesn't sleep. i did have problems with an older computer causing buffering issues, it didn't have alot of hoursepower though. i built a new one and hadn't had that problem. i stream to my samsung smart tv's and roku using the plex app and it does great. all the movies i'm streaming with it are 4 gigs or below, 720p, mkv, mp4's. transcodes on the fly. i don't know how well bigger files would work with it though.
Last edited by stickem on Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Looking into Plex ...what all do I need to know?

by bmoc Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:45 pm

noiseredux wrote:Why FreeNAS? I thought Plex server was a Windows program?

Plex is a lot like Doom. It runs on everything.

FreeNAS is a customized version of Linux for setting up a NAS (Network Attached Storage). It should use less resources than Windows to do Plex. You can absolutely run a Plex server with Windows if you want. Lots of people do. But if your computer is only hosting media files and running a Plex server, FreeNAS is a solid choice.
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Re: Looking into Plex ...what all do I need to know?

by nullPointer Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:58 pm

noiseredux wrote:Why FreeNAS? I thought Plex server was a Windows program?

You can also run Plex directly under FreeNAS. It really depends just how far down the rabbit hole you'd like to go. If you're just dipping your toes in the water or using Plex on a trial basis to see how it goes, it might be best/easiest to set it up on a windows box with your media to see if you like it. If you're really moving to Plex in earnest as your primary means of consuming media, a NAS configuration will likely become much more attractive.

After ripping your DVDs, Blu-ray, CDs, etc. you're going to have a metric butt ton of digital media (if you don't already). Ideally (depending on your use case) you're going to want to store all of it on a network location that a) has a bunch of storage space available (which ideally is expandable), and b) which is always accessible (and again this depends on your use case ... but trust me if you're moving to a system in which Plex becomes your primary means of consuming media, it quickly gets old having to cycle up your media storage before you watch anything). Once we consider that this system might be always on and always accessible, this in turn means that a low-power solution will be preferable. A third consideration is redundancy. Storing your media on a RAID array certainly has benefits both in terms of disk read-speed as well as providing a means of protection against hardware failure. So that's where something like FreeNAS becomes quite beneficial in terms of being a light weight, RAID configurable OS without all the overhead (and power consumption) of Windows.

Shifting gears significantly for a moment, one other thing you'll want to consider is how to name your media both in terms of file and directory names as well as directory structures. Plex uses scrapers to add beneficial metadata to your media files, but in order to do so it uses 'scrapers' that connect to online databases (i.e. TMDb, TheTVDB, etc.). So in order to get the best experience from Plex you'll want to be sure that your media is configured in the way that it expects. To that end I tend to follow Kodi guidelines in this regard. Video content is generally fairly easy to configure since it really is just file names and directory structure. Music files can be a bit of a pain though since in that case you have to start dealing with the actual metadata on the files themselves (i.e. Plex will read embedded MP3 metadata rather than file names for instance). Music purchased from online store fronts generally has well formatted metadata, but home rips can be a different story. If you need to delve into tagging your own music, I find Mp3Tag to be a nice tool to do that (there are a lot of others, but most of them include a ton of other features in addition to tagging; if you just want a compact targeted tool Mp3Tag is that).

Wow, that was more info than maybe you really wanted. I should add a disclaimer that I'm more of a Kodi guy, and for the most part I just use Kodi to connect to my NAS via SMB share. Having said that, I also use Kodi to connect to a Plex server for media that I've not yet transferred to my NAS. Luckily Kodi and Plex mesh together quite well, despite some redundancy in terms of function.

Edit:
I took so long writing that post that most of the info therein was already covered in the meantime, lol. (To be fair I was bouncing between a few other things while I was writing it). Good luck with your Plex adventure Noise!
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stickem
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Re: Looking into Plex ...what all do I need to know?

by stickem Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:07 pm

^ dam, that's alot of info i don't understand lol. i just name my file by the movie and year and 98% of the time it finds it. everything else is just drop and play for me. i dunno.
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Re: Looking into Plex ...what all do I need to know?

by nullPointer Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:19 pm

Yeah, hopefully I didn't make it seem more complicated than it really is. The main point I was getting at is that you need to put some thought into file naming and directory structure for video files. Music scraping gets into slightly deeper waters, but even then it's not terribly complicated, although it can become more pertinent if you delve into more obscure releases. I've had to add a substantial amount of metadata to my music collection, because online sources just don't really delve too far into obscurity, but I don't know that I've ever had much trouble with videos. At any rate none of it is worth getting terribly worked up about, unless it becomes an issue at which point it can be good info to have on hand.
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Re: Looking into Plex ...what all do I need to know?

by noiseredux Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:57 pm

Thank you guys. Ok something I should have asked. Is it unreasonable to expect the Plex server PC to still be useable as a PC? Meaning can I still use this to browse internet etc even while something is streaming from it in another room?

And regarding "always on", I'd most likely shut it down while we are asleep. Would that pose any problem? Outside of 24/7 convenience is there a reason it needs to be on all the time?
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Re: Looking into Plex ...what all do I need to know?

by stickem Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:11 pm

noiseredux wrote:Thank you guys. Ok something I should have asked. Is it unreasonable to expect the Plex server PC to still be useable as a PC? Meaning can I still use this to browse internet etc even while something is streaming from it in another room?

And regarding "always on", I'd most likely shut it down while we are asleep. Would that pose any problem? Outside of 24/7 convenience is there a reason it needs to be on all the time?


no you can turn it off, i think it defaults to load up on startup also. just can't stream when it's off of course. alot of usb ports default to turn off to save energy after so long, so change that if you have an external hdd, otherwise you'll lose connection after a few hours. turn off sleep mode as well, depending on what automatic transcoding it has to do, it may not have to ping your computer and if not it will enter sleep mode and lose connection. you can still use your computer as you stream as well. if your computer is too old you may run into some problems though. having a decent router helps alot with buffering issues.
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