Serving Plex Media to Legacy Devices via DLNA

In this month’s sponsored Plex video, I explore an older feature of Plex that connects your media to legacy devices like old TVs and media players through Plex’s support for DLNA. This makes it possible to browse and consume media from your Plex server while making use of all of the metadata stored in your Plex libraries.

The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) was established in 2003 by a group of technology companies aiming to create a standardized framework for sharing digital media across devices. DLNA has been widely adopted by manufacturers and software developers in the decades since.

The process begins with enabling the DLNA server function within the Plex web app’s server settings. Once activated, the Plex server can communicate with any DLNA-compatible device on the network, making it discoverable to a wide range of electronics, regardless of their manufacture date.

I conducted a demonstration using DLNA Browser on a Windows laptop to mimic the experience on a TV or audio device. The interface presented options to explore video, music, or photo libraries stored on the Plex server. One key point is that DLNA does not incorporate authentication, which means all shared media on the Plex server becomes accessible to anyone on the same network.

For video playback, Plex’s DLNA server allows browsing by key metadata points like genres, directors, actors, etc. You can of course also just browse media alphabetically and even dive into the folders stored on your server. The server will assign playback history to the main user on the server but will not store playback progress.

The music playback functionality through DLNA stands out, especially for high-quality audio files. Modern audio devices that don’t have support for a Plex client, including my home theater receiver, can access and play lossless audio files directly from the Plex server, complete with album art and metadata. This feature is particularly valuable for audiophiles with extensive digital music libraries. Unlike video playback history is not stored, however.

Despite its benefits, DLNA integration isn’t without challenges. Older devices may struggle with newer media formats, requiring manual configuration for transcoding—a process that ensures media compatibility but may demand a more technical setup.

DLNA is not just limited to legacy devices either. One viewer wrote in to tell me they use it with their Meta Quest headset to access their media. Many modern televisions will also pick up your Plex media server and present it within the native TV interface too.

Plex’s DLNA feature can bridge between past and present technology, offering a practical solution for extending the life of older devices through access to modern digital media libraries.

Plex Launches Movie Rental Feature

My latest monthly sponsored Plex video takes a look at Plex’s new movie rental feature that allows users to rent and watch popular films without having to leave the Plex interface.

Rentals can be found in a new tab that’s been added to Plex’s free movies and TV shows section. Here, a variety of films are available for rent, distinct from the platform’s ad-supported content. You will also find rentals integrated into Plex’s universal search and watchlist features. Users who prefer not to see rental options in their search results can adjust their settings to exclude them.

The rental process within Plex is straightforward. Upon selecting a movie, users have a 30-day window to commence viewing. Once the movie is started, there is a 48-hour period to complete it.

After renting a movie, it appears on the user’s Plex home page and will also be at the top of the rental tab. Rentals will be integrated with the rest of the media accessible to the viewer. Users will also receive email notifications reminding them to watch the film before it expires.

A notable feature of Plex’s rental service is the capability to view rented movies across different devices, maintaining continuity in the play location. But there is currently no offline viewing option and rentals can only be played back on one device at a time. At the moment rentals are limited to 1080p only with 5.1 channel surround sound.

The pricing structure for rentals varies. Older movies generally cost around $3.99, newer releases are priced at $5.99. I noticed a few rentals available for movies currently in theaters that are priced higher.

Currently, the rental feature is only available in the United States, with plans for future expansion to other regions. As the feature evolves I’ll post some updates. You can also keep track of changes on Plex’s support pages.

Disclosure: This video was a paid sponsorship from Plex. However they did not review or approve this before it was uploaded.

Plex Updates Search (sponsored post)

In my latest sponsored Plex video, I explore the latest updates to Plex’s search feature, changes that significantly enhance the user experience for those navigating through their extensive media libraries. You can watch the video here!

The primary change in Plex’s search functionality the ability to customize what is being searched. Users can now filter their searches to specific servers, excluding content from other sources if desired. For example, a search for “Ghostbusters” will yield results from the user’s server, Plex’s on-demand features, and external sources. However, with the new search filters, users can narrow down these results to display only the movies available on their server if they choose.

Another notable improvement is the ability to search for content based on specific actors. Typing an actor’s name, like Mark Hamill, brings up a detailed list of their work available in the user’s media libraries and on Plex if desired. This feature extends to genre searches as well, allowing users to explore categories like sci-fi across their own libraries and Plex’s on-demand offerings.

Plex has also integrated the watchlist feature into search, which allows users to add content right from the search results. Additionally, because Plex now indexes content from various other services, users can also search and add content to the watchlist that’s on streaming services they may be subscribed to.

The search settings are remembered on each client, meaning if a user sets their preferences on one device, these preferences will be retained the next time they log into Plex on that device. These new search features are now live on the web along with TV and mobile apps.

Plex Dash 2.0 Adds More Server Configuration Options (sponsored post)

In my latest monthly sponsored Plex video, I explore the latest update of Plex Dash, an app that allows users to manage their Plex server from a smartphone. This update brings a bunch of new features, enhancing the app’s functionality and user experience. The app is free and available to those who have a Plex Pass subscription.

If you need a Plex Pass, — Plex is having a Black Friday sale for 25% off a lifetime Plex Pass. You can find it here (compensated affiliate link) – use code FUZZYFRIDAY to get the discount. The code is valid through November 28th at 7:59 AM UTC.

Plex Dash, available on both iPhone and Android, initially served as a monitoring tool for Plex servers. The update, however, extends its capabilities to server administration, previously only accessible via a web browser. This development is particularly beneficial for those who need to manage their servers remotely.

As before you can monitor servers in real time to see what media is currently being played back and what kinds of transcoding processes are taking place. This new version of the app expands some of these metrics to include tasks the server might be doing in the background along with enhanced charts to monitor CPU, RAM and network performance.

Plex Dash has also expanded its library administration capabilities. Users can now adjust library settings directly from the app. Server settings can also be adjusted through Plex Dash, with most options from the web interface now available in the app. However, settings for remote access still require the web interface.

A notable new feature is the ability to browse server logs in real-time and download them for later review. This functionality is particularly useful for troubleshooting and monitoring server activities.

While the update significantly enhances Plex Dash’s capabilities, there is still room for improvement. For instance, the ability to edit metadata directly from the app is currently limited to just changing thumbnails. Expanding this feature to include full metadata editing would be a valuable addition for users who manage extensive libraries.

The updated Plex Dash app is a robust tool for managing Plex servers on the go. Its enhanced features bring a level of convenience and efficiency, especially for users who frequently need to administer their servers remotely. As the app continues to evolve, it will likely become an even more indispensable tool for Plex server administrators.

Disclosure: This video was part of my monthly sponsorship from Plex. However they did not review or approve the video before it was uploaded.

Tutorial: Accessing Your Plex Server on a Personal VPN Like Tailscale

In my latest sponsored Plex video, I delved into accessing a Plex server through a personal VPN like Tailscale. This curiosity was sparked by Apple’s recent update that allows the use of VPN clients on the Apple TV hardware natively, eliminating the need for any special hacks or tricks. Native VPN support is not exclusive to Apple TV and extends to several Android TV devices as well.

The motivation behind using a personal VPN for Plex is simple: added security. For someone like me, who only shares the Plex server with myself, there’s no need to expose the server to the Internet. One of the advantages of Tailscale is that it works without exposing any ports on my router to the outside world.

In the video I demo an Apple TV connecting to a Synology NAS located about 10 miles away at my mom’s house. This NAS, securely locked behind a router with no open ports, is inaccessible to the outside world but it is running the Tailscale VPN client.

Once connected through my Tailscale network, the Plex server, which was previously inaccessible, became available. The experience was smooth, with a Blu-ray MKV file playing at 19 megabits per second over the internet without any transcoding. My mother has Frontier’s 500 megabit symmetrical fiber optic service at her house which worked seamlessly.

Tailscale offers the advantage of limiting access to specific devices. For instance, I can choose to share only my Plex server with others without exposing the entire local network. Tailscale is free for up to 100 devices, making it a cost-effective solution for most users.

Personal VPN clients like Tailscale are also available on mobile devices, providing the same seamless experience on the go. The compatibility with TV boxes makes it easier to take your Plex server off the public internet without losing functionality. It works well with Android TV, and while it’s doable on Fire TV, it may require sideloading. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with Roku at the moment.

Personal VPNs are an option worth considering for Plex servers, especially for people who don’t share their Plex server with many people. It offers control and peace of mind, allowing you to enjoy your content wherever you are while keeping everything locked safely behind your firewall.

Disclosure: This video was sponsored by Plex but they did not review or approve it before it was uploaded.

Running Plex in a Docker Container on Synology is Super Easy

Over the last couple of months I’ve been playing around with a bunch of self-hosted projects using Docker containers on my Synology NAS. In my most recent sponsored video for Plex, we take a look at spinning up a Plex server inside a container using Synology’s new Container Manager on DSM 7.2.

One might wonder, why use Docker when you can simply install Plex from the Synology package center? The answer lies in the flexibility and advantages Docker offers. Docker containers provide backup and migration opportunities that are more straightforward than other methods. They also offer a level of isolation, enhancing security. In the case of Synology specifically, the Docker versions tend to get updated more frequently, ensuring you always have the latest features.

Before diving in, ensure your Synology NAS is compatible with Docker. Synology’s website has a list of compatible devices that work with their Container Manager. If you are a Plex Pass holder and want to enable hardware transcoding you’ll also need to ensure your Synology NAS is running with an Intel processor that’s compatible with QuickSync video encoding. You can learn more about video transcoding in another video I made on that topic.

My video will take you step by step through the installation process by using a Docker Compose file to configure the container. If you’d like to see the one I’m using you can download it here.

Setting up Plex on Synology NAS using Docker was one of the more straightforward Docker projects I’ve undertaken. The process is efficient, and the benefits, especially in terms of backup and migration, make it worth considering for your next install.

Plexamp Headless Allows Lossless Audio Streaming to Speakers, Audio Systems from a Raspberry Pi

In my latest monthly sponsored Plex video, we take a look at using an interesting official Plexamp client designed for the Raspberry Pi.

They call it “headless” as it’s designed to work on a Raspberry Pi that can be booted up and set aside to drive audio into a speaker or audio system. Once configured the Pi player will appear in the casting players menu alongside Chromecast devices.

The big difference between using the headless Raspberry Pi player versus a Chromecast is that the audio is not compressed for output – meaning your Raspberry Pi can pull high quality FLAC audio directly from the server yet behave exactly like a Chromecast would.

And because Raspberry Pis support high quality digital to analog converters (or DACs) you can achieve some really nice audio output once you have everything set up properly.

The installation process is a little involved but not terribly difficult. Your Pi needs to be running a 64 bit operating system and have Node.JS 16 or higher installed. There are some good instructions on the official Plex forum post to get things started and I followed these instructions for getting Node.JS working.

In the video I step through an installation from the beginning so you can see each step executed visually.

While this is definitely an enthusiast use case it’s nice to see that Plex is still focusing on the types of things media nerds like us want to do with their personal media servers!

Plex Update: Plexamp Now Free for Everyone

In this month’s sponsored Plex video I share the news that Plex’s awesome music player PlexAmp is now free for everyone! Before it was available to Plex Pass subscribers only.

While some features remain exclusive to the Plex Pass, most features are now accessible to everyone. If you’re already using the Plex app on the free tier to listen to music, I’d highly recommend switching to Plexamp especially if you have a large personal music library.

For those unfamiliar, Plexamp requires a connection to a Plex personal media server. This could be your own server or one shared with you by a friend. The app also integrates with the Tidal music service.

Plexamp supports most of the popular music formats out there including large lossless FLAC audio files. I’ve been on a personal mission to store all my CDs from the ’90s in lossless Flac format on my Plex server. The audio quality is significantly better than the compressed tracks on other platforms.

One of the standout features of Plexamp is its focus on music discovery. It’s designed to help you find and enjoy tracks from your library that you might have forgotten about. There’s a unique “stations” feature that lets you listen to the oldest tracks in your library and then progresses to newer ones. There are also mood-based and decade-based stations, allowing you to tailor your listening experience based on your current mood or nostalgia.

The app displays a visualization of the song’s waveform, and you can jump to different parts of the track with ease. There are also some cool visualizations that sync with the music, adding a visual element to your auditory experience.

However, there are some limitations on the free tier. For instance, offline playback isn’t available, meaning you need to be online to use Plexamp. Some advanced features, like the artist mix builder, are also locked behind the Plex Pass. But the free version does offer a lot, including the ability to transcode audio, which is especially useful if you’re trying to save on bandwidth while streaming on the go.

Plexamp is available on multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and Linux. The Android and iOS versions work with Android Auto and Carplay respectively. There’s also a “headless” version for the Raspberry Pi, which I’ll delve into in a future post. And for those who want to cast their music, the free tier allows you to send audio to any Chromecast-compatible device.

If you haven’t played around with Plexamp yet, give it a try!

New Plex Feature: Discover Together

Our monthly sponsored Plex video for June focuses in on a new social sharing feature called Discover Together. This feature, currently in beta, allows users to share their watchlist and viewing history with friends.

The Discover Together feature is currently available to Plex Pass subscribers, but once activated, it extends to all friends connected to your Plex account – even those on the free tier. Upon activation, users are greeted with a landing page explaining the new feature and providing privacy options. By default, all information is set to private, and users can choose to share their watch history, watchlist and ratings with friends.

Your personal profile keeps track of how many movies, shows, and episodes you’ve watched since joining Plex. It also displays your recent watch history, watch list, and ratings. This information is then shared with friends.

The Friends tab displays all your Plex friends, and you can click on each friend to view their profile. The Activity feed shows what everyone is watching in real time, and shows what media is trending among your friends.

One of the fun aspects of Discover Together is the ability to send messages to friends about specific episodes or movies. For instance, if you’re watching an episode of Star Trek Picard and notice a friend has watched it too, you can send them a message to discuss the episode. This is especially helpful if a television show has a huge spoiler and you want to talk about it – you’ll know which of your friends has seen it!

The feature works on TVs, phones, and the web interface and offers a similar interface on each platform.

For those interested in automations, Plex now offers the ability to set up RSS feeds for your watch list and your friends’ watch lists. This can be found in the account settings under the watch list section.

Plex’s Discover Together feature provides an efficient way to share and discover content with friends. It’s a robust tool that extends beyond your Plex server, indexing content from various streaming services. It’s a feature I look forward to exploring more in the coming weeks.

Plex Amp Sonic Sage Adds ChatGPT AI Music Recommendations

In my latest video I dive into the world of AI-powered music discovery with the Plex Amp player and its new “Sonic Sage” feature. Sonic Sage uses ChatGPT to deliver playlist recommendations.

Here’s how it works: Sonic Sage interfaces with OpenAI’s GPT model. To get it running, you’ll need an API key from the OpenAI platform. There is a small cost for using this key but I’ve found it to be minimal. So far I’ve only racked up about 5 cents of cost for well over 20 queries.

Once you’ve enabled Sonic Sage, it lives right inside the search icon on your Plex Amp app. ChatGPT uses your queries to generate music recommendations. You can ask it for anything, from general genres to very specific prompts. For example, you could ask for “high energy, lesser-known female rockers from the last 20 years”, and Sonic Sage will whip up a playlist to match.

The AI’s recommendations are based on how you word your prompts. While it’s not perfect at always getting things right, it does a pretty solid job of delivering great music to match what you’re looking for. The only drawback I’ve noticed so far is that these AI-generated playlists can’t be saved, but I’m sure this could change in the future.

This feature works best with a very large personal library or with Tidal, a subscription music service that integrates with Plex and Plex Amp. Tidal costs $8.99 a month if you subscribe through Plex and delivers all of its music as CD quality lossless FLAC audio. I covered the Tidal integration in a previous video.

In my view, Sonic Sage adds an interesting new dimension to Plex Amp’s already awesome music discovery capabilities.

Turn Your Lights On and Off with Plex Webhooks

For this month’s sponsored Plex video, I delved into the webhooks feature that’s part of your Plex Pass subscription.

Webhooks fire off data to a specified URL when specific events happen on your Plex server, such as adding new content, pausing, or playing media. Some of the applications that can listen for these webhooks include IFTTT, Zapier, Home Assistant and Homebridge.

Although it might be slightly complicated to set up, once you have it figured out it can do some cool stuff. In the video I demonstrate how I connected my Plex server with Homebridge, allowing my lights to turn on and off automatically based on hitting the play and pause button.

I also slightly modified some code in the Homebridge Plex plugin I was using to look for a Plex “scrobble” event that fires off whenever the credits are reached or 90% of the content is played. This will turn my lights on right when the end credits start rolling most of the time!

Overall, webhooks in Plex open up a world of possibilities for integrating your Plex server with your smart home system. While it may be complicated to set up initially, the end result is a seamless and enjoyable viewing experience.

Plex Adds End Credit Detection to the Plex Media Server

My monthly sponsored Plex video this month does a deep dive into the new Plex end credit detection feature. You can watch it here.

On TV devices the end credits will zoom out into a small box and Plex will present some additional content options to watch next. Clicking the remote will return the end credits to full screen if you want to watch them in full.

End credit detection will also know when content appears after the credits finish rolling. In that instance you’ll have the option to click “skip credits” and be brought directly to the post credit scene.

Credit detection is CPU intensive so you may want to have this take place during your server’s maintenance window. Plex has set up a cloud database to speed the process along, so if your file is in the database your server will download the credits location from Plex vs. having to run a full analysis. Your Plex server will also trigger a “watched” flag that fires off right when the end credits begin.

See more, including configuration options, in the video! Thanks to Plex for their long standing support of the channel!

All About Plex Subtitles

This month’s sponsored Plex tutorial dives into a frequently requested topic: subtitles.

I will confess that I am not a frequent subtitle user but I know that many of you out there use them quite frequently. One of the challenges of subtitles is getting them to work in a way that won’t trigger a transcode.

Many of us use Plex as a way to store our Blu Ray movie library on our server for convenience. And typically Blu Rays use the PGS subtitle format which are essentially image files that Blu Ray players overlay on top of the video being played. So if you are ripping Blu Ray files and including subtitles in that rip you’ll have those PGS files embedded inside the MKV file you’re using.

The problem with the PGS format is that very few streaming players support them natively. In my testing I’ve found only the Nvidia Shield TV and Apple TV support that. All of the other players I tested triggered transcoding to bake in the captions before sending the video to the client.

The most compatible solution I’ve found are SRT formatted files. These are essentially ASCII text files with time stamps that most players support natively without the need for an additional transcode. Plex Pass users can search for and add SRT files in the Plex interface using the OpenSubtitles.org database right on the content playback page. If you don’t have a Plex pass you’ll have to hunt down those files yourself.

Finding subtitles can be tricky as lengths vary from one version of a film to the next. As studios re-release old films on different formats sometimes things don’t line up or like in the case of Star Wars they change a few things here and there that ultimately impact the timing of dialog. Plex does have a subtitle offset feature that we’ll cover in a future video to better align dialog.

A PGS Encoded Forced Subtitle

Another topic we covered are “forced” subtitles that only appear when another language is spoken. A great example of this is when Jabba the Hutt is speaking at the beginning of a Return of the Jedi. Force subtitles need to be enabled for playback like other types of subtitles and the same rules for transcoding apply here too – if you have a PGS encoded forced subtitle it’s going to force a transcode even if those subtitles are used for a very small portion of the film. These are the types of subtitles I use most often.

There is much more to cover on this topic but I have found SRT encoded subtitles to be the most compatible but also the least attractive. How they look will largely depend on how the client renders them. The good news is that because they are just straight ASCII text they are very easy to edit.

Subtitle Edit for Windows

I found a great open source (free) utility called SubtitleEdit that is extremely powerful for editing SRT files. It can even convert PGS to SRT. It only runs on Windows but there is a version that runs in a web browser on their site.

There is much more to cover on this topic. Definitely check out the video and leave a comment about what you’d like to see next!

New Plexamp Features: Guest DJ and NFC Tags

In my latest video we take a look at two new features recently added to Plex’s awesome music client called Plexamp. In full disclosure this piece was sponsored by Plex.

The first feature, Guest DJ, utilizes Plex’s sonic analysis feature that we covered in a prior video. The way it works is that it will look at the sonic fingerprint of the song you’re currently listening to and slip in other songs that sound similar.

What’s neat about how Guest DJ works is that it will continue to progress through the album or playlist you’ve selected. Some settings insert a single song others will do more. You can even veer off and have it keep suggesting sonically similar songs. If you decide to switch it off you’re back in control of what comes up next.

Plexamp also recently added support for NFC tags. These are very inexpensive devices that can be found on Amazon that allow small amounts of data to be written to them wirelessly. Plexamp can write a shortcut that can point at an album or playlist to the tag through its share sheet. Scanning the tag later will pull up Plexamp and bring you right to the album or playlist for playback. One use case could be attaching tags to your physical albums – scanning one can start playing that album immediately in Plexamp.

Plexamp requires a Plex Pass but is one of the many benefits of their subscription plan for Plex Pro users. See more Plex content on my channel!

Amazon Kills “Deep Linking” Impacting Plex, Reelgood, and Others on Fire TV

Over on AFTVNews my friend Elias Saba reported on a new development on the Fire TV platform that will impact Plex (affiliate link), Reelgood, Just Watch and other third party content search engines. Amazon reportedly will be disabling “deep linking” which is the practice of having one app link to content inside of another app. This topic is the subject of my latest video.

What this means is that if you’re maintaining a watchlist in Plex you can still maintain that list and find new content in the Plex database on FireTV, but Plex will no longer “drop you off” in another app to watch. You can, of course, use Amazon’s built in search which will continue to deep link into supported (paying) apps. This new Amazon policy mirrors a restriction Roku has had in place for its devices.

Why are they doing this? Because home screens and platform integrated search engines are a big business. Amazon and Roku can require providers to pay to be a part of search and/or get a higher position in query results. If you’re using a third party provider to find stuff to watch that impacts the bottom line. Those third parties apps can also charge for placement in their search engines which is a competitive activity.

Roku’s business model is no secret – most of the money they make from you using the device – not buying it. That’s why Roku and Amazon devices are so inexpensive. You can learn more in this video I made a little while back diving into Roku’s financial statements.

Like everything I do on this channel I went down a rabbit hole yesterday testing how deep linking works across all of the major platforms. Here’s how the others stack up:

Roku: No deep linking allowed but their built in search has good results (for now) that will deep link elsewhere.

Android TV / Google TV: Deep linking is still allowed but I’m finding that it’s broken for the most part. Linking into Netflix works ok but many other providers don’t seem to work reliably. Some deep links bring the user to the Google Play store even if the app is already installed.

Apple TV: Apple TV’s deep linking appears to work the best right now. Most of the apps I tested work through Plex and Reelgood. Apple TV is the most expensive box because the hardware isn’t as heavily subsidized vs. the other platforms making Apple less reliant on monetizing user activities.

All that said I still think third party watchlist apps are worth using to keep track of all of the great content we have available to us these days. You can see some prior coverage I did on those apps here.

Plex Watchlist Feature Update

My last video of 2022 is my monthly sponsored video for Plex! This month I’m revisiting the watchlist feature that we first looked at a few months ago. You can watch it here.

Watchlist is like a “to-do list” of the content that you want to watch, both on your local Plex server but also on other services. Plex will constantly monitor content offerings on other platforms and let you know where your favorite shows and movies can be seen.

What’s changed is that Watchlist now has its own position on the Plex sidebar (before it was integrated into the Discover feature). Another welcome change is that Watchlist will now keep track of individual episodes watched in a television series – before it would mark the entire show as watched even if a single episode was marked seen.

In the video I also show you some useful tips and tricks for searching for content and adding it to the list along with filtering options to help narrow down your choices.

This all works similar to Justwatch and Reelgood that we covered last year but the difference here is that it’s all tightly integrated into your Plex media library. You can even publish an RSS feed of your watchlist to integrate into other applications!

I have many hours of Plex content available on my channel that you can find on this playlist.

Amazon Fire TV Cube Firmware Update Fixes Some (but not all) Lossless Audio Passthrough Problems

In my original review of the 3rd Generation Amazon Fire TV Cube I said that Amazon’s top of the line streamer is not something I can recommend for enthusiasts due to issues with lossless audio passthrough in Plex and similar apps.

Enthusiasts running Plex typically stream rips of Blu-Ray movies with lossless audio tracks containing Dolby ATMOS True HD audio or one of the many flavors of DTS. The only name-brand box that does it perfectly is the aging Nvidia Shield so many enthusiasts were hoping that Amazon would offer something to meet that need as well.

And then I got a DM from my friend Elias Saba at AFTVNews.com who passed along this story about those issues being addressed in a firmware update. So, I bought another box (I sold my original one to a viewer) and posted this followup video to see if they got it fixed.

The good news is that Dolby TrueHD ATMOS audio is passing through correctly now. The bad news is that no flavor of DTS audio is passing through and it looks like Dolby Vision support for enthusiast media that was working before is no longer working. All of my titles defaulted to HDR10 even with an embedded Dolby Vision track. Dolby Vision continues to works fine in streaming apps which is probably 99% of this product’s audience.

I am going to hold onto my Cube though as it appears Amazon is trying to address this enthusiast need. As new firmwares come down I’ll continually test things to see if anything changes. Stay tuned!

New Video : Plex HTPC Overview

Each month Plex (affiliate link) sponsors a tutorial video on the channel covering one of the many, many features of their personal media server and streaming service. This month’s video is about Plex’s recently released an official Home Theater PC (HTPC) client for Windows, Mac and Linux. You can see my review of it here.

This app runs full screen right when loaded and replicates the living room interface experience found on smart TVs and set top boxes. Notable in this release is full support for lossless audio passthrough, client-side “tone mapping” to convert HDR content to a SDR color space on non-HDR displays, and the ability to switch a television into HDR mode for content that supports it.

HDR is a tricky beast with PCs and unfortunately the HDR here is more of a generic profile vs. one based on the metadata of the individual media files. It also does not support Dolby Vision.

Here’s a little more technical detail from the Plex team as to how HDR works:

HDR10: This works when using Windows. MPV creates a Rec.2020 swapchain in D3D11, which outputs to the display. There is a switch in HTPC’s settings to switch the display from SDR -> HDR when you play HDR content.

HDR10 with Static Metadata Passthrough: One of the users in the forums has done a writeup on how to use some of the more experimental features of MPV to do HDR10 with static metadata passthrough. So the maxCLL and maxFall values from the content are sent through to the display. See https://forums.plex.tv/t/hdr-metadata-passthrough-plex-htpc-for-windows/794358 for more information.

So for the best experience I’d still stick with the most recent Nvidia Shield Pro (the 2019 version). But it’s nice to see Plex showing some love to their most technically inclined users looking to build out their own home theater PC experience.

New Video: Plex Hardware Transcoding on AMD Ryzen

Plex is a long time sponsor of the channel. Each month I produce a sponsored post on a feature of aspect of the product. This month we take another look at hardware transcoding of video content. You can watch my latest Plex video here.

In the past I’ve always recommended that people run their Plex servers on Intel hardware that supports Quicksync technology. Intel builds this into even their lowest end chips and it allows for nearly realtime transcoding of video to reduce bit rate and resolution on demand. For a long time that was about all Plex supported.

But recently a mysterious note appeared on the Plex hardware transcoding support page that indicated some limited support for AMD GPUs:

So I wondered.. Would this work on a Ryzen based Mini PC? It turns out the answer is YES! I took out the Beelink SER4 I reviewed few weeks back, installed the Plex Windows server on it, enabled hardware transcoding, and it started successfully transcoding a BluRay MKV file to a 1080p 8 megabit stream in hardware with minimal CPU utilization. The (hw) in the screenshot below indicates it’s running in hardware mode:

The Beelink SER4 is running with an AMD Ryzen 4800U processor with the latest AMD drivers. As Plex says “your mileage will vary” so I can’t say definitively if this will work on other AMD devices as well as it did here. But it is good to see hardware transcoding compatibility expanding.

Last year we tested it on the Macbook Air M1 and found that it was able to hardware transcode running the Intel version of the Plex server! Plex just announced an official Apple silicon version last week so we’ll give that another test in an upcoming video. Stay tuned!