Fun for obsessives! – Organizing your media with PlexApp
I would like to tell you about PlexApp, a fantastic service that helps with all your digital media needs.
Basically it is a media server that runs on MacOSX, Windows and linux, and has a multitude of clients (some third party) e.g. mobile devices (iOS, Android) and hardware set-top boxes like Roku, but importantly for me there is a native app for my Samsung D6530 TV.
There are two things that PlexApp does really well, better than any other similar service I have tried. First, it actually works as a server over wifi. I have tried a few: AllShare, Serviio, Windows Media Player, Twonky, but none of them seemed reliable. Either they wouldn’t always connect, or the PS3 would see them but the TV wouldn’t, or vice-versa or they could be seen, but the video wouldn’t play correctly or some other hassle.
PlexApp (so far) has worked every time. There is a great looking and surprisingly fast and slick app which is downloadable to the TV, and it has a great interface. It always connects with the server (my Windows laptop) and lets me stream HD video easily.
This is what it looks like on the Samsung TV:
The second thing PlexApp does really well is something that all obsessives like me will love. It organizes you meta data and thus organizes your media in a logical and standardized way, and does this almost automagically. I have a Freesat PVR (discontinued model) but unfortunately its hard disk (500GB) is bulging to bursting point and I am constantly fighting to delete stuff. I have a bunch of video stored on a large 2TB external HDD which is attached to my laptop. The sources of the video are varied: downloaded from the internet, some ripped off DVD, BBC iPlayer (you must get Get_iPlayer it is a godsend), and now I have discovered that I can export the recorded video from my Freesat PVR. There is a USB connection on the machine and you can connect a flash stick or portable HDD and export files fairly easily. Transfer is a bit slow, and the native export format is not compressed very much (=large files) but the important thing is you can do it.
I export files from the PVR and then re-encode them to a more compact MP4 file using Handbrake. Once you have decided your preferred settings, it is a simple drag and drop process although the actually re-encoding can take some time so best left as an overnight task.
Now the PlexApp magic can begin! You are forced to adhere to a strict folder and naming structure (great for us obsessive compulsives ), but if you comply, PlexApp has “agents”, software pixies that go out onto the internet and pull down the relevant metadata for your movies and TV shows. This includes cover/poster art, titles, info about actors, directors etc. and even theme music for TV series. It gets this right most of the time, although you may have to occasionally “nudge” it with a manual correction.
What you are left with is a beautifully organized and annotated collection, which is on your external hard disk, but which can be easily and reliably streamed to you big screen TV over your home wifi network. You can search by genre, title, actor, director and many other ways. Just beautiful.
If you haven’t got an LG TV (which apparently have PlexApp built in) or a Samsung like me, you can use your PS3 or XBox 360 as a client box which then can throw the video at your TV.
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