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Fresh start on home network movie storage

luthierwnc

Standard Member
Hi All,

I've been spending a lot of time at the computer trying to sort out what I thought would be easier. We have a modest collection of downloaded itunes movies that are MPEG-4 DRM. I originally tried to put them on a NAS with the hope of watching them on a hi-def TV. No deal -- as many of you probably know.

Then I started looking at the possibility of using a Mac Mini as a media player because it ought to be compatible with that format. Evidently itunes has the best quality downloads and is the only (feel free to correct this if I'm wrong) outfit that you can also download the special features. I think there are ways to scrub them of the protection and change the container to play but that sounds very labor intensive.

The more I learn, the further back I seem to get. Now it seems that real movie buffs just get a Blu-Ray and rip it rather than put up with codex wars or the losses associated with man-handling downloaded media.

My movie collection is small enough that starting over with the right format might be cheaper and easier than trying to make a bad idea work. I'd appreciate hearing from movie watchers about what you feel is the best way to build and organize a video library (and the necessary gear) so you don't have to mess with it twice.

Thanks, sh
 

next010

Distinguished Member
NAS is just storage, it's not a major factor.

But if you want to move away from iTunes because...
* you want to play them on non-Apple devices ?
* you want a low power NAS to act as storage ?

iTunes movies are not that big, you could stick a My Book Studio with RAID 1 support and connects via USB on a Mac Mini and have plenty of storage space for not only the official iTunes purchases but any third party movies you convert yourself. IVI software is very helpful here, auto integrates converted media into iTunes and no DRM on end files though main movie only, so your iTunes library will cover both with what's available digitally and what's only available on disc.

If you want to avoid iTunes, the easiest way to build an media library with minimal input is Plex. Plex has a server which runs on PC/Mac's and select commercial NAS, it will auto scan your content and build the media library. There are multiple Plex clients for smartphones/tablets/computers/TV's and some set top boxes which all connect to the central Plex server.

The best Plex client is the computer version but you can get by with the set top box versions too if willing to forgo the extras in movies.
 

luthierwnc

Standard Member
I should have mentioned I have an ATV3. It won't play extras -- just the feature. That's why this whole quest started (not by me ;) ). If there is a way to get it to play from movies loaded on computers or storage in the household network, I haven't found it. I've got a QNAP TS-119p II and a Seagate Backup Plus that can either be linked together using USB, SATA or kept separate. With only about 400 GB in movies now, I've got 4.5T of unused storage capability.

I keep coming back to a Mac Mini. It should speak the same language as the MPEG-4 DRM content and will handle other formats too. They can be had for $250 to $350 with enough power and processing speed to do the job. 2010 seems to be the sweet spot between technology and depreciation. No matter how I figure it, I need a new gizmo in the mix. An inexpensive netbook would probably do as well but it would cost as much as a used Mac Mini. Whatever I get, I'd like it to be the last piece I need for a little while.

Attached is a diagram on how I see this unfolding in my head. The parts are setup according to the rooms they will be in (except the iPad and phones). Ethernet cables are mostly there because they are already in place and the speeds are a bit better without having to go through brick walls.

Thanks for looking and I appreciate your input, sh
 

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ItchyTichy

Standard Member
Hi,

I agree with the above post about Plex. I run a Synology DS412+ with Plex to PS3 (DLNA) and various apple devices with the plex client app. The problem that you have with the M4V files is not really Apple based. After all, its just a standards based MP4 file with the copy protection functionality of that container being utilized in a similar way that BDs do - the video (AVC) and audio (AAC) files share the same core structure as the itunes files. I know that you used to be able to remove Fairplay with a mac and software like requiem -I'm not if that is still around though - A mac with early system software will help you.

I would learn how to create standards based MP4 files and move in that direction in the future using Megui, Ripbot, or handbreak etc... The ARM SOC in your NAS won't run the full fat Plex server: you need an intel x86 SOC for that. A couple of members of the Plex forum that are coders, have created an ARM version that is unofficially being helped out by elan and the guys at Plex (I think). I bought my parents a QNAP TS210 & PS3 quite a few years ago, and that plays 1080p high bit rate files smoothly using the Twonky software via DLNA to a PS3. I tried loading the ARM Plex package on to the Qnap recently and it nuked it. (100% just from loading the software) The 210 is only 1.2 ghz and an earlier SOC, so yours might be ok.

You have a lot of Kit. Most of the cabled stuff should play High profile 720/1080p AVC MP4 files. Don't try and send the same files over a wireless network to tablets and phones though - the SOCs won't support it and the wireless network will choke. Main profile 576p files will be more than enough to tablets etc
 

luthierwnc

Standard Member
Thanks gents,

We have a mixed household. I come from a PC background since it is industry standard in my business. My wife has a combination of both PC and Mac. I don't have any philosophical problems with using itunes downloads -- I just want to be sure I can. If the NAS is in the network and the media player can get to it, I'd like to know that it can play the content.

Back to the Mini's, it probably makes sense to get one with an HDMI port rather than having to run separate video and audio through a DVI-HDMI conversion. Good quality wires to do that cost about the same as the difference between the models. With way more Terabytes than I need already, the only other issue is the processor speed and RAM. OTOH, if there is a little PC block that will do this, I'd like to at least look into it.

sh
 

ItchyTichy

Standard Member
Hi,

Just to let you know, I have a Itunes file that I bought - had a missing West Wing episode - and plex won't play it. Quite a few people over on the plex forums chose Mac Minis as servers: Plex is a forked version of XBMC that started life on the Mac platform.

You could run a mini with itunes and plex together? I guess that would cover you. Plex has a good FAQ on transcoding questions and whatnot.

FAQ: Plex Media Server and NAS - Plex

good luck anyway.
 

luthierwnc

Standard Member
With as much as I'd need out of a mini, I should probably consider PC options too. The clock speed and processor required put the minis towards their most current models, which, from some accounts, is a lot to spend for what you get. I really don't care how big it is but being quiet would help. The mini has some appeal but if I just need a standalone PC, may as well check that out too. I'll circle back to the HTPC section and do some more sniffing. sh
 

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