Plex - Freeview HD IPtv with HDHomeRun and 4K HDR Media Playback with Apple TV 4K

Discussion in 'Freeview & YouView' started by Rob.Screene, Apr 30, 2018.


    1. Rob.Screene

      Rob.Screene
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      I thought I would share my whole house networked Freeview HD recorder experience, to replace a now dead Windows Media Center with two Freesat HD tuners.

      So far, I can't believe how well this new wave of hardware tuners and software works, even with 4K and HDR.

      My goal is a whole house HD subscription-free PVR replacement for Sky HD. I guess a bit like Sky Q.

      HDHomeRun
      I bought a £150 HDHomeRun CONNECT QUATRO: HDHR5-4DT(UK)

      This is a small box that simply has a Freeview HD aerial and power go in and a cat Network cable come out. It can record 4 things at once. It also seems a really strong tuner and can go upstairs near the loft to keep the high quality double-shielded sat coax run short, as it does not need to go anywhere near a TV. I get no Freeview breakups unlike what we occasionally do see downstairs on our 2017 Sony 4K TV tuner.

      There is a free HDHomeRun iOS app that can play back TV. This can do live pause, but requires a subscription for DVR features and I suspect doesn't work well for set and forget recording. It is also prone to crashing on my iPhone and iPad.

      Plex with Plex Pass Live DVR
      I also setup a Windows PC running the free Plex Media Server software on it, with a few large hard disks in it for storage.

      The HDHomeRun is listed as supported within Plex's new Live DVR feature.

      This requires a Plex Pass subscription, which is about £4 pcm or a one-off lifetime £95. This includes a 2-week EPG that covers Freeview HD and was relatively easy to configure including entering my first 3 characters of my postcode.

      Playback from Plex
      I installed the free Plex client Android app on our 2017 Sony TV.
      I installed the free Plex client tvOS app on an Apple TV 4K.
      I installed the free Plex client iOS app on an iPad and an iPhone.

      All the clients let you see the Recording Schedule and Program Guide, which provides season pass type recording, I've had it recording pretty much non-stop all day long for a week, sometimes using up the 4 tuners.

      I can be accessed by any wi-fi or networked player at home, and the pc web desktop app can log in remotely via the internet (although I have not opened the twin firewalls I run, so I don't think it will stream very well over the internet, but I use it only so see and set program guide recordings).

      It organises recordings in to Shows and Seasons and downloads show covers automatically very well.

      Apple TV 4K - Free Plex app v.s. Infuse app
      One issue I noted was that Freeview HD recordings (like yesterday's Grand Prix on Channel 4 HD) would either break up and drop out every few seconds and the de-interlacing looked wrong. I initially thought it was recording break-ups, but no, from what I read the Plex client doesn't yet support the decoding power available on the Apple TV 4K.

      There is an option to Play the Original or Automatically Convert (transcode) which solved the break-ups but still looked a little wrong and also hit 100% CPU on the Intel i7 media server. I noted an option on Plex server to use Hardware Transcoding, which dropped cpu to about 40% or less when playing HD, but it still didn't look right for 1080i played on the Apple TV at 4K 4K/50 fps on a JVC projector. I don't like the idea of transcoding as there is usually going to be a loss of quality if it has to re-encode a recording to play it back.

      I then tried a free tvOS and iOS app called Infuse.

      This has an option to connected to the Plex Server and works as a much better Apple TV client, as somehow Plex can play to that using Direct Play, so not transcoding anything and using about 1% CPU, plus using the Apple TV 4K to do the deinterlacing that looked good for 1080i material.

      Since the several Freesat HD recordings I have use 2-channel audio, the free version of Infuse is sufficient for smooth playback on to the Apple TV 4K.

      Infuse can also play 4K HDR material and Dolby/DTS sountracks, but requires a £44 one-off PRO license once the weeks trial has ended.

      4K blu-ray HDR streaming
      To my surprise, I had also backed up a few of my 4K blu-rays in to MKV files and added those to a Plex Movie library and Infuse (PRO) played those using Direct Play too.

      They played at 4K HDR, 24fps, turned the projector automatically on to HDR mode and with Dolby 7.1 sound (the Atmos soundtrack although included was not available). They looked indistinguishable to playing the original disks, I tried Dunkirk, Passengers and Planet Earth 2.

      With chapter skip buttons working.

      This was way better than my tests using my Panasonic UB700 and Sony X800 4K blu-ray players could do off of a USB drive. The Panasonic is has silent sound until I select the non-atmos lossy secondary soundtrack, the Sony is silent and won't allow soundtrack selection off USB WKV files and neither support chapter skip.

      I should probably note that the Apple TV 4K and the Plex Media PC are connected via a Gigabit (1000mbps) wired network. I think I had also edited a file behind the Plex Server tsOS.xml text file to add H265 directplay support for the Apple TV (ref: Streaming 4K (2160p) MKV/H.265 from Synology Plex server to ATV 4K Plex client)

      Apple have said Atmos support is on the Apple TV 4K roadmap, but it is not here yet for Netflix, Amazon, Plex or Infuse. If it arrives then great, but for now using 7.1 and letting the Dolby surround Atmos upmixer do the work is worth the convenience of having all this media on tap.

      Rob.
       
      Last edited: Apr 30, 2018
    2. Rob.Screene

      Rob.Screene
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      Here's some screenshots from the web client (Apple and Sony TV Plex clients look nicer and are in 4K)

      Plex Live TV Films - 1080 HD Freeview Get Info.png Plex Live TV Program Guide - Filtered to BBC1HD.png Plex Live TV Program Guide - Record Advanced Options.png Plex Live TV Recorded TV - Automatically filed in to Series.png Plex Live TV Recorded TV - On Deck and Recently Added.png Plex Live TV Recorded TV - Shows.png Plex Live TV Recording Schedule - Recording.png Plex Live TV Recording Schedule.png
       
    3. Rob.Screene

      Rob.Screene
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      And some 4K HDR items:
      4H HDR Dunkirk.png 4H HDR Dunkirk Get Info.png 4H HDR Passengers.png 4H HDR Passengers Get Info.png
       
    4. lfletcher

      lfletcher
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    5. Jeek

      Jeek
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      Oooh this sounds ideal for me.

      We've got Sky Q and love the experience and hardware, but not the cost given that we don't watch that much of the content (and have Netflix and Prime too).

      We're now moving out of our house whilst we build an extension. We're moving into rented for 6 months (with no dish) so I will cancel our Sky Q subscription, and was looking at a short term PVR replacement. Given that the above sounds cheaper than a decent Humax PVR, it might be just what I'm looking for and could end up being a solution even after we move back.

      When we're back in the extended house I'll want TV into at least 4 rooms so this sounds good.

      Would this solution work on a NAS instead of a Windows PC? I had a Windows PC for server responsibilities until recently when it blew up (thank god I had everything important on dropbox!)

      Alternatively I could try to resuscitate/fix the PC, but I'd rather have a NAS for always-on responsibilities, and to store our own pics and videos.

      I like the idea of the HDHomeRun being stand-alone and not using up a USB port on a PC or NAS.
       
    6. Rob.Screene

      Rob.Screene
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      I noted that the windows pc was often on for seemingly no reason and missed a few recordings. Although i did go nuts setting season passes.

      I bought a Synology 218+ NAS (£315) and put an old spare 2TB hard disk in to it.

      This has an Intel celeron chip in it that can do hw transcoding and is only a 10 watt cpu. Its pretty much silent under my desk. I got the latest 64-bit version of plex media server and because I have a Plex Pass it allowed hardware transcoding provided by that Intel chip.

      I don’t think it is up to 4K HDR playback, although I didn’t copy up any 4K media on it to properly test that as I suspect playback might cause recording breakups.

      Perfect for a whole house Freeview HD PVR.

      Also the plex client on my 4K Sony TV played back last weekends HD geand prix highlights perfectly. I noted the video was DirrctPlay, with the synology transcoding the audio behind the scenes.

      Deinteracling the 1080i video on the Sony looked perfect to me within the free Plex client. Perhaps ecen better that the Apple TV 4K, although its hard to compare a 49 inch screen to a 100 inch one.
       
      Last edited: May 19, 2018
    7. Jeek

      Jeek
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      Sounds good. How do you get on with Plex as a client? I guess it's great for on-demand, but I notice that it doesn't have a grid view for live TV (I guess due to the royalties they'd have to pay Rovi).
      Also, any issues with client devices I should be aware of? Ideally i'd like to use fairly cheap devices like FireTV Stick for some rooms.

      Thanks
       
    8. Rob.Screene

      Rob.Screene
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      I use it on a Sony 2017 android tv, Fire TV 4K and Apple TV 4K.

      I think i tried the Plex app on a Firetv stick and it was noticeably sluggish compared to the above.
       
      Last edited: May 27, 2018
    9. Talgo

      Talgo
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      Have you been able to get Atmos working in ios12 ?
       
    10. Rob.Screene

      Rob.Screene
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      I generally don’t try beta OS. Last I read beta 3 hadn’t added anything useful. Any news from the Infuse team?
       
    11. plexwasps

      plexwasps
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      thanks for this post rob. I am running a plex server and looking to use the atv and the Sony TV I have cant cope with playing 4k. I am the same as I have it all wires to a gigabit switch.
      what's the playback like on the apple tv when playing back 4k?/
       
    12. Rob.Screene

      Rob.Screene
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      Infuse playback is perfect for 4K HDR disc rips, except limited to the 7.1 channels, no Atmos available.

      Chapters and HDR work just like the original disc does.
       

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