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PlexConnect is worth the effort with Apple TV

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by Mr. Zarniwoop, Sep 21, 2013.

  1. macrumors demi-god

    Mr. Zarniwoop

    I thought it might be helpful to share my experience around Plex and Apple TV. For the last few weeks, I've been slowly moving to Plex becoming my only media manager. The final push was once I installed PlexConnect to make it work with my Apple TVs. It's simply fantastic.

    You need a system to act as a Plex Media Server (PMS), which can be a PC, Linux box, Mac, or even a NAS. It needs to have access to your media, in almost any format (MKV/AVI/other files in a file system), including iTunes, iPhoto or Aperture libraries. The PMS indexes and tags all of the metadata automatically, using common Internet repositories of media information. The PMS serves various Plex clients, transcoding if the client cannot handle the native format that is stored.

    iOS and Android devices can then play media from the Plex Media Server using the Plex ($5) client, including offline sync if you pay for PlexPass ($4/month, $30/year, or $75 lifetime). Or, you can play media from a web browser using Plex/Web, including remote access to your media over the Internet when away from home. Or, you can play media from DNLA clients, Google TV, 2011+ LG TVs, Roku set top boxes, or Samsung devices. Or, you can play media from a Windows or Linux PC or a Mac using Plex Home Theater (formerly Plex Media Center). Or, you can play media from an Apple TV using PlexConnect. And yes, it works fine with the new Apple TV Software Update 6.0 (iOS 7.0 build 11A470e) on both the 2nd and 3rd generation Apple TVs.

    Other than the paid mobile (iOS/Android) clients and PlexPass for offline sync with those clients, the rest of the software is free. It's all more hoops-jumping than buying all your media from the iTunes Store and only using Apple devices, but especially PlexConnect is so shockingly good it feels like Apple delivered it. The way it works, PlexConnect runs on a Windows PC or Mac and it runs a little proxy DNS and web server for the Apple TV that "hijacks" the Apple TV Trailers app. There are two things that need to be changed on the Apple TV: (1) the DNS is changed to manually point to the PlexConnect DNS proxy PC/Mac's IP address, and (2) a new trailers.apple.com SSL certificate for your PlexConnect box is added to the Apple TV using the Apple iPhone Configuration tool which is a one-time configuration via the Apple TV's USB port. Then, you just go into the Trailers app on your Apple TV and you are browsing Plex using Plex categories and options in a native Apple TV interface. No jailbreaking is involved. It's so much the Apple experience that PlexConnect can even play purchased iTunes DRMS-protected files if your Apple TV is logged into the proper iTunes account since it's playing the file natively using the native media player on an Apple TV!

    It's far less hassle and simpler than XBMC all around, which Plex grew out of, as I did wrestle with XBMC for quite a while before giving up: toying with a hacked Apple TV 1st generation, a jailbroken Apple TV 2nd generation, a Windows 7 HTPC and a Mac. It's broader support than jailbreaking a 2nd generation Apple TV, which is limited to specific older iOS versions. It's more flexible with file formats and a simpler server than turing a PC or Mac into an iTunes box.

    For those interested, here are the install guides for PlexConnect. Once I had my PMS set up, PlexConnect took under 20 minutes to get running start-to-finish on my two Apple TVs.
  2. macrumors member

    Thanks, dude - useful writeup :)
  3. macrumors demi-god


    Thank you, fredsherbet, for resurrecting this thread that I missed, and thanks, Mr. Zarniwoop for the info! I've been reading about the PlexConnect setup and found it intriguing. I've been using Plex for a few years, with my Plex Server and Plex Home Theater running on a Mac mini connected via HDMI to my HDTV, and with an audio cable to my stereo receiver. I've toyed with the idea of getting an Apple TV, but couldn't really figure out what I'd do with it, and I don't think it will support my audio setup. I'm still on the fence, but being able to run my Plex library on the Apple TV without jailbreaking is a definite plus.
  4. macrumors newbie

    ATv3 does have an optical audio port as well as HDMI. Using plexconnect it can be a way to pull together a more complete htpc solution. Currently I use 2-atv3's wirelessly to provide movies and music to both the main av system in the living room (its connected to a receiver via hdmi where I utilize a harmony remote to control everything, ie hit the movies button and you are there) and in the bedroom. Everything is served up via the iMac in the office running PMS and Plexconnect. All the movies (over 500 and counting) are located on an attached Drobo via TB.
  5. macrumors regular

    If anyone has a large collection of TV shows the "On Deck" feature of Plex makes the stock ATV interface look like it came out of the stone age. Heck, the ATV1 interface for TV shows was way better then the current stock ATV interface.

    Also, if you install OpenPlex on your Plex Server you can install themes that are incredible. I've said it in this forum several times - I've gone from waiting for an ATV update for a better interface to fearing the next update could screw up what I have.
  6. macrumors demi-god


    That might work with some sort of adapter, as my stereo receiver is much older and doesn't have an optical audio input.
    That's another question I have. Will the interface change if I use PlexConnect and the ATV, from what it is now using Plex Home Theater directly from the Mac mini? I know I would select the Apple Trailers section on the ATV, but once I do that, what will the interface look like?
  7. macrumors regular

    If you install OpenConnect you can install around 4-5 skins. I picked one (can't remember which one) that blows me away. I really like it. I hear another upgrade allows for another one that people are chattering about.
  8. macrumors demi-god


    I'm not so interested in fancy skins as I am in maintaining the functional interface that Plex Home Theater delivers, being able to scroll through movie posters to find a movie, selecting one and getting the plot, actors, running time, etc., then starting the movie, having subtitles and being able to pause, rewind, fast forward, skip chapters, etc.
  9. macrumors 6502a


    PlexConnect is amazing for my home. I have it setup at my home in 3 separate rooms and it works amazing! iTunes doesn't work as good as this! I deft. recommend it. You don't loose anything and the quality is amazing if you have 1080p movies with DTS
  10. macrumors regular

    I have Plex on my Roku - I wish Apple TV offered it as a native app. It is that good. Way better than the iTunes interface.
  11. macrumors 6502a

    What if I actually enjoy the Trailers app on Apple TV? Anyway to have PlexConnect AND the Trailers functionality?
  12. macrumors regular

    You can use other ATV "apps" besides the trailers app if you install OpenConnect (which I recommend). You can also install channels on your Plex server. One channel is Apple Trailers so you have a click or two more to get to them but they are there.
  13. macrumors demi-god


    I hope this isn't too off-topic, but I'd like some help that involves Apple TV and PlexConnect. I’m looking for an alternative to my current home theater setup. Here’s how it looks now:

    • Mac mini connected to HDTV via HDMI, and via audio cable to stereo receiver.
    • Video goes to the TV and audio goes to my stereo system, which has better speakers than the TV’s built-in speakers.
    • I run Plex Home Theater and Plex Server on the Mac mini, with my video library on an external drive connected to the Mac mini via Firewire 800.
    • I control Plex using the Plex iOS app, from iPhones and iPad.
    The setup works well, since the Mac is in the same room as the TV, but I need a computer in another room. My initial thought was to buy another MBP for use in the other room, and just use the mini as just a media server. Then I started exploring the use of PlexConnect and an Apple TV. So here’s a possible alternative scenario:
    • Move Mac mini to another room.
    • Buy AirPort Extreme and connect external drive with library via USB 2.0
    • Buy Apple TV and set up PlexConnect
    • Run Plex Server on the Mac mini, with the library accessed via Wi-Fi from the drive attached to AirPort Extreme
    • Use a digital to analog audio converter to connect Apple TV to stereo, so audio goes to stereo speakers instead of TV.
    Here are my questions:
    • Have I missed anything? Will this setup work?
    • How much will Wi-Fi bandwidth be affected by having the media library on drive attached to AirPort Extreme? Will it cause lag in video/audio? Will it significantly affect simultaneous web access or large file transfers?
    • Will I be able to seamlessly switch from using Plex to show movies on the Apple TV to accessing it from iPhones/iPads to display other audio/video from those devices?
    • Will I still be able to use iPhones/iPads to control Plex playback?
  14. macrumors regular

    I tried installing plexconnect using the imovie theater app which seemed a little more fitting plus I never use it. Did not use openconnect. There are some simple modifications to the default install that enable it. What I came to discover is that this setup does not play iTunes DRM purchased through plexconnect. Only the trailers app will do it. I'm not smart enough to know why but that's the way it is. So I went back to the trailers app. I've encoded all movies (from DVD and blu-ray) to be ATV compatible so I can still do everything through the usual ATV "computer" app but the plex connect interface certainly is nicer plus I can watch the daily show through the plex channels which is great since I ditched satellite/cable.
  15. schlotz, Jun 20, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2014

    macrumors newbie

    I would start a bit simpler. Move the mac mini to the other room and keep the external hard drive hooked to it. Run PMS and Plexconnect on the mac mini.
    Purchase an aTV-3 and connect it to your living room AV system. Setup the aTV to run wirelessly on the same network as your mac-mini. Of course I'm assuming you already have a wireless router, if not then AirPort Extreme it is. In either case make sure this works and is stable FIRST. Afterwards attempt the re-configuration as you mentioned with drive directly connected to the AirPort. JMTC :) ..as bandwidth may or may not be a problem. Apple TV now would control all plex play stuff with its very simplified remote. Obviously that leaves out your tv and stereo. What I do is use a programmable Harmony remote which controls it all. Not aware if there is an app for iOS that controls the aTV or not but it seems to me you will need something that controls aTV, stereo & your TV.
  16. macrumors 6502a

    I use PlexConnect with the iMovie app and it plays all my purchased iTunes drm'd content fine.

    Depending weather or not the item you tried to play was a TV Show or Movie go to that store section on the aTV and find it in the purchased section and start it playing once just to authorize it (you only need to play it a couple of seconds), then see if PlexConnect will play it.
  17. macrumors regular

    Hmm. I will definitely try that. Thanks.
  18. macrumors 6502a


    When you open a movie on plexconnect the trailer is available for that movie! I use it and its super awesome!!!!!:apple:
  19. macrumors regular

    Got it working with iMovie app. Thanks!
  20. macrumors 6502a

    Are you still able to watch the Daily Show through Plex? If so, what is the name of th Plex channel for it. I can't find a Daily Show or Comedy Central channel in Plex. . .
  21. macrumors regular

    Yes. It's just called "The Daily Show".
  22. macrumors 601


    Are you able to access content like CBS or Fox thru this Plex Connect method?
  23. macrumors 6502a


  24. macrumors 6502a

    Odd. I scanned through "all available channels" and couldn't find it. Is there a way to search all available channels?

    The only reason I'd set this up is for daily show. If that is not available at the moment I won't bother.
  25. macrumors 601



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