Best local streaming combo?

stiligFox

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This has been beaten to death, I’m sure, but searching online has provided an overwhelming amount of results and opinions.

I’m looking to stream 1080p content from my Mac mini server to my Apple TV with as little bloatware and fluff as possible. I see three options in general; Plex, VLC, or Infuse.

Is there a best way to do this? All I want to see on the TV is my content, and mine alone - no online suggestions or free channels or extra stuff. Ideally nothing to sign into, just a pure experience of - here’s what’s on your server, what would you like to play?

On the server side, I see a lot of people use Plex server. Is this the better way, or can VLC act as the server side library management software? Or is there a better option?

On the Apple TV side, I’m less concerned. I personally like VLC, but would probably also try Infuse or Plex. Any other recommendations?

My biggest thing is - I want a clean neat library of only my content, much the way the old Videos app used to be on iOS, before the new AppleTV app started with all its “for you” suggestions. But once I start the server side library with whatever app I choose, I don’t want to start over later - so I want to pick a good one from the beginning!

Thank you all!
 

BODYBUILDERPAUL

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Have you tried the standard Apple HomeSharing? You simply go into the orange computers app on your Apple TV. Try it and see if it works for you! It should.
Failing that Infuse seems to get the most positive vibes on this site.

Most important is a 100% reliable WiFi/Ethernet stream between your Mac to router to Apple TV. If you are using WiFi then go the 5Ghz route :)
 

stiligFox

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Have you tried the standard Apple HomeSharing? You simply go into the orange computers app on your Apple TV. Try it and see if it works for you! It should.
Failing that Infuse seems to get the most positive vibes on this site.

Most important is a 100% reliable WiFi/Ethernet stream between your Mac to router to Apple TV. If you are using WiFi then go the 5Ghz route :)
Thanks! My whole house minus a couple devices are wired to Ethernet, so I’m all good to go there...

As far as using iTunes - most of my media is going to be in .mkv and I sadly won’t have the time for a few months to sit down with handbrake and convert everything.

Thanks for the advice!
 
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BODYBUILDERPAUL

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Thanks! My whole house minus a couple devices are wired to Ethernet, so I’m all good to go there...

As far as using iTunes - most of my media is going to be in .mkv and I sadly won’t have the time for a few months to sit down with handbrake and convert everything.

Thanks for the advice!
No problem then INFUSE it is! Their customer service is exceptional too.

I hope that you have lots of good fun :)
 
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Rigby

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My suggestion would also be Infuse, because it doesn't require server software or an online account like Plex does. As long as your files follow some naming conventions, it'll scrape the metadata and build a library for you mostly automatically if you want that (you can also simply browse local shares by file name if you prefer). I've been using it for a couple of years now and am quite happy with the simplicity. It has so far played everything I've thrown at it.
 

stiligFox

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My suggestion would also be Infuse, because it doesn't require server software or an online account like Plex does. As long as your files follow some naming conventions, it'll scrape the metadata and build a library for you mostly automatically if you want that (you can also simply browse local shares by file name if you prefer). I've been using it for a couple of years now and am quite happy with the simplicity. It has so far played everything I've thrown at it.
Thanks! I like the sound of not needing software server side.
Cheers!
 

Rigby

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Thanks! I like the sound of not needing software server side.
Cheers!
Yep.

If I ever were to consider using a media server, I'd choose an open source solution to avoid being tied to a company. Most likely either good old Kodi or Jellyfin (which can actually be used with Infuse via DLNA). But so far I'm perfectly happy with Infuse's client-side library.
 

priitv8

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As far as using iTunes - most of my media is going to be in .mkv and I sadly won’t have the time for a few months to sit down with handbrake and convert everything.
Why do you think you would need to convert everything?
If the streams inside your MKVs are AVC, HEVC, AAC, AC3 or EAC3, you do not need to convert.

Otherwise, Plex backend and Infuse frontend works best for me, as native Plex client on tvOS is not the most intuitive app and does not follow Apple's UI guidelines.
The new rewritten version was only available to PlexPass buyers, last time I checked.
 

KBJ55

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Another vote for Infuse, it's clean, simple to use and it will play ripped UHD discs when in BDMV file format. Pretty sure it will also play ISO files as well.
 

Rigby

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Why do you think you would need to convert everything?
If the streams inside your MKVs are AVC, HEVC, AAC, AC3 or EAC3, you do not need to convert.
What tool do you use to remux iTunes-compatible MP4 files with EAC3 tracks? Last I checked ffmeg did not support that. Another common problem are subtitles, particularly if you rip your Blu-rays or DVDs, since MP4 can only contain text-based subtitles.
 

stiligFox

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Why do you think you would need to convert everything?
If the streams inside your MKVs are AVC, HEVC, AAC, AC3 or EAC3, you do not need to convert.

Otherwise, Plex backend and Infuse frontend works best for me, as native Plex client on tvOS is not the most intuitive app and does not follow Apple's UI guidelines.
The new rewritten version was only available to PlexPass buyers, last time I checked.
Well, whenever I try to convert a blu-ray ripped MKV to something that is iPhone/Mac native, it usually tells me it’s a long conversion. Also my file size goes from 35GB to a more iTunes-Store-like 5GB for a movie.

My biggest issue really is subtitles. Converting from blu-ray optical subtitles to text based is a royal pain if I do it myself; I use an OCR program and manually proofread every line. I’ve done it for one Star Wars movie so far.

Not looking forward to doing it to over 700 episodes of various Star Trek shows....

Hence why I’m thinking of just leaving everything in MKV format the way it comes off my discs and just deal with the storage issue when it comes up.


If I could just figure out how to use handbrake to convert my MKV rips to iTunes Store quality video, and an easy way to add the subtitles without having to edit hundreds of hours of scripts, I’d do that, honestly. But right that’s an overwhelming undertaking!
 

BODYBUILDERPAUL

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Well, whenever I try to convert a blu-ray ripped MKV to something that is iPhone/Mac native, it usually tells me it’s a long conversion. Also my file size goes from 35GB to a more iTunes-Store-like 5GB for a movie.

My biggest issue really is subtitles. Converting from blu-ray optical subtitles to text based is a royal pain if I do it myself; I use an OCR program and manually proofread every line. I’ve done it for one Star Wars movie so far.

Not looking forward to doing it to over 700 episodes of various Star Trek shows....

Hence why I’m thinking of just leaving everything in MKV format the way it comes off my discs and just deal with the storage issue when it comes up.


If I could just figure out how to use handbrake to convert my MKV rips to iTunes Store quality video, and an easy way to add the subtitles without having to edit hundreds of hours of scripts, I’d do that, honestly. But right that’s an overwhelming undertaking!
Oh my Gosh!!!
Now i'm really grateful that I decided not to rip discs and just buy from iTunes and Vimeo!

PS Subler works well for subtitle .srt files.

Whilst talking about subtitles, the Apple approach is the most beautiful, graphic design approach that i've ever come across on the Apple TV, iPhone & Mac - the tasteful & modern typeface with a 30% black gradient (WOB) looks beautiful :)
 

priitv8

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What tool do you use to remux iTunes-compatible MP4 files with EAC3 tracks? Last I checked ffmeg did not support that. Another common problem are subtitles, particularly if you rip your Blu-rays or DVDs, since MP4 can only contain text-based subtitles.
I use Subler. Does wonders, for free.
That also includes OCR engine to convert bitmapped subtitles into text-based.
Only thing missing is E-AC-3 encoder but that seems not to be public domain anyway.
If your source contains E-AC-3 then it will be passed through. If it happens to be Atmos track, also track metadata will be set, so tvOS knows to play it back in MAT just as iTunes movies.
@stiligFox - handbrake is really the last thing to do because it always transcodes and can not just remux the content, like Subler does.
I only use it for sources that are not AVC or HEVC, ie mostly DVDs, satellite recordings and VC1 bluray rips. Or VP9.x from YouTube.
Majority of blurays are in AVC and all UHD blurays are in HEVC so do not need reencoding of video. Audio is another story but goes fast.
 
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Rigby

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That also includes OCR engine to convert bitmapped subtitles into text-based.
Yeah, I used to do that as well, but it's a pain since you still need to proof read and correct the OCR results unless you want tons of errors. Now with apps like Infuse available I don't see a good reason not to use MKV containers, which support pretty much every format under the sun and are easy to handle thanks to MKVToolnix. :)
 
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stiligFox

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I use Subler. Does wonders, for free.
That also includes OCR engine to convert bitmapped subtitles into text-based.
Only thing missing is E-AC-3 encoder but that seems not to be public domain anyway.
If your source contains E-AC-3 then it will be passed through. If it happens to be Atmos track, also track metadata will be set, so tvOS knows to play it back in MAT just as iTunes movies.
@stiligFox - handbrake is really the last thing to do because it always transcodes and can not just remux the content, like Subler does.
I only use it for sources that are not AVC or HEVC, ie mostly DVDs, satellite recordings and VC1 bluray rips. Or VP9.x from YouTube.
Majority of blurays are in AVC and all UHD blurays are in HEVC so do not need reencoding of video. Audio is another story but goes fast.
This may be a silly question, but how will I know which type of Blu Ray I have? I have a complete set of famous Sci-fi-space-opera-now-owned-by-a-mouse movies, all of which I’ve ripped with MakeMKV. Would I need to use handbrake to convert them to Apple format? Or subler? (Or something else yet!)

Thank you for all your help!
- - Post merged: - -

Yeah, I used to do that as well, but it's a pain since you still need to proof read and correct the OCR results unless you want tons of errors. Now with apps like Infuse available I don't see a good reason not to use MKV containers, which support pretty much every format under the sun and are easy to handle thanks to MKVToolnix. :)
I had the same problem! Took me about thirty minutes to proof read one movie, to edit the English and Alien subtitle tracks. Can’t imagine doing that for 700 TV episodes...!

The problem I ran into was that the OCR can’t handle italicization, so R2-D2 saying “sad bloop” became translated as “sad b/00p” which was annoying!
 
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Rigby

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This may be a silly question, but how will I know which type of Blu Ray I have?
There is a handy open source tool called Mediainfo that gives detailed information about the streams of media files (including MKV and MP4 containers). You can get it from the Mac app store or the official home page.
I have a complete set of famous Sci-fi-space-opera-now-owned-by-a-mouse movies, all of which I’ve ripped with MakeMKV. Would I need to use handbrake to convert them to Apple format? Or subler? (Or something else yet!)
The video is most likely AVC (so won't need conversion), but the audio tracks will probably have to be re-encoded to AC3 if you want an iTunes compatible MP4 container (unless there is a TrueHD track with AC3 "core" on the disk and you have ripped it to the MKV file).
 
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nutmac

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Thanks! My whole house minus a couple devices are wired to Ethernet, so I’m all good to go there...

As far as using iTunes - most of my media is going to be in .mkv and I sadly won’t have the time for a few months to sit down with handbrake and convert everything.

Thanks for the advice!
I don't know how big your collection is, but I use iFlicks for batch conversion, which also has other niceties like artwork retrieval, meta data lookup, and subtitle. The app is spendy at $35 or subscription model ($0.99/month to $2.49/month, depending on the feature set you require). But it has 7-day free trial.
 

HDFan

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Well, whenever I try to convert a blu-ray ripped MKV to something that is iPhone/Mac native,
Why do you think you would need to convert everything?
Again, why convert? Both Plex and Infuse will play native MKVs on iPhone and Mac.

I’m looking to stream 1080p content from my Mac mini server to my Apple TV with as little bloatware and fluff as possible. I see three options in general; Plex, VLC, or Infuse.
I like the sound of not needing software server side.
An advantage of a server is if transcoding is required (4k to 1080p, for example), you can take advantage of the additional horsepower on the server. Client dependent. I have difficulties playing 4K MKVs on an 1080p TV on the Apple TV with Infuse, whereas Plex generally seems OK since the transcoding occurs on a server. Haven't fully diagnosed at this point though.

Another vote for Infuse, it's clean, simple to use and it will play ripped UHD discs
I use both Infuse and Plex. Both have their place. Infuse is great for DTS-MA soundtracks and for simpler libraries, single servers. If you have multiple servers and multiple libraries Infuse becomes difficult to use.

For example, I have different categories of .mkv rips in different folders - Movies, Concerts, Musicals, Opera, etc. I also have 3 media locations (1 mac, 2 NAS drives), each of which has all of these categories. Setting this up in infuse requires setting up 4 x 3 libraries on the Apple TV. Unwieldily. Plex makes it very easy to quickly change servers and libraries.

Plex is has a ton of display and search capabilities. Here are just a couple:

Screen Shot 2020-01-30 at 8.32.50 PM.png

Screen Shot 2020-01-30 at 8.33.32 PM.png

Infuse also useless generic covers for their Movie thumbnails:

IMG_0418.jpg

You can't tell whether the movie is a DVD, Blu0-Ray, or 4K.

Plex does the same thing, but I can edit the covers that are shown so I know what the disk cover is in my library and I know the resolution of the movie from the cover:

Screen Shot 2020-01-30 at 8.57.11 PM.png


I use Infuse for smaller libraries and when I want DTS-MA. When a library moves into the 1000's in size (one of my libraries has ~4000 videos) I use Plex because of it's superior (but more complex) interface.

Infuse support is great, Plex support is only via forums. They also make interface changes without considering the consequences. A recent change to the Plex Mac and IOS apps made the management of multiple servers much more difficult.
 

Rigby

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An advantage of a server is if transcoding is required (4k to 1080p, for example), you can take advantage of the additional horsepower on the server. Client dependent.
Yeah, that really depends. Hardware-assisted transcoding on an ATV can actually be better than software-transcoding on a server, depending on what hardware it has. I found the quality of Plex's real-time transcodes at higher bitrates always a bit iffy in terms of video quality.
For example, I have different categories of .mkv rips in different folders - Movies, Concerts, Musicals, Opera, etc. I also have 3 media locations (1 mac, 2 NAS drives), each of which has all of these categories. Setting this up in infuse requires setting up 4 x 3 libraries on the Apple TV.
Hm? It builds a single library across multiple network shares without problem. And if you activate iCloud syncing it will sync the metadata across multiple ATVs.
 

HDFan

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Hardware-assisted transcoding on an ATV can actually be better than software-transcoding on a server, depending on what hardware it has. I found the quality of Plex's real-time transcodes at higher bitrates always a bit iffy in terms of video quality.
Good point. Since I have plenty of server resources don't ever see that.

Hm? It builds a single library across multiple network shares without problem. And if you activate iCloud syncing it will sync the metadata across multiple ATVs.
Was not aware that "Library" included all shares. But it is chaos, all types and servers jammed in together with no way to distinguish which server or which media type. Scrolling through a thousand entries to find something isn't particularly fun. To change sort order, from title to recently added, you have to go all of the way out into settings.

Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 10.46.46 PM.png

In Plex the server selection

Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 10.54.50 PM.png

list, and sort options are right there on the same page. [Server selection is not as easy in IOS or MacOS unfortunately.]

Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 11.19.53 PM.png

You can quickly go to the movies on a a specific server whose title starts with "M", or quickly change the sort order by date added, etc., all on the same page:

Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 11.27.12 PM.png
 

Rigby

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Was not aware that "Library" included all shares. But it is chaos, all types and servers jammed in together with no way to distinguish which server or which media type.
Why would you want to know what server the content comes from? Isn't the whole point of the library to have a unified presentation of all content? And what do you mean by "media type"? Infuse or course separates movies and TV shows. If for some reason Infuse doesn't recognize the file and your metadata isn't correct (usually because the file naming doesn't follow the usual conventions), it might throw the files into the "other" section, but that's easy to fix by either renaming the file or editing the metadata within Infuse.
Scrolling through a thousand entries to find something isn't particularly fun.
You can usually use the "quick scroll" mode by swiping the right edge of the remote's touchpad.
To change sort order, from title to recently added, you have to go all of the way out into settings.
If you select Library/Movies, there's a menu that offers "all movies", "recently added", or ordered by genre, release date, resolution or rating.
 

stiligFox

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My goodness things got a bit hectic in here!

Just wanted to stop in and say thanks to everyone for their input - I’ll be keeping everything as their original .mkv format and not compressing them as originally planned, and I bought Infuse 6 Pro. It does what I wanted perfectly!

My only question is - is it possible to edit .mkv movies to add things like chapter titles?
 

HDFan

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If you select Library/Movies, there's a menu that offers "all movies", "recently added", or ordered by genre, release date, resolution or rating.
Thanks, hadn't seen that.

Why would you want to know what server the content comes from? Isn't the whole point of the library to have a unified presentation of all content?
The primary server for source is on my Mac. Due to the power required to run it and all of its disks I keep media copies on 2 NASes so I don't have to keep it running. Both NASes are cloned from my Mac. Only one server is powered once cloning is complete. Next week one NAS is going in for service. While it is away the other NAS will be my primary for playback.

With 3 potential movie posters (Mac, Nas1, Nas2) for a single movie I want to know which one is actually available, i.e. the server on-line. If I have 3 generations of that particular movie (DVD, Blu-Ray, 4K) that means I have 9 movie posters. I have to select each one until I find the server and media type I want.

You can usually use the "quick scroll" mode by swiping the right edge of the remote's touchpad.
I don't just keep movies on my servers, but all sorts of videos. Plex does have scrolling, but I find it infeasible with thousands of videos. I just select "Y" and immediately go to my YouTube videos, or "T" to go to my travel videos, etc.
 

HDFan

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Why would you want to know what server the content comes from? Isn't the whole point of the library to have a unified presentation of all content?
As to why I have so many servers, 2 of my 3 Plex servers are now down. 1 NAS with Plex has been away over a week for repair, my iMac Plex server just went down (evidently due to a bad update - Plex is working on it) so I'm now running on my 3rd Plex server.