Help me find a streaming solution....ATV2 in my future?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by Acejam2k, Nov 1, 2011.

  1. Acejam2k macrumors regular

    Jul 16, 2008
    Hey all,

    I'm a lifetime Windows user here. I work in the software development area by trade and consider myself to be a "power user", at least in Windows that is. (and Linux) I've recently moved to a new place and I've decided to setup a nice home theater for myself. I already have my Denon AVR and TV squared away. Right now, I'm focusing on the best way to stream 1080p MKV movies to my TV. Previously I used PS3 Media Server on my Windows 7 x64 machine, which streamed great to my Playstation 3. However, I no longer have the PS3 - I only have my Xbox 360 now. I also no longer have room for a giant desk as I did before, so my desktop PC is gone now too. (I have/had an Antec 1200 Case - HUGE)

    My desktop PC had plenty of power for transcoding - i7 920, 12 GB DDR3, etc. I also had (4) 2TB HDD's in this machine in a RAID5 array - though I'm only using about ~1.5-2TB's of data currently. I took all of this hardware and recently moved it into a smaller PC case that I had lying around. I installed Ubuntu on it (11.10 Desktop x64) and installed PS3 Media Server on top of that. My initial goal was to put this into the bathroom closest, where I have an available ethernet port. However, the heat builds up rather quickly with the door shut - and there's about 5" of space between the top of the hot case, and a shelf of towels. :eek: For kicks, I tried streaming/transcoding a full 1080p MKV using PS3 Media Server to my Xbox 360. It worked, but it had lots of stutter at times. A 720p MKV had no issues, and was smooth as butter. The Xbox doesn't have a gigabit ethernet port - but in general, it's not a great media extender in the first place.

    Some of these movies are DVD rips, but many of them are BluRay rips in 1080p MKV format. I'm trying to find an easy to use solution that will net me great picture quality on my 55" Sony LED TV. (55NX720) I only have a 3.1 surround sound setup for now, but my Denon AVR really puts out a mean punch through my Boston Acoustics speakers.

    Here's where MacRumors comes in. I'm an iPhone 4 user, and an iPad 1 user. My GF has a white MacBook, and since I don't have room for my desktop anymore, I'm using my crappy old Dell laptop. Pretty soon, I plan on buying a 15" MacBook Pro. (HR-AG, and will install 8GB RAM and 256GB SDD myself)

    Since I'm leaning towards a MBP purchase - I figured: Why not just buy an Apple TV2 too? I've done a ton of research so far, and while I'm very capable of maintaining/setting up a Win/Linux HTPC - I just don't have the time to look after it. My initial thought is to pick up an Apple TV2, MBP, and just convert all my MKV movies into MP4, and add them into my iTunes library. Then once they're in my iTunes library, I should be able to stream all of them to my ATV2, and play them on my TV. While this would work, wouldn't it require me to downgrade to 720p for my files? Or could I convert them to 1080p MP4's, and will the ATV2 just output 720p?

    Ok, so we got that out of the way. Next up: Storage. Where does all my media reside? I'd love to be to re-use the HDD's that I already own. I have a couple externals that I can backup my data to if I need to format my (4) 2TB HDD's as a fresh array, that's a given. But would the following be too slow?

    NAS --> MBP --> ATV2

    Data transfer needs to occur in two separate spots. I'm a FiOS customer currently, so I'm stuck with their draft-N Aciontec router, which must be present on your network somewhere in order to receive set-top box info/guide data. Unfortunately, this draft-N is single antenna @ 2.4GHz, and only has a link speed of 65 Mbps. Another thought I had was to pick up an Airport Extreme, and add that as a LAN device/wireless AP to my home network. I know this can be done, and there's info about it over @ Broadband Reports. The next question is: If I'm spending the $$ on an Airport Extreme, does it make sense to get a Time Capsule 2TB? I know the 3TB model is $200 more, but all in one unit is pretty nice. Like I said, I'm only using about 1.5TB of data right now, and a LOT of that is crap. I'm sure I could easily delete 500GB of data or so, I just need to spend a day or two and weed through it. So if all my movies were on a 3TB Time Capsule, and I was only using 1TB of that, that's not a bad deal I guess. I also have an eSata HDD dock with a 3TB Hitachi drive for a single-drive backup, which I used to backup my previous RAID array. If I put all of the data on my Time Capsule, I could plug in the enclosure once every few days and run a local backup I suppose. Or even better - I could plug it's associated USB port into the Time Capsule as well too.

    Before I came up with all of these Apple-focused ideas, I was *very* close to ordering a Synology 1511+ NAS. However since it can't actually transcode to my Xbox 360 on the fly, I see no point in ordering one. I suppose I could store my iTunes library on the NAS, while running iTunes locally on the MBP. So I'd have the same flow as above:

    NAS --> MBP/iTunes --> ATV2

    Though the unit is ~$800, it does feature GREAT read/write speeds for a NAS. The 1511+ is highly rated, and if I'm going to spend that kind of money, I don't want to cheap out on something that doesn't work. Though at the end of the day, I'd still prefer a "true" wireless N network, so the Time Capsule doesn't seems like a bad idea after all.

    Sorry for the HUGE rant. I've pretty much written an essay here. Thoughts? Input/advice? Any help is much appreciated!

  2. milbournosphere macrumors 6502a


    Mar 3, 2009
    San Diego, CA
    You should look into Plex. You can run the media server (which handles the transcoding) from a NAS setup (ReadyNAS from Netgear seems to have the best support), and the best part about it is that it's multi-platform. They have apps for OS X, Windows, Android and iOS, so you can watch your movies on all of your devices with one piece of software.

    Here is more about Plex on the NAS:

    It looks like the ReadyNAS Pro series is probably best, in order to handle oopmh required for transcoding.

    Here's the current instruction list for the ReadyNAS:

    My personal setup is PMS running on an Ubuntu box that transcodes mostly mkv content to a jail-broken Apple TV running Plex. It was very easy to jailbreak, and it runs Netflix out of the box, which is a plus. It runs very smoothly for me, and once you get the NAS doing its thing, you should be able to remove the mbp from the process entirely (unless you're watching from said mbp of course), while keeping your library accessible and organized and without having to convert them all to mp4.

    I'd look into it, because once you get it setup, it's pretty much maintenance free, and you were looking to purchase a NAS anyway. Hope this helps.
  3. WoodNUFC macrumors 6502a


    Apr 30, 2009
    A Library
    +1. This is what I was going to suggest. With Plex you wouldn't need to re-encode anything just to play it on your Atv - if you jailbreak.
  4. jamesvdm macrumors regular


    Mar 28, 2011
    Perth, Australia
    Here's a vote against Plex (downvotes ensue). I tried a full blown Plex setup for a few months and it almost took as much maintenance as a Windows HTPC setup (which was what I had previously).

    Personally I encode everything I get to an ATV2 format with iFlicks and maintain everything with iTunes. This way I don't have to jailbreak anything and the whole setup remains as problem free as possible. The encoding happens during the night so it never interferes with me.
  5. Acejam2k thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 16, 2008
    Good ideas here so far - but I'd honestly prefer not to jailbreak anything. Sure, the extra functionality is great and such - but I just "want it to work". I spend all day coding/testing at work and the last thing I want to do is come home to a system that rebooted itself and requires a reconfig of sorts.

    Most importantly - can I encode my MKV's to 1080p MP4's - and can the ATV2 play the 1080p file? (and will it output to a 720p on the screen?) I'd hate to convert everything to 720p, only for a new 1080p ATV3 to come out in a few months.
  6. spacepower7 macrumors 68000

    May 6, 2004
    It's been awhile but I have had 1080p mp4 files play back on my AppleTV 2. I haven't tried since the last few updates. For some reason, the AppleTV 2 was able to play files that were out of Apple's stated tech specs. The iPad 1 had the same specs but iTunes refused to transfer movies that were out of spec, to the iPad 1.

    I recently saw newer tech specs on ios on Apple's website site. In relation to the h.264 profile, alot more content (legal and stolen) are playable on newer devices, meaning profile 4 rather than profile level 3.

    If I recall, the only files that gave me trouble, barely working we're some of my own SD DVD rips, that I accidentally ripped to high profile level 5 which is way overkill for a DVD.
  7. jamesvdm macrumors regular


    Mar 28, 2011
    Perth, Australia
    So combining your "it just works" goal with spacepower7's answer, I'd say you should encode your 1080ps to 720p with an ATV2 profile (most converters have a preset for it.
  8. peterjcat macrumors 6502

    Jun 14, 2010
    I read spacepower7's answer to suggest that instead of converting to 720p, just remux the MKVs to MP4/M4V using iFlicks or similar. Most of them should work even at 1080p (provided they've already been compressed somewhat), and for the ones that don't, either convert them to 720p or wait for the ATV3 to come out.

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