Media server, 10 ATVs. What hardware

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by The-Pro, Aug 3, 2013.

  1. The-Pro, Aug 3, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2013

    The-Pro macrumors 65816

    Dec 2, 2010
    Hi everybody,

    Im helping a friend of mine plan his media server.
    Currently he has a kaleidascape system. This consists of a big kaleidascape server (currently holding 1200 DVD bit for bit copies of DVD's) and 10 kaleidascape players (1 for every B&O TV). Every player is connected to the server via ethernet.

    The big problem with this system is that the only way to get movies onto the server is to insert a DVD into it. It then makes a bit for bit (losless) copy of the DVD / Bluray. Ordering DVD's the whole time and then having to store them somewhere is a real pain. Also the players are absolutely massive and we dont like the interface

    So the thought is to replace the kaleidascape system with apple products.
    Every TV would get an Apple TV 3 and we would need a big enough media server for currently 700 digital DVD rips and the 1200 movies all ready on his current system. I still need to find out if there is a way to transfer the movies form the kaleidascape server to other Harddrives.

    My current idea is:
    - MacMini Server running iTunes with home sharing.
    - Some sort of RAID storage device. Im pretty sure I would like a RAID 1 (because despite it resulting in less capacity I think its the safest having a constant mirror image of every Harddrive)
    - Use existing ethernet cabling to connect the apple tvs to the mac mini
    --- My friend (who im planing it with) would like to have an iPad mini as remotes for every TV. While its easy to have a ios device as a remote for 1 Apple TV I do not know if and how it would be possible to have 1 iPad mini for every Apple TV that are on the same network.

    So it would be great if someone could give me more advice.
    Particularly in the storage area. I know little about RAID storage solutions. Whats the best configuration, which brand model etc, and what HDD's should be used. 3TB each as a minimum I'd say. I think it should be directly connected to the server computer either via Thunderbolt USB3 or Firewire and not be an NAS. Thoughts?
    Would the mac mini be good enough to handle the load? The system needs to be able to play a maximum of 7-8 movies simultaneously on average around 3-5 though.

    As you can probably tell, money isnt the biggest issue. Yet it still needs to be as cheap as possible while being 100% stable, and pretty much maintenance free.

    Hope someone can help, and sorry for the long post :)

    thank you in advance
  2. hipnetic macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    Sounds like a fun project. Unfortunately, I think you're going to be out of luck trying to copy those Kaleidescape movies over to a new platform. My understanding is that the Kaleidescape runs a proprietary OS and the movies are heavily encrypted. So he's going to have to re-convert all of those movies if he wants them on the new system.

    If that doesn't deter him, the next issue you're going to run into is that you're going to have to either convert all of the movies to MP4 format (using something like Handbrake) in order to be able to play them natively on the ATV. Running movies through a Handbrake conversion is going to take some time, but the end result is that the server (Mac Mini) won't need to do any hard work, so serving 7+ ATV clients simultaneously shouldn't be a problem. The ATV units have on-board storage buffer (8GB if I remember correctly), so even if you had 7+ clients running simultaneously, they'll each buffer what they need before they start playing.

    The other approach you can take is to use something like MakeMKV to convert the DVDs (and Blu-rays) to MKV format. This is a relatively quick process (less than 60 mins per disc?) but the MKV files won't be playable natively on the ATV. So then you need to run Plex Media Server on the Mac Mini (instead of, or in addition to, iTunes). To play it on the ATV, you then have to use something like PlexConnect (which is sort of a hack and could be made unworkable in an upcoming ATV firmware update), or you can use your iPad as the middle-man to start them up and then AirPlay them to the ATV. This approach will tax your server (Mac Mini) more, though, because it has to do on-the-fly transcoding to convert the MKV to an MP4. Doing this for 7+ simultaneous ATV's is probably not possible.

    If he wants the utmost in PQ, he could buy more capable client devices (like an Intel NUC PC for every room) so that no on-the-fly transcoding would be necessary. That gives you the best quality and the Plex Media Server won't need to do any hard work, so 7+ simultaneous connections could be possible, but you may still run into a bandwidth issue trying to feed a lot of high-bitrate content across your network simultaneously.

    Honestly, even though the ATV won't give you the best PQ, the fact that it's relatively cheap, has on-board storage buffer (which will handle network hiccups, and will connect nicely with the iPad makes it a decent option for what you want to do, but as I said, you'll need to spend a good deal of time converting all of those movies into MP4 files using Handbrake.

    One other thought/possibility...the Plex solution has built-in support for converting movies (like those MKV files I mentioned it can natively handle) into MP4 files so that you can take your movies to go. I believe it's designed so that you fire up the Plex app on your iPhone or iPad, choose the movie, and select "Sync". If there's a way to somehow automate this within Plex and tell it to do some conversion at night, you could possibly get all of your movies converted relatively quickly using the MKV format, and then do the conversions later (e.g., at night). Of course, you could definitely use Handbrake to batch convert movies in the middle of the night as well.
  3. scottw324 macrumors 6502

    Mar 5, 2012
    Yes you can use one iPad mini for 10 ATVs. I have three in my house and I use my iPad all the time to put content on the different ones. Same with my iPhone. Just use the Remote app.

    To keep the price down a bit, look for refurb products. Drops the price a bit while they are still recertified by apple.

    I use my late 2012 fully loaded Mac Mini quad core for my media server with movies running off of a 3TB USB 3.0 ext HDD. We typically stream to one ATV and 2 ipads at the same time with no problem.
  4. AppleNewton macrumors 68000


    Apr 3, 2007
    1 Finite Place
    A Mac Mini with OS X client and a Pegasus would be Ideal.
    I'd stay away from Drobo, imo they dont have the durability an actual RAID unit would have.

    then set up home sharing on the Mini and log into that on the AppleTVs and iOS devices and you're set.
  5. blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Dec 24, 2010
    Winnipeg, MB
    I'd take a serious look at Plex over iTunes for this. If the videos is/are going to be in an iOS-compatible video format, it'll just stream them instead of transcoding. An it can also transcode the ones that aren't.

    Side benefits include the terrific iOS App - you can Airplay with it to the TVs in full quality. Plus it'll transcode down the videos for web viewing and remote app viewing.

    Not to mention the absolutely terrific metadata management. I'm at over 900 movies and over 100 complete TV series and it's done everything fine.

    As far as cost, the Plex Media Server is free and the iOS is $5 (which you obviously can share with all of your devices on the account). And the base Mini would do fine. (Although I'd increase the RAM to at least 8GB). If you think you might be transcoding more than, say, 2 videos at once you might want to think of the higher-end processor.

    And finally for storage, take a look at Synology. They make a line of network-attached storage devices. Their 5-bay (1513+) can handle up to 20TB storage (~16GB with 1-disk redundancy) and supports an external 5-bay expansion unit as your needs grow. I wrote a software-oriented review a little while back (HERE). I have the 1512+, and with only using one ethernet port, I get over 100 megs per sec read AND write. It's fabulous.
  6. SimplyMac2012 macrumors member


    Nov 26, 2012
    Hitchin , Hertfordshire , UK
    Simular Setup Looking for Advice

    Ok i managed to buy on eBay tonight a HP XW4400 workstation in which once i have it in my clutches max the storage on it. But my dilemma is this :

    I own :
    1 x Mac Mini Server i7 with a 1Tb Hard Drive and 8Gb Memory
    2 x Apple TV Gen 3
    1 x Apple Airport Express (Connected to Sky Router)
    1 x Apple Airport Extreme
    1 x Apple Time Capsule

    My Objective :

    So the Workstation i bought tonight i want to use in conjunction with the Apple Mac Mini Server in which is being the iTunes server for the Apple TVs.

    My Problem :

    Not knowing what to use for an operating system for the Workstation and once i have decided will i be able use the Mac Mini Server to use the workstation to get the iTunes data i will store on it.

    The Ideas for the Operating System im not sure on using :

    Microsoft Server 2003 or 2008

    or do i use something else ?
  7. blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Dec 24, 2010
    Winnipeg, MB

    Sorry, I'm not 100% clear on what you're going to use the workstation for. Is it just going to be used as a storage device? If so, you might want to think about Linux. It's simple enough to setup a file share on it.
  8. The-Pro thread starter macrumors 65816

    Dec 2, 2010

    It sure is :)
    Crying shame. I was thinking I could maybe take out the HDD’s from the server and plug them into a computer, see if I can access the data.
    But yeah, probably are encrypted. I will have to wait and see

    Well the 600-700 movies I have digitally I converted with handbrake. I know how long it takes. Sadly my friend does not have patience for that.
    Thats certainly good to know. Seems like my main challenge will be getting to the movies converted.

    Sounds complicated :D Using handbrake takes about 30-45mins per dvd with my MacPros and MacBook Pros. So I dont think I will go the makemkv route u suggested.

    ATV is great for these needs. 
But yeah the time consumption is huge to convert the movies.

    Ill look into the plex system.
    Well problem with handbrake is that well I cant automate putting a new DVD into the the drive all the time at night. If I would have 10 external DVD drives I would have the movies converted in no time.

    Well what I ment was: 10 Apple TVs, 10 (ten) iPad minis. Each ipad mini to control 1 (one) apple TV. I wanted to know if its possible to assign 1 ipad mini to 1 apple tv, And only that apple tv while all being on the same network.

    Thanks. I would be doing that anyway. Not at the buying stage yet though ;)

    Good to know thanks. Didnt think the streaming would be an issue but wanted to make sure :D

    OSX client? What do you mean with that? The server os?
    Im guessing you mean the pegasus R4 or R6. Those are the first I looked at.
    Can I use one R6 for the storage and another R6 for the mirror image of the storage??? (so a RAID 1 over two RAID boxes)
    Good to know, ill stay away from drobo then.

    This is why I wanted this setup. Its just the easiest way to do it. I think

    Ill have a look at it. Sounds great :)

    Are those synology servers connected directly to the computer with some connection or just in the network by ethernet to the router??
    With those 1512+ can I use 2, 1 as storage and 1 as a mirror of the storage? Like I asked with the pegasus R6 above.
  9. linds15 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 16, 2012
    Great White North
    I'm not sure if u can use 2 separate pegasus to mirror each other, but you'd probably just be better off getting a bigger unit. Prgasus and synology both make units with many hard drive bays. It would also be cheaper and easier to manage than having two separate 4 or 5 bay units
  10. wilkinxp macrumors newbie

    Aug 4, 2010
    May I suggest, use Makemkv to rip full DVD. Then use iflicks to transcode to iTunes compatible format. This will play the movies at full DVD quality on your Apple TV and will take 5-10 minutes each encode.
  11. hipnetic macrumors 6502a

    Oct 5, 2010
    I've never used iFlicks, but based on my reading of it, I believe it takes the h.264 (MPEG-4) video data from a typical Blu-ray rip and converts it to an MP4 file. Most Blu-ray discs are encoded with h.264, but some are encoded with VC1 or (if memory serves) MPEG-2.

    The ATV's built-in GPU can natively decode MP4, but it can't decode VC-1 or MPEG-2, and the CPU isn't up to the task of decoding those, either. So, for most Blu-ray movies, the suggestion that wilkinxp suggests should work, but it won't work for some of them. Also, DVD discs are encoded with MPEG-2, so it will *never* work for those, either. For those, you'll always need to use either Handbrake (to convert them to MP4 files ahead of time) or Plex (to do on-the-fly transcoding).
  12. blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Dec 24, 2010
    Winnipeg, MB
    Just connected to the network via ethernet to the router. I don't believe that the Synology OS supports a real-time mirroring function yet. However, it does support an automated backup to an external device (USB or eSata) or another Synology unit. Suggestion that I would make would be to use the Syno as the "master" storage with a much cheaper USB RAID volume (can be slow) as the backup, and have it run nightly.
  13. iNewbie macrumors regular

    Aug 25, 2006
    Apple TV UI

    The problem with an all Apple solution here is the Apple TV interface for your ripped / custom movies stinks. Every other screen on the Apple TV gives you a grid of covers. The ripped stuff? Just a top down list. Very ugly and difficult to work with when you get a lot of movies.

    I wish they would improve that. For now I use Plex to get the better UI and automatic meta data.
  14. The-Pro thread starter macrumors 65816

    Dec 2, 2010
    I thought one bigger unit would be better aswell. Ill need to inform myself completely.

    Sounds great. Ill look into that. Handbrake does take quite a long time. and even longer when searching for the subtitles that go on now and then in a movie.

    Damn :D
    handbrake just works, thats what I like about out. I keep hearing about plex. It seems quite good.

    Ah ok, thats what I thought.
    That would do the job then wouldn't it. Im putting together a list of all possible hardware that could be used. It needs to be more enterprise level though, as the system needs to work for a while without hassle. The worst is if everything keeps breaking.

    Yes I agree, its a pain in the ass. The need to change it. I dont undestand why they cant make the ios remote show a different selection screen (like the one in the native Videos app).
    Well its not only the ripped stuff, its all the data that comes from a computer that has the list view. Music, Movies, tv shows all in list view. Doesn't make sense to me. Maybe there is a hidden setting somewhere we don't know about? :D
    The Kaleidascape system they currently have has 1200 movies on it, and also in a list view like the apple tv. Takes forever to look for movies. Very frustrating.
  15. phrehdd, Aug 16, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2013

    phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    Since you are not with a tight budget -

    1) Get a good NAS unit with DLNA software (Synology, QNAP comp to mind)
    2) Put in each designated room either a Dune player or an Oppo BDP 103.
    3) Skip Handbrake and compressing movies.
    4) Use MakeMKV (Mac, Windows,) and or DVDFAB
    5) Determine audio output - if all are going through modern AVR, you need only keep the HD Audio stream (which includes the core audio). If you are planning to play stereo via the TV, then include also a stereo output stream.

    From what you said about your present set up, you are providing Blu Ray quality and it would be a shame to do an "upgrade" that provides less quality (HandBrake etc.).

    The Advantage of Dune or a Blu Ray player that offers streaming local network media files, is they provide the best output. The Dune comes in various models ranging from one that includes a Blu Ray player to a near empty box that only streams media files. The Oppo, as example also includes some of the usual services - I believe they have Netflix, Vudu, and possibly Amazon along with Pandora.

    Just a heads up - there is no need to slurge on a Pegasus type box when there are drive stackers that use USB 3 which is more than fast enough to stream files. I admit I found it funny the idea of using one of the most expensive storage units to hold files that are inferior to what you are presently offering up via Kaleidiscope (sp).

    I have set up ATV units for friends who have minimal systems. It is a good fit for them. For those that have such a dynamic and forward thinking set up as you mention, ATV is a step backwards other than the over simplified and pleasant screens.

    Used Mac Minis dedicated to playback are also good options. Instead of using OSX, use the "live" installs from either Plex or XBMC (I happen to prefer the latter thought most prefer Plex). These dedicated boxes with non OSX installed can play full HD Audio. The hardware is capable but OSX is not (yes, Apple decided upon that as Sony decided not to support some common file formats on the Playstation).

    If all you are going to play back are DVDs and no higher quality files (Blu Ray), then Plex adn XBMC with OSX is more than enough and actually very slick.

    Last - I find that HandBrake is a terrific program for squeezing movies for say iPad or iPhone etc. along with low end ATV set ups. It does not provide a high end solution for quality large screen viewing. Sorry folks, even with my bad eyes I can tell the difference almost immediately and consider it not much better than some of the mediocre streaming from services such as Netflix.
  16. Nutdotnet macrumors member

    Jan 15, 2004
    Is this for personal or business use (like a b&b)?

    yes, you can have multiple iPads control multiple atvs. You simply select which ATV you can to control on the remote app.

    That being said, depending on the wifi signal you could easily have all ATVs show up on the ipad. No biggie for personal use (since you can name the atvs whatever you want) but could be confusing if guests are expected to use the setup.
  17. Macman45 macrumors G5


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    In addition to the info already posted here, we have a system that although on a smaller scale, works well.

    Windows Based High Capacity Server which contains over 500 HD movies, many many HD TV documentaries and series, all streamed to the two ATV3's in the house.

    Using Air Video, they can all be viewed on any device 24 / 7. As posted, you are going to have to re-rip or convert the current content, and that would be the deal breaker for me....It took long enough to get where we are now, and my fiancee had a lot of the stuff ripped already. I'd be interested to see which way you go on this.
  18. BandH macrumors newbie

    Aug 17, 2013
    Remote control

    Since no one else mentioned....

    Take a close look at "Roomie" iOS app for remote control on iPads and iPhones. It is ideally suited for controlling devices using IP including HTPC's based on Mac or PC with popular media apps.

    With the addition of iTach IP-to-IR adapters (which Roomie directly supports) you can control a wide range of home theater devices including avrs, cable/sat boxes, tv's, AppleTV, Macs, etc.

    Note that for best control of AppleTV you'll want to go the iTach IR route as the built-in IP control is limited (by Apple) and Roomie is much more flexible when used this way instead of just launching the Apple-supplied ATV iOS "Remote" app.

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