Personal Home Theater Setup in Development

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by Seibikitei, Feb 9, 2010.

  1. Seibikitei macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2008
    Location:
    Yarmouth, ME
    #1
    I've been cruising around various forums for the past couple of weeks researching and note taking because I have a home theater setup in development that is going to use mainly Apple components due to ease of use and personal preference. I chose to make a new thread because I didn't want to derail some of the others and have some thoughts and questions that a lot of people might find useful. So, here we go...

    Goals
    • Ditch cable TV and it's $130 a month price tag. (that's what it went up to after my one year discount period ended)
    • Access and sync an extensive library of digital video with most devices in the house
    • Access and sync an extensive library of digital music with most devices in the house
    • Access and sync an extensive library of digital photos with most devices in the house
    • Access streaming media such as Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, and satellite radio
    • Provide backup methods for said libraries plus all computers
    Implementation

    Living Room: 09 Mac Mini running Plex+Front Row and a PS3 provide access to streaming media, blu-ray, DVD, digital video, photo, and music libraries for a LCD TV and surround sound system. These I all currently have.

    Bed Room: When we decide to move the second LCD in (possibly after our move) would like to be able to access mainly video preferably with an Apple TV. Though from what I understand it would have to be synced with a Mac running iTunes whose library will be on the network.

    Network: Time Capsule to provide backup for 2 Macbooks, one iMac and the network for all of the above. Attached to the TC via ethernet would be some form of Network Attached Storage that will be the central repository for video, music, and photos. Ideally this hardware will have Raid support, eliminating a single point of failure for a content library that will eventually hit 2 TBs or more.

    Media: Video is/will be either encoded from DVDs we own in a Mac friendly format or bought from the iTunes store. (I finally broke down with the $12.99 Star Trek seasons that are currently available, way cheaper than the DVDs) Music is purchased from Amazon, iTunes, or MP3s that were already part of our library.

    Discussion

    Right now I'm in the theory/development stage. My wife and I both have Macbooks and iPhones, a mini was purchased last year to function as a HTPC but I've not really taken the time to take it to it's full potential (which I want to change). The iMac and TC have both been budgeted for so after our move to California (Navy transfer) those will be on their way. I've just started my research with the NAS and figuring out what I'd be looking at cost-wise to be able to achieve my goals. As a side note the iMac is for school and to function as the house desktop, not really part of the whole home theater setup.

    Establishing an iTunes and iPhoto library on said NAS and having it work across multiple devices seems to be the biggest hurdle. A lot of NAS hardware offers an iTunes Server as a feature which seem to establish a library that is then treated as a shared library by all other devices. Am I correct in assuming that doing it this way we wouldn't be able to sync iPhones/iPods? If so, I guess I would be looking at trying to keep all computers in sync with the central library minus video. Would this have to be done with scripts?

    I've read of issues with iPhoto libraries on networked storage as well, at least with Plex. Does anyone have any experience with this, syncing multiple Macs with one library?

    It seems that with the right implementation and hardware I can achieve most of my goals, if not all of them. As I said, the research has begun but I'm still ironing out a lot of the details. Anyone else have this kind of setup and care to offer any suggestions?
     
  2. cwaddell2002 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2005
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    #2
    Your plan sounds well thought out - good forum search use...

    A couple notes and suggestions from my experience...

    1. I am not aware of a NAS with Itunes server that can stream to an :apple:tv
    2. Most of these devices are going to be moving amounts of data large enough that you really want to go wired with the mini, imac, and :apple:tv
    3. I hate front row compared to the ATV 3.0 experience - personal preference, YMMV, I bought it to be a HTPC and run plex and front row and eye tv... it was too much of a pain... plex and my wife didn't get along, I moved it to my network closet, made it the itunes server, and left the eyetv connected, allowing it to encode and import recorded OTA tv to my itunes... we are all happier...

    FWIW, I also have two airport expresses, connected to amps that feed speakers on my porch and in a spare room, allowing me some music streaming around the hosue - my wife and I love the ability to walk out to the porch and stream music from our laptops to the speakers, or let the ATV send audio everywhere when we have a party..

    Lastly - check out avsforum.com - the guys there know almost everything there is to know about setting up a home theater right - just be careful you don't catch the bug, as it can be an expensive hobby :D

    Good Luck!
     
  3. sgreen70 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    #3
    Network media set-up

    I have a similar set-up to your vision and it works extremely well.

    iMac (in the kitchen): I run the household iTunes account from here and sync multiple iPods, ipod touches and one iPhone.

    LaCie NAS (2big 1TB in the basement, wired to the Airport Extreme) I used the iTunes "move library" function to move my iTunes library from the iMac to the LaCie NAS

    AppleTV (upstairs den): I sync and manage what's on here from the iMac like I did before the move to NAS. Almost completely transparent.

    Sonos units (wireless, in the kitchen and living room): These draw music from the NAS and can be controlled via the iMac, iPod, iPhone.

    Note: I tried the Airport Express and Remote and had two problems.
    1. The iMac needed to be on and logged in to the appropriate account
    2. I experienced infrequent but very irritating "outages" where it just didn't work....

    The set-up I have outlined above has been bullet-proof for 5 months so I am comfortable advocating it. In addition to a solid multi-media, whole home set-up there are several advantages to this approach:
    1. I use the NAS as my Time Machine backup for the iMac. As a result my computer and backup disk are unlikely to be grabbed together in a "snatch and grab" break-in
    2. The whole set-up works when the iMac is off, asleep or being used by the kids on their accounts
     
  4. sgreen70 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    #4
    Network media set-up

    I have a similar set-up to your vision and it works extremely well.

    iMac (in the kitchen): I run the household iTunes account from here and sync multiple iPods, ipod touches and one iPhone.

    LaCie NAS (2big 1TB in the basement, wired to the Airport Extreme) I used the iTunes "move library" function to move my iTunes library from the iMac to the LaCie NAS

    AppleTV (upstairs den): I sync and manage what's on here from the iMac like I did before the move to NAS. Almost completely transparent.

    Sonos units (wireless, in the kitchen and living room): These draw music from the NAS and can be controlled via the iMac, iPod, iPhone.

    Note: I tried the Airport Express and Remote and had two problems.
    1. The iMac needed to be on and logged in to the appropriate account
    2. I experienced infrequent but very irritating "outages" where it just didn't work....

    The set-up I have outlined above has been bullet-proof for 5 months so I am comfortable advocating it. In addition to a solid multi-media, whole home set-up there are several advantages to this approach:
    1. I use the NAS as my Time Machine backup for the iMac. As a result my computer and backup disk are unlikely to be grabbed together in a "snatch and grab" break-in
    2. The whole set-up works when the iMac is off, asleep or being used by the kids on their accounts

    I just back-up the NAS once a week and keep it at my neighbours house. So my whole iMac and media library are always protected.

    Hope this helps...

    Steve
     
  5. rayward macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    #5
    I have all my media stored on a NAS, which is then synced / streamed to ATVs around the house. The network is partially wired, partially wireless, and I the only time I encounter a response lag on the ATVs is when streaming a high-def movie, while my iMac is chewing on an encode (it pretty much can't handle anything else while encoding a BD rip).

    There is a network issue with having media on a NAS, in that it still runs through iTunes on your Mac as the "media server", so the network traffic is doubled as the same file is pulled from the NAS to the Mac, then sent from the Mac to the ATV. In my case, NAS to Mac is wired, and Mac to 2 ATVs is wireless, and I really have no issues with this set-up.

    You can minimise any network lag by making sure to set up a dual-band network with your TC - 5GHz for your n-capable devices and 2.4GHz for your g-capable devices. That keeps your iPhones and PS3 from slowing down your Mac and ATV, while having them all on the same network.
     
  6. vwDavid macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2007
    #6
    I'm particularly interested in your first goal of ditching cable TV at $130 per mo, my bill is similar. I'm interested to hear of your WIFE acceptance factor.

    Part of the problem is my inlaws must have Shaw's FairChild TV channel package playing 24/7 it seems so I don't think I can actually go cable-less unless Fairchild streams somehow.

    regardless, I will be very interested in your success in convincing WIFE to drop the cable TV and switch to online/streaming/rentals/etc.

    Let us know how it goes.
     
  7. nutmac macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2004
    #7
    Some might see this as sacrilegious but I would replace Time Capsule, which is widely panned as unreliable, with HP MediaSmart EX490 or EX495. Although setting it up isn't very straightforward, it works pretty well with Mac OS X (does not require any Windows box at all), providing iPhone/iPad streaming (not Apple TV, however), iTunes Server, DLNA server (for PS3), Time Machine compatibility, and redundant storage with external backup.
     
  8. srexy macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    #8
    I have all of my media storage attached to the Mini in my living room which runs Plex to our main viewing screen - a 50" plasma. The current storage is a dual external drive enclosure and I use Carbon Copy Cloner to make backups of my Mini's drive as well as the media. I have 1tb capacity for media currently. My main iPhoto gallery is here also.

    Bedroom has an LCD with an Apple TV hacked w/XBMC that points to my Mini's media storage. The only drawback to this is that I've got so much HD content now on the Mini that I'm spoilt and want to watch it in the bedroom. I'm sorely tempted to dump the :apple: tv and pick up an Acer Aspire Revo which I know will run the HD content.

    Kid's Playroom has an iMac which wife uses for iPhoto/email etc. The iMac is hooked up to an LCD there for the kids' viewing - they have a separate directory on my Mini's storage drive which I put all of their movies on and Plex only points to that - no more dirty DVDs!!

    My office has a MBP that also has Plex and iPhoto pointing to the Mini storage.

    The biggest hurdle IS iPhoto. It's not designed to be a network app. I'm using iPhoto buddy which allows a local iPhoto to access iPhoto on my Mini. The only issues being that it takes an eternity to open and there can only be one person in at a time (if someone leaves it open it's locked). Once you're into the app it's pretty snappy but the initial opening is really sluggish. I wish Apple would address this.

    Time over again I'd pass on the Apple TV. It's too limited.
     
  9. Seibikitei thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2008
    Location:
    Yarmouth, ME
    #9
    Yeah, I thought it was going to be a hard sell but she's willing to give it a try after we move. There's only a couple of shows that she's really into and after I demonstrated that we can still have access to them without cable on the "big TV" she said she was willing to experiment.

    When we really sat down and thought about it we really only ever use half a dozen channels. Scifi (SyFy), TNT, local ABC and NBC, and I usually put ESPN on in the morning before work just to catch up. But we'll see how it goes. It helps that we've had Neflix for a while and she really likes how the streaming works and has already used it quite a bit, also that she's used Hulu to catch up on some shows before so it's not all an unknown quantity.


    This is what still has me wondering and trying to figure out how media management would work. Not saying a Synology NAS is what I'm going to eventually go with, their description is just to help illustrate the point.

    The fact that the iTunes Server is treated as a shared library is kind of interesting. When I was coming up with this setup in my head I was imagining the shared media on the NAS would be treated as each computer's "local" library so a change made on one computer would reflect in all the other computer's libraries. I've since read it's not quite so easy in that you run into the same issue srexy pointed out, only one computer can have access to the library file at a time and when it's open everyone else is locked out. That and if you pick up your laptop and go some place you are suddenly library-less.

    I guess every computer needs to have a local library, especially when you can have the possibility of needing to sync iPods, iPhones, and iPads (oh my) all over the place. Now if Home Sharing can be enabled on a NAS we might have something there. It took a little bit to get used to but once my wife and I agreed on one iTunes account to use, Home Sharing has made life quite a bit easier between the mini and our two Macbooks.
     
  10. srexy macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    #10
    Home sharing has definitely made a world of difference. I used to have my iTunes library stored on a network drive and various iTunes installs pointing to it. This would be fine except that any time you added music you'd have to update all iTunes installs... It's disappointing that you can't take the "home shared" library with you but at least you can drag music from it to playlists which then copies the music to your local library. Using this actually makes a lot of sense for syncing iPods - you just drag the stuff you want into your playlist and sync that list rather than having to worry about the capacity of your iPod/phone etc.

    Home Sharing is also much quicker when browsing. My old shared libraries used to pause unbearably whenever fast-forwarding or scrolling.

    Am I right in thinking that the HP Mediasmart and Windows versions of iTunes can automatically update if you use the iTunes server included?
     
  11. pagansoul macrumors 65816

    pagansoul

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2006
    Location:
    Earth
    #11
    Star Trek OS for 12.99 OMG

    I already have the DVDs of STOS but with the price of 12.99 for the remastered version I have got to get them. Thank you for pointing this out to me.

    I'm one of those people who use AppleTV in my bedroom. I have an extensive DVD collection that I rip a few every weekend for my library. I have a MacPro with 4TB and one tray is for Movies (full with 500 @ about 2GB each), one for TV shows (almost full also), and one for music and movie overflow. I have a Sonos player in the Livingroom where I tend to keep it on Pandora. In my media-room I have my Blu-ray player but I don't use it as much as I thought I would. I spend most of my time in my extra bedroom where I keep my computer. It has a 24" monitor and I watch Hulu for my TV shows and my movies. Where I live TV reception is very bad, I don't have cable because I never used it when I did have it but I do have very fast internet though out my small home.
     

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