Ultimate Media Center...Suggestions - need Simplicity!

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by mccaffertee, Aug 23, 2014.

  1. mccaffertee macrumors newbie

    mccaffertee

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2014
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    #1
    I am a Mac guy and would like to set up a media center that is SIMPLE and does what i need. I am NOT sure what i really need (or not need) to achieve my goal. I am looking for SIMPLE!!!

    Here is what i have:

    1. TIVO DVR for cable TV and we watch a lot of TV
    2. Macbook Pro to play DVD's with Airplay
    3. Apple TV for Streaming/Netflix/iTunes
    4. AMP/Stereo to power everything
    5. Airport Time Capsule

    With the above , i have an Apple Remote, TIVO Remote and AMP Remote. I know i can get the Logitech to "control" all devices, but is there some way to possibly control EVERYTHING with a single interface????

    I want to watch Cable TV, Movies, play iTunes and look at our iPhoto albums, WITHOUT streaming from our MacBooks. Also, i would like to store our music and photo's on a single location as my wife and i have duplicate photo/music libraries on each Macbook.

    Any and ALL suggestions welcome.

    Thanks
    Steve
     
  2. HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 603

    HobeSoundDarryl

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Location:
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    #2
    Sounds like you need:
    • a dedicated Mac (maybe a used Mac Mini?) on which you merge your music & photo libraries. That can be your central "server" from which you can share those libraries to your mobile Macs. It's version of iTunes can be the one to which your :apple:TV connects for media. Turn on it's "home sharing" to have access to it's combined music library. If your libraries are bigger than the Mac Mini's storage, add a hard drive
    • universal, learning remote. Logitech, Harmony or my favorite: Universal Remote Control Inc. "Learning" means they can learn or read the signals from any other remotes you have. So even if the "universal" database doesn't quite have a complete code set for your present or future equipment, the learning function means you can easily update the remote with the remote from the other equipment. If you get a model with "macros", you can program a button to do a bunch of commands in a row. For example, I dedicate one button I call "setup". Click it in any mode and it issues the macro to set everything up. For example, someone wants to watch :apple:TV. They push the :apple:TV button to put it in :apple:TV mode, then "setup". Setup tells the receiver to switch to the :apple:TV input, set sound to Dolby Digital, set the proper HDMI input for the HDTV, etc. One click and it's all ready to go. Same process for any other mode: cable, DVD, etc.
    • Receiver if your "AMP/Stereo" is not already an A/V Receiver capable of being the central switch for all audio & video from everything to everything. A good receiver is really a video & audio hub. Get everything running through that and it actually simplifies a lot of what you want to do to keep it all simple.

    It's usually a little work to set up the remote and then test it until you reach perfection. But after you do, you can retire all the other remotes and a macro like "setup" makes it so the least tech-minded in your household can get everything set up properly for anything they want to watch.

    The downside to storing your media on a separate Mac Mini rather than on those MacBooks is that you'll lose access to them when you are away from home unless you set up some other stuff that would let you access them via Internet. OR, consider organizing your photos into folders and keeping "Best of" (much smaller) collections on your MacBooks. I'm guessing your music is probably mobile with iDevices.
     
  3. 2010mini macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2013
    #3
    OP what this member said is correct in getting a dedicated Mac to host your Photo library and iTunes media. With the upcoming Family sharing feature in iOS 8/Yosemite it will make it easier to merge your photo/video libraries.

    I suggest getting a Mac Mini and an external blu-ray drive... this will eliminate the need to use your MBP to airplay to the ATV

    as for a single interface to control your Tivo, Mac, Apple TV.... you need something with HDMI passthrough like the Xbox One. here's a vid of the setup with an Apple TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5YSUq3GfDY
     
  4. HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 603

    HobeSoundDarryl

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Location:
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    #4
    Sorry, I missed the DVD reference in the first pass. OP, I suggest converting your discs to movie files that you can drop into iTunes. A BD drive that you can hook to any of your computers will suffice for both BD and DVD discs. If you have a lot of DVDs, this can take a lot of time and you'll need big storage for it (think about 2GB per DVD and upwards of about 12GB for each BD) but again, attach a big hard drive(s) to that Mac Mini and store your movie collection there. Put the DVDs in the attic as ultimate backup.

    I read "one interface" as one remote to control them all. If so, I don't think you need HDMI pass through but that is another way to go.
     
  5. mccaffertee thread starter macrumors newbie

    mccaffertee

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2014
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    #5
    OK... thanks for the responses.....

    I do not need really need mobile use of iTunes, and i am thinking that i can just make a playlist and sync iTunes to my iPhone or iPod if traveling. I do not save movies after watching them. And YES, my AMP is an AV Receiver.

    I guess i just run everything through the AV receiver. Still seems like something is missing and more complicated than it needs to be.

    Would be nice to turn TV on and select (on screen) whatever i want to use. Somebody needs to make a device to connect all these things into one.

    Appreciate the feedback!!!:)
     
  6. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #6
    There are a lot of combinations out there that would work but of course, each person has their own idea of what they want.

    Here are some things you might consider -

    Look into iRule and Roomie software for iPhone and iPad as a remote control.

    Assuming that the TiVo will remain a constant that leaves the rest up in the air. I would gather that you might the following a good starting point:

    Tivo, Mac Mini + external DVD attached -->HDMI capable Receiver-->TV.

    The Mac Mini would replace your ATV option and also be able to handle other media duties such as XBMC or Plex. Both are very good media player front ends and XBMC is completely free and Plex has some free parts and some pay parts (the latter you can just get the free part).

    This keeps your hardware pretty much down to 3 devices plus TV and if you have an iPhone or iPad, you can remote them all in most cases.

    My set up - Marantz 1604 AVR, Oppo Blue Ray player (can also play media files other than iTunes movies), Mac Mini with XBMC as well as iTunes and NAS storage of all my media files. This has worked extremely well for me. I would be remiss if I didn't say that from time to time there are hiccups in the network but all quickly addressable. My media library includes AAC music, archived movies and some downloaded 96/24 flac music from HDTracks.
     
  7. Uofmtiger macrumors 68000

    Uofmtiger

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2010
    Location:
    Memphis
    #7
    This is similar to my setup and I use Roomie Remote (that I discuss here). The great thing about Roomie is that it can (assuming you have their full package of features) sync up among all iOS users. Unlike a typical universal remote, you can drop your iPhone, switch to an iPad and the Roomie app will know that you were watching ATV, Tivo, etc..

    I also have an older Harmony and mainly use it for the DVR. I still prefer a hard button remote for that task.

    The other upside is that once you have the app for your living room, it can also be used to control most networked devices around the house. I also use it in my bedroom with my Denon receiver and Directv box. Since it uses wifi, you can control your main system from anywhere on the same wifi system.

    I agree with others that a mac mini would be the best solution.
     
  8. HobeSoundDarryl, Aug 24, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2014

    HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 603

    HobeSoundDarryl

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Location:
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    #8
    But the problem with using any mobile iDevice as THE remote is that mobile devices leave the home with their owner. OP admits that there is at least one other person living there. If he makes the remote solution be his iPhone or iPad then the other person(s) needs that iDevice at home when they want to watch something. If that iDevice is out with it's owner, their fallback is back to the less "simplicity" of multiple remotes. Or he could dedicate an iDevice to being just the remote control but that's a lot of overkill for just that function.

    So again, I recommend a dedicated, "learning" remote control with macros. It is permanently dedicated to being the all-in-one remote to control everything and obviously has no reason to leave the home when someone is going out.

    And OP, yes, (re)wire so that everything runs through the AV receiver. It's likely you can run one master HDMI cable out to your TV. All source switching will be done within that receiver. The TV can basically be a "dumb" device (just a screen always showing HDMI1). :apple:TV, DVD player, cable box, etc can all pump their signals to the AV Receiver. And again, if you get a learning remote that can execute macros, a "setup" button you program in that remote can do the "simplicity" job of setting everything to the right inputs in a single button click:
    -Watch a DVD? Hit the DVD button to enter DVD mode, then push "setup"
    -Watch AppleTV? Hit the AppleTV button to enter AppleTV mode, then push "setup"
    -Watch Cable? Hit the Cable button to enter Cable mode, then push "setup"
    You make it ultra simple with the remote set up like that, then teach everyone that it's always push one button to put the remote in the mode of what they want to watch, then "setup". The "setup" macro for the mode will choose the correct receiver input, set the audio mode to the right mode (like Dolby Digital), set the TV to HDMI1 in case somehow it got set to something else, etc).

    When someone is having any trouble, you ask them to read the mode showing at the top of the LCD screen. If it's in the right mode, tell them to push "setup".
     
  9. Uofmtiger macrumors 68000

    Uofmtiger

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2010
    Location:
    Memphis
    #9
    None of this addresses how he will get his music/movies on the AppleTV without streaming from his Macs. Personally, I think the best answer is to buy a used mac mini. In that case, I would find it to be a waste to not plug the mini into the receiver and take advantage of its many features. The best way to do this, for our family, is with the Roomie app since it can control everything. We both have iPhones, though.

    However, if the OP wants to buy a mini and not use it directly, a Harmony could control the entire setup with ease. I guess it comes down to how he resolves the streaming issue and whether he wants a computer in his home theater.
     
  10. HobeSoundDarryl, Aug 24, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2014

    HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 603

    HobeSoundDarryl

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Location:
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    #10
    Actually if you go back to my post #2, I made the suggestion of a Mac Mini.
     
  11. Uofmtiger macrumors 68000

    Uofmtiger

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2010
    Location:
    Memphis
    #11
    I personally run Spotify, iTunes, Plex, XBMC, Fidelia, Safari, and many other desktop apps. How would that be done with a universal remote while using the mini to its full potential?
     
  12. HobeSoundDarryl, Aug 24, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2014

    HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 603

    HobeSoundDarryl

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Location:
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    #12
    The OP wants simplicity. You are running what I suspect he would find to be complexity. Whether you feel that way or not, I think most would argue that it's simpler to utilize an :apple:TV than a Mac Mini in the role of an :apple:TV (even if the latter brings a lot of added- albeit more complex- benefits). OP and his wife already know how to use an :apple:TV and the :apple:TV operating system. He's not asking for a solution to run a bunch of other software, nor wanting a full computer running on his television.

    My suggestion was to hook a Mac Mini up as the computer running iTunes to big storage (NAS or direct attached) and then continue to use the :apple:TV he already has to watch what he wants to watch. A universal remote could control the :apple:TV, cable, DVD player, TV, AV Receiver. The MacMini would be his always on, dedicated Mac running iTunes, freeing up his and his wife's laptops as he says he wants them. That Mac Mini would also store his photo and music collection, freeing up the media "duplication" problem he references with those laptops. It all seems like a pretty simple solution.

    Your option is more powerful. OP could do a lot more if he hooked that Mac Mini to his HDTV instead of using an :apple:TV. But then he and his wife needs to learn to use new on-screen operating system, need some way to replicate mouse/trackpad and keyboard input devices for the Mac Mini (which might be through iDevices but that comes with it's own problem- see post #8). I grant that hooking up a full computer in place of an :apple:TV brings more powerful and varied options but that also brings complexity and learning curves, which appears to be the opposite of what OP means when he references "simplicity".

    Very simply, OP needs:
    1. an always-on computer running iTunes to solve several problems with currently using 2 laptops,
    2. a quality (I think) learning remote (I think) with macros to resolve the "single interface" goal, and maybe
    3. a DVD or BD player if he doesn't want to learn to convert his DVDs to movies he could drop into iTunes.

    The conversion part of #3 has it's own complexity, so there having a Mac Mini (or a dedicated disc player) attached to the Receiver might be the easier way to play a DVD. Or he might reject #3 and continue doing what he's doing now (playing DVDs in his laptops and airplaying them through his :apple:TV).
     
  13. 2010mini macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2013
    #13

    what he said.


    OP

    this is a simplest solution. Mac Mini with attached drive connected by ethernet to your router. this does not have to be in your home theatre cabinet. It can be in anywhere in the house albeit connected by Ethernet. It stays on running iTunes and has your full photo library.

    All the media you need, can be streamed to the Apple TV. and just pick up a inexpensive blue ray player (I got one for $50) to play the movies discs you want every now and then.

    Get a harmony remote, connect the cable box, apple tv, and blue ray player to your receiver by hdmi and one from the receiver to your TV

    the harmony remote will act as your UI. when you set it up (so simple to do) it turns on the device you need when and controls them.

    If my notoriously impatient wife can use the harmony remote i set up... anyone can.
     
  14. jdag macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    #14
    Totally agree that this is the way to go.

    The added advantage to this method...expanding to additional rooms means only buying an additional AppleTV (and TV, remote if needed).

    I have such a setup with my iMac as the always on iTunes server along with 3 AppleTVs. Runs flawlessly.
     

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