What's the right answer to get my Mac media to a TV?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by kirsch92, Jul 4, 2010.

  1. kirsch92 macrumors member

    Apr 30, 2009
    I was all set to dive into the NAS, “one place to store it all” mindset. Now I have major misgivings.

    Try and follow my logic, if you will:

    Today’s media storage requirements are leaning towards something like it though. I imagine most households are similar. Not everyone can afford “everything Mac.” I wish to have my movies, music and photos in one location, for use by my iMac, any other computers I might have, and a “media device” attached to my TV. In my case it is currently an Xbox 360.

    “Playback” works very well and was cheap. However my iMac needs to be awake for it to work. Wake on LAN for a Mac requires an Airport Express or Extreme. Now I need a new router and a dedicated external media drive, or I get an NAS and take the Mac out of the loop.

    An NAS typically uses some sort of media server, Twonky, Itunes, etc. Perfect, no iMac needed. I can stream to my Xbox without the Mac. Except my photos. An NAS is usually EXT or NTFS or FAT formatted depending on whether it uses Linux or WHS.
    I recently discovered iPhoto needs a HFS+ formatted volume or bad things can happen. So now my ever growing photo collection needs to be on the Mac or an external drive connected to the Mac, not an NAS; unless I drink more Apple Koolaid and buy a mini and make it my NAS. Than the mini is always on, or I STILL need an AEBS to wake it.

    QNAP just came out with firmware that allows HFS+ external drives mounted to the NAS. Maybe that is the answer.

    I could go with no NAS. Instead, an AEBS and Airdisk might do the trick, but I don’t think I could stand the abysmal read/write rates I would get through it.

    I could buy an ATV and an AEBS and just use external disks for storage, or maybe just go all out and buy an ATV, AEBS, Mac Mini server, 2 or 3 Airport Express with Airtunes and call it a day.

    I never liked that once you start using iPhoto, you seem to be trapped into it. I can’t even move photos between libraries without losing information unless I buy an external program to do it. My suspicions that iPhoto is a piece of garbage deepen.

    The crux of this is that more and more households are growing media heavy and need a place to put it all. Keeping it all on the internal drive will soon be impossible, yet there seems to be no environmentally and wallet friendly way to achieve it for a Mac household.

    I suppose I could dump iPhoto and use Picasa with an NAS, but I kind of like having photo albums in iPhoto available on the Xbox through Playback.

    I could just be depressed because I am stuck here at work on the 4th of July, but I think somewhere here in my rant, is a call for help.

    If you made it all the way through this post AND you successfully followed my logic, AND you still care to respond, you are a better man/woman than me.:cool:
  2. a2applegirl macrumors regular


    Jun 16, 2010
    I went through your same line of thinking before I plunged and bought the mac mini server. I never bought an apple tv all these years because the storage is so small on them. I have 350+ dvds (I lost count somewhere in the 300's I probably have closer to 400) a 60 gb itunes library of music, 250 gb of television shows (which is the tip of the iceberg if I ever go back like I want to and get my favorites from the past, etc....), I also have around 100+ movies that are in itunes on my two macbook pros and ipad. I have over 1000 photos in my iphoto albums and that number grows quickly as I am a photo buff. I have never been able to come up with a somewhat simple way to manage all of that, so I just ignored the whole project for years.

    When the mini came out with an hdmi connector, I decided that connecting it directly to my plasma tv made sense. I never wanted to go with a linux or windows server because I strongly believe that macs network much better with other macs. I also did not want to consider any hardware that did not have an hdmi connector, so older versions of the mac mini were out for me. Quality of sound is just as important to me as quality of image.

    What is working well with my mac mini server so far:

    1. Lots of storage and a firewire 800 port to add more external storage as needed just like a home nas.

    2. My mac mini talks and shares and plays nicely with all of my macs. No complexity in sharing printers, network, media, etc between macs as well as with the server itself. Mini server is always on, but it is very quiet, and it stays cool. I have it showing out in the open in my living room, next to my plasma tv.

    3. New graphics chip is working well with my 40" plasma tv. Video is smooth and not choppy and the color and detail of my encodes look great.

    I understand why you would consider a nas rather than a mac mini server that acts like a nas. A nas will probably be cheaper, and will allow non-mac devices to connect to it pretty easily. But if you set up your mac mini server to allow windows machines to share your drives then you should be able to achieve the same results, with better compatibility between the server and your macs.

    It's not a cheap solution, I have spent around $1,300 all said and done including the mac mini server, and a 2 tb firewire 800 drive. But for a server that has 3 tb of storage and is compatible with all of my computers, devices and television, that is not that bad a price.
  3. DoFoT9 macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    i am just chiming in, at work currently and will add my (hefty) 2c later - but had you considered a PS3 or something similar? using a Mac it is possible to stream any media content from the Mac to the PS3 over the network (using PS3 Media Server).

    edit: i am also looking for a good method to get everything sorted together (movies and music). i am currently moving my ~5 iTunes libraries into one, and have ~2TB movies/TV shows that i want to sort into iTunes (maybe). decisions decisions...
  4. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    talk about good timing - I've been thinking about the same issue.

    large Itunes library - movies and music = a few hundred GBs

    and about to get much larger b/c I'm converting all of our family digital8 camcorder tapes. I'm going to make .m4vs for every tape (probably edited a bit) - I have 90+.

    But I also want to keep the uncompressed dv transfers which I calculate to be approximately 1.3 TBs (to date).

    Add all of my digital camera videos and my Pentax K7 720P HD videos and lots of space taken up quickly.

    I've thought about having the mac mini server, but I already have the AppleTV and 6 other macs so I don't think I need another one. One of my Mac Pros is usually on b/c i'm working or running work (video transfers) so running a server through it to my ATV using Itunes isn't an issue.

    What the issue remains is: what do i use for a server!? :) lol

    I could get another 4 by esata enclosure with a pci card or a FW800 enclosure. So many possibilities, but I believe if anyone is doing this, they should have Raid'd drives to protect their data. I could probably get a 4 bay with 4 x 2 TB drives and have 2 Raid'd setups. That would set me up for the digital8 tapes and most of the ITunes library with a bit of space for future growth (which won't be on the same scale - kind of went nuts with our first child although I leave the camcorder out more often than not and am recording more - the kiddies grow up so fast. Tough to miss stuff :)


    To the OP, if I didn't have so many macs and my appleTV, I would buy the new mac mini server as applegirl did and connect direct to my TV via HDMI, then I would add some sort of an enclosure (or multiples as needs grow).
    Also, I would look at buying refurb for everything, but the mini server. Saves a few bucks. My last few macs have been refurbs. no issues.

    A little more expensive, but would be simple minded ease of use and most times, that's worth the extra bit :)

  5. DoFoT9 macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    keebler ^^ low end Linux/Windows/Hack server? $500 will set you up with a machine that has 8HDD bays! (Fractal Black case). i plan on purchasing one, i3 CPU of sorts.
  6. gilford macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2010
    @ applegirl

    I currently have an ATV but considering the new mini.

    My situation is a lot like yours, where as I have a 27" iMac in the home office with all my iTunes purchased stuff along with hundreds of gb's of encoded video.

    My question is, if I buy stuff on the iMac, will it auto sync it to the mini so I dont have to have the imac on all the time?
  7. DoFoT9 macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    go into iTunes, and look on the left hand menu for "Home Sharing". that is your new best friend :D
  8. gilford macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2010
    Cheers for that, I'll have a look at it when I get home.

    So, to clarify, will that auto sync ALL of my iTunes folder to another computer EXACTLY as it is on my iMac and then when I purchase something on EITHER Mac at a later date it will autosync to the other when it is turned on etc (a la the ATV does now?)?

  9. DoFoT9 macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    you got it! you can choose to manually sync files, or automatically. sounds like having an iPod when you connect it haha!
  10. rwdds macrumors member

    Jan 5, 2005
    For Applegirl: How does the surround audio from the ripped dvd's behave? Now this is important to me and I am sure to some others. I'm under the impression that when a user handbrake's a commercial disc (for private use only) that the 5.1 DD or DTS encoded audio is reverted to stereo. Can anyone shed some light on how to keep the encoded 5.1 surround tracks correct for playback, when using a new mini?
  11. gilford macrumors member

    Mar 15, 2010
    It's exactly the same as with the ATV I presume, when ripping you just select the audio you want (AAC etc)?
  12. stevensr123 macrumors 6502

    Apr 22, 2010
    I'm also wanting to set up a media palace in my home.

    My main problem is i absolutely hate having to convert my videos, It takes time and i don't feel like wasting it. That's why i am getting the new mac mini, it can basically play all video formats via plex.

    but I'm also getting a second device for my bedroom.

    a hdtv vs hacked appl tv, Which is the better option? I'm not arsed about streaming content, All I'm bothered about is pure codec support.
  13. Vylen macrumors 65816

    Jun 3, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
    To the OP... and to play the otherside...

    I'd suggest going the Linux NAS route for a cheap alternative... And to get around the iPhoto problem, I would suggest having a (large) partition formatted to HFS+. There is limited support on linux to read/write to HFS+ partitions but in non-journaled mode. A "small" detail but will probably improve quickly (I remember back in the day - a few years back - when NTFS read/write support was limited on linux but now it's no issues. So full journaleld HFS+ will probably come about sooner than later.
  14. jamerican macrumors newbie

    Jul 22, 2009
    Handbrake lets you select the tracks you wish to keep when you select AC3 Passthrough or DTS Passthrough. It will only convert the video in that case. Some people prefer to convert audio and video;:cool:
  15. a2applegirl macrumors regular


    Jun 16, 2010
    Yes. If you turn on home sharing, on both itunes (ie the itunes on the mac mini and the itunes on the iMac) you will auto sync. You can choose whether you want to download local copies of the media to your mini or just have the library sync via wireless. You have to make sure that all computers are authorized devices on all copies of your itunes, and turn home sharing on in the itunes in the "Advanced" menu in itunes and you will sync automatically and be able to stream to your tv.
  16. a2applegirl macrumors regular


    Jun 16, 2010
    For true surround audio you have two choices:

    1. Rip to native dvdmedia format using ripit or something like that. I use ripit to rip to dvdmedia format first and then encode the dvds that I am willing to compress. There are certain dvds such as my criterion collection dvds that make no sense to compress so I am just ripping them in native format to the mini and watching them with either dvdplayer or vlc. The surround sounds great in this scenario. This is why I got 3 tb of storage. I wanted to be able to have my favorite dvds in multiple formats. I have a bose surround sound system connected to the tv and the sound is truly amazing on my ripped dvds.

    2. There is an option in handbrake to encode a second surround audio track. It is in the audio customization preferences. You can tweak the audio as much as you want to get true surround, but in my opinion, compressed files are never going to sound as good in surround as uncompressed. (obviously....:p) I find that sound suffers far more in compressing to apple tv and apple universal codecs than visual quality does. Handbrake also has an option to keep the audio files uncompressed and only compress the video, but when I tried this I had synchonization issues between the video and the sound on the encoded clip, so I have yet to get that working correctly. If anyone wants to give me some suggestions on that I am all ears. :) I am compressing all of my old black and white movies, cheesy-campy 80's movies (think Flashdance...:p) and other movies I don't care about sound-wise as much. For the movies I think that sound really matters, I am compressing a version for my ipad and watching the dvdmedia ripped version on my tv.
  17. kirsch92 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 30, 2009
    I just discovered today that the Western Digital NAS's are HFS+ formatted out of the box. So far they are the only ones I have heard of that are. I stumbled across this info on the smallnetbuilder site reading a review.
    These drives tend to get mixed reviews, but he seemed to like it for the most part.

    I think Time Machine backups on all these NAS's that claim support for it require a dmg setup on the drive, which seems like a recipe for disaster at some point. I suppose the same could be done for iPhoto, but the idea of native support using a drive formatted to HFS+ is a bonus.

    The only down side is those WD NAS's are not the zippiest in the world, nor do they have any fans, which seems odd for something that is on 24/7.

    I have a FW800 2 drive JBOD external for a video scratch drive and Time Machine, so speed on the NAS might only be an issue on initial loading of data.

    More to ponder.
    The absolute safety of iPhoto contents is of the highest priority. If I lost all the photos of the kids, I'm a dead man.

    On another note, my handbraked DVD's have been saved with 5.1 DD sound, but my soundbar is only recieving PCM thru the optical input. I think my XBOX might only be capable of 2 channel PCM thru the optical. Hmm, more money to spend. Sigh.
  18. DoFoT9 macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    any network connected drive will require a dmg to be produced for TM. my Time Capsule has dmgs on it created from each computer, its only locally stored hard drives (including ext USB etc) that will use a folder - from what ive seen anyway.

    any chance of re-ripping them all and just leaving them as the VIDEO_TS files? playback using a Mac/PC of those files will yield the greatest results output wise, maybe not size wise :(
  19. kirsch92 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 30, 2009
    Xbox won't play a Video_TS file. I'm not too concerned about it. I mostly want to stream the kids shows for convenience.

    In the interest of minimizing, I sold my tuner and surround system and went solely to a soundbar with "simulated surround". Not ideal, but it is simple.

    Picture quality on the other hand, I'm a stickler about. On my 50" plasma the difference between a 480p DVD and a 1080p Bluray is pretty evident, even at my viewing distance of 13 feet, so my movies I want to watch on blu-ray as much as possible, though I do have to grit my teeth while I wait for it to load. Even the disc tray opening time annoys me. But then I'm off on another rant.

    Frankly, I am beginning to think digital movie serving isn't ready for prime time. When it comes to ease of use, nothing beats my Tivo.
    I love my eight second instant rewind. I find myself getting annoyed when I can't do that for some bit of dialogue I missed on DVD or Bluray.
  20. a2applegirl macrumors regular


    Jun 16, 2010
    For someone who is as into movies and music as I am, I surprise myself that I haven't invested in blueray yet. I have such a large dvd collection, I guess I resent having to buy most of it over again, especially since blueray may not be the final word in hd formats. On my 40" plasma, newer movies look so-so compressed and sound horrible compressed, but old movies are fine compressed. My rule of thumb right now is that if it is a remastered, special dvd where color has been corrected and sound has been remixed (ie criterion collection dvds, or director's remixes, etc) then I will not compress it at all.

    This project is way more involved than I thought it would be, but I am enjoying it. I am making custom icons of the movie cover art for each file, and am adding spotlight comments to each file so that if I browse the files just the Finder window, I can still have somewhat of an interface.

    For what you are doing, it sounds like the mac-mini server might be overkill.
  21. Chris Rogers macrumors 6502a

    Chris Rogers

    Jul 8, 2008
    my house
    I use a Mac Mini (2009 version) connected to a Drobo (expandable storage up to 16TB) which I view on my TV with Plex. I am also able to share everything that is on the Drobo with any computer (all macs) even iphone/ipad/ipod touch (via Air Video app) on my network.

    I only keep video on the Drobo because I would like to access my music on the go on my MBP. There is no need, for my wife & I, to have our photos on the mini, since we each have our own computer to view them on.

    Also, if you're worried about it always being on, you can configure it to shut down at certain times at night and power on automatically the next day.

    The mac mini way, to me, is just simple.
  22. keeper macrumors 6502

    Apr 23, 2008
    I'm currently looking at my setup as my NAS keeps falling off the network and the ATVs are full.
    For those using external Firewire drives do you just leave them switched on?
    Do they power down?
    I was thinking of a new Mini with an external drive to keep things simple.

    The TV and NAS also have twonky media server so its also an option to re-rip my small movie collection and only use an ATV for music.

    If only I could make my mind up, £650 seems alot to pay just to run itunes, could buy lots of Blu-Ray disks with the money

    Cheers Phil
  23. DoFoT9 macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    yeh leave them on, provided you arent worried about the power usage 24/7 (roughly 10w or so when spinning).

    in system prefs->energy saver you can choose whether or not to power them down (spin down).
  24. brentsg macrumors 68040

    Oct 15, 2008
    I don't like the idea of putting the content on a device that's attached to the PC. I consider the PC device to be an edge device and I want all the media on the core of my network.

    I prefer a media server like the HP EX series. It's in a storage area hanging off my router via a Gig-E link. Then everything else (PCs, HTPC, phones, iPad, etc) access the content in that manner. Plus the server sips energy and is always available when I need to access my data.

    I'm actually getting better at keeping ALL my data on the server, which has the benefit of making PC swaps, changes, etc easier.
  25. eponym macrumors 6502

    Jul 2, 2010
    I have a Mini hooked up to my TV running Plex.

    I keep all my media on a Synology NAS networked via gigabit ethernet (Mini is also hardwired).

    Plex simply has volumes from the NAS set as content sources. But the NAS could be accessed from any machine on the network. I also have Air Video running on the Mini so that I can access media from my iPhone on the fly (and iPad too if I owned one).

    And once Plex updates to the next version, it'll be even easier to sync between my macs as I can then use the Mini's media setup as a source for any other Mac running Plex on the network.

Share This Page