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Home Media Server - ideas

Discussion in 'Collector's Corner' started by Mike Blakesley, Aug 25, 2017.

  1. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator Thread Starter

    I was going to write to Rudy directly about this but decided to put it here instead.... I know Rood has a media server at Casa Rudy, and there is a thread somewhere detailing what all he's got installed, but I can't find it. I'd like to plunge into that pool myself and am looking for recommendations/suggestions on what equipment is needed and what steps to take to make it happen.

    Can somebody direct me to that old thread, or maybe we could just start afresh here.

    My wife is having knee surgery next week so I'm looking for "projects" to do around the house while I'm helping her recuperate, and this seems like the perfect thing to work on.
  2. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    This could take a while. :D

    There are a few ways to go about it. Some will simply install another drive in their computer and use that as their media server. Others consider a USB hard drive a "server."

    I guess the best thing is to ask what your goals are, and what types of devices you want to play back the media on. If you want a place to store all of your digital files (ripped from CD, needle drops, DVD/BluRay rips, etc.), and share them across any device in the house, that would probably be set up differently from someone who uses a "server" only for one device (in which case it really isn't a "server").

    I'm making some changes in a few months, largely due to needing more storage space. I'm debating whether or not to add external storage to what I have, get a second 2-bay server, or buy a 4-bay to replace the 2-bay I have now.

    Media servers on a network are typically done via NAS--network attached storage. The NAS box is essentially a lightweight computer that is set up primarily for serving files across a network, or even via the Internet (provided safety measures are in place). There are a lot of NAS products out there, but I'll cut right to the chase and recommend getting one from either Synology or QNAP. I have not yet used QNAP, but Synology's software makes it very easy to configure and use. (I understand QNAP's is similarly robust and easy to use.) There are cheaper NAS boxes out there but they all have shortcomings and most are very poor at being used as media servers.

    As for playback devices, there are so many options out there that it might help to know what you intend to use for playback. Even today's "smart" TVs can take advantage of a media server. I like that among all of the DVD and BluRay titles I have on the media server, there is no longer any menu to deal with--you click a movie title, and it starts straight away. For music players, there are many computer-based player applications, apps for smartphones and tablets, devices such as speakers with built-in WiFi capabilities, or even Chromecast Audio which can be connected to just about any audio system.

    There are also network media player components now, which are pretty much replacing disc players in many systems, such as the Marantz NA6005 or the Oppo Sonica DAC (which may be my next move, although I would be going with the Modwright version of it). This trend is something that really surprised me at the last couple of audio shows I attended--most of the rooms playing digital were using media players/streamers of some sort, and I can only think of two rooms (out of dozens I visited) that used CDs. The Marantz is lower in cost, but I'm seeing this trickle down to less expensive electronics, or it is a feature being built into other devices now (such as receivers) and as I mentioned earlier, there are "wireless" speakers and even tabletop systems that will allow streaming.

    One last topic--if you are looking at tools for ripping and maintaining the collection, I can easily recommend dBpoweramp for CD ripping and file conversion (especially due to its ability to look up and tag files for you automatically, and rip CDs securely), and the freeware MP3Tag program to edit those tags.
  3. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator Thread Starter

    I tend to use iTunes/iPod for music, so this will mostly be for DVD/BluRay playback. We have a smart TV upstairs, and two TiVo boxes that are connected to the wi-fi. I already have been looking at NAS boxes and was leaning toward the QNAP when I wrote the post above. We hardly ever do any music listening in the house, just in the vehicle.

    I'm not sure how big a storage device to get....I have no idea how many videodisks I have, but it's a lot. Quite a few old TV series collections, plus a ton o'movies. I guess it'd be good to back up things like pictures too.
  4. Bobberman

    Bobberman Well-Known Member

    When I got my tablet earlier this year with help from a friend ( as mentioned elsewhere) I saved my photos music and videos I had stored on the old tablet and as well as my laptop music mix all together in to the 60 GB SD CARD ( Which is in addition to the 16 GB already in the system by itself) makes my device more of a multimedia server of sorts in addition to the apps I already use so with just about any size or type of device you make it into your own server I've learned this incrementally over the last 6 years. And everything I know now is by Experience in working with this and I'm Still Learning even now.
  5. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    It depends how you store the video. You can store the disc images files (in ISO format) which, with compatible players (not many), will play back exactly like the disc, including the menus. Most of us rip the discs to an MKV file, which is smaller. There is some loss in quality but to be honest, that difference is so slight that most won't notice it anyway. At least, not if you try to cram a 30GB BluRay into a 700MB file.

    I have rips of some of the 007 movies that range anywhere from 4GB to 8GB in size and they are plenty good enough. For DVDs, ripped file sizes seem to be around 700MB-1GB. I have two 4TB drives right now, and both are nearly full. Video will eat up a lot of space on the drive, especially if it is BluRay. For the drives, I went with HGST 4TB Deskstar NAS drives. Regular consumer drives won't cut it, at least not the crap WD or Seagate sells these days. With a WD, I probably would go to their "Re" or "Se" enterprise drives, which are meant for continuous server duties.

    For the TV I use a Nexus Player, which runs Android. On there, I have both the Kodi and VLC programs installed, and both will play any file format I throw at it. That means there is no transcoding needed. The worst network video player we have is a Sony--it is very, very fussy on which formats it takes. I gave up on it. On the other hand, the WDTV Live Streaming Media Player pretty much handles all files--I have two, as they were cheap enough and are easy for family to use. Depending on which TVs you have, you may need to do a few test rips to see which formats will work with all TVs.

    Synology does have support for Itunes libraries if I'm not mistaken. And, the NAS boxes are a great way to back up your digital "stuff" including photographs. (I also sync to OneDrive as an additional off-site backup.)
  6. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    I used to have a 2-bay D-Link NAS box, with 2x2GB drives filled with music, some TV episodes and a few movies. I had a WD Live and a Patriot Box Office media player connected to my TVs (later replaced by HP Stream and Asus VivoPC mini computers running Windows 10, VLC, and Kodi). My living room and basement stereo receivers had old linux netbooks connected to them for streaming music. Everything worked fine for a few years, and then I started to experience ever more frequent disconnects, which required power cycling the NAS. Fortunately, I was able to transfer most of my files onto external hard drives before the NAS finally bit the dust. That was over a year ago, and I still haven't decided if I want to go to the expense of buying a new NAS and starting over again. For now, I have an external laptop HD filled with files, which I connect to whichever device I want to use at the time.

    The only advice I have for you Mike, since you want a server mainly for your DVD and Blu-ray collection, is to be aware of how long it actually takes to rip and compress video discs. If you have a large collection, it's a major time commitment. Start by ripping and compressing a few of your most watched titles, to see how well your computer handles the task, and to judge whether or not it's really worth the effort to you, before you shell out the money for more hardware. I realized that I would only watch most movies once every few years at best, so it was actually easier to just dig out the disk and play it, than it was to rip and compress it, and then have to store the file for years before I would need it again. Favorite TV shows make more sense to have on a server, since they likely would be watched more often.

    Rudy, maybe you could recommend some good video ripping software. I used to use a couple of freeware DVD rippers, but they were abandoned by the developers (they got in trouble due to the DMCA). I've recently added a Blu-ray drive to my tower, but have no idea what is out there in BD rippers. For compressing video, I bought a license for TMPGEnc Video Mastering Works 6, as it's one of the few programs that can use the NVENC hardware encoder in my Nvidia card.
  7. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    Handbrake is sort of a standard ripper/converter that is a favorite among many out there, but I found it overly difficult to use since there were so many settings to be tweaked. I need to look at my desktop computer once I'm back at it to see what else I use--it was much simpler, but I can't remember the name of it.

    I have to say the Synology I have has been quite stable. It has run at least three years now, non-stop. I've had to reboot it maybe once or twice a year but otherwise, no issues. I have a few DLNA servers loaded on it, but have primarily been using Serviio which seems to work well enough for now. Although I tend to browse my collection via folder and filename, as I can find things much faster than having to dig through countless titles. I do the same for music, in fact, and from the Oppo player I have now, I find it easier to go through my folder hierarchy than deal with the way the DLNA server categorizes and sorts things. JRiver's library feature does a better job since it has more filters and ways to sort the items, but I don't always use it for playback.
  8. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator Thread Starter

    I've used MakeMKV quite a bit to rip movies. I have Handbrake too but haven't used it in a long time. There's another DVD rip program called DVDFab that I've used on occasion. I think those last two don't do MKVs which is why I abandoned them.

    I wish somebody made a machine that you could just drop a couple hundred disks in, press the "rip" button, and it would methodically go thru the disks and rip them automatically.

    I do wish I'd have thought of this a few weeks ago .... I coulda gotten hardware together and spent hours plugging in disks while Lynn is in the other room recuperating. As it is, she's having the surgery on Monday of next week so...
  9. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    MakeMKV may be the one I'm thinking of. I am pretty sure Handbrake did MKV but I barely used it, so I can't recall for certain.

    If your computer is newer and has enough horsepower, it probably could run two drives at once. My desktop computer easily runs two drives for ripping CDs, but that is also a much lighter load. I could run three drives at once I suppose (I have done it, using my laptop as the third drive), but at that rate I start to fall behind in swapping discs in and out. I'm running an Intel Core i7 with a lot of memory and SSDs, so there is no real lag when doing a second disc while the first is still ripping. There are CD rippers that allow you to stack many discs at once, but I've never seen one for DVDs. I know with video in general, you usually need to choose which "title" on the disc to rip. That could prevent automating it totally.
  10. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    OK, I'll give MakeMKV a try. Thanks guys.
  11. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    I just realized my Synology is probably approaching the 4 year mark (it is the DS214play, and the newest model now is the DS218play). I've outgrown the storage--my two 4TB drives are nearly full now.

    The video drive I suspected would fill up, as video files and folders can be quite large.

    For the music, though, I never figured I would find a way to rip SACDs, and it turns out someone came up with a hack that would work with my Oppo player. (It involves three small files you store on a USB thumb drive, then insert in the player before turning on; once you've done that, you can access it over the network and use the player for ripping.) Ripped SACDs stored as an ISO disc image file can use up to 5GB of space; if the files are extracted from the ISO, and both the 2.0 and 5.1 channel programs are extracted, they expand to take up a lot more room.

    That and my increasing interest in high-res digital has similarly taken up a lot of room.

    The dilemma is whether to add an external USB or eSATA drive to the DS214play, or get a DS218play with two fresh drives and start splitting up storage, and creating more redundant backups. I also run another NAS storage device, so a lot of my music is backed up there already. Looks as though 6TB and 8TB drives are more popular now, and I'm thinking that might be a safer way to go. Since I have been installing security cameras outdoors, I can make use of Synology's Surveillance Station for monitoring and recording, and store the video in rotating schedules on the server.

    I did, however, upgrade the network here at the house late last year. I was running everything from three Linksys consumer routers, on which I had loaded the DD-WRT firmware. One was used as my main router; the other two were used as wireless access points (WAPs). They were a cheap solution--I didn't pay more than $25 for them, used, over the years. When we had a power surge, one of the three crapped out on me, and that left us with a weak signal in a good portion of the house. I ended up moving to Ubiquiti's pro-level WAP and an EdgeRouter, and also installed an unmanaged switch in the family room in order to connect my work computer and the Oppo directly to the network with Ethernet. The WAP is amazing though--I've never had a stronger signal in the house, and it has even more configuration options than DD-WRT. The Chromecast Audio units in the house all see a strong signal now, with no dropouts (even in the most remote location).
  12. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    It isn't exactly a "media server" per se, but a few weeks ago I installed the HDHomeRun Connect Duo, which is a network TV tuner. With their app, I can watch over the air broadcasts on any of the devices in the house, including the TV (via the Nexus Player). Some smart TVs and set-top boxes (like the NVidia Shield) also have the app, or can access the tuner via alternate means (with their own interface, or through apps like Emby, Plex, Kodi, etc.). DVR is usually a subscription-based add-on, although with using the HDHomeRun DVR, it is only a few dollars per month (paid yearly). Like any DVR, programming is easily scheduled by selecting the program from a listing (where you can select individual episodes or an entire series), or the live broadcast can be paused and resumed (even on a different device).

    So far it has worked flawlessly, pulling in more stations than my two older Sony TVs. The unit itself is not much larger than a deck of cards, and is simple to connect--Ethernet, antenna coaxial cable, and power supply. That's it! A quick visit with the setup application in Windows 10 scanned the channels and set the location for recorded DVR content (I set it to use my Synology server).

    There are other tuners out there like the Hauppauge, but they require a Windows 10 computer to connect to and be left on 24/7, which is obviously not a good idea. The HDHomeRun connects to the network, so any type of device can use it, and DVR recordings can take place without worrying about having to leave a computer running.

    It has worked out great for the Olympics coverage. I follow the CBC's broadcasts (not NBC's, which is horrid), so I've recorded all of it, which is more than 12 hours of programming per day. I can easily skip through some events, watch others, and skip commercials (of which they have far fewer than the US broadcast).

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