Plex to the Rescue

Apr 3, 2014

DLNA, Media, Plex, Streaming, Xbox

Plex to the Rescue

DLNA, Media, Plex, Streaming, Xbox

Apr 3, 2014

Last time, I did some background research on the DLNA Technology underlying Windows Play To, with the hopes of finding a general solution for Windows 7/8 to Xbox One streaming.

Unfortunately I hit a problem. Windows supports Play To streaming of some file formats (.avi, .mp4, .wmv) but not others (.mkv, .vob, .divx). And it can’t be changed.

So the only solution is to use supported formats - i.e. convert your entire media library to (for example) .mp4. Ugh.

But wait. What if we converted the unsupported files as needed, on-the-fly? That wouldn’t be too bad, right?

It turns out there’s already software that does this.

Switching Media Server

  • Up til now, I’ve been using Windows’ built-in media sharing capability, but there’s plenty of other Digital Media Server software out there: Mezzmo, Plex Media Server, PS3 Media Server, Serviio, TVersity to name just a few.
  • Even better, some of these Media Servers support real time transcoding. If I can convince the Media Server to convert our unsupported files to supported ones on-the-fly, we’ll be all set!

Plex to the rescue

I probably could’ve chosen any of the Media Servers mentioned above, but I chose to investigate Plex for two reasons:

  1. I have some familiarity with it.
  2. I know it supports DLNA media profiles. These are essential for what we want to achieve.

What are DLNA media profiles?

From Plex’s website:

“DLNA is a rather broad and flexible standard, and different devices interpret the standard in different ways. Some by design, some due to device bugs accident. This makes it impossible for a media server that supports DLNA to provide a one-size-fits-all implementation of the standard. Instead, the server [via media profiles] must adapt to different clients by recognizing them and changing its behavior accordingly.”

So what next? My idea is to create two new client profiles:

  • One for the Windows Digital Media Controller.
    • We’ll tell Plex that this client only supports those file formats that Windows allows Play To for (i.e. .mp4, .avi etc). This means Plex will convert any other file formats (e.g. .mkv) to supported ones on-the-fly, in theory allowing us to use Play To with almost anything.
  • One for the Xbox One.
    • Here we’ll tell Plex which streaming parameters the Xbox One supports, so any files it doesn’t handle will be converted ahead of time.