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Create Your Own On-Demand Service at Home

When was the last time you used your DVD or Blu-Ray player to watch your favorite movie? Nowadays, services like Netflix and Oceanic TWC OnDemand services allow you to stream your favorite movies whenever you want. But what about all those plastic discs you paid for? If you are like me then those discs are collecting dust in some corner of your living room or sitting in a box in a closet. I decided to create my own on-demand media server using the Plex Media Server (PMS).  Plex diagram

Plex is a suite of software that allows you to create your own movies on-demand service. This means that all the movies that you own can be accessed using your television, computer or mobile device (iOS and Android). I have set-up Plex to be only used in my home, but you can subscribe to the Plex Pass if you can stream your movies anywhere or download selected movies to your mobile device for offline viewing. Chances are you will want to access PMS via your television so you will need the following devices connected to your television and the Plex App installed:

  • XBox One, XBox 360
  • Playstation 3 or 4
  • Chromecast
  • Amazon FireTV
  • Roku
  • Android TV
  • Smart TV (Samsung, Vizio, Opera TV)
  • Apple TV 4 (coming soon)

Installing PMS on my iMac was very simple. I downloaded the free software (available for OSX, Windows, Ubuntu, Fedora, CentOS and FreeBSD) and ran the installation program. Next, I went through the laborious process of ripping all of my DVD and Blu-Ray movies onto an external hard drive using MakeMKV (Windows and OSX). Plex can play MP4 or MKV videos. Most people will prefer the more popular MP4 format, but I chose MKV because of its better video quality.

The great thing about PMS is that it virtually eliminates the need for you to input movie information into its database. All you need to do is tell PMS where to find your movies and follow the naming convention for movie files or folders. When you place a movie file into the specified movie folder, PMS will detect it and search the Internet for the movie information. It will also grab movie posters and background images for it to use in the Plex streaming apps. I opted to put each movie in its own folder because I also wanted to store the “behind the scenes” videos.

File system

The only problem I encountered was for the movie “The Hidden Blade”, which is a Japanese movie. PMS thought it was the “Hunger Games” and I had to manually change the movie information.

Once I had all my movies copied to the correct location, everything just worked. I installed the Plex app onto my iPhone and iPad and they automatically detected the Media Server running on my iMac. I was able to access all the movies on my mobile devices and even stream them to my television via Chromecast.

Plex iPhone Plex iPad

I am able to create playlists and collections for trilogies or themes and am able to search my collection by movie names, actors, directors or tags. I cannot tell you how amazing it is to have all of my movies available to be viewed on any device in my home. My movie collection has now entered the 21st century alongside my music and ebook collections.

Links:
http://plex.tv
http://www.makemkv.com

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