Plex is like a kind of locally-hosted Netflix and offers a number of compelling benefits:
- It’s quick, free(mium) and easy to install and set up
- It supports a large range of platforms and environments: FreeBSD, MacOS, Linux, Docker and various NAS manufacturers’ OSes
- The interface is nice and exposes video on you LAN — and over the internet if you choose
- Although the file format is a bit picky, if this is adhered to it does a good job of pulling metadata
- It has good search functionality
My current setup is to have the Plex server running natively on a HP Microserver running FreeBSD, which also doubles up as my NAS, with an NVIDIA Shield TV Pro on the same LAN being connected to a TV and providing the Plex client. The benefit of the Shield TV Pro is that it is frugal with power, silent, and will handle (with hardware decoding) the common video formats.
Plex comes with a handy feature for pre-transcoding video where you enthusiastically downloaded some extremely high resolution version which is just too big to e.g. watch on your tablet — just right-click and select ‘optimise’ and it will transcode it and store a lower quality version to stream.
The most useful options here are: Optimised for Mobile (720p) and Optimised for TV (1080p)
Plex for audio
Plex works well for music but very poorly for podcasts as they pulled podcast support. For this reason I use a Squeezebox Touch / Squeezebox Radio and Logitech Media Server for audio.
Items in the Plex library
For my write up of how to dump a list of films in your library from Plex’s internal database, see: find out how many films are on your Plex server.
Organising files for Plex
In order to help Plex out in its task of obtaining metadata for your video files, it is worth knowing how to organise your files.
Organising video for Plex, for TV
- Within a folder /SeriesName/Season XX/ where XX is the season number
- Each file should be named sXXeYY where XX is the season number and YY is the episode number
- For multiple episodes in one file, use sXXeYY-eYY
- Special episodes e.g. pilots should be put under /SeriesName/Special/ with the filename reflecting season nought i.e. s00eYY
Organising video for Plex, for films
- Just use the film name with the year of the film i.e. FilmName (YYYY)
- Because films often come with files for subtitles etc, I name these the same as the film and put both under a FilmName (YYYY) folder