All posts tagged 007

mediabrowserI have explained how the free media player software, Plex, is able to serve the movie, TV and music content on our PCs to our Roku boxes and a Raspberry Pi computer (see previous post, 007 24/7 on Plex Media Server).

But I must let you know about a Plex problem with movie and TV content ripped directly from DVDs into MKV format.

As noted before, MKV is a container format, and in this case, what it contains is the original MPEG2 content from the DVD. Broadcast digital TV is also in the MPEG2 format.

Newer Plex software releases seem to have trouble transcoding some of these MKV files for the Roku Plex channel. When our PCs (running Plex Media Server software) stream these MKVs to any of the Rokus, there is a bit of juddering and pixilation. I get the same result with 802.11g wifi as with wired Ethernet. It’s not a CPU issue, since both a weak Celeron-powered PC and a powerful quad-core PC produce the same result.

Plex’ original transcoder was the free ffmpeg software tool. But Plex’ latest software releases rely strictly on the new Plex Transcoder, based on ffmpeg, but rewritten by their team. The way the Roku Plex channel handles the new transcoder may be the cause of the problem, and I have reported it on their PlexPass forum.

(Here is Plex’ release note for the version, Sep 8, 2014: “The legacy transcoder, which is available as an option in some Plex clients, will be removed soon. Please be sure to report specific cases where you still see better results when using it.”)

Now, it is true that once these MKVs are converted to MP4 using Handbrake (with Rokoding settings), they play perfectly on Plex. And MP4 file sizes are smaller, and the files are more usable with other devices. But I am a bit lazy, and would prefer not to convert if I don’t need to.

I have discovered another entrant in the media player system arena that can transcode and stream these MKVs to Roku perfectly: Media Browser. Media Browser uses ffmpeg as its transcoder.

MB also uses ffmpeg to transcode Windows Media Center broadcast TV recordings (.WTV format), served to MB by free ServerWMC software. As we noted at the top, broadcast TV is MPEG2. You would probably need a powerful processor and an Ethernet or switch connection, and maybe a Roku 3 for this to even have a shot at working acceptably.

(The Raspberry Pi decodes MPEG2 video content in hardware, with a one-time $4 MPEG2 license. Thus it handles MKV and WTV files with ease. It can also act as a Plex client with the PlexBMC beta software.)

Fortunately, Media Browser works with media organized to Plex standards, so no changes to your file system are needed. Setup is different from Plex, so you have to spend a little time with it initially. But it is great to see that Bond marathon playing perfectly on Roku, and not just the Raspberry Pi.

Plex and Media Browser server software coexists just fine on our PCs. So I use both. I prefer Plex’ presentation, but MB is fine.

Eventually, I’m sure Plex will fix their transcoder/Roku problem, but it’s good to have an alternative. Did I mention that Media Browser is also free?

Prisoner MainPicture

Starring Patrick McGoohan

This is the day Scotland elected to remain in the UK.

While doing my volunteer job at the Hardesty Library, I came across 4 DVDs of the British spy-fi series,The Prisoner (1967), starring series creator, Patrick McGoohan, and checked them out. I’ve been looking for them.

McGoohan was born in the US, but soon thereafter, his family returned to their home in the Border Region of Ireland. Seven years after that, they moved to Sheffield, England.

I have corresponded online in the last year with a British helicopter pilot who did some of the second unit work on The Prisoner. He also worked on the 007 film, You Only Live Twice, specifically, landing inside the fake volcanic cone that served as the villain’s HQ, which he said was pretty hairy. (He had been something of a real-life 007 himself, serving On Her Majesty’s Royal Navy in the Special Boat Service, the special forces unit.)

My other volunteer job today was stuffing envelopes for KWGS’ upcoming pledge drive. I understand the concept of a quilting bee now. Keep your hands busy with a task, and conversation flows freely. A very “radio” mode of communication.

Left-handedness was one topic touched upon. My brother Alan is a left-handed bassist. I realized I had something in common with one of the other regular volunteers. He also has a close relative, a cousin, who is a left-handed bassist.

The volunteer’s last name is McCartney, and he is from Liverpool.

Small world.

Be seeing you.

My Plex 007 channel

My Plex 007 channel

Shaken and stirred into action by a passing remark in the Plex article about Collections, I created a 007 “channel” that can be viewed on our home network. It features all 23 Eon Productions Bond movies, plus commentaries.

All you need is access to each DVD for the 15 minutes it takes the MakeMKV software to convert the DVD files to .mkv files.

Plex Media Server (free) pulls the poster and background art from The Movie Database and Freebase. If it happens not to be available, you can add it yourself. For this to work automatically, you need to adhere to the standards laid out in the Plex Media Naming and Organization Guide. It’s easy to create a Collection once the films appear in Plex.

To view on your Roku box, find Collections, then select the one you want (are you are a Connery purist? I made a “subchannel” for each 007). Pick a movie to start with, go to Playback Options and select Continuous Play. You will be watching Bond until the next power failure or Windows Update.

The commentaries appear on Roku under Playback Options as choices within Audio Stream.

One of the great things about Plex (not as much for us, but maybe for you) is that different channels can be playing simultaneously in other rooms, with a sufficiently powerful CPU.

My wife’s favorite Sunday night show is Keeping Up Appearances, but OETA finally took it off after many years. The creation of the Mrs. Bucket and Fawlty Towers channels for her is my most lauded achievement of this whole cord-cutting experiment (though OETA’s new lineup with Billy Connolly’s Route 66, One Foot in the Grave, and Doc Martin is pretty good). Plex’ WAF (wife acceptance factor) was boosted.

You don’t need to be cord-cutting at all to use Plex this way.

Also, by using only your home network, you aren’t burning any of your internet bandwidth, as you are with Netflix, Hulu, etc. If you have a cap on your usage (as you do with the cable company), this could be a good thing.

However, Plex has some bandwidth-using channel content itself that could be helpful in your quest to cut the cable. More about that soon.

Back to Bond… the 1967 comedy version of “Casino Royale” was a mess, but the non-Eon production of “Never Say Never Again” with Sean Connery (a remake of “Thunderball”) is up near the top of my personal favorites. I won’t consider the channel complete until I add it. (9/15: It’s now complete. 2/22/2015: OK, now it’s really complete; I added the 1967 “Casino Royale”.)

Here is my 2006 review of the Daniel Craig “Casino Royale“, and Gary Chew’s 2008 review of “Quantum of Solace“.


Richard Kiel and TulsaTV at Trek Expo

I was sorry to hear of the death of fellow tall guy Richard Kiel this morning.

In 2006, we talked about some of his earlier roles, for example on Boris Karloff’s Thriller (see Tulsa billboard for the show and more about Richard Kiel here.)

Just last Sunday, I saw him on MeTV in the very first episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He was a really nice fellow, despite the apparent mauling I am taking in the photo.

Besides his role as “Jaws” in two Bond films, he was the “Kanamit” in a classic Twilight Zone episode with one of the most chilling denouements of the series.

Rest in peace.