Emby

All posts tagged Emby

Emby Live TV 4

Watching Gilligan's Island on Android phone Emby app. (Click each pic to enlarge.)

Emby Live TV 1Emby Live TV 2Emby Live TV 3

A nice benefit of knowledge gained through cord-cutting:

Watching our own over-the-air (OTA) TV and DVR recordings on Roku at home, or on a phone or tablet anywhere in the world.


I recently upgraded a quad-core Windows 7 PC in our home office to Windows 10, then added back the now-unsupported Windows Media Center. (See previous post Add Windows Media Center to Win 10!).

We had an extra USB TV tuner from a past attempt to give Gaye the ability to watch OTA TV on her work PC. It proved too big a hassle for her to both do work on the PC and have the TV window up. The tuner had been unemployed for a few years. (She has a now-cheap LCD TV in her business office.)

Over-the-door antenna, attached to USB TV tuner plugged into PC

Over-the-door antenna, attached to USB TV tuner plugged into PC (click to enlarge)

To test Windows Media Center on the Win 10 PC, I had attached an unamplified Winegard antenna to the USB TV tuner, placed the antenna on top of our home office door, then plugged the tuner into the PC.

I first set up Windows Media Center, then ServerWMC, free software that allows other computers and apps to see program listings, live TV and recordings from the WMC PC.

(I have been doing this for the last two years in our theater room with another PC; see previous post Windows Media Center & Raspberry Pi.)

Seven local stations (including MeTV, Gaye’s go-to) came in strongly with this hastily improvised setup.

I didn’t diddle around with placing the antenna for better reception of the other channels. Maybe later.

Update, 10/6/2016:

WMC disappeared when my PC received the Anniversary Update for Windows 10 on 9/24/2016. I was able to get WMC working again; see my notes added to previous post Add Windows Media Center to Win 10!.

However, the driver for the old USB TV tuner is no longer supported, so I just ordered a $20 Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950 from eBay to replace it. In the meantime, I can still see and play any shows I had previously recorded with Emby.

(Update 10/17/2016: The Hauppauge tuner worked great for all local channels! See the comment I added for this post.)

As long as you have WMC on any version of Windows, you should be able to get Emby working with WMC as follows.


Emby (formerly known as MediaBrowser) is a free media center program with its own Roku channel and smartphone app.

I remembered that Emby was supposed to serve up live TV, unlike its otherwise similar competitor, Plex. I had previously installed Emby as well as Plex on the PC (they don’t interfere with each other).

With all the pieces in place, it was a good time to give live TV a try.

Using the Emby server’s browser interface on the PC, I activated Emby’s own ServerWMC plugin. It enabled the Emby server to talk to ServerWMC on that PC.

(Nice setup guide: Stream Live TV with Emby and ServerWMC)

Thanks to my previous experience with both ServerWMC and Emby, it was not difficult to get all this working.

I went to the Emby channel on one of our Rokus, and found that the seven stations looked so good, you couldn’t tell they weren’t coming in via direct antenna. Likewise with WMC DVR recordings: perfect.

The secret of this perfection is in Emby’s transcoding.

Broadcast TV is in the MPEG-2 format, which is bulky and unforgiving of internet streaming. Emby automatically transcodes (converts) the video to .MP4, which Roku and most apps of all kinds have no trouble dealing with. That’s where the powerful quad-core PC shines; it has the processing power to do this conversion on the fly. (Our theater room PC has a weak though adequate-for-its-purpose Celeron 450 processor.)

I tried the Emby app on my wifi-only smartphone. Worked great. I ultimately restricted Windows Media Center to only the seven good stations, since trying to stream the poor reception channels tended to hang ServerWMC (and bad channels are no fun to watch anyway).

I set up WMC to DVR “The Bob Newhart Show” on MeTV, and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” on Heroes and Icons, so we would have something to watch on the bedroom Roku if nothing good was on.

Then I wondered how it would work on a smartphone outside the range of our wifi router.

At a party last Friday, I tried it on Gaye’s iPhone. It failed, due to not being able to reach the server on our home PC.

To fix this, I set up port forwarding on our router to allow external connectivity to our Emby server.

“…you’ll need to open the web interface for your router, and forward TCP Port 8096 on your router to port 8096 on the Emby Server machine.” (see Emby Setup Port Forwarding note).

After I texted Gaye this week to give it a try when she had a chance, she reported that she was watching “Gunsmoke” while driving!

Obviously, watching TV while driving is not a good practice, even though we once played “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (downloaded to phone via Plex) during a round trip to OSU to visit a nephew.

Our timing was great; as the final credit rolled, we pulled back into our garage.

32" LG LED TV, Winegard FlatWave indoor amplified antenna, Roku XDS

32″ LG LED TV, Winegard FlatWave indoor amplified antenna, Roku XDS.

Our cord-cutting arsenal:

Ooma Telo internet phone device

5 TVs: LED (2), plasma, flat-tube, ’83 CRT
TiVo Roamio OTA 4-tuner DVR
TiVo Mini extender (2)
Mohu Sky 60 powered outdoor antenna
Winegard FlatWave indoor antenna (2)

Roku streaming media player (3)
Chromecast streaming media player
Blu-ray player

TiVo “Peanut” remote (3)
Logitech Harmony 890 remote
X10 universal 5-in-1 learning remote.
Smartphone

Netflix & Amazon Prime subscriptions

Windows 7 PCs / free Plex &
Emby software to serve
music/TV/movie libraries.
Windows 7 PC / free Windows
Media Center DVR with
recordings on external drive.

Raspberry Pi computer w/ free OSMC, PleXBMC, & ServerWMC software
to access content on Win 7 PCs

X10 analog video sender / receiver
Powerline network adapter (4)
Gigabit Ethernet switch (2)
Kinovo HDMI switch
Powered USB hub (2)

(The list entitled “Our cord-cutting arsenal” appearing at the bottom-right of this blog shows the hardware and software we use for all five of our TVs. Since you can’t tell which items are in each room, I am breaking it down by room, highlighting the hardware used in light yellow, content in white.)

The bedroom is another simple room, hardware-wise (See previous post The workout room TV setup for my wife). The presence of the Roku box gives her access to other content via software.

After a freakish lightning strike, our 1989 20″ tube TV, no great shakes to start with, looked like it was on a bad trip, emitting weird green and purple colors. (See Lightning-pocalypse Saturday.)

Perhaps it could have been degaussed, but it was finally time to upgrade and simplify the setup. (See the old setup in Eliminate a cable box.)

The tube TV went to Best Buy along with the other stricken electronics. (See Best Buy accepts 3 dead electronics items per day)

It was replaced with a new 32″ LED TV.

Now that there was no need for a digital converter box, we could also dispense with the Logitech Harmony 650 remote and use only the new TV’s dedicated remote. A minor problem had been that the Harmony “thought” the old TV was still on after the sleep timer turned it off. Correcting it the next evening was a hassle for my sleepy wife, and therefore not a feather in my cap. (See previous post Logitech Harmony 650.)

We are using only an indoor antenna in the bedroom, rather than another TiVo Mini. A Mini would be great, but that would require us to get an Ethernet cable to the TiVo Roamio in the den. The only way to do that would be to wrap it around the house and add outlets in both rooms. Too much trouble for now.

However, the indoor antenna does well for all channels except RSUTV, which is not a sleeptime favorite, anyway.

The Roku box is now plugged into the new TV with one HDMI cable. When we want to use it, I pull its dedicated remote out of my bedside drawer.

We could watch anything on Netflix or Amazon using the Roku, though we don’t often do it.

But on Sunday nights, my wife sometimes likes to watch old English favorites such as “Keeping Up Appearances” or “Fawlty Towers”. This can be done by selecting the Plex or Emby channels on Roku. Either can stream the programs from one of our own Windows 7 PCs.

I had previously ripped the shows from DVDs and placed them on the PC in the proper file structure and naming convention. Plex and Emby servers running on that PC then were able to retrieve artwork for the Roku onscreen menu. (See Saving YouTubes, viewing with Plex & Emby.)

Why is Emby preferable to Plex for video content in the bedroom? Because we have a first generation Roku in there. The Plex channel app for that older device appears not to have been updated for their latest transcoder server software. Thus it delivers less than optimal video for files in the .mkv format (an .mkv file is the immediate product of MakeMKV, the DVD-ripping software I use).

Plex on the Roku XDS still works well with .mp4 video and .mp3 audio. If I weren’t so lazy, I would convert all those .mkv files to .mp4. But since the Emby app on Roku is doing a fine job handling .mkv transcoded by the Emby server software, why bother? A selling point of both Plex and Emby (though both are free) is supposed to be that they can handle a range of file types. (See 007 24/7 on Plex Media ServerMedia Browser: an alternative to Plex)

Someday we will probably upgrade the Roku box, but it’s not worth doing until another natural disaster strikes, or a newer device offers some extra functionality we want.

The Roku has had no problems with wifi, but I had an extra Powerline adapter on hand, so I am using it instead. Powerline uses your house’s AC wiring as a conduit for Ethernet data. It’s not as high bandwidth as Ethernet cable, but better than wifi for streaming data. See previous post Powerline vs. Ethernet wiring.)

Everybody’s happy now!

The missing episode now available on Plex

The missing episode is now available to my wife on Plex.

I screwed up.

Wednesday evening, I was watching some COZI TV. As you may recall from the previous post, this is a station with weak reception at our house. I used a button on my remote to switch from the Mohu Sky 60 antenna on the roof to the Mohu Curve 50 on our set-top. I had placed and oriented the latter for optimal reception of COZI. When I turned off the set, I accidentally left the Curve selected.

Unfortunately, the placement is NOT optimal for some other stations, in particular, KTUL (ABC). That’s where my wife’s favorite soap, General Hospital, gets recorded by the TiVo. As a result the recording for April Fool’s Day was very poor, and that was no joke. It was the 53rd anniversary show with an extended flashback to traumatic events in Luke’s childhood. Not one to miss.

But I fixed my grievous error, and here’s how.

First, I checked ABC.com. The episode was available, but only if you subscribe to cable or satellite.

Next, I checked YouTube. Luckily this episode had been uploaded by a viewer, and in good quality.

Since I was signed into YouTube, I could add it to my View Later queue. Then I went to the YouTube channel on Roku and we watched it.

But this was a special anniversary episode, and an important one in the GH canon, so I wanted to archive it for her.

I found this wikiHow article, 3 Ways to Download YouTube Videos. I chose ClipGrab and downloaded the free software. (Watch the installation closely and uncheck the boxes that will include unwanted software; the Firefox extension method does not have this potential hazard.)

I pasted the URL of the General Hospital YouTube video into ClipGrab and chose .mp4 format for the output file. I had the file downloaded within a couple of minutes.

In order to use either Plex or Media Browser (now renamed “Emby”) software to watch the show via Roku on our den TV, I cataloged the .mp4 file according to Plex’ naming convention. In this case, that meant creating a folder named “General Hospital (1963)” in the TV Shows folder on my PC.  Under that, I created a “Season 53” folder, where I placed the file, which I named  “General Hospital (1963) – s53e01.mp4”.

TheTVDB.com provided the information for naming the folders and file. The “General Hospital (1963)” folder needed to include the year of the first airing (especially important in this case; there is a 2008 Korean show called “General Hospital 2”). The season (#53) and episode number (1) are included in the file name in the format as shown.

Once this is done, you tell Plex and Emby via their browser interfaces to rescan the media library. Thanks to the precise naming convention, they are able to go out to TVDB and other sources to retrieve art and information about the show. The photo at top shows how Plex presents the series in browser. Plex pulled a screenshot from the episode to use as a graphic.

It is then a simple matter to bring up the Plex channel on the Roku box, then select and watch the episode.

I redeemed my embarrassing faceplant as TV butler by making this unique episode part of our video library. (I had previously added all the special General Hospital “Nurses’ Ball” episodes for her.)

An amazing feature of both Plex and Emby: the show is watchable on a smartphone, tablet or computer, anywhere in the world!

After doing all this, I noticed that I could have simply downloaded an HD version of the episode on Amazon for $2.99, already in .mp4. Oops again. But not everything you might want to save from YouTube would be available to buy, so keep this method in mind!

(Previous post “Let’s kill Uncle first!” explains what I did when a particular movie wasn’t commercially available or on YouTube.)

Roku Highlights

Google Doc on smartphone. Click to enlarge.

Gaye now has her own TiVo tuner/DVR in the den, so she can watch and record anything on over-the-air TV. I have my Raspberry Pi/Windows Media Center DVR setup in the theater room. (Later note: We added a TiVo Mini in the theater room.)

But now that we have cut the cord, it can be difficult to remember what Roku channels our other shows are on (Netflix, Amazon, Crackle, YouTube, etc.)

So I created a Google Docs menu of our video Roku channels, with notable content listed under each. A number of the shows and movies are perennial favorites of one or both of us.

Both of our phones have a link to this easily updatable Google Doc, so the menu is always at hand. (Later note: I am the only one who uses this doc. I have also anointed myself the TV butler.)

Note that the Media Browser and Plex channels require you to be running their software on a PC in order to serve content to the Roku. Nowhere TV is a private, but free Roku channel (list).

Without further ado, I present our TV menu (FYI, the links are to relevant TTM content):


Roku Channel highlights, 2/18/2015


SKY NEWS INTERNATIONAL
(HD, Roku 3 only)

NOWHERE TV:
BBC World News Live
CNN International (Low res)
Conan
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

PLEX Channels:
A & E (Flipping Vegas-5 eps)
HGTV (Numerous series)
Food Network (Numerous series)
Lifetime (Little Women: L.A.)
History Channel
The Daily Show

CRACKLE:
Comedians in a Car Getting Coffee
Seinfeld
The Larry Sanders Show
Traffic (Michael Douglas movie)

SHOUT FACTORY TV:
MST3K (32 eps) / The Film Crew (3 eps)
The Weird Al Show
Sapphire and Steel (McCallum, SF)
Fridays (Michael Richards)

NETFLIX:
Archer
Maron
House of Cards
Orange is the New Black
Sherlock
Burn Notice
Wings
The IT Crowd
Green Lantern
Batman Beyond
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Walking Dead
Portlandia
The Riches
Arrested Development

AMAZON:
Family Tree
Workaholics
The Wire
Downton Abbey (Season 4)
Hoarders
Batman Animated
Star Trek Original
Star Trek Next Generation

MEDIA BROWSER:
Tv:

Silicon Valley (Season 1)
The Prisoner (1967, 2009)
Sherlock (Season 3)
Keeping Up Appearances (Seasons 1-3, 6-7)
Fawlty Towers (All)
The Outer Limits (1963) (All)
Eight is Enough (Season 2)
The Jetsons (Season 1)
The Flintstones (Seasons 3 & 5)
General Hospital Nurses’ Ball (1994-2014)
Movies:
Jonny Quest Movie
Cinderella
Designing Woman
Forbidden Planet
The Awful Truth
His Girl Friday
Best in Show
Caddyshack
The Party (Peter Sellers)
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
2001; A Space Odyssey (1080p HD)
Dr. Strangelove
Citizen Kane
Primer
All 007 movies
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Husbands
Let’s Kill Uncle

YOUTUBE:
Sister Wives (Current season)
Property Brothers (Current season)

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 0.9.10.0 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?