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post #1 of 22 Old 03-18-2012, 11:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi I'm looking for a little help from someone that has the Firecore aTV flash installed on their aTV 2 that's wirelessly connected to a server.

I'm thinking of reconfiguring my HTPC setup. Currently I have:
  • Dedicated Home Theater
  • Mac Mini (2010) (wireless keyboard, magic pad)
  • 2 USB 1TB drives attached to the Mac Mini
  • 480p content stored in videoTS format and some 1080p content in .mkv format
  • Denon AV Receiver
  • DVI to HDMI Connection from the Mac Mini to the AVR
  • Digital Opitcal out to the AVR
  • AVR connected to 720p projector
  • I have two Apple TV 2's installed in other rooms in the house.
  • Everything is connected via wireless 802.11n

Here is what I would like to do:
  • Move both 1TB drives to a new Airport Extreme Base Station
  • Replace the 2010 Mac Mini with an AppleTV 2 (or new aTV 3) or just us it as a server if the Airport Extreme won't do the job.
  • Jailbreak and install ATV Flash (black) on all the Apple TV's in the house
  • Playback 480p VideoTS files and 1080p mkv files on any AppleTV 2 units in the house

My questions:
  • Can the Airport Extreme share more than one hard drive? (Possibly using a USB hub)
  • The Mac Mini plays back 480p content fine but drops frames on 1080p mkv files, will the aTV Flash (black) playback videoTS and 1080p mkv files?
  • Do you have to purchase multiple aTV flash multiple times for each AppleTV?
  • What level of audio quality could I expect from the aTV with streaming content?
  • I can run an ethernet line to most of the locations but would prefer keeping everything wireless if the content will stream smoothly. Is it realistic to expect smooth playback of 1080p mkv content streaming wirelessly to the Apple TV's?

So basically I'm looking at having a home network of AppleTV's, one in any room with a TV, and streaming videoTS and .mkv content to any one of them at any time.

Is this setup realistic? What issues should I expect? What have I forgotten?

Thanks for your input.
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post #2 of 22 Old 03-19-2012, 11:29 AM
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Quote:


I'm looking for a little help from someone that has the Firecore aTV flash installed on their aTV 2 that's wirelessly connected to a server.

I can't help you with this aspect at all, my aTV1 runs Crystalbuntu, my aTV2 and 3 are both stock, and all are wired.

Quote:


Can the Airport Extreme share more than one hard drive? (Possibly using a USB hub)

But this I can, yes, you can plug a bunch of drives into an Extreme via a USB hub and share them over your network just fine...I have about 10TB of video, some of it full-size blu ray rips, on 5 drives in 3 enclosures on my Extreme, streaming to one device is no problem at all, it's actually quite seamless, especially auto-mounting AirDisk volumes as a log in item to wired Macs.

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...streaming videoTS and .mkv content to any one of them at any time.

..the only problem you may run into is if you expect it to function like a more capable NAS, i.e. being able to serve video to multiple devices simultaneously, reading and writing to it simultaneously, etc. It's not quite up to that.
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post #3 of 22 Old 03-19-2012, 07:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks Chefklc, you are usually the first to respond to my questions.

I'm not looking to do much in the way of simultaneous streaming to multiple AppleTVs so the Airport extreme should work just fine.

Hopefully someone with aTV Flash can chime in and post some more answers.
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post #4 of 22 Old 03-20-2012, 05:05 AM
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Search around on iTunes for free 1080p HD content. A few days ago I managed to snag The Big Bang Theory, Season 5, episode 1, for free (but it's now $2.99). You can check a preference in iTunes to prefer 1080p content instead of 720p. That's what lets you download the new encodings.

Whether you like that show or not, the point is that this gives you something that you know should play back without stutter etc. You're not wondering if it's the rip or if it's the playback device or if it's the wireless network that is at fault.
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post #5 of 22 Old 03-24-2012, 06:47 PM - Thread Starter
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I have plenty of 1080p content, my questions are more about aTV2 flash.
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post #6 of 22 Old 04-14-2012, 09:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post

I can't help you with this aspect at all, my aTV1 runs Crystalbuntu, my aTV2 and 3 are both stock, and all are wired.



But this I can, yes, you can plug a bunch of drives into an Extreme via a USB hub and share them over your network just fine...I have about 10TB of video, some of it full-size blu ray rips, on 5 drives in 3 enclosures on my Extreme, streaming to one device is no problem at all, it's actually quite seamless, especially auto-mounting AirDisk volumes as a log in item to wired Macs.



..the only problem you may run into is if you expect it to function like a more capable NAS, i.e. being able to serve video to multiple devices simultaneously, reading and writing to it simultaneously, etc. It's not quite up to that.


So can you access the BR rips stored on those USB drives connected to Airport Extreme from stock AppleTV 3s?

ATV can "see" the contents of those drives and play the rips directly or you have to use MakeMKV to decrypt/rip the BR and then convert with Handbrake?

Do you also view them through a BR player or you just rip and only play back the rips?

Just curious what is the advantage in doing the rips, which presumably aren't as good quality as the discs on a decent BR player. Mainly convenience and having all your movies browsable on an ATV3 without having to dig through the shelves for a particular disc?
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post #7 of 22 Old 04-15-2012, 06:17 AM
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Just curious what is the advantage in doing the rips, which presumably aren't as good quality as the discs on a decent BR player.

Don't presume...a MakeMKV rip of a blu-ray is identical video-wise, it puts the video in a different container without any loss. Assuming you have a device powerful enough to play it back, you won't be able to tell the difference. It's your choice whether MakeMKV retains the HD audio as well--I do not--I'm perfectly happy with the extracted DD and DTS core audio because 1) those are quite good and 2) there's no OS X software capable of passing those HD audio tracks as-is through to an AVR anyway. With MakeMKV you lose the menu structure of a commercial disc, obviously, but that has its advantages as well--when you want to start watching a title and select it in XBMC it starts immediately. That's a big reason why we've been ripping dvds for the past decade--to have more control over what we watch and how we watch it.

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Mainly convenience and having all your movies browsable on an ATV3 without having to dig through the shelves for a particular disc?

Convenience is the biggest advantage...plus control...to have all of your TV and movies accessible from anywhere in the house...on any device...just like all of your CDs within iTunes. It's the "accessible on any device" thing that really requires moving beyond optical discs--when you're in bed and want to watch something from your collection on your iPad what good is an optical disc? Rip it to a hard drive, then a Mac can serve it up to any device in your house on demand. If that Mac is connected to an HDTV then there's no need to transcode that MakeMKV rip any further.

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Do you also view them through a BR player or you just rip and only play back the rips?

I didn't play my first blu-ray disc until MakeMKV released its first beta for OS X, when it did I picked up a 5.25" LG drive from Newegg, slapped it in a USB enclosure, and off I went. So yes, I just rip and play back the rips, but sometimes I transcode those rips with Handbrake as well to various aTV and iPad presets.

Quote:


So can you access the BR rips stored on those USB drives connected to Airport Extreme from stock AppleTV 3s?

Using an aTV isn't quite so straightforward.

A stock aTV3? No, the only thing a stock aTV2 or 3 can access is what's in your iTunes library, through what's called iTunes Home Sharing, that rules out a full-size blu-ray .mkv since iTunes does not support .mkv, but if you were to convert that .mkv to something that can be imported into iTunes, and if its bitrate weren't too high, then yes, an aTV can play files stored on an AirDisk drive...iTunes doesn't care where you store your media, i.e. where it resides, if you want your iTunes media on an AirDisk drive, so be it.

Quote:


ATV can "see" the contents of those drives and play the rips directly or you have to use MakeMKV to decrypt/rip the BR and then convert with Handbrake?

The only thing an un-hacked aTV2 or 3 "sees" is iTunes home sharing, it'll see whatever video you have added to iTunes when you have iTunes open on a Mac somewhere in the house--if you have several Macs with different iTunes libraries in the house it will see all of them as long as they are all keyed to the same home sharing ID.

This restriction, if you will, is the main reason why many want to hack their aTVs, to remove the iTunes restriction and turn it into a cheap little box running XBMC that can play anything and "see" external and network drives directly. I have Macs at our main two HDTVs and an aTV1 running Crystalbuntu in a second bedroom which can play back full-size MakeMKV blu-ray rips, so I personally don't really care too much about hacking aTV2s and 3s, I have no need to. I have always had a stock aTV2 or 3 in the living room just for Netflix and AirPlay, though, and love it.

As far as Handbrake conversions go, and whether you want to hack an aTV2, you'll have to figure out what works best for your situation...I ask Air Video to do live conversions a lot streaming to my iPad, which mitigates my need for time consuming offline Handbrake conversions, and I rarely need to physically move content over to my iPad, as a result, most of my video is not "in" iTunes per se. Doesn't need to be.
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post #8 of 22 Old 04-15-2012, 09:48 AM
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Thanks for the answers.

I have to assess whether the investment in the storage and the time is worth the convenience. MKV rips are full size, I presume, so that would seem to require a lot of storage and pushing up the rips to a shared drive on the Extreme seems like a lot of time too.

When I get an iPad, I'll see how much storage I want to devote to transcoded BR rips. I played around with Air Video and Zumocast a bit on the iPad 1, for offline viewing of some rips for a trip and it took a long time to transcode. Maybe Handbrake would have saved time, though I really didn't want to permanently store movies in my iTunes.

I would also connect an ATV to my receiver, though I guess I could get a second one for the bedroom.

What kind of storage are you using, Firewire or USB drives? Are they fast enough for streaming through Wifi to different locations in the house? I would imagine the MKVs can be very high bit rates so 802.11N may or may not be sufficient depending on the house.

So the Crystalbuntu is available for jailbroken ATVs? It plays full-rips but on your ATV1, it would be 720p, right? How does Crystalbuntu "see" your rips? Do you use DLNA or something?
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post #9 of 22 Old 04-15-2012, 11:56 AM
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Crystalbuntu is special, read more about it here:

http://www.stmlabs.com/projects/crystalhd-for-appletv/

Since it runs XBMC it can see my blu ray rips just like a Mac running XBMC can, it's just a matter of adding sources, it'll detect anything that's on your home network, so all your other Macs, AirDisk volumes and local drives that you have around the house, their content just shows up within XBMC. DLNA sucks, better just to use AFP, that's why you use a front end like XBMC in the first place. An aTV1 with a Broadcom card installed (in place of the wireless card) running Crystalbuntu can play full size 1080p blu ray rips and output 1080p to your HDTV.

Quote:


MKV rips are full size, I presume, so that would seem to require a lot of storage and pushing up the rips to a shared drive on the Extreme seems like a lot of time too.

I don't move many blu-ray rips to the AirDisks, I keep those local.

But yes, storage, and expansion of storage to meet your growing needs, is always a concern, but hard drives now have gotten bigger and cheaper compared to the size and cost of drives when we were first ripping dvds...I can remember when a 250GB drive was considered a big drive...an 8GB dvd rip then is like a 30GB bluray rip now when you're talking a 2TB drive. But you're right, I don't keep all my blu-ray content that large, I Handbrake about 50% of it to the aTV2 or High Profile preset and then delete the original rip.

Quote:


What kind of storage are you using, Firewire or USB drives? Are they fast enough for streaming through Wifi to different locations in the house?

Beside those AirDisks over USB into my Airport Extreme, I mainly rely on USB and FW800 storage directly connected to Macs. At the moment I'm booting the 2011 Mini off a thunderbolt SSD just for fun, eventually I'll migrate to Thunderbolt storage as prices fall. I have a bunch of drives in a PowerMac that I use as a media server and a bunch of drives plugged into a 2011 Mini. Everything is wired so I'm not the best guide for what you can and can't expect wirelessly, I learned a long time ago that gigabit makes home theater a whole lot easier. Of course with iPads that's all wireless and I haven't had any problems streaming live conversions to them, even when the source is a blu ray rip on a USB drive. (But the 2011 Mini doing the live conversion is itself on gigabit.) Hope that helps...
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post #10 of 22 Old 04-15-2012, 01:17 PM
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Correct me if I'm wrong here, but you just want to be able to play MKV files off the Mac Mini to the Apple TV's in your house without having to convert all the MKV files to MP4 files so the Apple TV will recognize correct?
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post #11 of 22 Old 04-15-2012, 02:08 PM
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You would need an iPad or iPhone to make this work, but I can tell you it works very well. Here is my setup:

I was in a similar situation earlier in the year, considered converting nearly all my MKV files to MP4 to play on iTunes via Apple TV. My daughter was killing me with her shows on the Apple TV monopoly. Recently discovered that the newest Plex release incorporates AirPlay to enable "non" MP4 files to play any file basically on the Apple TV via Plex...... My example is how I do it, and since you are more interested in slinging 1080p content to different Apple TV's around the house, thought I'd share this with you. My setup is as follows, but shouldn't affect what you are wanting to do in your particular installation.

Mac Mini Server 2.66 GHz/ 8GB ram
Drobo connected via Firewire to Mac Mini. ( all content are MKV files )
Apple TV 3 ( 1080p version obviously), not jailbroken Apple TV 2
Air Extreme router connected to Mac Mini obviously.
1st gen Ipad

All my content is played via Plex. I don't mess around with iTunes anymore..... I have the Plex app installed on my iPad 1st generation and of course the Mac Mini has the Media Server and Plex media player installed on it. With Plex, you have the option to play any file hosted on the Drobo to the Apple TV or view it on the iPad. Plex will even play two different 1080p movies simultaneously as long as one of the files is playing on a wired connection........which just happens to be downstairs connected to my Epson. Everything is downstairs, the Mac Mini, the Drobo, the router, the TWC Cable connection...everthing. The only thing upstairs is the Apple TV using wifi (non-wired) My daughter can watch her movies upstairs while my wife and I can watch our shows on the projector.....at the same time. I've been doing this for about a month now and it's very reliable.....couldn't be happier. I tried jail braking the Apple TV's for Plex to run on it, but it never worked well 100% of the time. I haven't used more than one Apple TV on the network to test anything beyond what I have mentioned, but I doubt that would work with the bandwidth load on my network without buffering constantly. But you can certainly stream 1080p content to one Apple TV....that I know. You just need a couple of things.....beyond what you mentioned in your post.
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post #12 of 22 Old 04-15-2012, 04:26 PM
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So if your ATVs aren't jailbroken, how is Plex sending content to them?

Also, is your Mac Mini pretty much dedicated for media server duties? Does the CPU peg when sending a lot of streams?
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post #13 of 22 Old 04-15-2012, 05:39 PM
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AirPlay. From an app on an iPad. Air Video supported live conversion to an aTV2 before Plex, but since both are based on the same ffmpeg underpinnings, both can do live conversions when initiated from an iPad to an aTV2 or 3. It's the Mac that does the real work, the live conversion. Neither app can handle PGS subs, VIDEO_TS, AC3 or DTS in every container, and neither handles live conversion of high bit rate bluray rips perfectly, i.e. sometimes there's a sync delay if your Mac is not very capable.

Even the entry level 2011 mini is capable of multitasking several streams, though not several high bit rate full size 1080p streams.
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post #14 of 22 Old 04-15-2012, 09:04 PM
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I had a mid 2009 mac mini that definitely struggled, but my recent mini is smooth......I was surprised it could push two 1080p streams to different displays simultaneously. I usually whittle my file sizes to around 8 to 10 gigs, still looks pretty darned good, and my daughter with a 46 inch LCD surely can't tell the diff......lol.

I heard back from HTPC Dude, missed the point that most of his 480p content is in videoTS format. Perhaps someone could recommend a way for him to convert his v.o.b. files to a container for playback on his ATV.

My Mini is a dedicated server, it's a headless system, I use my macbook pro with Apple remote desktop to control it when needed. I do occasionally handbrake some content, but mostly I keep it clean of running anything much beyond that. I just wanted a way to keep my content free of disorganization and abuse from the "girls".
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post #15 of 22 Old 04-15-2012, 09:11 PM
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I have a Mini 2010 server with 4GB's that serves out Plex. The files live on a NAS. I have no problems serving from it and watching whatever at the same time. The server has 7200 rpm drives which is probably more important than the 2.66GHz processor. Plex works great as long as you don't need subtitles. The Mini is also hosting an EyeTV HD recorder.

Converting mkv files with h.264 video to iTunes format is a one minute operation as no transcoding is involved. The worse that can happen is if the audio portion is not in a suitable format. So even for 1000 videos we are talking 3000 minutes in the worse case which is 50 hours. That puts everything into iTunes, etc ... I really don't get this attachment to mkv. Once you have it in m4v format iTunes serves things really well as does Plex. mkv may be flexible which can lead to unpredictable streaming. It's not just the ATV that prefers mp4 but the Roku, PS3, etc ... mkv is rightly or wrongly viewed as a gray area container. If you are going to stream to an ATV then surely mkv is not what you want even with AirPlay.

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post #16 of 22 Old 04-16-2012, 08:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pmcd View Post

Converting mkv files with h.264 video to iTunes format is a one minute operation as no transcoding is involved.

What are using to do this? I've just started converting MKV blu-ray rips to h.264, and the conversions often take six hours!
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post #17 of 22 Old 04-16-2012, 08:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scopeboy View Post

All my content is played via Plex. I don't mess around with iTunes anymore...

This sound very interesting. My situation involves a lot of EyeTV recordings that I convert for iTunes. I've tried a number of times doing live conversions of those with Air Video and sending them to Apple TV using AirPlay, but I always run into problems. They are coming off a 2011 Mini Server, so I don't think the problem is there. I'm pretty sure that Plex can play EyeTV files, so maybe I'll risk a $5 purchase and give it a try.
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post #18 of 22 Old 04-17-2012, 02:14 AM
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I've just started converting MKV blu-ray rips to h.264, and the conversions often take six hours!

If you're using Handbrake, you're transcoding, actually re-encoding the video and yes that takes time. Those rips are likely h.264 to begin with, they're just in an iOS and iTunes incompatible container.

What Philip is describing is called remuxing, when video is h.264 to begin with as with most MakeMKV blu-ray rips, you can try running it through Subler or mp4tools (the two I like, I'm sure there are others) and if it can, it will very quickly "remix" the audio and video into a new, compliant, .mp4 container. A matter of a few minutes versus a few hours, so you can easily experiment to see if you're ending up with compatible files.
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post #19 of 22 Old 04-17-2012, 02:37 AM
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Coincidentally, a nice thread about this, with a good breakdown by a Handbrake developer, here:

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1358947

Quote:
*If* you can be sure your MKVs Video and Audio tracks are compatible for the device you want (atv3, iPad 3, etc etc.) and *just* need to be in an mp4 container ... then just remux via subler ,etc. it will be much faster than actually re-encoding the video.

If you want to re-encode the video and properly sync it to the audio and have it compliant for sure (including framerates and decombing any combed frames). There is no shortcut. And I can GUARANTEE you that all settings being equal there is no faster h.264 encoder than x264 used in hb. ... and yes, that definitely includes any QuickTime based encoders.

Remember the old addage for video encoding : Speed, Size, Quality .. Pick two

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post #20 of 22 Old 04-17-2012, 12:39 PM
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Another tool that can convert mkv files to mp4 without reencoding is SmartConverter, which is available for free on the Mac App Store.

Dennis Whiteman
Check out HDTVOK.COM
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post #21 of 22 Old 04-17-2012, 01:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FredT View Post

What are using to do this? I've just started converting MKV blu-ray rips to h.264, and the conversions often take six hours!

I mainly use iVI Pro. It works really well. There is also the free Subler and different utilities that other people have mentioned. I really like iVI Pro.

Philip
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post #22 of 22 Old 04-17-2012, 03:06 PM
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Do all these converter utilities use the same codecs?

Do they retain all the metadata?
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