AVS Special Member
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: W Simsbury, CT, USA
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Plex has a server apps and client apps. In my case, I run the server app on a Windows 7 machine which also serves as my DVR (using Windows Media Center and a SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime cablecard tuner). The Plex server app handles all of the metadata management of my movies and TV shows.
Then, there are the client apps. There's a client app for Windows, Mac, etc. which will give you a nice UI for selecting your movies or TV shows (reading all of the metadata from that central Plex server machine's database). When you select a movie to play, it will stream the movie bit-for-bit to the client machine.
Then, there are client apps for less capable devices (e.g., the iPad, iPhone, etc.). These client apps give you a similar UI as above for finding the movie/TV show you want, but when you start up a movie, the Plex server app on the central computer now kicks into high gear and does on-the-fly transcoding of the content to a format that the client device can handle. Assuming your central Plex server is fairly capable (mine has an Intel i7-2600 CPU), you can set the bitrate pretty high and still end up with a very, very good quality end-result. If you have an Apple TV, you could even then AirPlay the movie from your iPhone/iPad to the Apple TV. This adds more "hops" across the network (wirelessly from the iPhone to the wireless router, then ideally hard-wired over ethernet from your router to the Apple TV), so you may have to reduce the bitrate a bit. As such, I wouldn't recommend you do this with your main viewing room (with the 2.35:1 projector setup), but for other rooms in your house with smaller TVs, it can still look good. I believe this transcoding will also convert audio down to stereo, so that's another reason why you wouldn't want to do that in the main movie room.
But, again, the Plex client app for a Windows or Mac (or Linux, I'm sure) machine will just do bit-for-bit streaming from the Plex server to the Plex client, so you'll get full bitrate video, 5.1 audio, etc. I'm not certain of the current limitations regarding DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD as I make it easy on myself and rip my movies with just the core non-HD audio track, but I may experiment more with that in the future.
Regarding your experiences using a custom resolution...again, I haven't had a chance to play with this yet, but here's what I think I've read in the past. In XBMC (and Plex might work the same), I believe that you can go into the Settings menu and adjust your image to make sure the XBMC UI fits within the 2.35:1 screen properly. Now, you can scroll through your movies and it all will be optimized for your screen. Then, when you go to watch a movie, you may need to adjust those settings for the particular movie you're watching. There's some key on the keyboard that should bring up those image resizing options again *while* the movie is running. You can adjust that as needed and XBMC will remember those settings for that particular movie in its locally stored metadata. At least, that's my understanding from what I've read in the past but, again, I haven't had a chance to actually try this out for myself yet. In the case of Plex, I don't know if it will allow you to do this, since the metadata is stored on the central server and not on the local machine.
I am somewhat interested in trying all of this out, but I may also be content with just manually zooming/shifting my lens as needed, since this offers the advantage of giving me full 1080p resolution when watching 16:9 content, whereas the method described above would result in downscaling (i.e., throwing away lines of resolution) your narrower-than-2.35:1 movies.
I'd much rather watch a great movie in B&W at 240 lines of resolution than a lousy movie in 1080p with lossless audio.