1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

How to: Mac Mini Media Centre

Discussion in 'Apple Hardware' started by EVH, Nov 30, 2009.

  1. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 24,076

    Location: Swansea

    [​IMG]


    This thread is mainly designed to document my experiences and to get you going with a HTPC (home theatre PC) setup using Plex on OS X.

    Important information is highlighted in yellow, so that it's clearly seen.

    If you have any suggestions or wish to add to this guide please email me and I will make sure to add it :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2009
  2. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 24,076

    Location: Swansea

  3. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 24,076

    Location: Swansea

    What you will need

    1. Mac Mini / Capable Mac*
    2. HD TV / suitably large monitor
    3. AV cables (can vary depending on the age of your machine)
    4. Large external hard drive / NAS to store your media
    5. Plex / XBMC / Media Centre app of your choice

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This guide deals completely with installing and using Plex.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2010
  4. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 24,076

    Location: Swansea

    How to connect it all up


    Mac Mini (Late 2009) and earlier

    This is the back of the Mac Mini (Late 2009)

    Code:
    User Guide: [url]http://manuals.info.apple.com/en_US/Mac_mini_Late2009_UG.pdf[/url]
    [​IMG]


    Mac Mini (Mid 2010)

    This is the back of the current Mac Mini (Mid 2010)

    Code:
    User guide: [url]http://manuals.info.apple.com/en_US/Mac_mini_Mid2010_User_Guide.pdf[/url]
    [​IMG]

    Note:
    • The 3.5mm audio port is capable of Digital AND Analogue output (depending on cable used)
    • The Mini-Displayport is only capable of transmitting video (due to limitations / restrictions by Apple)


    Video connections

    The Mac Mini (2009 and before) has a Mini-Displayport output. To get this in to a standard HDMI that your TV will accept you need an adaptor. The Mac Mini (2010) has a straight HDMI port which can plug in to a TV to deliver audio and video.

    If using a Mac Mini without HDMI you can use one of the following adaptors to give you a HDMI connection..

    • Mini-Displayport to DVI adaptor + DVI to HDMI cable (£20)
    • Mini-Displayport to HDMI adaptor + HDMI cable (£14.95)

    I decided on the latter option as I have a 2009 Mac Mini. See below..

    [​IMG]

    NB - Apple has not enabled audio-out on the Mini-Displayport.
    You will require an additional cable to transmit an audio signal.



    Troubleshooting

    If you have problems with overscan please consult the display settings within Plex (link)


    Audio connections

    As mentioned above, if you are using the Mini-Displayport you may need an audio cable to get sound out of your Mac. You may decide on one of the following options..

    • Optical cable to AV receiver via 3.5mm optical adaptor (link)
    • 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable
    • 3.5mm to phono cable
    • 3.5mm to phono cable via RCA to scart adaptor (link)

    Again, I went with the latter option as my TV does not have a 3.5mm audio input.

    I had to use a RCA to scart adaptor (link) and tell my TV to use an analogue audio input. Please consult your TV manual regarding this.


    All in One Solutions?

    Using my method of choice you will be running 2 cables from the Mac to the TV. This is currently the cheapest way for owners of a Mac Mini 2009 or before, however if you are willing to spend a little more (£44) you can have an all-in-one solution that will carry video AND audio over HDMI (link)

    If you have a new Mac Mini 2010 then you will not have to worry as HDMI carries video and sound!


    Other Settings

    One of the first things you’ll want to do is minimise the possibility of the OS giving you messages.

    Go to System Preferences > Bluetooth, and make sure this option isn’t ticked:

    [​IMG]

    Otherwise you’ll get interfering messages, worrying about the lack of a keyboard attached.

    Likewise, go to System Preferences > Software Update and make sure it isn’t checking for updates.


    Help - I'm a little confused

    If you are still confused then have a quick look at these videos.

     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2010
  5. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 24,076

    Location: Swansea

    Installing Plex

    You can download the latest version of Plex from the link below

    To install Plex simply mount the .dmg and drag the app in to the Applications folder.


    What is Plex?

    Plex (a.k.a. Plexapp), is an open source media center for Intel-based Apple Macintosh computers, it has a 10-foot user interface design for the living-room TV. It was forked from XBMC media center software on May 21, 2008.[1] The framework allows users to manage video, photos, podcasts, and music from a computer, optical disk, and the Internet using an Apple remote.[2] In 2009 the developer community added the "App Store" with a growing list of plugins for online content like Hulu, Netflix, and CNN video.[3] It is a sophisticated alternative to Apple's Front Row,[4] similar to Windows Media Center and iTheater, with skinnable and user-configurable interface.

    Code:
    Macworld Review: [url]http://www.macworld.com/article/132438/2009/06/plex.html[/url]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    If you'd rather watch a lengthy video to get to grips with Plex before installing, or if you just want to learn how to set it up without reading the whole thread you can watch this 45 minute screencast with Don McAllister: (link)
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2010
  6. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 24,076

    Location: Swansea

    Getting Started: Add Sources

    The best thing you can do at this point is take a look at the "Getting started" wiki on the Plex website.

    It's very comprehensive and can explain more than possible here, in great depth!!

    Code:
    Link: [url]http://wiki.plexapp.com/index.php/Getting_Started[/url]

    Setup Sources

    Setting up your sources is required to have Plex see your media and then know how to add the media to the Library.

    You can setup a video source in Plex to see your movies on an external drive. You can set a source using the following steps:
    1. Sources : In Plex go to the videos section. You should see your sources listed along with a "Add Source" Button
    2. Path : You can manually enter the path to your source here, for example a Drive called Media with a folder called Movies in it would be /Volumes/Media/Movies
    You are allowed to enter multiple paths for a source, so if you have Multiple drives with Movies on them you could also add /Volumes/Media 2/Movies

    [​IMG]


    Set Content - For Video Sources

    If you would like Plex to be able to retrieve artwork and information from online databases, you need to tell Plex which database to use for video sources. This feature in Plex is called the Scraper. For the majority of users, selecting IMDb for movies and theTVDB.com for TV shows will produce the best results.



    Plex Scraper Settings for Movie Sources

    After you have selected a source in the "Add Video Source" window, click the "Set Content" button next to the OK button. You will notice that this button remains grayed out until you add a directory to the source. In the Set Content Window select the down arrow on the upper right corner of the screen. You can cycle through the list of available scrapers by pressing enter (play on the Apple Remote) when the arrow is selected. Press enter until you get to the list of Movie scrapers. Press down to highlight IMDb and press enter (or play on the Apple Remote). Below that is a list of Plex Scraper Settings:
    • Run Automated Scan
    • Use Folder Names for Lookups: This is imperative when scraping VIDEO_TS folders.
    • Folder Contains a Single Video
    • Scan Recursively: Not recommended for VIDEO_TS folders


    IMDb Scraper Settings

    The Settings button at the bottom of the Set Content window contains a list of IMDb settings. For best results, edit the following options:
    • Enable Movie PosterDB
    • IMDB Poster & Actor Thumb(s) Size: Change this to 1024
    • Enable IMPAwards
    • Enable Trailer


    Plex Scraper Settings for TV Show Sources

    After you have selected a source in the Add Video Source window, click the "Set Content" button. In the Set Content Window, press the down arrow on the upper right corner of the screen until you get to the list of TV Show scrapers. Press down to highlight theTVDB.com and press enter (or play on the Apple Remote). Note: TV sources are automatically set to scan recursively.


    More Help - Instructional screencasts and videos

    Available are a series of screencasts (link) showing how to configure various aspects. Some with music, some without.

    For quick and dirty guides have a look at these YouTube videos..

     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2009
  7. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 24,076

    Location: Swansea

    Naming and Accepted File Structures: Movies

    The scraper retrieves information from the online databases based on how your video files are named. There is a specific way you must name your movie files and a specific way you must name your TV shows and episodes for a scraper to function correctly.


    Naming Movie Files/Folders

    For the scraper to work correctly you must include in the file name the year the movie was released. If you are using single files like .avi, .mkv or .vob for each movie, name the movie file as it is named on IMDb. For instance, Batman Begins would be "Batman Begins (2005).avi".
    If you are using video_ts folders or have a folder with multiple video files in it, then name the folder "Batman Begins (2005)" and have the video_ts folder or multiple files inside that.

    Some movies have slightly different titles in different countries (sometimes due to the languages used). In most instances, IMDb will list and recognize these alternatives. However, one of these alternatives will be the 'main' name on IMDb and you might want to use for your own preference one of the alternatives. When the IMDb scraper is used it will use the main one in the Plex library display, but you can later after it has successfully scraped the movie, select it and edit the title. It will still keep the rest of the scraped information.

    Some characters are not recommended to be used in the file/folder names. For example on a Mac it is not possible to use a : (colon) symbol even though a movie and IMDB might list this. Using a - (hyphen) instead is acceptable. For example "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" is not possible but "Austin Powers - The Spy Who Shagged me" is. Also accents, umlauts, etc. will not work either. For example Aprés Vous will not work properly, but Apres Vous will work.


    Editing Incorrectly Scraped Titles

    Films that were initially released in country other then the United States first (for example) and have a different title then when released may not display the correct title in Plex. Using the American title will likely return the correct movie but the title displayed in Plex will likely be foreign title.

    This is because one movie may have multiple titles, even when only released in one country. For example some low budget or cable movies may change the name when released on video from what it was when released initially in theaters or on television. To correct this you need to be in the Movies section, bring up the context menu, and edit the file title to what you want it to be.
    NOTE: making this change does not change the actual file name on your hard drive but only the reference in Plex. Thus when reinstalling Plex from scratch this information will be lost and you'll need to re-edit the title again.
    There are more complex ways to correct this so that the change is permanent - please see "creating .nfo files".


    Directory Structure for Movies

    The structure of your movie directories will have an impact on how successful the scraping process goes. The easiest way to ensure that scraping is successful is to keep as flat a directory structure as possible:

    Movies (Source)
    Code:
    Batman Begins (2005).avi
      No Country for Old Men (2007)
         VIDEO_TS
      The Dark Night (2008)
         The Dark Night Pt1.avi
         The Dark Night Pt2.avi
    If you add directories between the root of source and your movie folders/files, this could create issues when scraping.


    Single File Movies

    If your movie library is solely comprised of single file movies, then you have the choice whether you would like to use a separate directory for each movie or not. Having a combination of single files and files in folders will also work. You can have your movie file and any complimentary files for your movies (.nfo, subtitles, etc.) in the same folder. If you decide to use folders for your these types of movies, make sure you have the "Use Folder Name for Lookups" option selected in the Set Content window.

    Directory Example:

    Movies (Source)
    Code:
    Batman Begins (2005).avi
      No Country for Old Men (2007)
         No Country for Old Men.avi
         No Country for Old Men-fanart.jpg
         folder.jpg
      The Dark Night (2008)
         The Dark Night Pt1.avi
         The Dark Night Pt2.avi
    [​IMG]


    VIDEO_TS Folders

    When you set the content for your source, it is imperative that you select the "Use Folder Name for Lookups" option for VIDEO_TS folders to scrape correctly. If you do not select this option, it will try to scrape all of the files in the VIDEO_TS folder, instead of the folder name itself. When using VIDEO_TS folders your directory structure should look like the following for the scraper to work correctly:

    Movies (Source)
    Code:
     Batman Begins (2005)
      VIDEO_TS
       all of the files
     The Dark Knight (2008)
      VIDEO_TS
       all of the files
    Do not select "Scan Recursively" for sources that contain VIDEO_TS folders as the scraper will try to scrape all files in the VIDEO_TS folder. It is also important that you do not try move the video_ts files from the VIDEO_TS folder to the movie folder.


    Combination of Single Files and VIDEO_TS

    The scraper will work correctly if you don't use folders for single movie files and have VIDEO_TS folders. The following example is also acceptable:

    Movies (Source)
    Code:
    Batman Begins (2005).avi
      No Country for Old Men (2007)
         VIDEO_TS
      The Dark Night (2008)
         The Dark Night Pt 1.mkv
         The Dark Night Pt 2.mkv

    Single Files and use of IMG and ISO files

    The scraper will work correctly if you use folders for single movie files and use either ISO or IMG files. In this case, you should set the source to scan recursively. Here is an example:

    Movies (Source)
    Code:
    Movies
        Award_Winners
           No Country for Old Men (2007).img
        Favorites
           Batman Begins (2005).iso
        Coogans Bluff (1968).img
        The Beguiled (1971).img
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2010
  8. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 24,076

    Location: Swansea

    Naming and Accepted File Structure: TV Shows

    For TV episodes to be scraped correctly, each episode must be an individual file. If your TV shows are currently in video_ts folders, the scraper will not be able to separate the episodes. For the scraper to work correctly, you must separate each episode into it's own .vob, /.mkv file / .avi file etc. When an episode is scraped correctly, it will download episode information as well as an episode thumbnail.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A good resource for finding episode order and titles is thetvdb.com.

    For TV shows use the following naming and directory structure:

    TV Source
    Code:
     Heroes
        Season 1
           Heroes - S01E01.vob - (S01E01 stands for Season 1, Episode 1 - using 1x01 is also acceptable)
           Heroes - S01E02.vob
           Heroes - S01E03.vob
        Season 2
           Heroes - S02E01.avi
           Heroes - S02E02.mkv
           Heroes - S02E03.avi
    The scraper sees specials as season 0. For instance, the Heroes episode Countdown to Season 3 would look like:

    TV Source
    Code:
     Heroes
        Season 0
           Heroes - S00E01.avi
    It is not required to include the episode name in the file for a scraper to work properly. If you choose to include the episode name use one of the following naming structures:

    Code:
    Heroes - Nothing to Hide - S01E07.vob
    Heroes - S01E07 - Nothing to Hide.vob
    For single files that contain 2 episodes (2 hour specials) you can use the following format, this will link both E1 and E2 to the same file in library mode.

    Code:
    Heroes - S02E01-02.avi
    For more information about naming and filename detection see my later post (click)
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2010
  9. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 24,076

    Location: Swansea

    Ripping DVDs and Blu-Rays

    Plex supports media ripped from your CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays.

    For obvious reasons I cannot not disclose the methods behind ripping DVDs or Blu-Rays as this is against the forum rules (link)

    However, It is worth baring in mind that direct rips can use a LOT of storage space. DVDs can use between 3-7GB and Blu-Rays between 20-40GB so it might be worth learning how to encode them to smaller filesizes using programs like Handbrake if you are tight on storage space.

    [​IMG]

    To encode Blu-Ray rips to a smaller filesize you will need to..
    1. Download the latest Handbrake svn2592 snapshot
    2. Launch Handbrake svn2592 to open the file.
    3. When it opens the file, click on the Apple TV preset, then modify the following settings to:
    4. Leave the video set to Constant Quality of 60.78%.
    5. Under Picture change Anamorphic to "none", check Keep aspect ratio, and increase to 1280 wide by whatever tall (to preserve aspect ratio).
    6. Set frame rate to 24 fps if the file's native rate is more than 24 fps
    7. Select the Audio & Subtitles tab and choose the AC3 option for AAC DPLII for the first track and AC3 passthrough for the second track. If HB reads the DTS track, your option will only be AAC DPLII. Set Track 1 to AAC and set track 2 to None.

    Note: If you want 1080p, leave the quality at 60.78% and set the width to 1920. Of course, this will not play on the Apple TV, but it will play in Plex and Quicktime/Front Row on a Mac. In addition, the Handbrake svn 2592 allows MKV containers with DTS passthrough for use with Plex. If the Blu-ray disc has DTS, then you should consider using this passthrough ability so as to get 5.1 surround sound (provided your receiver supports DTS).
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2009
  10. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 24,076

    Location: Swansea

    Adding Plugins: BBC iPlayer, 4OD etc

    As well as having local media Plex is capable of streaming services such as BBC iPlayer and 4OD.

    [​IMG]

    Installing Apps in Plex really could not be easier. Load Plex and click up once to access the Apps Store main menu. The word 'store' can imply there is a charge for the content, there isn’t. The plugins (to date) have been developed free of charge.

    Click on an Application title to display a synopsis of what the plugin offers. It should be noted that not all plugins work in all countries and there is no clear clarification in the listings, it is a generally a matter of trial and error. To install a plug in click on the plugin title for example in the screenshot below I clicked on “The Daily Show” then click install to download and apply the plugin to your Plex install.

    The show will now appear in your “Videos” category although for one or two plugins I had to restart Plex for the new apps to work properly.

    • Note: Some plugins are region-specific. You will know if they are not working if you press play and it endlessly buffers.

    Plex is based on XMBC. Think of it like an OS X-optimised build of XMBC where much of the same plugins are available.

    Code:
    You can check on the list of XBMC-ported Plugins ([URL="http://wiki.plexapp.com/index.php/Plugins_in_progress"]link[/URL])
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2009
  11. NickK

    Capodecina

    Joined: Jan 13, 2003

    Posts: 16,992

    Got a mate's Revo working with XBMC on linux at 1080i last night through HDMI with audio & video.. then got me thinking about OSX and a mac mini but the mini doesn't have an HDMI output for 1080 ... but it appears I was wrong :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2009
  12. tsinc80697

    Sgarrista

    Joined: Apr 10, 2006

    Posts: 7,541

    Location: North West

    Great post!

    To get the US shows working do you need to have a US VPN to access them?
     
  13. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 24,076

    Location: Swansea

    Remote Control Mappings

    Code:
    [B][COLOR="Yellow"]Apple Remote[/COLOR][/B]
    
    [B]Browsing videos/Library[/B]
    
    Hold Up/Down	 Scroll list
    Hold Play	 Movie Information
    Hold Menu	 Contextual menu
    Code:
    [B]Full Screen Video[/B]
    
    Play	         Play / Pause Toggle
    Left	         Back 1% of Movie
    Right	         Forward 1% of Movie
    Up	         10% or 1 chapter of movie forward
    Hold L/R	 Rewind / Fast Forward
    Down	         10% or 1 chapter of movie back
    Menu	         OSD
    Hold Play	 Movie information
    Hold Menu	 Stop
    Code:
    [B]Music[/B]
    
    Hold right	 Queue song to playlist
    Code:
    [B]Music Playlist[/B]
    
    Hold Left	 Move Item Up
    Hold Right	 Move Item Down
    Hold Menu	 Delete Item
    Hold Play	 Visualisation
    Code:
    [B]Screen/GUI Calibration[/B]
    
    Play	         Next Calibration
    Hold Right	 Next Resolution
    Follow the guides below if you want to configure another remote with Plex.

    • Keyboard (link)
    • Logitech Harmony (link)
    • iPhone Remote (link)
    • Universal Remote (link)
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2010
  14. Kawolski

    Mobster

    Joined: Jul 1, 2008

    Posts: 3,014

    Location: Torbados

    Amazing thread, good work mate.
    Been thinking bout this for a while and I'm sure this'll save me asking a lot of questions and headaches.
     
  15. NickK

    Capodecina

    Joined: Jan 13, 2003

    Posts: 16,992

    If I go down this route I'll end up recompiling it for maximum speed :D the source is 1GB and comes with an Xcode project but requires you to install linux tools so rather than mess up my MBP install with lots of spurious linux stuff this will have to wait..
     
  16. Wicksta

    PermaBanned

    Joined: Sep 14, 2005

    Posts: 10,452

    Location: Burnham, Bucks

    Cool thread, I'm using XBMC on my Macbook in our spare room, what are the advantages of using this instead? Do all the XBMC plugins still work?
     
  17. EVH

    Don

    Joined: Mar 11, 2004

    Posts: 24,076

    Location: Swansea

    Installing Skins

    After you have installed Plex and opened it for the first time, a series of directories are created located at ~/Library/Application Support/Plex. Downloaded skins should be copied to the ~/Library/Application Support/Plex/skin directory. Inside the /skin directory, create a folder for the skin you are installing and place all relevant skin files inside that directory. For example:

    Code:
     /user/
       /Library/
         /Application Support/
           /Plex/
             /skin/
               /Aeon
    If you have multiple skins that you would like to install, the directory structure should look like this:

    Code:
    /user/
       /Library/
         /Application Support/
           /Plex/
             /skin/
               /Aeon
               /Back-Row
               /Incidious
    You will not see a directory for the default skin, MediaStream, as it is packaged with the application. If you decide to install a new release of MediaStream before it is packaged with Plex, you will see MediaStream listed twice in the list of installed skins in Configure the Skin -> Appearance.


    Using an Installed Skin

    To access installed skins go to Preferences -> Appearance -> Skin. You should be able to cycle through the list of skins you have installed.

    Once you select a skin, Plex requires a few seconds to change the interface.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    This is an example of the PlexAeon skin that can be installed for use with Plex.

    It is based on the original XBMC skin which is available here (link)


    Advanced: Use Terminal to download all the latest skins

    This method is ripped directly from the Plex forums, so I take no credit.

    In case you were wondering it auto-downloads the latest versions of the following skins..

    PlexAeon .............. http://forums.plexap...dpost__p__47182
    PlexAlaska .............. http://forums.plexap...425-plexalaska/
    Aeon Slim for Plex .............. http://forums.plexap...skin-aeon-slim/
    PlexXTV .............. http://forums.plexap...-skin-for-plex/
    Lithium .............. http://forums.plexap...c/9458-lithium/
    PlexEllipsis .............. http://forums.plexap...l__plexellipsis
    PleXperience .............. http://forums.plexap...0-plexperience/
    PlexBackrow (New!).............. http://forums.plexap...-skin-for-plex/


    Each time you run the script it will check for the latest skin, and download CHANGES ONLY :)


    Instructions

    1. Download the PlexSkinInstaller script (link).
    2. If you haven't done so already then download and install GIT (link).
    3. Open Terminal
    4. Find the PlexSkinInstaller script you downloaded, unzip and run it.


    (TIP: The easiest way to do this is drag and drop the script into the Terminal window, then press return to run it.)


    If you get "Permission denied" errors when running the script then run it with "sudo" in front of the command.

    Wait for the script to finish, restart Plex and you're ready to go.


     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2010
  18. Housey

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Feb 21, 2006

    Posts: 23,455

    Location: Staffordshire

    This is interesting stuff, thanks.
     
  19. craptakular

    Capodecina

    Joined: Jan 7, 2007

    Posts: 10,458

    I'm going to set this up on my macbook with a view to buying a mac mini if I feel its good.

    How silent is the mac mini?

    Any way to blug in a blu-ray drive and a xbox-360 HD-DVD and playback HD films?
     
  20. Kol

    Don

    Joined: Jan 8, 2003

    Posts: 12,337

    Location: London

    Great guide EVH. Been using Plex on each of my mac minis for the last few months and you've pointed out a few things I wasn't aware of.

    Cheers!
     


Share This Page