Roku/Plex transcoding

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Roku/Plex transcoding

Postby tman » Thu Mar 21, 2013 2:57 pm

A quick question from a Roku 2 owner in the UK, but I'm not sure if I should direct this at the Plex forums or here, but anyway..

I'm running Plex Media Server on WHS 2011 and I've installed the Plex client on the Roku. All my DVD's were originally stored in VIDEO_TS format on WHS, and this works fine in the Windows Plex client, everything plays back ok. On the Roku though, I'd always get errors that the video file couldn't be found, so I tried converting the VIDEO_TS movie to MKV using MakeMKV. All this has done is take the MPEG2 video files and put them in a container. It hasn't actually done anything to the movie data itself. Anyway, when stored as an MKV, the Roku will play the video file fine, but I've noticed that even with a basic MPEG2 video stream with DD audio, the PMS is transcoding all the output for the Roku, so putting extra load on the WHS. While the movie does play fine, I'd have thought the Roku would have played back this natively (without transcoding), but it doesn't. I'd checked the Roku, and playback was set to 'Automatic'. When I tried setting this to Direct Play w/fallback, I could (most of the time) get the Roku to play the movie without transcoding being required, but it's still a bit hit and miss (sometimes it will transcode, other times it won't)

So, what gives? Does Automatic play cut corners with playback. What is the best setting to use? Am I missing something else?
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Re: Roku/Plex transcoding

Postby lion7718 » Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:01 pm

You didn't say which Roku 2 you have, but the XS has a USB that will play MKV files...but...as with Plex it is hit or miss sometimes.
I don't stream too many MKV's through Plex...mostly AVI's, I will use it if the USB doesn't work, or if I'm too lazy to move it.
Plex should work fine on Automatic...but, you will get more info at the Plex Forums.
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Re: Roku/Plex transcoding

Postby kc8pql » Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:04 pm

I've noticed that even with a basic MPEG2 video stream with DD audio, the PMS is transcoding all the output for the Roku, so putting extra load on the WHS. While the movie does play fine, I'd have thought the Roku would have played back this natively (without transcoding), but it doesn't.

MPEG2 isn't a Roku compatible format.
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Re: Roku/Plex transcoding

Postby philsoft » Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:09 pm

kc8pql wrote:
I've noticed that even with a basic MPEG2 video stream with DD audio, the PMS is transcoding all the output for the Roku, so putting extra load on the WHS. While the movie does play fine, I'd have thought the Roku would have played back this natively (without transcoding), but it doesn't.

MPEG2 isn't a Roku compatible format.


Additionally, in order to support MPEG2 requires paid licensing, which would in turn raise the cost of the unit.
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Re: Roku/Plex transcoding

Postby shumanity » Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:37 pm

And in addition to all that, the Roku can only play MKV off the USB drive, it doesn't work streamed over HTTP. (Sometimes it'll work briefly, but it almost always crashes the Roku.) When you have it set to Automatic, it knows all of that and chooses to transcode, which was the right decision.

If you want to play the videos on your Roku without transcoding, you'll want to use MP4 as the container with H.264 video and some combination of stereo AAC and 5.1 AC3 for the audio. There's a pretty good guide to specific settings on the Rokoding site.
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Re: Roku/Plex transcoding

Postby tman » Fri Mar 22, 2013 11:49 am

Thanks for the replies. It's a Roku 2 XS by the way.

As I understand it then, whether Plex transcodes the content for the Roku is hit'n'miss, and the Roku doesn't natively support MPEG2 because of licensing fees that would be incurred. It would natively decode MP4 in an MKV containter (as this is x.264, i.e. open source), but that would require me re-encoding all the MPEG2 MKV's, which would be a huge, time consuming process. As the MPEG2 MKV's do play ok via PMS though, it seems the 'easiest' solution is just to put a beefier CPU in the WHS box.

I really do like the Roku. It's a great little box, so I guess I'm going to have to look at a new CPU..

Great link to the Rokoding web site as well. Thanks for that.
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Re: Roku/Plex transcoding

Postby davidnguy » Mon Mar 25, 2013 8:57 am

I bought the Roku 3 last week. It doesn't play mp4 via plex. Any idea?
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Re: Roku/Plex transcoding

Postby RickRansom » Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:18 am

davidnguy wrote:I bought the Roku 3 last week. It doesn't play mp4 via plex. Any idea?

Do other file types work? [FLV, MKV, AVI, WMV]
Just before playing the mp4 file, go to playback options and have it set to transcode with fallback or always transcode and see if it makes a difference. It has to be in H.264 for it to be directly played on the roku, so I'm thinking that could be the issue.
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Re: Roku/Plex transcoding

Postby scyber » Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:37 am

davidnguy wrote:I bought the Roku 3 last week. It doesn't play mp4 via plex. Any idea?



Lots of things could be going on. Your best bet for help is to attach your PMS Log to a post over on the Plex Roku Forums. The log will tell us exactly what the server is trying to do when you play that file.
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