Build-in TV Media playback
by MrKuros - 1/24/13 3:45 AM
I've been struggling with a couple of questions about the build-in media servers in todays HDTV's. I've done a fair amount of research on the subject, but I would like to get your input on a couple of things.
Todays HDTV's come with a build in media playback feature. I'm probably using the wrong term here. What I mean with 'playback feature' is the ability to connect a Hard Disk drive, or a computer through a network to your TV, and have the ability to play or stream a large amount of file formats directly on/to your TV.
First off, I have to admit that I only have experience with LG TV's. I know that for example the Samsung panels have similar functions, which maybe even work better then LG. I can't judge that and I won't. I'll try to discuss this thread in a general sense, that applies to all brands.
Now to the point. LG does a very good job at playing back most formats, especially MKV. It runs smooth, and mostly without any issues. However, some files get interrupted halfway at random points, resulting in an error 'This file is invalid'. Also, some files don't start at all. Files that work perfectly fine directly on the computer.
The biggest disadvantage of the build-in features in the HDTV's, is the fact that you have to wait for the brands to release new versions of their software, hoping that they will support a larger amount of codecs and file formats. This, of course, would be solved by directly connecting a computer or media center to the TV. But isn't that just a waste. The TV has all the functionalities required to playback the same files a Media Center or computer would. So I started to research the subject further. What causes this problem. How could this be solved.
At this point I'm going to have to talk about LG specifically. But I'm sure this also goes for other brands with different software. LG works with the software Plex Media Server. It's doesn't come anywhere near the features of XBMC, but it gets the job done. Upgrading the plex software on the TV is possible, up to a certain degree. It doesn't solve the 'Invalid file' problem. But support for newer codecs and sound formats can be installed more frequently manually.
But the interesting thing about media server software, is that it can work together with a computer that also runs this software on the same network. I know what you're thinking, why not just connect that media server directly to the television. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that this computer is located somewhere else, and there is no way of connecting it to the television, except through the network.
This is where the streaming functionality kicks in. What I don't completely understand yet, and what I'm hoping this forum can shed some light on, is the degree to which the computer running the media server, and the TV running the same software, are working together.
It streams data, but does it also share codecs and other installed file support software? For instance, if file format support is installed on the media server computer, and a file is streamed to the TV, can that TV make use of the codecs installed on the media server computer? I've noticed something similar with the Xbox 360. It doesn't run MKV natively, but if a couple of plugins are installed on the computer, it will work through the Xbox 360 Media Center.
I've been reading about transcoding. This would explain the codec sharing, if this is in fact what is happening. A short explanation about transcoding, coming from my research is, that if the playback device (LG TV) doesn't recognise the file being streamed by the server (computer), the software (plex) transcodes the file and then streams it to the playback device in a format that it does support.
If this is true, is it also true that the hardware in the server (computer), influences the ability to transcode and stream files more efficiently? So in other words, if you stream files that would normally get the 'file is invalid' error, with this transcoding functionality, can this error be prevented by upgrading the servers (computer) hardware? Like put in a faster CPU?
I'm very interested and intrigued about this whole 'new' way of media management and playback. I don't only want to make it work, but I want to understand every step in the process. I hope you guys can shed some light on some of these questions.