Plex/Seven: Introducing the all-new Plex Media Server

11.15.08 60 Comments

We’ve been talking about providing integration for a while now with iTunes and iPhoto, and with the feature I’m describing today, your wait is officially over.

The Plex Media Server is a standalone program that runs alongside Plex (or alone on any machine, it’s a Universal Binary). It serves up media from your iLife applications (iTunes and iPhoto today, Aperture and Lightroom shortly). Plex communicates with the Plex Media Server on the local machine, on your local network, or even across the world over the Internet. This means that you can play your friends’ iTunes playlists or browse their podcasts or photo albums.

FEATURE: Access to your media locally or across the network.

The Plex Media Server knows where all your iTunes and iPhoto libraries are, monitors them for changes, and reloads them seamlessly in the background upon update. Add a new album or two to iTunes on your server in the basement, walk over to your home theater setup, and the new albums will be there already for you to play. It’s also extremely fast, loading about 3000 tracks a second.

FEATURE: Hassle-free continuous access to all your media.

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Without further ado, let me take you through the iTunes integration. There are lots of little details that enhance usability. Primary browsing is of course through Artists, Albums, Compilations, and Tracks. When you want to browse by Tracks, you pick the starting letter so you don’t sit there waiting for a 30,000 track list to display.

FEATURE: Designed for high performance, even across the network.

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When you display albums, the year is displayed alongside. When browsing through all tracks, the track and artist are displayed. When displaying tracks of an album, only the track number and name are displayed. The Plex Media Server automatically adjusts the display to provide you with exactly the information you need.
FEATURE: Smart display of data.

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So far I haven’t displayed album art. I mean, who needs it, right, when you have the correct information being displayed? Wrong. When Plex talks to the Plex Media Server, it obtains 100% of the album art, whether it’s stored in the iTunes album art cache, ID3 tags, or cover art files in the album folder.
FEATURE: 100% iTunes album art, even over the network.

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(Bonus points to anyone who can name all of the albums displayed.)

Podcast support is also excellent. Both the Videos and Music sections in Plex communicate with the Plex Media Server to provide Podcast browsing and playing. Anyone else out there a Fresh Air fan?

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You can also browse albums by genre, or even by decade:

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You can also see the albums you’ve added recently, as well as your recent plays by artist, album, or track. This is another example of where we’ve taken the basic iTunes functionality and enhanced it for Plex users.

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All said, we think it’s very spiffy! We’ve had a lot of fun browsing friends’ iTunes catalogs over the network; the speed is excellent, and will be improved even further in future versions.

Support for iPhoto (thanks to James, who also added support for Bonjour in the Plex Media Server which will be put to good use shortly) is also rich. You can browse by Event, Album, Keyword, or Rating. Here we are browsing albums (sorry, most of my stuff is in Aperture):

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And here we are browsing by keywords:

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All said, we’re really excited about this new component to the Plex experience. We’re definitely going to be taking the Plex Media Server in some interesting directions in the coming year.

I’ll leave you with this photo of Barkley and his friend Manu, in which Barkley looks distinctly less clean-cut.

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60 Comments

  • @pletopia: We don’t write back to the iTunes DB (for now?)

    @Andre: Good eyes!

    @shaddix: Yes all around.

    @anville: Not presently, but there is of course potential to do lots of cool stuff like that.

    @Weavus: Transparent to Plex.

    @Maddox: You can play iTunes video podcasts right now. More support to follow.

    @Michael: Yes. We emphatically believe that Plex is the wrong place for a UPnP server. I have a Roku Soundbridge so I have a slight soft spot for the protocol.

  • I already donated, but I wish I wasn’t a poor student so I could donate significantly more. These features are fantastic and exactly what the doctor ordered. Good work!

  • Ok, let’s help someone to get the bonus. In addition to Andre: Frou Frou – Details, Massive Attack – Mezzanine, Kruder & Dorfmeister – K&D Sessions, Eels – Beautiful Freak.

  • @Maddox .. have you looked into linking the “slave” plex machines to a “master” plex machine

    i think it’s possible to have one plex machine that handles everything and then have “slave” machines with their Plex dir from Application Support linked to that master .. wouldn’t that work ???

  • @elan I meant more for standard video files, not just video inside our iTunes libraries. Also, if the server worked as a uPnP server as well, it’d be absolutely amazing. That’d take care of my ps3 and for tunes on my 360 while playing games. I’m running so much software to get the same functionality done on different platforms!

    @pletopia Do you mean using file shares and symlinks? I’ve done this before, and its a good proof of concept, but Os X’s file sharing is so bad, that its easy to break. If you dont manually mount the share after a reboot, everything breaks.

  • The more we invest on this question the more power you will gain….

    WHEN WILL ALL THIS BE RELEASED?

  • This is amazing….

    What are the chances of the plex:// source type being ported back to XBMC for Linux? I have a Mac with all my Music/Photos but my Media Center runs Linux. Would love to run the Plex Media Server on my Mac and access via my XBMC Linux box.

  • let’s see…

    what i see:

    a few t-corporation albums, and a kruder & dorfmeister.

    you should check out some ‘sofa surfers’, if you haven’t already :)

  • In addition to the others, we’ve got St. Vincent, Marry Me as the first in that picture. Great album.

    And AMAZING features coming up. Any thoughts on Parental controls or an additional way to sort movies and TV shows? I currently mark anything ‘not kid safe’ as watched and then say ‘Hide Watched’.

    I’ll be donating soon.

  • @Allards, Freddyflinty Unfortunately we can’t comment on any features that team XBMC will be adding to their software for obvious reasons (mainly we don’t know them).

  • UPNP support would be sweet. So Plex MS could serve up our media not only to our XBMC installs, but to the increasing number of devices that support the UPNP standard.

    Though this would be something to do down the line :). Keep it in mind, it would be awesome to have such a thing that knew about iLife media in such a great way this seems to!

    -Owl

  • Now that Plex7 is released, shouldn’t there be a link up for this too?

  • Wow, love the app – don’t know if anyone else has picked up on it but love the new icon!!

  • WHERE CAN I GET THE APP!!??? (sry about the yell)

  • @sat_ellite: Check the latest post, there’s a link :)

  • Argentina photos? Nice, that’s my home country :)

  • ;) ok.. i got it…

    but.. :( i can’t hear anything … music plays slooowwwwwwwwwww tch…. tcha… tchaa…tchaaan… and so.. What can be happening? Any other with the same problem? Pls help!!!1

  • I’ve been using Plex a long time now, especially for playing HD content, better then VLC (also when you’re using NAS).

    With this release I finally can switch completely for all media from FrontRow to Plex :-) I still use FrontRow for playing my iTunes music, but this version 7 is very, very, very nice. It looks good and is easy to use! And in case I want to, via ‘programms’ I still can access FrontRow ….

    @sat_ellite: I’ve got the same problem, in the beginning all iTunes music played well, but now the music plays too slow :-(
    I’m using digital output to my Sony STR-DA3200ES receiver.

    For the rest, this is a very big step forward for the development of PLEX!

    Thanks.

  • Hmm, i remain a little sceptical. So next to samba, UPNP, DAAP, XBMSP we also get Plex as a streaming protocol. Yay.

    I use Freenas to share all my media across many different protocols and to many different systems (xbmc on the xbox, xbox 360, windows xp and vista machines and my macbook) and this is just another protocol i might or might not figure out and get it to work on my Freenas.

    It gets a little cluttered with all these protocols and getting and keeping them to work in the right way.

  • @engessa: I respect your skepticism. I’m not sure that you need to do anything to get it to work with your FreeNAS, since if you’re storing iTunes or iPhoto libraries there, it will just work (since presumably OS X is already connecting via SMB).

    Anyway, hopefully what we’re doing in the coming months will convince you that it’s worthwhile!

  • What are the technical differences between the existing UPnP, Bonjour, XBMSP protocols, and this new PLEX protocol? Or is PLEX just a forked and modified version of UPnP or XBMSP?

    I am just curious why you would want to create a new proprietary protocol instead of using an existing open and widely used standard like UPnP or Bonjour.

  • @BitPerfect: They are completely different animals. The Plex Media Server communicates (like all self-respecting web services) using XML over HTTP and is thus completely standards based.

  • Hi. I’ve been doing some reading on Plex and I’m excited about it but I’m a bit of a tech neophyte. I have a Mac, I have a PS3. If I download Plex, will I be able to stream media from my Mac to my PS3? Thanks.

  • Hey, the DL link is gone. Was it removed due to bugs?

  • Do’t show the font menu

  • what’s up with the podcasts screenshot? is that an alternative skin? View:Roller is what’s throwing me off because I can’t get Plex to mimic that view.

  • @mike : Horizonz skin

  • Hey, just wanted to say great work. I’ve moved to using Plex for my “entertainment system”. It works great so far.

    Just adding my 2 cents asking for an ETA on a windows version of Plex Media Server – just so happens my big workstation with the large disks is a windows box, and currently syncing iTunes libraries across SMB is one hell of a chore! :)

  • I really like Plex, and I love that the MediaServer is now a separated program…
    But what about Linux-compatiblity?
    I think the Server only is really usefull, when you can run it on any machine, especially an some old Linux-Server lying around…

  • Plex running on Netgear NAS 102, we are liking this! But it needs an newer version of server software. Only update is a bin file and does not extract or install, in order to update it needs a deb file. Which I can not find or even if there one, would need to know how to install without going to the shell and risking data loss or damage to my system.
    I’ve seen and read a lot of attempts to update some good, a lot bad.. Please someone on staff at Plex find a update release for the NAS 102, it seems a lot of people are waiting and even more are not installing until some update is available to be able to use html 5 and some trans-coding for video.
    Thanks – K

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