Return to Level1Techs.com

A Basic Guide on Plex - Building A Server, Digitizing Your Blurays & DVDS, Using Handbrake, and More

You’ve probably heard of Plex. Have you ever wondered about what parts to get for a Plex server? Or using handbrake with the digitized version of your physically bought dvds & blu rays? Or labelled your media to make sure the scrapper picks up your files and shows on your server?

This guide is for you.

Table of Contents


What is Plex?

Plex in simple terms is software that allows you to set up a Netflix like experience for your own legally owned dvd and blu ray collection. Once set up and you’ve digitized some of your bought physical content, dvds and blu rays, it looks like this when you access your Plex Server from the Plex App on Roku/Android TV:

Why use Plex

Every hate when something you like to watch is removed from a streaming service? Well with your own Plex server you don't have to worry about it. Its the content you put on it and the only way it'll go away is if you remove it.

The thing you need to understand is building out your Plex Server Library takes time. it will not happen in one day. This is not for the faint of heart or if you don’t have patience.

Building or Buying a Plex Server

Take a look at both the Plex Server Requirements Page and What kind of CPU do I need? from Plex official support website.
These should give you a good idea of what type of system to build or buy.

Buying a prebuilt or a used server is an option. Bare in made with servers, there are hard drive limits and you’ll need to look those up.

Building your own is an option. The key is to build what works for you. Are you going to be just streaming to one device? How about streaming in 4k? And the really big one is how much hard drive space are you going to need? The last one is really important because video files even with compressing do take a space and it adds up quickly.

On the subject of hard drives remember one very important thing.

All hard drives fail. It is just a matter of time. Have back up redundancy drives. If you have 20 TB of media on Hardrives. You really need to have back up drives for that data for the day the hard drives do fail. It may take years for the drives to fail but that day will come.

Setting up Plex

The official guide for installing from Plex Website:

And if you ever have to move your server to another machine:

About the Bandwidth of Streaming Content

While you will be streaming your content in home, you need your internet to be able to handle it. It is highly recommended you connect your Plex Media Server directly by Ethernet cable to your router/wireless router. This will allow for the best case when streaming content from it. Note that by default sets itself to stream at 720P and you have to go in and set it to 1080p for both the server and the app your use to access it.


Digitizing your DVDs and Blurays with MakeMKV

Regardless of the size of your DVD or Blu ray collection, either small or big, there are two applications you need for digitizing them. MakeMKV and Handbrake.
Before we talk about those let’s focus on the device you’ll need to do it:


A blu ray drive for the computer. This is critical in digitization your dvd and blurays.

A word on the state of digitizing with Ultra HD Blu rays

On the whole it's iffy, costly, and you got to flash the drive with custom firmware. Right now it is not recommended to get an Ultra HD Blu ray drive for computer for digitizing efforts until it becomes more stable and easier to do.

MakeMKV - The First Application and only one you have to buy

MakeMKV is the best application and only software to use to digitizing your blu ray and dvds. It does cost money for a license to use it after the 30 day free trial ends. Once you get that key license save a copy of that info somewhere so that when you move to a new computer and reinstall it you have the info you need to use it. Lets cover the basics and somethings to be aware of. There will be an advance troubleshooting area near the end of this wiki.

Digitizing Films with MakeMKV

This is mostly a straightforward process. First take the dvd or blu ray and put it into your blu ray drive. Open MakeMKV

Click on File and then open disc

open the disc

It’ll take a little bit for MakeMKV to open it
Look for the largest file - That’s one you want to save to your computer.
image
Just have the check box Checked next to the largest file. Then click on save selected titles icon [green down arrow on a hard drive icon]
save
It’ll take time to save the file.

Digitizing TV Shows

This is not a straight forward process because:

The vast Majority of TV Shows on DVD and Blu ray video files are out of order.

No that isn’t a joke. What you’ll need to do is after digitizing a dvd or blu ray is to briefly watch each episode. It is highly recommended you go to https://thetvdb.com/ look up the show and get to the episodes area.

However strangely there is one tv show genre this isn’t the case:

Anime

The majority of Anime blu rays and dvd video files are in order. It is still recommended to check each video file just in case.

The majority of TV Show Blu Rays and DVDs have the episodes as individual files. Just have those boxes checked and hit save.

With digitizing TV Shows there is one more thing to be aware of:

Sometimes there is one video file on the blu ray or dvd for a tv show

This is a worst case scenario but it is not impossible to troubleshoot this problem. We'll cover it in

Advanced Problem Solving with MakeMKV & Handbrake

Handbrake to reencode the video files

We’ll go over this in
Using Handbrake to Compress


Naming your content for the scrapper

You have to name your digital content for it to be scanned by the the scrappers Plex uses. By default for films it uses The Movie Database. For TV it uses the Television Database.

Films and TMDB scrapper

https://www.themoviedb.org/

Naming films for plex is one of the easiest things you can do. All you need to do is go onto that website look up the film and copy paste that name. A good idea is to also include the year the film was released in brackets because there have been remakes of films and those years in brackets help find the right film.

Now if there is a mismatch for a film or show it is pretty easy to fix and plex have an already solid guide on how to do that:

TV Shows, TV Specials, and tvdb scrapper

https://thetvdb.com/

Naming for Television shows is a little more tricky. For shows the easiest thing is to have a master folder to put folders for each tv show in. The Folders for the tv shows should be labeled as the name of the show. Inside that folder you would have the show name followed by season number and the episode number.

Example of what this would like like using the name of the show with episode name from TVdb:

TV Show [Top Folder]

Mr. Robot [Inside top folder]

Mr. Robot - 1x01 eps1.0_hellofriend.mov

For TV Specials or OVAs

Now by default tv specials or anime ovas don't show up unless you name them a certain why.

For this example we’ll take a look at Doctor Who because Doctor Who has a lot of Specials. Specifically lets say you digitized your legally bought blu ray copy of Doctor Who Resolution. How do you name it? This is where TVdb comes in. Look up Doctor Who click on Doctor Who 2015 scroll down to specials and click on the link:
https://thetvdb.com/series/doctor-who-2005/seasons/official/0
Wait there are that many Doctor Who Specials? Not really. Not the actually show. Notice how they have 00 and then E with a number? Well you a normal person don;t have time scroll through all that. Tip press the CRTL key and F this will search just that page. Then type: Resolution. You see it is S00E156. The end result will look like this:

TV Show [Top Folder]

Doctor Who (2015) [Special Note you do have to have that year in brackets for Doctor Who 2015 - Now Shows.]

Doctor Who (2015) - 00x156 Resolution

Basically you have to treat specials as a part of a season 0 and find the corresponding episode number for that special.


Using Handbrake to Compress

https://handbrake.fr/

If you have time, it is highly recommending you take time to read the official handbrake documentation about encoding:
https://handbrake.fr/docs/en/latest/technical/performance.html

Documentation for the current version of handbrake:
https://handbrake.fr/docs/en/1.3.0/

Why encode with handbrake? Its to save space and preserve the quality of the show or film. Understand that depending on the settings you use it can take serious time to reencode and it will push your cpu to the max.

Handbrake Push

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE AUDIO CODEC

Lets be clear about the sound issues:

Handbrakes default audio settings are not ideal

When encoding video with handbrake, you're going to have to deal with messing with the audio each time. You can and should set some better default audio selection behavior, let break down an example of fixing the audio:


First take a look at the source audio audio source. Notice that 448 KBs, DTS and 2.0 CH? Well there are two ways to go about this. You could either go with setting the bitrate to 448:

audio part two
Or the easier path go with DTS Passthru for the Codec and you don’t got to worry.

audio part part three

audio part four

Basically you want to try and match the source audio.

MAKING SURE YOU GET YOUR SUBTITLES

This is where using the live preview feature comes in handy. Out the box Handbrake does not put in the subtitles for foreign audio. What can you do? Well:

You got to burn the subtitle to foreign audio if you encode by mp4.

HIGHLY RECOMMEND USING THE LIVE PREVIEW TO MAKE SURE YOU DID IT RIGHT. This is how you get to live preview, first click preview and then live preview:

live preview

If you works go forward with the encoding. If not try a different subtitle, cause some subtitle files are empty, and do live preview until you get the subtitles for that audio file.
Short version: You’re going to burn the subtitles to always be with the foreign audio and you can not turn them off for that audio.

Some general recommendations

You could use the default presets but at least tweak them a little and make your own ones cause the default ones have some flows. These are some tweaks you could do:

Set Auto Crop to Custom and then all value 0

This is a personal preference but out the box handbrake on all presets autocrops. This means, you loss part of the frame of the show and tv. This does remove the black bars.

For TV and Film set to 23, match source for frame rate, variable frame rate, and very slow

Lets take about that number 23 for a moment. This is what is recommended for HD videos. However you can and should use it for 480 videos as well. Keeps the image sharp. You want to know a secret about frame rates for tv and shows :

The frame rate is not constant

Now there is an average around where it'll be but is not a set rate. Just go with matching the source and variable frame rate. This will ensure the video you encode matches your source video file.

Speed of Encode

The speed you encode is also personal preference. If you want to have the best quality for the encoded video file.

What about the video codec?

Use what works best for you. Also you should really read this to help you determine that: https://handbrake.fr/docs/en/latest/technical/performance.html

For Animation Also use the Animation Encoding Setting

You don’t have to do this but it doesn’t hurt when encoding animated video file.

Creating Queues with Handbrake

See

https://handbrake.fr/docs/en/1.3.0/advanced/queue.html

Understand how to make queues with handbrake, is very useful when you are reencoding video files for tv shows.


Advanced Problem Solving with MakeMKV & Handbrake

These are special case problems and with digitizing it isn't a matter of if but when you'll run into.

Multiple Copies of film on Bluray

Troubleshoot Films on Blur

There is only one thing you can do here. We have to save each copy and watch both of them after digitizing MakeMKV to see which one is right. Yes they are both big files but this is the only way to solve this problem.

Recommend downloading VLC to be able to watch the mkv video files.

One Video File for TV Shows on Bluray or DVD

Example: Say you own a blu ray copy of Fate Zero from Aniplex and when you open the blu ray on MakeMKV

Yeah it’s one video file.

This requires a great deal of patience and time to resolve. Here is what you need:

  • TVdb - to reference time from for each episode

  • VLC - to manual scan through the video files for the Chapter numbers for the episodes.

  • Excel spreadsheet or Notepad- to write those numbers on

Example:

breakdown

  • Handbrake - to create queues for each of the episodes you create by way of the chapter breaks. Hit browse save the episode that you made by chapter break name the episode: episode # that # being the number of the episode you are saving. Then click on add queue. Create the next episode by it’s chapter break. Browse. Save. Rinse and repeat till you create the queue for the episodes on that disc.

Hopefully you don’t encounter it too often with digitizing your collection but when you do be ready to take your time to do it.


Contributors

@wolfleben

  • Created the base wiki and intial text of the wiki

@TheDiddilyHorror

  • Provided wolfleben with the extremely valuable documentation resources concerning handbrake.

Rules for Contributing

  • Forum members are welcome to edit and add to this wiki.
    - Per the rules of the forum Encouraging Piracy Will Not be tolerated.
12 Likes

As a heads-up for ripping tv shows:
It’s easier to rip each individual episode rather than the big “all in one” file cause it’s a pain in the ass to separate the episodes later in Handbrake.

Look at the info provides by Handbrake on the right when you click on a file. It shows you the duration which makes it easier to identify the episodes if other files have a similar size.

5 Likes

That’s a great write-up. I use Kodi for my Blu-ray collection as Plex is a bit overkill for my use.

A couple of suggestions I’d make:

If you have a spare computer to encode on, or a fast CPU and don’t mind tying up your computer for hours on end - encode using the 265 Codec. It produces much smaller file sizes at the same visual quality. Useful if HDD space is precious e.g. on a compact HTPC.

I’d also really recommend playing with the Denoise Filter.

Do lots of small encode tests and compare the results in VLC before you encode the whole move/series.

In particular I like to use the NLMeans filter with the [Light/Medium] Preset and the [Film] Tune. I find this massively reduces file size and is barely noticeable when done using the [Light] Preset.

You can test this by picking a noise and grainy source (such as Battlestar Galactica 2003) and encoding a short chapter using NLMeans and comparing it with the various presets.

2 Likes

That sounds like a lot of work for minor improvement.

Maybe but I’m always trying to re-optimise my library. At first everything was 264, now most of it is 265.

A Medium DeNoise Preset can easily quarter the file size of overly grainy movies. Those 80’s classics that used to be 8-9GB are now ~2GB. That’s with little noticeable change in quality.

1 Like

So does the denoise reduce the quality of the image? Do you have any source samples?

Sorry, I’m having a hard time following.

If you choose a Medium DeNoise setting it will soften the image slightly but it’s such a small difference you’d not notice when sat on your sofa. I can barely spot the difference when viewing up close.

It’s useful for reducing background film grain that you don’t really notice.

I’ve got some sample files lying around so could easily upload them to YouTube.

Here is a small sample showing the benefits of using the denoise filter.

YouTube compression has made the noise slightly less pronounced but you can still see the difference it makes.

1 Like