Plex DVR with HDHomeRun Connect

15 Mar

I’ve been after a single solution like this for a while. My DVR setup prior to this was Windows 8.1 with Media Centre running as my server effectively, with Hyper-V so I could place all my VM’s on there (One of which was for Plex). Windows 8.1 was the last iteration to support Media Centre as they killed it off for W10 – booo!

This server had a BlackGold Dual DVB-T2 card in it and I used Windows Media Centre and the program guide to record OTA TV. This really just recorded the soaps for the wife on series record and then placed them in a folder which Plex then indexed under a custom “Recorded TV” folder. Transcoding the WTV files took a bit of processing power and there was a little bit of a lag when fast-forwarding and rewinding. Having to Remote Desktop in and load WMC to add or change recordings was a bit of a pain.

This worked pretty well though, even to the point where you could play the .wtv files as they were still recording. The downside being that I pretty much had to keep Windows 8.1 as my Hyper-V server as I couldn’t pass the PCI tuner through to a VM (I could have setup another box just for this, or as it would seem now, have 8.1 as a VM and use a network TV tuner like the one I now have).

I then have 3 x Roku3 boxes around the house and also the Plex iOS apps (plus Plex on the little ones Kids FireTablet) which have sync’d stuff for when we’re out, very useful for holidays and travel.

Anyhow, recently I took delivery of my HDHomeRun CONNECT – model HDHR4-2DT, which is basically a network TV tuner supported by Plex. (£99 from Amazon), infact the only UK DVB tuner supported by Plex at this time.Assuming that you already have Plex, and a Plex Pass, plug it in to an antenna and your network, add it in Plex and search for channels.

(If you look, the HdHomeRun box quotes “You can also watch and record Live TV with your PlexPass”, which isn’t exactly true.)

I had an issue that all HD channels were missing to start with, I even tried connecting an aerial amplifier but this didn’t help. However, once I had updated the firmware on the HDHomerun, most of them appeared. Note, when you run the firmware updater, it automatically finds the device, updates the firmware and restarts the box, be warned.

I’m still missing a few channels, all those on COM7 it would appear but this could be a new antenna job.

You can browse to the web GUI of the tuner (I’ve set a DHCP reservation) and even view the live channels using VLC for example. Whilst doing so, you can view the live stats too.

Back over to Plex and you will now see your Recording Schedule and Program Guide.

The Program Guide lists some of the upcoming shows and movies and also allows you to search for any others.

when you set a program to record, either as a one off, or on series record it will then show in the Recording Schedule:

When setting a program to record you have quite a few choices too:

  • Resolution: You can chose HD only here if you wish.
  • Replace lower Resolution Recordings: Set whether items in your library may be replaced by higher resolution recordings. This will replace any matching items in your library, not just prior DVR recordings.
  • Allow Partial Recordings: Choose whether a recording may begin for an airing already in progress.
  • Set the number of minutes before and after to also record.
  • Limit to a specific channel.
  • Limit to a specific time.
  • Number of episodes to keep. You can chose a number of episodes, or from the past 3/7/30 days. quite useful for soaps etc.
  • Delete after watching.
  • New or repeat airings, or both.
  • And of course which library you would like to store it in. For example, I’ve got a separate library for Kids TV shows, so their recordings go in there.

Transcoding can perform a lot of disk IO, so an SSD would be best for this job. Within Plex, you can specify an alternative directory for the transcoding to take place. I created a 2GB RAM drive using ImDisk, it’s set to be created each time the machine boots and should be quicker than a SSD and also prolong the life of the drives.

I also installed PlexPy. This is a fantastic little Python app, which run at startup and have a web interface that logs all sorts of great stats about who has been viewing what and when.

All in all some very cool options, and it’s only in BETA.

I got all this setup and then ran into an issue with 1080p recorded TV. Standard definition stuff would playback fine but all the HD content was very glitchy on the Roku boxes. I tried the transcoding as recording setting which is listed as experimental and this then caused all my recordings to fail with a transcoding error. I posted on the Plex forums and one suggestion that seemed to fix it was changing the Plex settings on the Roku boxes to set the Transcode Format to HLS. I’m still doing more testing, it would be nice to know when the Roku4 units will be released in the UK too as I quite fancy trying one of those. EDIT: I’ve since re-enabled (since setting up the RAM Drive) “Transcode while Recording” and this worked for 1 HD show, so more testing required here.

Positives:

  • Allows multiple tuner devices to be added, although I haven’t tested this.
  • Easy to use interface o set and manage recordings.
  • EPG included in the Plex Pass subscription

Negatives:

  • No live TV support or time-shifting, hopefully this will come at a later date.
  • Lack of supported hardware, but it’s early days and I’m sure more will be added.

Very happy all round with this setup, and it’s still BETA so hopefully there’s much more to come!

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