Direct Play



So....having mostly resolved my issues with Direct Play to where Audio will Direct Play, and Video will Direct Play (most times), I have files that will still Transcode, even after encoding with the same script and settings.

  1. Is there somewhere in Plex where I can see what it encounters to then decide to Transcode vs. Direct Play?
  2. I have looked at the File Info in Plex, and opened the XML's of two files in NotePad++, I'm not seeing why one should Direct Play every time, and one Transcode, every time, as they both appear to meet the criteria below.

any ideas....

video codec: h264
video refFrames: 8 or less (5 or less for legacy firmware 3.x)
audio: 2ch AAC or passthrough AC3
(rare) legacy firmware (fw3.x) must have an audio track

Global Conditions: (if any of these are true, then transcoding will occur)
more than one video stream
burned in subs
resolution > 1080p (video height > 1080)
resolution preference less than source (local/remote quality)
first audio track is AAC 5.1


Below is what I have pulled from the info on three files that will always either Direct Play or Transcode, no matter which client they are played on.


This is an interesting case of perspectives. First though, you should approach Direct Play by realizing that it’s mostly the client device that determines whether or not something will be transcoded. If a file format is incompatible with what the client accepts, then a transcode happens to make it compatible. I would double check your files against what your end device can do.

To address your Global Conditions:
more than one video stream - Double check your files vs your client. Are you trying to say that if you have a Direct Play happening, that it will convert to transcode if you start a second?
burned in subs - This makes sense, as it converts the text to an image, and then combines that image with the video, essentially creating new video.
resolution > 1080p (video height > 1080) - Again, I’d check the settings on the client. If you’re set there to 1080, then the Plex server is going to try to match it.
resolution preference less than source (local/remote quality) - See above
first audio track is AAC 5.1 - is your client set to accept AAC 5.1?


@AmazingRando24 . The files are all converted using the same script running FFMPEG with the same bitrate 1700, and AAC-2 audio as an .MP4. When looking at these three files as an example, playback has been attempted via Browser, Roku 3, and FireStick. Browser based playback will Direct Play both Video and Audio, however, the same file will Transcode Video, while Direct Play Audio on both Roku 3, and FireStick.

Global Conditions were pulled from another thread that if any of these conditions are present, that a Transcode of Video will occur. However, there is one stream playing, no burned in subs, resolution height less than 1080, and audio is 2-Channel AAC.

As the files Direct Play via browser, it would appear as you have suspected that it is a client issue.

Given this, I am not seeing anything in these three examples that would cause one to Transcode each and every time, while the other two Direct Play each and every time.


I assume we mean three different clients? and not the three different files? If this is the case, your scenario makes perfect sense. Each of your clients have very specific and different file compatibilities.

A browser will direct play almost every time. Next to Plex Media Player, it’s probably the most universal play option you can find when using them on a PC or Mac.

A Roku and a Firestick have different file requirements from each other, and vastly different requirements from a browser. What they can play natively is in a much more narrow window. For example, here’s a link for the requirements that a file must meet to Direct Play on a Roku:

If your file falls outside of that in any one of its many parameters, the server will transcode it to match.

As an analogy, imagine your file is a book… and each client is a person from a different country. Those people can speak different languages, but the odds of finding a common language between all three is harder than not. Odds favor you’ll have to translate the book so they can understand it.

This is the glory of Plex, and the one thing it excels at… making the incompatible… compatible.


I found this which goes into a little more detail about the Roku specs:
Maybe there’s something that can help in there? I skimmed it and couldn’t find a smoking gun. Perhaps someone else will have a nugget of knowledge that’s eluding me.


@AmazingRando24 , doing a bit more digging here. In the Plex client (Roku), Settings>Video>Burn Subtitles. If this is set to ‘Automatic’, it will Transcode, if set to ‘Only Image Formats’, it will Direct Play. This would indicate that there are subtitles at some point in the movie, forcing the Transcode, while the ‘Only Image Formats’ is looking for an .SRT file which does not exist and therefore will Direct Play. Correct?


I do know that burned subtitles will force a transcode based on how they work… so your conclusion sounds logical. Maybe the Firestick is something similar, or just a simple file incompatibility then.