Drobo 5N - HDHomeRun Extend - Plex Live TV Issues

server-drobo

#1

Sorry if this has been covered already, the search function didn't find much relevant info on the problem I am having.

I recently purchased an HDHomeRun Extend. My intentions were to network that tuner into my Drobo 5N running Plex Media Server. I have purchased the lifetime PlexPass and I have no issues with setting up the DVR service on my Plex server, it finds the HDHomeRun Extend, downloads the program guide, etc.

Now... when I try to watch the channels live through Plex, regardless if it's through a Roku, Windows Laptop, whatever, it takes forever to retrieve and then will buffer every 2-3 seconds.

I have read that it depends on the power of the NAS or PMS because Plex always transcodes the stream, but why is Plex transcoding when the HDHomeRun Extend will already transcode before sending the stream to PMS? Isn't that an inefficient redundancy that is causing my problem? The HDHomeRun is transcoding, sending the stream transcoded to PMS which is then transcoding AGAIN before allowing my devices to view the stream.... I assume that's why I cannot stream live tv through my Drobo?

Did I just waste $200 dollars because Plex isn't ready for Live TV streaming on a Drobo NAS ?


#2

No, but you may have spent money due to not fully understanding what the Extend does or what all video containers truly contain.
The Extend only does 1 transcode task of several that are necessary for Live streaming. The Extend can save about 50% of the required CPU’s power for live.
There’s more to video files (and Live TV) than the internal stream encoding type (h264 is just one type).
h264 encoding is a tiny part of a larger video file equation. It’s a way to encode a stream inside a container such as Mpeg-TS, MP4, MKV.
h264 is part of the guts. Plex still has to work with the whole “body” of the file type.
Though the Extend (or other hardware based TV reciever) takes ALOT of the horsepower required in changing from MPEG2 video codec to h264 out of the equation,
Live TV on a Plex Server;

  • is doing time shifting(DVR recording) while watching live.
  • may be converting the container - MPEG2-TS to (MP4/MKV, depending on client capability)
  • may be converting the Transport Stream (TS) to compatible HLS.
  • may be transcoding live ~20mbps+ TS stream bitrate down to lower mbps depending on client Plex setting
  • may be converting 60fps streams to compatible 30fps (depending on 1) network broadcast source and 2) Plex client setting.
  • may be/is converting the audio stream to stereo if your device isn’t connected by HDMI to a 5.1 Dolby (AC3) receiver.

You might try making sure your Plex client settings aren’t at ‘original’ when trying to watch live TV. Setting it to 12 or 20 mbps should ensure the Extend is using it’s video stream encoding. The DVR setup advanced setting is only for DVR, not for live.
That won’t prevent the other transcoding tasks necessary though.

Just some pointers.


#3

This is a frustrating one that has garnered a lot of posts that I’ve read through.
After a lot of fiddling, I’ve successfully got a Roku streaming Live TV through Plex as Direct Stream for both Audio and Video. However, I cannot get Plex on iOS to get the video as Direct Stream. I understand the conversion of audio from AC3 to AAC, and that’s fine, but the H264 -> H264 conversion is choking on my NAS and causing constant buffering. I can open the HDHomeRun app on my iPhone and stream directly from the HDHomeRun Extend, no problem.
As far as all the comments about time-shifting with Live TV - that doesn’t require transcoding. I can do time-shifting on the direct streams to the Roku, no problem.
I’ve tried every quality setting in the Plex iOS settings, as well as the “Use Recommended Settings” option.
It’s not my network, memory, or disk performance - the CPU on my NAS is pegged and just unable to keep up with the transcoding, unless I crank the HDHR Extend profile down to the ‘internet540’ profile, or lower.
I believe the HDHomeRun Extend is pushing an H.264 stream at level 4.1, and the iPhone is perfectly capable of H.264 4.1 streams.

To make this even more of a head scratcher, I installed the unofficial ‘HDHR Viewer 2’ channel, and if I use that Channel through the Plex app on iOS, it will Direct Stream the video (audio still transcoded, but that’s fine). I can even time shift with it as well. Essentially, it appears Plex has some logic built-in where it’s determining it would be better off transcoding the stream than providing it direct.
So technically, I can do exactly what I want by using the ‘HDHR Viewer 2’ channel, and I’m good with working around it like that. But it’s something I feel should be natively possible in Plex.

I’d still really love to see the capability of adjusting the HDHR Extend transcoding profile from within Plex, per stream. Much akin to opening settings and adjusting bandwidth settings which invoke the Plex transcoder, it’d be nice to offload that to the appliance that was purchased to do that in the first place.


#4

Honestly, the best (and only real) solution I’ve found is to offload the Plex Server functionality to a dedicated PC on your network. I also have the Drobo 5N. It’s a good NAS, but the CPU just doesn’t have enough horsepower to chew threw HD transcoding.

I use an older Mac Mini as my dedicated Plex Server & I’ve not had any problems, but you could easily get an inexpensive, slightly older windows laptop with an i5 processor to do the job. Setup RDP or use TeamViewer to remote into it as needed & stick it on a shelf somewhere. Wired ethernet definitely recommended.

(Or for way better stability (less restarts, updates, overhead) you could dump windows and replace it with your favorite flavor of linux. Ubuntu desktop is nice & you can easily setup VNC for any remote management work).

Sure, it’s a couple hundred bucks more, but you get the fix you’re looking for. Just think of it as 1 month of Comcast’s triple play ripoff bundle.