Serenity 0.9.0 Released and Transcoding Thoughts.

Serenity version 0.9.0 has been posted to the downloads page. This adds a few features:

  • Adds ability to Filter TV Shows by Categories.
  • Fixes some force close issues when no Library entries are found.
  • Refactors some screens to better show Director, Writer, Genre, etc metadata information.

Download: https://github.com/kingargyle/plexapp-client/wiki/Downloads

Serenity runs best on Android Tablets and Google TV boxes.  It also seems to work very well with the various MBX flavored Android 4.x TV sticks.   Serenity is designed for the Big Screen experience, so it’s interface is designed for use with remotes and directional pads (i.e. XBox/PS 3/OnLive) controllers.   This means it should also work on Ouya’s device when it comes out, but has not been tested there yet.

I’ve been asked about transcoding support for Serenity a number of times, and it is one of Plex’s heavily promoted features.   Serenity allows the use of an external video player, where as the official Plex app doesn’t.   Transcoding comes into play with Android and Plex in many cases because the original audio/video codecs aren’t available on the device you want to play the audio or video file on.  Same with viewing Photos, transcoding converts it to a format your device can handle.    It is also may be necessary if you have your Plex Media Server so that it can be seen externally on the net.  Whether through MyPlex or directly making it visible.   In these cases you may want to transcode to a lower bit so it can be played remote over a celluar connection without using all your bandwidth.

For Serenity, it is not designed for the later use case, and for the former use case where the necessary audio/video codecs may not natively be available, it does provide the option to use an external player.   So for videos that your device may not have the necessary codecs built in, you can choose to use an external player like MX Player which does understand a variety of codecs.    With this functionality, Serenity doesn’t need to provide transcoding support, it can pass the necessary url to the external player. The external player handles the rest.

If you want to make sure your video files can be played natively by the internal player then at least make sure you have your videos encoded in the following formats:

  • Containers: MKV, MP4
  • Video Codecs: H264, XVID, MPEG-4
  • Audio Codes: AAC (2 or 6 channel format).

The above should work on pretty much any android device.  Handbrake can be used to convert a wide variety of video formats to the necessary format, and it is available on a variety of platforms.

If you have a Google TV device, you have more options available to you for native support.   Here are the ones I know work:

  • Containers: MKV, MP4, AVI
  • Video Codecs: H264, XVID, DIVX, MPEG-4
  • Audio Codecs: AC3/DTS (pass thru on some devices), MP3, and AAC

If you want to keep your AC3/DTS audio tracks, but still make your movies playable natively.  Then I recommend choosing a container format like MKV which can hold multiple audio tracks.   The first audio track should be encoded as an AAC track (I prefer 6 channel or 2 channel dolby pro-logic II), the second you can have as your AC3/DTS pass through track.   This way you keep the digital tracks for your home theaters and devices/players that support them, and the AAC track can be played natively by your device.   External players like MX Player allow you to switch the audio tracks as well.  So you could include English on one track, and another foreign launguage audio track on the second.

Serenity is pretty functional and with the ability to choose external players, transcoding isn’t really necessary.  Especially since it’s focus is not on remote play of videos, but of playing them locally in your home on either a Tablet or a device connected to your TV.

Next version will be 0.10.0.   Time frame for Serenity to be in the play store has not been determined, but we’ll put 1.0.0 Beta up there when it is ready.  Until then, you can get the APK directly from the download site.

 

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