Throwing Emby into the mix

Emby - Aladdin's page

In my ideal home setup, I’d have computers in every room. I’m not horribly far off, but it’s mostly via old laptops and computers that I’ve retired from regular use or had donated from family members. As more of our movie purchases become BluRay (and with 4k video around the corner), some of those old computers just aren’t up to snuff when it comes to 720P and higher. I have a Roku 3 in the basement for running on the treadmill and that’s capable of handling higher quality video, but it’s not compatible with the way I’ve ripped my media. After a bit of investigation, it looked like Emby might be the right choice for me. So I installed it on the CentOS VM that runs my homeserver. The first thing I had to do to get it to work well was to change the Mono garbage collection.

in /etc/emby-server.conf  I had to add this line:

MONO_THREADS_PER_CPU=500 MONO_GC_PARAMS=nursery-size=64m

Now a look at Emby:

Emby Home Screen
Emby Home Screen

The only real annoyance is that there’s so much overlap with Kodi. I mean, there doesn’t have to be: Emby can be the video source for Kodi. But, still, with how much overlap there is, it seems silly I have to have two programs instead of one. That said, Emby essentially ends up being more of a home Netflix than Kodi. It has a web page that allows the users to watch movies from the website. It also has apps for mobile and Roku.

When I set up my movies for Kodi, I split up the movie folders in a way that makes it easy for me to find movies if I have to browse the folders manually. This also potentially makes it easier for me to do some rudimentary splitting of the movies for my kids. That’s why you see all those folders across the top. When I go into the Disney movies section we can see the latest movies I’ve added there:

Emby - Disney Movies
Emby – Disney Movies

The good thing here is that if I add in some new live action movies, it’s still easy to find the latest Disney movies for the kids. The bad thing is the way the database views movies. Here are the recommendations I get:

Emby - Recommendations
Emby – Recommendations

Yes, they’re cartoons, but they’re not Disney cartoons. The same thing with Genres:

Emby - Genres
Emby – Genres

Because unless something is horribly mislabled, I don’t have any adult movies in Disney. Although, something has to be mislabled, because I don’t have any – except maybe some Kevin Smith movies?

Here are all the Disney movies:

Emby - Disney Movies
Emby – Disney Movies

Here’s the page for one of the movies:

Emby - Aladdin's page
Emby – Aladdin’s page
Emby - Aladdin's page (lower)
Emby – Aladdin’s page (lower)

Here’s what it looks like when watching (I’ve clicked on the info button):

Emby - watching Aladdin
Emby – watching Aladdin

And, as it’s playing you can change the language track (at least if you’ve saved them in your MKV):

Emby - watching Aladdin and changing language
Emby – watching Aladdin and changing language

Here are the latest TV shows (with a green circle and white number showing how many unwatched episodes there are):

Emby - Latest TV Shows
Emby – Latest TV Shows

Here’s the Animaniacs page:

Emby - Animaniacs
Emby – Animaniacs
Emby - Animaniacs 2
Emby – Animaniacs 2
Emby - Animaniacs 3
Emby – Animaniacs 3

The mobile app is more or less exactly like the website which is great for usability.

Emby Android - Libraries
Emby Android – Libraries

Here’s my favorites: (I’d clicked on a random episode and hit the heart)

Emby Android - Favorite Shows
Emby Android – Favorite Shows

I like the upcoming shows part because it lets you when shows in your library are playing on TV:

Emby Android - Upcoming Shows
Emby Android – Upcoming Shows
Emby Android - Resume
Emby Android – Resume

Here’s the menu (again, exactly the same as the website):

Emby Android - Main Menu
Emby Android – Main Menu

Android interface for watching a movie:

Emby Android - movie watching interface
Emby Android – movie watching interface

So, with my CentOS VM with 1GB RAM and watching over Wifi on the phone, it worked out very well with a couple times where it paused for a second to load a little more. I’m not sure if that’s because of Wifi or because you’re supposed to have 2 GB minimum to transcode the video.

So far the only issue I’ve had is that when the metadata is wrong it’s not quite as easy to fix as in Kodi. It took me literally an hour to figure out how to get Emby to see Archer as the 2009 show, not the 1975 show. I would tell it, “no, it’s Archer 2009” and it would keep screwing up. Eventually I had to save it with all the database IDs removed and then get it to scrape the metadata once again.

So, for the time being it appears to be a great solution for Roku (and my phone – but WHY would I do that?). I haven’t tried any of the features that allow me to watch it out of the house since I have a very low upload speed right now on my current ISP plan.

After I wrote this, but before it posted to the blog, two things happened. One, a video that was 720P that my laptop couldn’t handle was able to be watched via the web interface as it just transcoded to a lower bitrate that the laptop could handle. (Another way it’s more Netflix-like than Kodi) Second, they released an email saying their new client may eventually be cross-platform. If so, it may end up ousting Kodi from my computers. Kodi is an awesome idea when you have one TV or multiple computers that can handle the different resolutions. But in a situation like mine with a hodgepodge of equipment, Emby may end up taking the top spot.

Author: Eric Mesa

To find out a little more about me, see About Me