How to: Set Up a Plex Media Server and Chromecast Your Movie Collection

Before Circuit City collapsed, Mrs. The Droid Lawyer and I would venture over to the store every Tuesday to buy some of the newest releases at a discount. We filled an entire CD case with a variety of movies, and another entire cabinet full of movies that couldn’t fit in the case. Most of the movies sit in the case unwatched, so recently, I’ve taken to figuring out how to dump all of our movies onto my tablet for road trips with the kids or viewing on my Chromecast.

Avia, which I’ve discussed, is one Android apps that allows you to send photos and videos to your Chromecast from your tablet or phone. However, there are some small performance issues with the app. Plex is another app the performs a similar function, but allows you to share the media files stored on one device among several different devices.

Plex Media Server

The app requires a Plex media server. You can get the app to install on your server for free here. I used an old computer I have at the house to store my movies. The computer has a 2.4 gHz processor, 2 GB of RAM, and a 350 GB hard drive. It’s not a beast, but all you really need is something for storage. I’m going to add a second hard drive once I remember to bring it home from the office.

Note too, you’ll need a premium subscription — I suggest a lifetime plan for $74.99 — if you want to use Plex with your Chromecast. The program downloads and installs easily, but if you need help, check out these three videos:

Or you may also want to look at the Plex support forums.

Getting movies to the media server

Once you get your server installed and set, you can begin transferring movies to your media server. First, remember that your Chromecast only plays certain types of media files, so the files you transfer must be playable. I transfer all my media in MP4, which is Android’s preferred playback format.

The easiest way to convert DVD movies to MP4 format is to use Handbrake. This free program will convert virtually any video format. Here’s a pretty good video on using Handbrake to rip a DVD.

I suggest you send your output video directly to your media server’s movie folder, which will save a few seconds in the end.

When you finish converting the video, simply refresh your device’s Plex server menu. You should see your converted movie appear in the file list.

Plex Media Movies Menu

Now, click the movie, click the Chromecast icon, and press play.

Playing a Plex movie

Settings to check when there’s trouble

I encountered some playback problems when I first started using Plex and Avia. The biggest problem always ended up being buffering issues (more so with Avia). I made two changes to my route that seemed to fix the playback problem.

First, I used WiFi Analyzer to determine that my WiFi signal is competing with two other signals on the same channel. This could effect how your devices process information and slow down your speed. I quickly and easily changed my WiFi channel. This usually fixes any issues.

Next, I boosted my router’s mode speed.

WiFi Mode Speed

This feature isn’t available for all devices, but if you have the setting, you might be able to squeak a bit more speed from your router.

Most people will see speed improvement just by changing the WiFi channel.

How about using Plex for trial?

Watching movies is cool, but the real reason I set up the Plex Media server is because I’d like to be able to play movies on my Chromecast at trial. Between Plex and Avia, the playback on Plex is much better, so I’d like to use Plex for this type of streaming playback. Certainly, I could use this method to link my tablet to the television, but I’m looking for a method that lets me walk around with my tablet or phone.

Using Plex or Avia also gives you the ability to move from video back to my trial presentation. Now, if only Google would make Drive compatible with Chromecast.

In order for this to even work though, you should be comfortable with setting up your Chromecast on your own WiFi hotspot. I use my phone’s WiFi hotspot to use my Chromecast away from my home internet.

Of course, before you try using any technology, test it out at least two or three times, and preferably in the courtroom where you intend to use it.

9 Responses to How to: Set Up a Plex Media Server and Chromecast Your Movie Collection

  1. Plex us awesome. I love it. Handbrake is a useful tool as well, especially since you can command line it on a webserver if you need your website to autoconvert video input to a Web favorable output.

  2. Having a problem with Plex…my videos folder is called “My Videos”. When Plex searches for it – it sees “videos”. So I manually change the name in Plex when adding folder to call it “My Videos”. Still, nothing shows up even though there are dozens of movies in the folder…any one have this issue?

  3. I’ve downloaded Plex, I’m using quite an old laptop (not sure of the specs) as my server, and the playback buffers quite a bit (YouTube & Netflix are fine – but the content that came with Plex buffers).

    My 1st of what will likely be many questions is – Can I used an Adroid tablet (considering buying a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 – 16GB) as my server and do away with the laptop?

    • Probably not, though I haven’t tried. You’ll likely need much more storage space. You can probably find a decent priced NAS to store the files. Also, I think your playback issue is probably more network related than your laptop. However, I have seen buffering issues on one of my slower computers.

      • After further reading on Plex’s website, I discovered that the problem may have been that I was using my iPhone as the player. Once I switched to my Samsung tablet, I was able to cast Plex to my Chromecast with only 1 or 2 buffering pauses

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.