Infuse + Home Media Library
I’ve been a bit obsessed with home media management since the day I found out about XBMC on the original XBOX.
When the first-gen AppleTV launched, I spent a ridiculous amount of time manually inputting metadata into my files - all for just a crude list view of content that was difficult to navigate and impossible to search.
That all changed the day I found out about Plex.
When I first heard of Plex, I had never been so excited by a single piece of software.
Plex at its core, takes a folder of media and automatically pulls all associated metadata for each file in the folder.
Following that ingestion, Plex acts like a personal Netflix in the sense that it kept track of what you are watching, where you left off, and suggest what to watch next.
Plex also tied into cloud drives which allowed users to take their personal library with them wherever they went.
This setup worked so well for me that I disconnected my hard drives and left them in the closet to instead fully rely on streaming my personal library from the cloud.
Local + Cloud
At a certain point, a fear started to linger in the back of my head - what if I lost access to my cloud account and the data it contained?
I looked into different NAS solutions, but one brand was hard to ignore, and I pulled the trigger on Synology Diskstation and two WD Red 8TB hard drives. Synology has been nothing but reliable and the WD drives are workhorses.
My favorite and most-utilized feature is cloud sync which syncs a local copy of everything on the cloud and ensures parity between the two environments.
As a cloud dumping ground for work, project, and home files that all took a bit of time to preview, my cloud drive would quickly become a mess and cleanup via the web interface was always challenging.
Being able to make local changes and optimizations that now sync with the cloud has saved me so much time and frustration.
I was happily paying Plex $39.99/yr for a premium membership that did little more than show my support for development and my hope that it would exist for a long time.
For reasons I still don’t understand though, Plex shut down cloud libraries in the app noting server costs on their end had become too high to maintain the feature.
I was unable to connect Plex to my cloud drive and stream media from that point; something I had always understood to be a direct-connection between my cloud drive and viewing device. I couldn’t comprehend why Plex needed to run anything on their side to complete this connection, but it was gone nonetheless.
Plex then started pushing things in the app that users were unable to disable (their live channels, etc) and the interface became cluttered.
They then made partnerships with MGM, Lionsgate, and Warner Bros. for content deals which made them seem like they were more interested in becoming a mini-Netflix than anything else.
These moves exposed a product roadmap that I could no longer support - especially after losing such a base-level functionality.
My brother had introduced me to Infuse at this point and I decided to take a closer look. I discovered that migrating to Infuse would not only provide cloud access to my personal library again, but it also has a team behind it that seems fully dedicated to the software (and they offer a pro-membership 1/4 the cost of Plex).
Migrating to Infuse exposed one last project that needed to be completed to ensure everything worked smoothly – a complete refactor of my folder structures and naming conventions.
Infuse has a great reference on metadata, but it still took some trial and error to find the best method to achieve both the highest rate of auto-detection while also maintaining human readability.
Important to note are the primary sources that Infuse uses for metadata retrieval, TMBd and TVDB, both of which are community-built.
On the off-chance there’s any trouble associating something inside of Infuse, a lookup on either site will confirm if something is missing or if a title is obscure enough to not yet have a record.
Much less complex than TV, my movie folder contains all of the items at root level under the following naming convention:
/[Film Name] [Year].[ext]
- Auto-detect Success: 99.69%
This setup allows for a single repository that is easily scrollable.
Organizing TV episodes took a bit more fine tuning - it was necessary to separate each show into individual folders:
- Auto-detect Success: 99.85%
Based on the Infuse spec, double-naming the show is redundant, but Infuse doesn’t seem to mind and it keeps things a bit more tidy than having all episdoes at root-level.
With Plex, I was using a ShowName/S01E01.mp4 format, but with Infuse I found the extra layer necessary, especially if manual adjustment is needed as every folder contains an S01E01 file, etc.
Infuse seems to work best when the entire reference is contained in a single filename instead of splitting the information between the parent folder and individual file.
Infuse wins on so many levels, but one of its best tricks is allowing you to swap-out libraries on the fly.
When I’m away from local storage, a simple library switch to the cloud gives me access to everything on the go.
Once back home, I can easily switch back to local storage to stream content without using bandwidth.
Infuse also creates collections automatically; you can select pre-sorted categories like release decade, genre, or even resolution.
Sorting by Collections, Genre, and Release Date
Custom playlists are also an option, but this is something I haven’t really explored given that the only way to create them is via either the app on iOS or AppleTV - which makes this particular task a bit cumbersome. Having a Plex-like web interface would be best for playlist creation, but it is in no way a deal-breaker.
Ultimately, this concept of a completely digital media library has been a dream I’ve been chasing for over 15 years.
Infuse has allowed me to bring my media into parity with the way I purchase media today; and only having to switch between 2 apps (Infuse & TV app), both of which give me cloud access to content on the go, has simplified what could have been a mess of a library.
Movies Anywhere is yet another thing that I can’t believe exists (more so that the studios agreed to it), but it was the final step to consolidate all of my disparate purchases inside of Apple’s TV app.
My hope now that this is all worked out, is that my obsession with organization will subside a bit (at least until the next/newest shiny thing comes out), so that I can finally spend more time watching.