If you’ve setup and tested one media server, it probably feels like you’ve tried them all. That’s why I’m kicking myself for not trying out PS3 Media Server sooner.
Despite “PS3” in the name, PS3 Media Server (or PMS for short) is a universal plug and play (uPnP) streamer designed to deliver content to games consoles, televisions and other compatible clients. PMS also happens to include transcoding ability, which means if your media isn’t suitable for your device, the software can convert it into a version that is.
PS3 Media Server is free, easy to set-up and works on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.
No Need For PS3
Unsurprisingly, the project was first established to provide a uPnP media streamer and transcoder that would allow for streaming media playback on Sony’s last generation console. The project has since been bolstered with support for a huge number of devices, including the Xbox 360, Android operating system and new smart televisions from the likes of Sony, Samsung, LG, Philips and more.
The main problem you are likely to have with any streamer, let alone PMS, is the renderer (i.e. your television or games console) not being able to see the server in the first place, something for which there’s no easy fix. Much of the time visibility problems are down to the renderer itself, as support for DLNA and uPnP in general is notoriously hit-and-miss in parts.
If your renderer cannot see PMS, you might have luck looking for a custom renderer profile in the Alternative Media Renderers forum. These come as “.conf” files to be placed in your “renderers” directory. If you’re feeling really brave, you could always try making your own.
The best way to find out if you own any compatible devices is to simply download and try it out – it’s free, after all.
It’s very important that you remove other uPnP streamers before using PMS because any existing installations can prevent PS3 Media Server showing up altogether (and nobody needs two). Most uPnP renderers require unhindered access to port 1900, so kill all processes and remove all signs of other media servers before proceeding.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed the package most suited to your operating system, you can run PS3 Media Server and begin adding your media. Head over to the Navigation/Share Settings tab and scroll to the bottom in order to add share locations, as folders.
Note: To add an external or network drive as a share on Mac OS X, head to the “Volumes” folder under your OS X hard drive. Network locations need to be mapped (mounted by accessing) first.
Once you have added shares, you’re done – while there are a lot of options here, most of them can be left well alone until otherwise required. The next thing you’re going to want to do is test compatibility with your renderer by streaming something.
Universal plug and play uses a folder directory structure to deliver content, so navigation is pretty straightforward. Once you’ve found PMS and successfully connected to it, navigate to a folder containing some media and you’ll notice the file you’re after, and a peculiar “folder” next to it called “#–TRANSCODE–#”.
By simply selecting the file, you can stream it directly without transcoding – provided the device you are playing it on supports it. Some devices are restrictive with what can be played back, while others simply don’t support certain file types or codecs. In this instance, head to the transcode “folder” and pick one of the other options.
Under PS3 Media Server on your computer you will find a tab titled Transcoding Settings which corresponds with each of these transcoding options. You’ll need to have a fiddle to get things set up the way you want, but with a little bit of tweaking you can easily scale large videos back for older devices or do other things like add borders to compensate for overscanning.
If your renderer doesn’t require transcoding, then don’t use it. Your host computer will thank you, as simply serving the file with no transcoding is a far less resource-intensive task. If you find you are having playback issues, stutters or encounter media you can’t play – hit up the official and incredibly detailed FAQ for troubleshooting tips.
There are a great number of plugins that have come from the PS3 Media Server project since it began, and these bring even more content to your uPnP devices such as integration with iTunes, Banshee, Media Monkey and XBMC libraries. There are also a few other interesting scripts for playing music via SoundCloud and using Mac OS X Smart Folders to collate content.
Plugins come as “.jar” files which must be placed into the plugins directory of your PMS install.
You can now (hopefully) stream content directly to your devices, and transcode to others when you need to. If you’d like to make feature requests, report a bug or find out if your particular hardware is going to be added to PMS, check out the official message boards.
Download: PS3 Media Centre (Free)
Have you tried PS3 Media Server? Do you prefer another uPnP transcoder? Let us know in the comments, below.