Antennas, Tuners, and Live TV
Installing an In-Home Antenna
Choosing an appropriate antenna and installing it correctly are the most important steps to receiving high quality over-the-air broadcasts of your local channels. The number of channels you can expect to receive will vary based on your location and surrounding geography, but a great resource to get started with is AntennaWeb.org.
Simply plug in your address and AntennaWeb will display a map showing your location relative to your area's TV transmission towers. You can see which networks you're likely to receive, what kind of antenna you should buy (ranging from a small omnidirectional antenna to a huge roof-mounted amplified beast), and in which direction you should point it.
In our case, we went with the Channel Master CM-4228HD, a rather large omnidirectional antenna that advertises an 80-mile range. This should ensure that we can receive every broadcast in our home Northern Kentucky area, and we may even pick up a few channels from neighboring cities in Ohio and Indiana.
The type of antenna you'll need will depend on how far you are from the towers and how high you are relative to local geography. If you live in an apartment on a high floor in a major city, you'll probably be fine with a small Mohu Leaf stuck next to a window. If you live in a rural valley, you'll need a high-powered directional antenna, if you can receive anything at all.
Whichever you choose, try your best to position it as high as possible and free of any large obstructions between it and the TV towers you're trying to reach. Keep in mind factors that can interfere with reception, such as metal framed buildings and power lines.
Once your antenna is installed, it's time to add the second vital component: the tuner.
Setting Up HDHomeRun
The next component you'll need to receive OTA signals on your SHIELD is a TV tuner. You can use either a network-based tuner (which feeds the TV signal to the SHIELD via Ethernet or Wi-Fi) or a USB tuner (which connects directly to the SHIELD via USB). The tuners that are compatible with both SHIELD and Plex are the SiliconDust HDHomeRun line of network tuners, the Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD USB tuner, and the AVerMedia AVerTV Volar Hybrid Q USB tuner.
If you plan to only use the tuner with your SHIELD, and if you already have a coaxial cable run from your antenna location to your SHIELD, you can stick with one of the USB tuners. If, however, you'd like to access live TV directly on other network devices, a network tuner is the way to go. This option also obviates the need to run coax from your antenna all the way to your SHIELD. You just need to get the coax to the closest Ethernet drop (or Wi-Fi, although we don't recommend a wireless connection between your tuner and the SHIELD), connect it to the tuner, and then the tuner transmits the signal to the SHIELD via the network.
So, to recap, here's what you need to get started with live TV via Plex:
- Over-the-air antenna
- Network or USB TV tuner
- A Plex Pass (Live TV is a Plex Pass-only feature as of the date of this article)
- A running Plex Server (either on your SHIELD or a separate PC or NAS)
If you have all of that, we can setup live TV and DVR in Plex.
Setting Up Live TV & DVR in Plex
We're using the HDHomeRun Connect for our tuner, but the steps are similar for other network and USB tuners. First, plug in the tuner and connect it to both the antenna via coax and to your network via Ethernet. Give it a moment to boot up and join your network, then launch the Plex Web interface head to Settings > Server > Live TV & DVR.
From here, click Set Up Plex DVR and Plex will scan for your tuner. Once it's located, follow the on-screen prompts to scan for channels, select your ZIP code and television provider, and refine your channel selection.
Note that the channels that Plex finds during its "scan" won't necessarily be tunable. Once setup is complete you may need to refine your antenna position or add an amplifier to receive some channels.
When setup is complete, Plex will begin downloading guide and metadata information for your channel lineup. This process can take quite some time, as Plex adds rich metadata information to each program just like it does with your personal media library. Note, however, that you can begin using Live TV via Plex immediately as data downloads in the background. Plex can also use multiple tuners simultaneously, so if you have an additional TV tuner, you can set it up now.
Switching back to the Plex interface, you can test out Live TV right away via the web, or you can hop over to your SHIELD to try it there. Plex doesn't use a traditional program guide layout, which can be a bit annoying, but it does display live, recorded, and upcoming content in the same "poster grid" layout that is used for your own media.
You can browse live TV via channel, search via content type (movies, TV, sports, news, etc.), or search for a specific show, movie, or sports team to see a list of all live and upcoming broadcasts.
Plex offers full DVR functionality with advanced features such as the ability to add a few extra minutes of recording time to the start and end of a show, record only first-run episodes as opposed to repeats, record broadcasts only offered at a certain minimum resolution, or record the show only on a certain channel or in a specific timeslot. Essentially, Plex DVR can handle any function found on your typical cable box and more.
The really special thing about Plex DVR, however, is how it optionally integrates with your existing media library. By default, TV shows and movies are recorded to the same locations as your existing content, and added automatically to your media library complete with full posters, artwork, and metadata.
Of course, some users may prefer to keep DVR content and their ripped media library separate, in which case you can configure Plex to save your DVR recordings to a separate directory, and not add them to your existing library. You can also configure Plex to delete recordings after watching, or after a certain number of days, and also to only keep the most recent handful of episodes. This is useful for recording daily broadcasts like the Today Show or your local news, without having these frequent recordings muck up your pristine ripped media library.
Once Live TV is up and running, you can watch via your SHIELD, but you can also stream it to your other Plex clients and a growing number of Plex apps. The following devices are supported as of the date of this article:
- Amazon Fire TV
- Android Mobile
- Android TV
- Apple TV
Live TV via Plex is currently only viewable via the primary Plex account, so you can't share it with your Plex friends, but anything you record via the DVR will be immediately accessible to your shared users.
OK, so we have our NVIDIA SHIELD up and running with Plex for both our on-demand media library and over-the-air television. Next, we'll look at the "wow" factor of 4K HDR support.