Moving my home media library from iTunes to Jellyfin and Infuse

Since 2008, I've ripped every DVD and Blu-Ray I bought to my Mac, with a collection of SD and HD media totaling around 2 TB today. To make that library accessible, I've always used iTunes and the iTunes Shared Library functionality that—while it still exists today—seems to be on life support, in kind of a "we still support it because the code is there" state.

The writing's been on the wall for a few years, especially after the split from iTunes to "Music" and "TV" apps, and while I tested out Plex a few years back, I never really considered switching to another home media library system, mostly due to laziness.

Jeff with Mac mini NAS

I have a 2010 Mac mini (see above) that's acted as my de-facto media library/NAS for over a decade... and it's still running strong, with an upgraded 20 TB of total storage space. But it's been unsupported by Apple for a few years, and besides, I have a new ASUSTOR Lockerstor 4 with 16 TB of always-online NAS storage!

So I was looking at my options for a media library—in aggregate, I need it to serve up hundreds of movies, and potentially thousands of TV show episodes. And I'd like to make sure I can easily browse all that content on my iPad and Apple TV, at a minimum.

My music and audio track needs are met well enough by Apple's iCloud Music Library—I'm not some super audiophile nut, but I do have at least a few thousand songs that aren't part of 'Apple Music' I'm loathe to lose. Don't put blind trust in any of Apple's cloud services, and always maintain your own backups—I learned that lesson especially back in the .Mac and MobileMe days :)

A few readers might wonder why I'd be so 'dumb' as to use Apple's cloud services if I don't trust their reliability. First, I use them for the convenience and deep integration with Apple hardware—Apple builds integrated software usable by techies and non-techies alike. Second, I keep my own backups of all the data that I store in iCloud—but I'd do the same for any cloud service. No matter what vendor, you should never put 100% of your faith into any of them, especially the so-called free ones!

Home Media Library Options

The main options I considered are Plex, Kodi, and Jellyfin.

I don't care too much about transcoding or metadata retrieval services, mostly because I've always been meticulous using MetaZ (and formerly MetaX) to label every detail about every media item I've imported. And I already subscribe to what feels like 50 TV/streaming/media services (whether I want to or its part of a package deal I'm forced into getting), so I don't care about useless add-on TV channels or media partnerships.

My main goal is to have something free, easy to run, and as stable as possible—I don't want to have to switch to something else again in a few years if the ecosystem dries up!

I was familiar with Plex (if only a little) from running it a few years ago, but I wanted to see if the open source alternatives were up to snuff.

I had heard a lot about Kodi in my Raspberry Pi work, so I was checking into it, but didn't see a simple app install for it on the ASUSTOR App Center, so by default I decided to check out Jellyfin.

Jellyfin seems to be an open source fork of Emby, which started up in 2018 after Emby switched to a paid model. To be honest, I'm sure there are 'home media server historians' who could regale you with great stories about how these projects have evolved over the years...

...but I just want a media server to replace iTunes.

Setting up Jellyfin

The first step was getting all my media onto the NAS. I've always copied my media into my own folders (not inside iTunes' Library), so it was just a matter of copying everything into a 'Media' shared folder on my NAS.

Then I installed Jellyfin from ASUSTOR's App Central, and went to the web UI to check on it. It took about 15 minutes to scan all the Movies and TV Shows I had just moved to the Media folder, and once that was done, I was up and running:

Jellyfin Web UI

I did have to re-identify some of the movies and TV-shows, because it looks like Jellyfin just grabs the title of the file and grabs the first movie or TV database result from that.

For example, "X-Men 2" is actually titled "X-2: X-Men United", even though X-Men '1' was just called X-Men, and X-Men 3 was called "X-Men: The Last Stand". Sheesh. So I had to manually identify them so they'd pull in the correct cover art and metadata.

Viewing the content with Infuse

Jellyfin's web UI is decent, and I didn't have any real gripes with it. But I wanted a nice, streamlined app for my kids and family to use on the Apple TV, and for me to use if I wanted to pop open a movie on my iPad.

It seems like Firecore's Infuse is one of the best (and simplest—which I like!), so I grabbed it from the App Store, connected it to my Jellyfin library, and was off to the races on my Apple TV:

Apple TV running Firecore Infuse 7

One nice side effect of using Jellyfin is that the library seems to come up slightly faster than when I used iTunes Shared Libraries.

Comments

Does Apple even make ipods anymore? An Apple specialist advised me to buy an iphone 7 256 GB phone to use it as a player. Moving music from itunes to my iphone 6 plus cell phone or my iphon/ipod 7 player is truly an afternoon of work and failure. I get notices in grey-ed out songs that my region won't allow me to play it, even tho I own it! Really frustrating.

Rumor Mill has it that they're going to make a new iPod because they brought lossless audio to Apple music and they refused at a headphone jack to the iPhone.

then also check out a few of the mobile streaming apps - allowing you to remotely listen/watch your jellyfin content

Will jelly fin work with updating my ipod?

Nice write-up. I've been using jellyfin for a while, and really like it. I'm generally confused when people prefer Plex, but I'm guessing they have different / more complicated use cases -- I really just want to be able to serve media to a single TV in my home. I'll have to give Infuse a try, looks better than whatever other solution I had found.

I'm generally confused when people prefer Plex, but I'm guessing they have different / more complicated use cases

I think often people like the idea of one master huge media application to handle everything for them. On the other hand, I'm happy to have my media needs split into a few different places (like doing Music through Apple Music instead of Jellyfin, since it's better at just that aspect).

Plus Plex was the early app in the game, so it has a lot of momentum and name recognition over the past decade plus.

I have over 900 movies on Vudu. Is there a way to save them onto a hard drive? From there I would love to use one of the services you mentioned to create a libraryof movies for my children.

Infuse is absolutely fantastic. It is the only player known to me that uses the ID3 tags I so meticulously put into all my media files with Meta-Z while all others think it's a great idea to reach out to the "Internet" and grab whatever metadata seems to match a filename. I so hate that ...

One technical remark: you don't need a media application at all with Infuse. Just throw you tagged files in a suitable folder structure on a NAS and navigate and play with Infuse via SMB, NFS, ... whatever.
It will even (if you tell it) sort the files by file name, so you can name the files "01 - Star Trek the Motion Picture", "02 - Star Trek the Wrath of Khan", etc. Yet in the UI it will only show the titles you put in the ID3 tags, without the leading numbers. Just great, but I'm repeating myself ;-)

Definitely a good option (to use it direct with a folder hierarchy); for now I'm seeing how I like Jellyfin's approach to the media management too.