How to Play 4K HEVC/H.265 on Plex


More and more 4K content is becoming available online and many people are having trouble direct playing 4K HEVC through Plex on there clients. So I have created a guide that I hope will help. 

4K (UHD) Direct Play Video Support on Plex

Some 4K (ultra high definition) devices are recognized by the Plex app. We’re working to bring 4K playback support to other devices, too. 4K/UHD content matching the following will Direct Play on supported devices:

  • Container: MP4
  • Resolution: 3840×2160 or smaller
  • Video Encoding: HEVC (H.265)
  • Video Frame Rate: 30fps
  • Video Bit Depth: 8

4K content not matching the above properties will be transcoded to 1080p. Transcoding 4K content is a very intensive process and will require a powerful computer running Plex Media Server. So you may meet some issues:

Whenever I try to playback 4K HEVC video (AC3 5.1) (usually ~30 mbps) on my Samsung smart TV, it has issues with the playback with skipping, repeating, etc. The audio plays uninterrupted but the video is super glitchy.

HEVC (a.k.a. H.265), featuring high compression ratio with improved video quality but lower bit rate, is now widely used in many fields, from digital cameras, mobiles to media apps, websites, for 4K recording and playback. Plex, the popular cross-platform client-server media player, gives its announcement to support 4K HEVC playback. However, problems like MKV not showing in Plex, or 4K HEVC not transcoding via Plex arrive at the same time. Why Plex play HEVC/H.265 availably or smoothly? How to fix Plex 4K HEVC MKV/MP4 playback issues? Answers can be found here!

So how to play 4K HEVC files on Plex without trouble? You can either upgrade your GPU hardware to higher that supports decode/encode 4K HEVC/H.265 (cost too much and waste time), or use some third party 4K HEVC video converter like DumboFab Video Converter to transcode/convert 4K HEVC(H.265) videos to 1080p H.264 MP4 without extreme CPU usage.

Guide: Transcode and Convert 4K HEVC to 1080P H.264 MP4 for Plex Streaming

Step 1. Install and launch the best 4K HEVC Video Converter for Plex, simply click Load File to load your 4K HEVC videos to the program.

Step 2. Click Format drop-down menu, and pick up H.264 MP4 format from Common Video category for Plex.

Tip: Simply click Settings bar and you can tweak the settings to meet your needs.

Step 3. Last step is to click the Convert button at the bottom of the main interface to start the conversion. It will automatically convert 4K HEVC to Plex compatible video files.

Video Playback Tips for Plex Playing

Keep these tips in mind to help ensure the best experience.

  • Higher streaming quality values have a better chance to allow the content to be Direct Streamed or Direct Played.
  • Enabling multi-channel audio in the global settings menu adds support for the associated audio codec during Direct Play and transcoding.
  • Setting a streaming quality value lower than the content’s bitrate will cause the video to be transcoded. Most devices can handle streams with peak bitrates < 20Mbps. Some devices can handle higher quality transcodes or remuxes.
  • Changing the Maximum H.264 Level global setting can allow many files to Direct Stream or Direct Play. Videos use the H.264 Level to define a maximum bitrate for the video as well as decoding parameters.
    • A H.264 level below that of the source video will force the video to transcode.
    • A H.264 level slightly higher than the recommended is usually safe.
    • Selecting the “None” value may be safe based on you media.
    • Changing the H.264 Level above the device’s recommended value could possibly result in severe playback stability issues or device instability. Please exercise caution when adjusting this setting.

Author: Chris Gu

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