A Plex alternative

Very Little to Set Up

The Preferences tab lets you change your username and password and customize the default port on which the web interface listens. There is a choice between a few dark and light view modes, and you have the option of customizing the paths for the cache and metadata. Under the hood, the application relies on Nightfall [4], a library for transcoding and streaming various video files on demand (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Clicking on Preferences takes you to the settings. In addition to the standard settings for your profile, there is also an Invites tab that lets you create tokens to allow secure third-party access to the libraries.

Due its early stage of development, Dim offers only a basic set of the planned features thus far. This includes the ability to import video files, including transferring the metadata (Figure 6), and the option to play back your media collection locally (Figure 7). During my testing, all of this worked without any trouble. Only one of the 20 loaded files lost its metadata during the process.

Figure 6: Clicking on the entry in the library opens the metadata view. This is also where you launch playback.
Figure 7: The player window shows the developers' focus on the essentials and only offers the controls users absolutely need.

Outlook

I asked Dim's lead developer what plans the project has for the coming year or two. This year, the main focus is on polishing up the web UI as well as completing the mobile app for Android and iOS, which is currently in the design phase. The team is also working on enhancing the overall user experience. Alongside this, the developers are looking to deliver a native desktop app with MPV as the video player later this year. In the longer term, they plan to allow users in different geographical locations to stream a video together.

Clients for mobile devices and a large TV offering are among the most important prerequisites for the success of a media center. In 2022, the focus of development will therefore be mainly on Android TV and Apple TV clients. The feature list includes all the usual functions, including offline playback. In addition, there is DirectPlay support with a large number of codecs, so that there is no need to transcode the media in most cases for local playback. The developers are planning comprehensive subtitle support for the web interface. In addition to the text-based SRT format, Dim already supports the SSA format [5], which is often used in anime. In addition, the ability to play back videos with bitmap subtitles without transcoding will soon be available.

Given the scope and complexity of the upcoming developments, especially in the area of clients for mobile and TV, the project will need to pay its developers. The intent is to generate funds with paid plugins offering advanced features, such as multi-GPU support or transcoder load balancing.

Conclusions

The goal of replacing Plex with an open source application such as Dim is something that cannot be accomplished in just a few months; instead, it is likely to take years. Having said this, the Dim team has already laid down solid foundations in the first 12 months of development. The simple interface is appealing in its unobtrusiveness. The implementation in Rust promises speed advantages over an implementation in Python or C/C++. Right now, Dim is not suitable for practical use, but I suggest keeping an eye on this project in the hopes it can rightly claim a place in the living room.

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