DLNA demystified

This post will try to help you in understanding DLNA from a layman’s point of view

In my opinion, Digitization was the technology which had a far-reaching impact during our time. This helped in making available our Photos, Music and Videos, even Cable on Portable devices or on  devices in which it was not originally intended for.  This offered convenient storage of our media which we cannot think off with out this technology. You entire memories are revolving around Hard Disks or Pen Drives. Your favourite tracks are portable and can be easily carried. You could create a mammoth video library eliminating the hassles of managing your VCD, DVDs or Blu-ray. You are able to enjoy your favourite Cable Channels on your Computer, Tablets or Smart Phones.

Without Digitization, your iPod &  iTunes would have never existed, Your Facebook wall will be boring without your’s and contact’s photos or Videos. How about a world with out CDs, VCD, DVDs and Blu-ray.

How our stored media was played in the past?

Few years back the only way of playing your stored media was by connecting your portable storage thru USB. This created a trend where we found USB ports on all Entertainment Devices released in a span of past 2 to 5 years.

This approach offered convenience to users and made USB hard disks a must to have at our homes.

Introduction of connected Entertainment Devices

We saw our homes, sharing our broadband connection across multiple devices thru routers or switches. This indirectly introduced home networks with in our home. Popular Operating Systems offered limited features which allowed sharing of media across our home desktops or laptops.

During all these years there was a protocol for media sharing under development, which would help users in sharing media across connected devices. More than sharing it will have support of compatible devices talking to each other about its capabilities, and based on that the media is served.  And this technology would allow Entertainment devices to utilize technology without any complex software installations on the devices. Enter the world of Digital Living Network Alliance , aka DLNA.

IMO the first devices which supported DLNA were Blu-ray players. Most likely, because they had a far more use of embedded software compared to earlier devices. Slowly DLNA support started appearing on TVs and portable media players. Your popular gaming devices like Xbox and  PS3 supports DLNA. Developers started launching DLNA supported media servers which can host and serve media to all connected device with in a network. Not only that we started giving more importance to meta-data within our media files. DLNA helps us in organizing our media utilizing the meta-data.

DLNA in detail.

DLNA is a set of protocols or rules defined for supported devices to talk. Other than serving and playing, it offers the framework of controlling DLNA devices also. All DLNA certified or capable devices support one or more DLNA profiles.

  • Digital Media Player (DMP)
  • Digital Media Server (DMS)
  • Digital Media Renderer (DMR)
  • Digital Media Control Point (DMC)

Minimalistic implementation of DLNA is thru DMP. Devices supporting this profile has the capability to play back media served by a DMS. It also has the capability to detect available DMS with in the network. It supports meta-data, organizing media in categories and display thumbnails against you media files. This is the profile supported by all DLNA capable entertainment devices.

What is the use of players if we don’t have any servers? That gap is addressed by the DMS. DMS hosts you media and negotiates with other DLNA devices and shares media based on the request. This is mostly software based implementations. On your Windows 7 and 8 , when you enable sharing of media, DMS is enabled on the background. Entertainment devices supporting Android seems to support DMS also. There are basic to full featured media server applications like Serviio, J River Media Server, miniDLNA which can be installed on your desktops which can serve media to other connected DLNA devices.

An advanced DMP implementation is the DMR. This helps you to playback media from other device to a DMR supported device. WDTV, which is a popular portable media player device supports this. That means from your Windows 7 / 8 you can initiate a command to play media to WDTV, so that you will find the media playing from your WDTV. This feature is available on Samsung and Panasonic Wide screen TVs also. Imagine the flexibility of sending media from your desktop or smart phone, without hooking up your USB disk to the TV and playing from there.

You have a Player, Server and Renderer, why cannot we have a remote control? That’s filled by DMC implementation. Applications are available which can control the DLNA devices available on your network. This is handy in a complex implementation of DLNA. Assume you have multiple DLNA devices available on your network. Your Living Room TV is DLNA capable. You have DLNA server hosting the Media available on your NAS Device. You have a DLNA supported Audio Player available on your Kitchen. Using DMC running on your Smart phone or tablet, you can control the media playing on each of the entertainment devices. Complex implementation supports the concept of Rooms hiding your physical devices and decide and control the media playing on each of the Rooms or Zones. One open source app available for iOS, Android etc is Kinsky from Linn.

See Also : More articles on DLNA

Imagine the possibility of serving your Photos, Music and Movies from a central location to your connected Entertainment Devices. So,  What do I need ?

  1. Network – Can be wireless or wired
    1. A UPNP supported network router or Switch
  2. Media Server
    1. Your existing Desktop or Laptop
    2. One of the below
      1. Serviio , a free media server available on Windows , Linux and Mac OS
      2. Your very own Windows 7 or 8
      3. miniDLNA, Rygel available on Ubuntu
      4. J River Media Server, advanced server, Paid version
      5. XBMC – Open Source Media Server available for Windows, Linux, Mac OS, iOS, Android etc. This is an entertainment monster, DLNA is one from its arsenal
  3. DLNA capable Entertainment Devices
    1. Any of the following
      1. TV
      2. Blu-ray Players
      3. Media Players from Western Digital
      4. Xbox
      5. PS3
      6. Smart Phone with DLNA Media Player App
  4. DLNA Media Control Point (Optional)
    1. Any of the DMC App available on smart phone or tablet
      1. Kinsky
      2. J River Media Server which has Media Controller component also

Other than hooking up the components to your network, defining your media library there is nothing complex involved. As the DLNA devices are self negotiating, they are able to recognize other DLNA pieces with in the network.

Post your feedback or questions, if any.


3 Comments on “DLNA demystified”

  1. […] this post for more details on DLNA. To simplify, it provides a set of protocols to share, control and consume […]

  2. […] my earlier post on DLNA in case the terminology like DLNA, DMC, DMR, DMP etc. are new to […]

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