The Digital Living Network Alliance DLNA: What is it an How to use this protocol

The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) is a conglomerate of electronic equipment manufacturers, author of a network protocol for audio, video and photo streaming


The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) is a conglomerate of electronic equipment manufacturers, author of a network protocol for audio, video and photo streaming. The equipment concerned includes HDTVs, wireless speakers, Blu-ray players, home cinema amplifiers, network hi-fi players, computers, tablets and smartphones, provided that each device is equipped with an Ethernet or WiFi network controller.


When connected to the same home network, DLNA devices automatically declare themselves to each other using the Universal Plug & Play (UPnP) protocol. For example, an HDTV will automatically find a box's DLNA media server and play MKV HD video files, JPEG photos or MP3 music. Note that the files played back are not recompressed or altered. The transmission is therefore lossless, which is essential for listening to studio-quality audio files (FLAC 24 bits / 192 kHz) or for watching films in 1080p high definition.

4 possible roles

Each DLNA device plays one or more roles on the home network: DMS (Digital Media Server), DMP (Digital Media Player), DMR (Digital Media Renderer) or DMC (Digital Media Controller).

DMS

A device acts as a Digital Media Server (DMS) when it shares its multimedia content over the home network. It can be an Internet Box, a computer running Windows 7/8 or on which server software is installed (Serviio, PS3 Media Server, Kodi, etc.), a NAS or even a smartphone or tablet. Samsung also integrates this server function into its Android mobile devices and it is thus possible to play its movies wirelessly on a DLNA TV.

DMP

A device acts as a Digital Media Player (DMP) when it is able to view and play back content from a DLNA server (DMS device).

DMR

A device acts as a Digital Media Renderer (DMR) when it can receive a photo, audio or video stream and start playback immediately. It then operates in renderer mode.

DMC

A device acts as a Digital Media Controller (DMC) when it can control a DNLA server (DMS) to stream photos, music and videos to a rendering device (DMR). This role is most often played by tablets and smartphones. Mobile control applications for HDTVs, home theater amplifiers, or network HiFi systems do the same.

Case studies


Case of the HDTV

An HDTV is most often both DMP (player) and DMR (broadcaster). This means that shared movies can be played back in two ways: either by using the OSD menu and the TV remote control, or by using a smartphone or tablet and streaming the video file directly to the TV. Each manufacturer thus offers an application dedicated to its TV. Similarly, universal applications are available on the Apple Store and the Android Play Store.

Case of the wireless speaker

DLNA wireless speakers are rarely DLNA players, capable of searching for shared music on a home network by themselves. This involves incorporating a display in the speaker, a processor and a software layer, which is not a very ergonomic solution for the user. The DLNA wireless speaker is still a rendering device, controlled by the mobile application on a smartphone or tablet.

Case of the home cinema amplifier

Contrary to what is commonly imagined, a home theater amplifier cannot play videos through the DLNA procotole. The reason for this is simple: none of the models include a video decoding processor. The connected source (Blu-ray player, TV set-top box) performs this task. This means that most DLNA home theater amplifiers only play digital music. They work as both DLNA players (DMP) and rendering devices (DMR). In the latter case, it is the control application for the smartphone or tablet that allows the user to choose which music to listen to from the music shared on the network.

Case of the network audio player

The network audio player behaves exactly like a home theater amplifier.

How to share photos, music and movies

Simply set up a DLNA server on your home network. Several solutions exist.

1: the Internet Box

Usually, your Internet service provider's router modem (Box) has a DLNA UPnP server built into it, which you activate in the device's configuration menu. When this is done, you can connect a hard disk to the Box's USB port, and the multimedia content is then immediately indexed and shared. Note that the type of files supported is sometimes limited.

2: the NAS

It's the royal solution. Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a mini-computer that houses one or more hard drives and runs a specific operating system. The operating system includes functions for sharing the multimedia files stored on the NAS, which must be activated through the management interface of the NAS, which can be accessed through a simple Internet browser. The advantage of the NAS is its storage capacity and the variety of file formats that can be managed, such as MP3, WAV, Apple Lossless, AIFF, FLAC, etc., which can be accessed through the management interface of the NAS. Another strong point: most NASs have a control application for iOS and Android, which allows you to play music to a compatible receiver (wireless speaker, home theater amplifier, network audio player, etc.).

3: the computer

Windows 7 and Windows 8 natively incorporate a DLNA server, but it is not very practical to use. To avoid unnecessary hassles, it is best to install a DLNA server yourself. For example the Serviio software, which is available as a free version for Windows, Mac OS and Linux. Simply select the folders to be shared, which can be local as well as located on other computers in the home network. Serviio works with audio, video and photo files. Alternatively, use the Kodi software, which includes a DLNA UPnP server to be activated. Note: Kodi also exists in the form of an operating system called LibreELEC, which can run on a small computer dedicated to DLNA multimedia hosting and/or sharing.

A few tips for a smooth reading

  • Prefer an Ethernet network link rather than WiFi for lossless audio (WAV, FLAC, etc.) and HD video (MKV 720p and 1080p) files, otherwise playback may be interrupted,
  • Use devices equipped with 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet network controllers,
  • If WiFi is the only option, 802.11n is the only standard capable of carrying a 1080p video stream,
  • Remember to "tag" your audio files correctly, with software such as TagScanner (Windows) so that the DLNA server can index them correctly according to artists, albums, music type, etc.






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SimTurax Tech Blog: The Digital Living Network Alliance DLNA: What is it an How to use this protocol
The Digital Living Network Alliance DLNA: What is it an How to use this protocol
The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) is a conglomerate of electronic equipment manufacturers, author of a network protocol for audio, video and photo streaming
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