all posts tagged 'plex'

High quality album artwork

originally shared here on

I don't know if I'm one of the only weirdos that still uses Plex and listens to MP3s, but dammit, a carefully curated music collection of which I feel some ownership feels critically important to me.

I have started going back in and using the rating systems to rate entire albums.1 Because this seems like a natural follow up question, I basically only give albums one of three ratings2:

  • ★★★★☆ (4 stars): This is an important album to me, but I don't wanna hear it every day.
  • ★★★★★ (5 stars): This album is everything right now.
  • ★★★★⯨ (4.5 stars): Somewhere in between the two. It is either a 5 becoming a 4, or a 4 on its way to fivedom3.

Doing this gives me the ability to create a smart playlist containing all of the albums with at least a 4.5 star rating.

This morning while getting ready, I uncharacteristically grabbed my iPad and used Plexamp to listen to that playlist on shuffle.

The first thing I noticed on the much larger screen was how awful the album artwork looked for many of my albums.

They looked quite pixelated and blurry. Some of them looked like scans where you could clearly see stickers and thin, diagonal white lines on the sides.

I decided this must be something I rectify tonight.

I've updated the artwork for maybe 50 albums so far, and I'm stunned at how much of a difference it makes to have nice looking album art.

I've had some of these albums for decades now. When I added artwork back in the mid 2000s, the best I could hope for in many cases was a 256x256px JPG that I could find on a message board.

At the same time, the past few weeks gave me several opportunities to pay attention to these albums in a way I never have before.4

For most of my life, I generally used music to distract me from my thoughts. I would occasionally listen to the lyrics and look up the meaning of a song, but those details were often secondary to the overall feeling of a track.

Something in the past couple of years changed that in me, though, and now I have been enjoying music on so many more levels. What was an artist going through when they made a song? What was the creative process like? What do these words mean to the artist?

The best system I found was to use the Plex web app on my laptop to select new album art, and then use the Plexamp iOS app to move from song to song, finding songs which had low res album art.

I noticed after a few changes that when I saved the album art on my laptop, it instantly reflected on my phone.

So of course, I started hovering over the "save" button on my laptop, then glanced down at my phone while clicking.

And what you'd see was a cool cross fade where the image got sharper. Cleaner. Fresher. Way more detailed. Way less pixelated.

It allowed me to be a bit of an ophthalmologist, covering one eye, flipping between two different lens strengths and asking whether I preferred option 1 or option 2.

Polishing up my music collection, cleaning up this blog... these were things I used to do for fun.

They were mindless activities. A chance to express myself without feeling any judgement.5 To feel accomplished and organized, a little slice of order within a chaotic life filled with incessant disorder.

I have been so busy for the past twelve years that I forgot what fun really looked like.

I thought fun was learning how to build a company. To understand what it takes to build successful and impactful software.

And in many ways, those things were fun. It is really cool to make computers do complex stuff, to build tech that makes people's lives better. It brings me so much joy.

But that's not the only thing that's fun in the world. And I might have done a bit better at relegating those pursuits to my professional life, and then figured out a way to pursue other joyful things outside of that.

It's weird coming back to my media library after essentially neglecting it for most of my adult life. It feels like opening a time capsule, but then jumping down into it and living amongst the decade old cruft.

But it feels good to clean it out and use it again. To treat it like my house instead of a history exhibit.

  1. I don't really care much about rating individual songs. It feels too granular and seems like unnecessary to accomodate my listening habits. 

  2. If I don't rate an album, then it's only in my library because I'm a digital hoarder and I need to seriously do a deeper purge on my virtual footprint. 

  3. Believe it or not, ⯨ is a Unicode character for "Left Half black Star", but there's very limited font support for this. Someday, perhaps this blog will be able to properly render half of a star filled in. 

  4. I can't believe how much I rushed through the last 12 years of my life. Everyone talks about being mindful and present, and there's nothing quite like anxiety to take you out of being present. 

  5. When you learn how to program computers, they become far less judgmental of you, by the way. Or maybe you get less judgmental of them. 

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