HTPC as sole source in 2.4:1 projection setup - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 09-14-2012, 03:39 PM - Thread Starter
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I asked a few questions in the htpc forum but most users in there do not understand what we are doing with the CIH setups.

Right now I am using the zoom method and allowing over scanned material to drop off the edges onto the black velvet borders. Eventually I want to upgrade to a projector that will automatically zoom for each aspect ratio.

If anybody has a similar setup I would love to hear what software solution you have found that works and what resolution you use. My goal is to find something that is easy to use, supports movie genres, bitstreams hd audio, plays back at 24fps.

My first setup used media browser running at 1080p, fairly robust and easy to use but it does not run at 24fps, only 60.

After that tried j river, it supports 24fps but crashed on me nonstop.

Next up going to try xbmc, spent the past few days configuring it and reloading all metadata for my library of movies. The aeon mq3 skin looks fantastic but will not support all of my movie genres and also crashes often requiring restart. When it does work, it is awesome. Researching the xbmc crashes showed that this particular skin is the cause and there is no fix. The developer is releasing a new skin tomorrow which I hope will be more robust.

I haven't yet started to look at media streamers such as dune or popcorn hours but it may come to that if xbmc doesn't work out.

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post #2 of 10 Old 09-16-2012, 07:35 AM
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I'll try to contribute more to this thread as I do more experimentation myself. I just placed an order for a new screen, as I'm moving up from a 16:9 to a 2.35:1 screen (larger, as well). I'm a long-time XBMC user but also recently gave Plex a try and really like that a lot. Both support 24fps, but I can't speak to the current HD-audio support as I rip my movies without that track (maybe I'll change my mind on that, but I originally decided to do that to simplify compatibility with the Apple TV).

It is my understanding that XBMC and/or the underlying Windows desktop can be configured to use a non-standard resolution which would allow you to have things zoomed to fit a 2.35:1 screen and have the XBMC UI use that same 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I tried this once without much luck, but honestly didn't spend much time on it. I don't know how much of it is dependent on the computer's graphics chip/card and/or the particular projector you're using. In my case, I have an older Acer Revo 1600 nettop with Atom/ION chipset, upgraded RAM and Windows 7 coupled with an Epson 8350 projector. I occasionally see a stutter here or there, which I'm hoping to get to the bottom of. Not sure if it's due to intranet network congestion, extra crap possibly running in the background on Windows 7, or that the bitrate ends up being a bit too much for the ION chipset at times. Most of the time, everything looks smooth, though, and no one complains. I'd certainly prefer to use my Revo for movie watching since it's nice having the UI available to select a movie.

On that last point, though, I could probably live without a UI on the computer itself, if I'm using Plex, since with Plex I can run the Plex app on my iPhone or iPad, find the movie I want there, and then start it from the iPhone but tell it to play it on the TV. The HTPC running Plex then starts playing the movie. This is not using AirPlay or anything - the HTPC is doing all the work, the iPhone app is really just acting like a smart remote control. There may be XBMC iOS apps which offer similar capabilities. The nice thing about Plex is that you run a server-side app on one machine and it handles all of the metadata management. In my case, that machine is in my bedroom and is also serving as my main Windows Media Center 7 box, utilizing a SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime w/cablecard. That machine has a couple of external hard drives hooked up to it which has my movie collection. In my living room, with the projector, all I need is the smallish Acer Revo nettop hooked up via gigabit ethernet. I don't know if the Plex client app supports non-standard resolutions. Again, I'll probably be finding that out soon as I experiment more with that.

I should note that I'm doing the ghetto manual zoom/shift thing with my 8350 and have no immediate plans for an external lens. Since I won't know what the aspect ratio of the movie I want to watch will be until I decide on the movie that I want to watch, it may make sense for me to just zoom my projector in to a 16:9 window on my 2.35:1 screen while I'm scrolling through the movie options. Couple that with the fact that I also have an XBox 360 and Apple TV hooked up to this display, neither of which will support a native 2.35:1 UI, and it will likely turn out that I'll have my projector zoomed into that 16:9 window much of the time, and only re-zoom/shift if/when I actually play wider content.

Scott R
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I'd much rather watch a great movie in B&W at 240 lines of resolution than a lousy movie in 1080p with lossless audio.
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post #3 of 10 Old 09-16-2012, 10:56 AM
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I use an HTPC with 7MC, media browser and MPC-HC with my CIH setup. I also have an anamorphic lens so it's not completely automated. For scope content I have to push a button to have MPC-HC do the vertical stretch and then I slide the lens into place. MadVR does the change from 60p to 24p automatically.
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post #4 of 10 Old 09-16-2012, 11:00 AM - Thread Starter
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I'll have to read up more on plex, I thought that was a program designed to watch your movies remotely on tablets and phones, maybe I'm thinking of some other program.

I do have some results to report, I had the time yesterday to hook the htpc up to the projector and see the results of my work setting up xbmc. I have my htpc desktop res set to 1920x816 so that it fits nicely on my 2.4:1 screen. This works well. Unfortunately xmbc picks up that native desktop resolution and then when you play back your movies, everything is letterboxed and pillarboxed inside the frame. I thought I could outsmart it by leaving the desktop at 1920x816 and forcing xbmc to use 1920x1080. That doesn't work either, it shows the xbmc main skin at 1920x1080 but then when the movie launches, it defaults again to the desktop resolution. Your only work around is to set everything at 1920x1080, but then this is sub optimal for any use of the desktop.

The best of all worlds would be if you could configure desktop at 1920x816, xbmc skin at 1920x816, but then the xbmc movie player at 1920x1080. We need to get a CIH theater owner onto the xbmc dev team.

Subtitles also seem to suck in xbmc for CIH theater owners using the zoom method. There are multiple settings for subs, only one of which is semi compatible with our theater displays. This setting tries to set the subs to the bottom of the movie picture, the problem is that using the zoom method, xbmc thinks that the black bars are part of the movie picture, and place the subs there. If I was using an anamorphic lens I'm sure this setting would work correctly.

Holding out hope that the v 12 release of xbmc fixes some of these issues for me, until then I may be stuck using xbmc simply to browse through my lists of movies, but actually watching them in a separate player such as mpc-hc.

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post #5 of 10 Old 09-28-2012, 08:05 AM
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Plex has a server apps and client apps. In my case, I run the server app on a Windows 7 machine which also serves as my DVR (using Windows Media Center and a SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime cablecard tuner). The Plex server app handles all of the metadata management of my movies and TV shows.

Then, there are the client apps. There's a client app for Windows, Mac, etc. which will give you a nice UI for selecting your movies or TV shows (reading all of the metadata from that central Plex server machine's database). When you select a movie to play, it will stream the movie bit-for-bit to the client machine.

Then, there are client apps for less capable devices (e.g., the iPad, iPhone, etc.). These client apps give you a similar UI as above for finding the movie/TV show you want, but when you start up a movie, the Plex server app on the central computer now kicks into high gear and does on-the-fly transcoding of the content to a format that the client device can handle. Assuming your central Plex server is fairly capable (mine has an Intel i7-2600 CPU), you can set the bitrate pretty high and still end up with a very, very good quality end-result. If you have an Apple TV, you could even then AirPlay the movie from your iPhone/iPad to the Apple TV. This adds more "hops" across the network (wirelessly from the iPhone to the wireless router, then ideally hard-wired over ethernet from your router to the Apple TV), so you may have to reduce the bitrate a bit. As such, I wouldn't recommend you do this with your main viewing room (with the 2.35:1 projector setup), but for other rooms in your house with smaller TVs, it can still look good. I believe this transcoding will also convert audio down to stereo, so that's another reason why you wouldn't want to do that in the main movie room.

But, again, the Plex client app for a Windows or Mac (or Linux, I'm sure) machine will just do bit-for-bit streaming from the Plex server to the Plex client, so you'll get full bitrate video, 5.1 audio, etc. I'm not certain of the current limitations regarding DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD as I make it easy on myself and rip my movies with just the core non-HD audio track, but I may experiment more with that in the future.

Regarding your experiences using a custom resolution...again, I haven't had a chance to play with this yet, but here's what I think I've read in the past. In XBMC (and Plex might work the same), I believe that you can go into the Settings menu and adjust your image to make sure the XBMC UI fits within the 2.35:1 screen properly. Now, you can scroll through your movies and it all will be optimized for your screen. Then, when you go to watch a movie, you may need to adjust those settings for the particular movie you're watching. There's some key on the keyboard that should bring up those image resizing options again *while* the movie is running. You can adjust that as needed and XBMC will remember those settings for that particular movie in its locally stored metadata. At least, that's my understanding from what I've read in the past but, again, I haven't had a chance to actually try this out for myself yet. In the case of Plex, I don't know if it will allow you to do this, since the metadata is stored on the central server and not on the local machine.

I am somewhat interested in trying all of this out, but I may also be content with just manually zooming/shifting my lens as needed, since this offers the advantage of giving me full 1080p resolution when watching 16:9 content, whereas the method described above would result in downscaling (i.e., throwing away lines of resolution) your narrower-than-2.35:1 movies.

Scott R
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I'd much rather watch a great movie in B&W at 240 lines of resolution than a lousy movie in 1080p with lossless audio.
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post #6 of 10 Old 09-28-2012, 09:12 AM - Thread Starter
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I have played around a bit with the tool under the settings menu that allows adjustment of screen size and overscan. I used it to set up the menus so they fit perfectly into my 2.4:1 screen. When I ran the movies though, they were shrunk way down so I had to disable this. I didn't know about the ability that you mentioned, to set up the movie size itself, using some key command from within the player. Interesting, also painful if you have to do it to hundreds of movies.

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post #7 of 10 Old 09-28-2012, 03:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nebrunner View Post

Interesting, also painful if you have to do it to hundreds of movies.
Yes, it sounds like it would be a bit of a pain for the initial setup. But if you consider that you don't *have* to do it ahead of time for hundreds of movies and can just do it the next time you go to watch a particular movie (and never have to do it again after that), it shouldn't be so bad. In my case, I'm going to be screwing with the zoom/shift when I want to go and watch HDTV anyway, so the next time I go to watch a movie, I probably have to adjust it again. So why not just live with that and enjoy the benefits of full resolution with my less-than-scope content?

Scott R
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I'd much rather watch a great movie in B&W at 240 lines of resolution than a lousy movie in 1080p with lossless audio.
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post #8 of 10 Old 09-30-2012, 04:47 AM
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Xbmc remote apps for ios and android do let you browse your library on phone or tablet and then start playback on tv/av system.

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post #9 of 10 Old 10-04-2012, 05:24 PM
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post #10 of 10 Old 10-04-2012, 06:41 PM - Thread Starter
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I got the xbmc remote app set up on my hp touchpad, bought a mount that holds the tablet and fits into a cupholder on my chair and it is all pretty slick! I also found a handy trick for a lazy mans zoom method, assuming you don't mind giving up some of your pixel resolution -

I set my htpc desktop at 1920x816, set xbmc resolution to 1080p for 2.4:1 movies, for 1.85:1 movies go into xbmc video setting and change it to 816p. The image fits properly on the screen both ways. Works well, should hold me over until I upgrade to a projector with lens memory.

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