Multi room PVR with MediaBrowser interface for movies - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 06-02-2010, 05:17 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm looking to take the next step with my HTPC setup. First off, I'll tell you where I am now.

Single room HTPC setup; MediaBrowser for the movies and TV shows, and full metadata for all the files. All the metadata is in the "folder.jpg, showname.xml" format (that's generated by metabrowser), and it works fantastic on my HTPC w/Mediabrowser. My movies are in the format "\\moviename\\folder.jpg, backdrop.jpg, and then mymovies.xml". Again, all of this works wonderfully on the HTPC.

My files are in a variety of formats; primarily MPG2 (direct rip from DVD, no recompression, but all the titles/features pulled out, just the main movie in a single file with an .MPG extension) and MKV (for the TV shows; mostly 720P).

What I'd like to accomplish:

1) Extend the MediaBrowser (or something very similar) interface to the rest of the TVs in the house. Most important is keeping the metadata intact, I'd like to be able to see the episode images/and descriptions of all the TV shows and movies. I'd also like it to retain the "Showname/Season/Episode" layout that MediaBrowser uses.

2) Add live TV and PVR functionality to the system.

3) Allow live TV and PVR recorded shows to be extended to all the other TVs.

This is what I've looked at so far (and the problems that I see with each of them):

Ceton 4 tuner CableCard receiver (no problem with this, just costs too much and it's available yet) - This will get my live TV and PVR functionality on the HTPC

XBox 360 - This will allow me to extend the MediaBrowser interface to other TVs. The problems I see with this is that I'm sure that it's not going to support all my codecs (MKV in particular), and I'm not sure it can play live TV?

Popcorn Hour - This will get me around any codec problems, but I'll lose my MediaBrowser interface. I'm also not sure if this will allow any live TV viewing (or PVR viewing). Finally, I'm not sure if the PCH will understand (and correctly format) the folder structure that I am already using for my movies and TV series?

Moxi (in lieu of the tuner card) w/MoxiMates - This will get my good PVR functionality, but won't do anything for viewing my saved media files (DVDs and downloaded series); I'd still have to add a PCH to do that.

The "best solution" that I can come up with right now is PCH (or XB360) + a MoxiMate at each TV. What I'd like to do is get down to one device that can both view all my movies (without transcoding/loss of quality) AND be able to extend live TV from the HTPC around the house.

My specific questions are below (but feel free to comment, in general, about what I'm trying to do):

1) Will PCH see my folder structures and show the metadata correctly for movies (\\MovieName\\MovieName.MPG, folder.jpg, backdrop.jpg, and mymovies.xml)?

2) Will PCH see my folder structures and show the metadata correctly for shows (\\Showname\\Season1\\Episode.MKV, backdrop.jpg, folder.jpg, \\Showname\\Season1\\metadata\\epsodeimage.jpg, Epside.XML)?

3) Will the XB360 allow me to watch live TV (and access the PVR functionality) on all the TVs (assuming I have a quad tuner in the HTPC)?

4) Will the XB360 allow me to watch my MKV files (and all other file types) with re-encoding them?

5) Will the XB360 give me my "full" MediaBrowser interface?


Again, please feel free to add/ask any questions that I'm overlooking, as well as any suggestions you have for a better/cleaner solution than what I'm trying to do.

Thanks!

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post #2 of 12 Old 06-02-2010, 05:21 AM
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You should look at SageTV. It's a great DVR, and it's extenders aren't crippled like Microsoft's. Though you'll have to investigate and see if any of the plugins replace mediabrowser to your satisfaction (though the upcoming MyMovies port an TV Explorer I'd guess would).

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post #3 of 12 Old 06-02-2010, 05:42 AM
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The Media Center extenders do play live TV.
Since you require access to live TV from the upcoming Ceton cablecard, your only option I believe will be a Media Center Extender (XBox 360, or other extenders on ebay) for now. Perhaps down the line, there will be cablecard support from other PVR software.

Mediabrowser has a transcoding option for extenders, but I'm not very familiar with how effective it is.
Your may want to pose this question on the MediaBrowser site as well: http://www.mediabrowser.tv

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post #4 of 12 Old 06-02-2010, 05:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CFC View Post

Since you require access to live TV from the upcoming Ceton cablecard, your only option I believe will be a Media Center Extender (XBox 360, or other extenders on ebay) for now. Perhaps down the line, there will be cablecard support from other PVR software.
Mediabrowser has a transcoding option for extenders, but I'm not very familiar with how effective it is.
Your may want to pose this question on the MediaBrowser site as well: http://www.mediabrowser.tv

CFC

i would go with the xbox, since you already have your dvds ripped to mpg and not folders. you will have to transcode mkv, but if you use dix7 on the htpc it plays the mkvs on the xbox without transcoding but it breaks 5.1 audio... it does a great a job with live/recorded tv and you will have access to the media browser interface.

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post #5 of 12 Old 06-02-2010, 06:10 AM - Thread Starter
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First off.. Thanks for the awesome response so far! This is exactly the kind of feedback/suggestions that I'm looking to get.

If I setup transcoding to the Xbox, it sounds to me like that's going to be the "final solution", all my files will play (ripped movies, MKVs, etc) on all the extenders (and, of course, on the HTPC) and I'll be able to get live TV (to all the extenders) and DVR functionality.

How badly does transcoding beat up the quality? Most of the files that would need a transcode are 720P MKVs (with 5.1 sound). Are they going to look pretty much the same when transcoded to the XB360, or am I going to notice a large hit in video/audio quality?

How is tuner conflict resolution handled? If I have 5 XB360s in the house, and everyone decides they want live TV at one time; what happens? Is there any specific "limit" on the amount of streams that I can pull (DVR) off the HTPC at one time? Can I have 5 XB360s all watching DVR'ed (or movies) programs? Is it just limited by the speed of the HTPC that's serving it all up?

My HPTC is Vista today; sounds like I should move it to 7 if I'm going to go down this route?

Can you elaborate on "crippled extenders"? I'm going to look at Sage right now, I used that ages ago, but haven't kept up with their dev cycle in years.

Also, how's the Windows (7) DVR interface? Can I schedule recordings from any extender (or do I have to be on the main box)?

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post #6 of 12 Old 06-02-2010, 06:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjfink View Post

First off.. Thanks for the awesome response so far! This is exactly the kind of feedback/suggestions that I'm looking to get.

If I setup transcoding to the Xbox, it sounds to me like that's going to be the "final solution", all my files will play (ripped movies, MKVs, etc) on all the extenders (and, of course, on the HTPC) and I'll be able to get live TV (to all the extenders) and DVR functionality.

How badly does transcoding beat up the quality? Most of the files that would need a transcode are 720P MKVs (with 5.1 sound). Are they going to look pretty much the same when transcoded to the XB360, or am I going to notice a large hit in video/audio quality?

How is tuner conflict resolution handled? If I have 5 XB360s in the house, and everyone decides they want live TV at one time; what happens? Is there any specific "limit" on the amount of streams that I can pull (DVR) off the HTPC at one time? Can I have 5 XB360s all watching DVR'ed (or movies) programs? Is it just limited by the speed of the HTPC that's serving it all up?

My HPTC is Vista today; sounds like I should move it to 7 if I'm going to go down this route?

Can you elaborate on "crippled extenders"? I'm going to look at Sage right now, I used that ages ago, but haven't kept up with their dev cycle in years.

Also, how's the Windows (7) DVR interface? Can I schedule recordings from any extender (or do I have to be on the main box)?

There are limitations on the xbox's support of mkv (well really h.264). It does NOT support DTS audio but will downmix it to stereo, but will support dolby.

Your best bet is to use the Dvix h.264 decoder so that your HTPC does not transcode to the xbox (otherwise it will by default transcode even though the xbox supports h.264). I helped a friend set this up, and using the Shark codec pack, the divx h.264 decoder, his xbox's can play back most of his mkvs without causing the htpc to transcode while providign the mediabrowser interface.
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post #7 of 12 Old 06-02-2010, 06:28 AM
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First off.. Thanks for the awesome response so far! This is exactly the kind of feedback/suggestions that I'm looking to get.

If I setup transcoding to the Xbox, it sounds to me like that's going to be the "final solution", all my files will play (ripped movies, MKVs, etc) on all the extenders (and, of course, on the HTPC) and I'll be able to get live TV (to all the extenders) and DVR functionality.

How badly does transcoding beat up the quality? Most of the files that would need a transcode are 720P MKVs (with 5.1 sound). Are they going to look pretty much the same when transcoded to the XB360, or am I going to notice a large hit in video/audio quality?

well like i said you can use dix7 and get great qulity with no surround sound or transcoded and lose quality, that quality will be dependent on your htpc hardware.

How is tuner conflict resolution handled? If I have 5 XB360s in the house, and everyone decides they want live TV at one time; what happens? Is there any specific "limit" on the amount of streams that I can pull (DVR) off the HTPC at one time? Can I have 5 XB360s all watching DVR'ed (or movies) programs? Is it just limited by the speed of the HTPC that's serving it all up?

you can only access the number of tuners you have available (this includes those being used by active recording) once all the tuners are used up, you will get and error saying no tuners are available. I'm not sure what the max number of tuners are. watching a recorded show doesn't use up a tuner btw, you are just playing the recoding at that point.

My HPTC is Vista today; sounds like I should move it to 7 if I'm going to go down this route?

win7 for a few reasons dvr functionality is much more streamlined on win7 than vista was and i also think if you want to use the new ceton cards you have to have win7.

Can you elaborate on "crippled extenders"? I'm going to look at Sage right now, I used that ages ago, but haven't kept up with their dev cycle in years.

I never used anything besides the xbox, so i cant elaborate.

Also, how's the Windows (7) DVR interface? Can I schedule recordings from any extender (or do I have to be on the main box)?

yes, and you can pause and pick it up on another. the dvr interface is great, by far the best you will have seen anywhere IMO, channel logos, full color, all kinds of eye candy and useful features, it fells very intuitive and its easy to find the recording options your are looking for any menu.

once you use it gong back to tivo or the crappy cable or dish dvrs will suck.

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post #8 of 12 Old 06-02-2010, 06:38 AM - Thread Starter
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What's the quality like when the HTPC does have to transcode? Let's say it's transcoding something that's 720P, am I going to notice a huge loss in quality on the XB360 from the original? The HTPC, btw, is pretty fast (quad core proc), so it should be able to to do the transcoding pretty well.

Thx!


Quote:
Originally Posted by genro View Post

There are limitations on the xbox's support of mkv (well really h.264). It does NOT support DTS audio but will downmix it to stereo, but will support dolby.

Your best bet is to use the Dvix h.264 decoder so that your HTPC does not transcode to the xbox (otherwise it will by default transcode even though the xbox supports h.264). I helped a friend set this up, and using the Shark codec pack, the divx h.264 decoder, his xbox's can play back most of his mkvs without causing the htpc to transcode while providign the mediabrowser interface.


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post #9 of 12 Old 06-02-2010, 06:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjfink View Post

What's the quality like when the HTPC does have to transcode? Let's say it's transcoding something that's 720P, am I going to notice a huge loss in quality on the XB360 from the original? The HTPC, btw, is pretty fast (quad core proc), so it should be able to to do the transcoding pretty well.

Thx!

I don't think it's so much an issue of quality due to the transcoding but more unnecessarily having the htpc eat up some cpu power for a format the xbox natively supports. The dvix h.264 decoder just "fixes" it so that it does not go through this unnecessary transcoding step when dealing with mkvs.
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post #10 of 12 Old 06-02-2010, 07:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by genro View Post

I don't think it's so much an issue of quality due to the transcoding but more unnecessarily having the htpc eat up some cpu power for a format the xbox natively supports. The dvix h.264 decoder just "fixes" it so that it does not go through this unnecessary transcoding step when dealing with mkvs.

yeah but i breaks 5.1 audio on the main htpc. have you figured out how to passthrough 5.1 ac3 audio to spdif?

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post #11 of 12 Old 06-02-2010, 07:08 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm looking, more in general, about the quality hit of transcoding 720P files (let's say that I have other 720P files where the DIVX pack won't help me).

Also, what version of the 360 is best for this purpose (to function only as a media extender)? Do I need a HDD at all (in the 360)?

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post #12 of 12 Old 06-02-2010, 08:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjfink View Post

I'm looking, more in general, about the quality hit of transcoding 720P files (let's say that I have other 720P files where the DIVX pack won't help me).

Also, what version of the 360 is best for this purpose (to function only as a media extender)? Do I need a HDD at all (in the 360)?

it really depends on the htpc and what you re transcoding i have some files don't look all that bad and others that are noticeable (but only up close).

the xbox arcade is all you need, no hdd.

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