Ceton Echo and H.264 video frustration - AVS Forum
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Old 05-31-2013, 07:29 PM - Thread Starter
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I've been really strugging to find rhyme or reason with my H.264 AVC MKV playback on my Ceton Echo.

Some video files in the collection play just fine on the Echo. Others play audio, but no video. Still others go to a black screen with no audio or video, and require the Echo to be turned off and back on to be able to play anything else on it.

I've been going through Mediainfo reports of files that work vs. files that cause the various problems and I can't seem to find a pattern.

I'm using 4.1.3 of Shark007's Windows 7 Codecs and x64 Components with the reccomended settings, but I really don't think it's a codec issue; however, just to experiement, I've been uninstalling and reinstalling older versions of the Shark's codec packs and trying different settings to no avail.

I don't really know what I'm hoping to get out of posting this on the forum. I've Googled a ton and haven't come across much that's useful. I'm just grasping at straws for some ideas to check what might be common among the ones that don't work. I could post a bunch of Mediainfo reports of files that work vs. don't work, but I'm not really sure if it would be helpful.

In general, the Echo has been an exteremely frustrating device, because it is so tantilizingly close to being a perfect fit for us, but it just misses the mark.
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Old 05-31-2013, 07:41 PM
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This has to do with a few things..

Variable Bit Rate
High Bit Rate
Reference Frames
Subtitles

The thing is that it does not perform well on this content. This is why ceton is trying to get a better solution on android.
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Old 05-31-2013, 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by MediaManXL View Post

Still others go to a black screen with no audio or video, and require the Echo to be turned off and back on to be able to play anything else on it.
When that happens try tuning a channel from the guide. I think whatever the Echo was trying to play last gets stuck in the "now playing" inset. Tuning a live tv channel from the guide sometimes brings it back without having to restart.
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Old 05-31-2013, 10:52 PM
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Sammy2 pretty much nailed it, but I'll elaborate a little.

The Echo doesn't really like High Bitrate anything. (container doesn't matter) if you encode at a high constant bitrate The Echo will choke (I've tested with multiple containers) and if you encode with variable bitrate, (higher quality) you'll likely end up with a file that will play right most of the time, but choke on "complex" scenes (I've used BBC Earth blurays to test with. It's also possible that the Echo just hates huge flocks of birds) when the bitrate spikes to a certain (so far unknown) rate. This holds true for the XBox as well (and other extenders from what I've seen reported)

Reference/B frames can also cause the Echo to choke. I remember reading somewhere that the cutoff seemed to be in the neighborhood of 3 or 4 consecutive frames. If you're encoding with settings above that, I'd question why. It doesn't help quality significantly and you get diminishing returns on compression ratio above those values. This is also a condition that effects the XBox (and other extenders, so I'm told) so it isn't unique to the Echo.

Subtitles aren't so much an issue for the Echo as they are for the splitters involved. I used to use Haali and DivxMF which handled subtitles fine (it wouldn't display them, but it also wouldn't choke on them) but I eventually switched to Shark007 codecs for a variety of reasons I won't get into here. Shark uses the LAV splitter for MKVs by default which doesn't play nice with subtitles. If your movie will play for a while and then choke immediately when the dialog starts, it's almost certainly a subtitle issue. (You could switch to Haali Splitter, or remove the subs from your MKV, note: if you go to Haali, I believe you'll lose the ability to play DTS encoded files until Ceton adds DTS decoding/bitstreaming to the Echo)

If you've used HandBrake to encode any of your MKVs the default profiles use "Variable framerate" on the Video tab. For reasons yet to be determined this results in files that won't play properly on the Echo, and more frustratingly, it isn't a detectable condition with MediaInfo. (As long as your source was constant framerate the resulting file will report as constant framerate regardless of the choice (constant or variable) in Handbrake.

If you've by chance used other extenders and the files played fine on them, I'm inclined to think it is the variable framerate issue, as the others would effect other extenders as well. The black screen and other symptoms make me think it could be the Ref/B frame issue for some of the files as well.

Depending on how big your collection is, you can look at remuxing (not reencoding) your library. I've had good success with a lot of files that wouldn't originally play on the Echo. You can remux to M2TS with TSMuxer which doesn't require any splitters at all and is handled natively by WMF. The downside to that is there is no way to "batch" encode that I'm aware of and you'll loose chapter info. Also, subtitles are converted to PGS which isn't necessarily great. I've also had good luck with MKVtoMP4 which does support batch conversions and will keep chapters and subtitles.
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Old 06-01-2013, 02:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you very much to all three of you for the replies! Frankly, those are probably better responses than my original post deserved. I did use Handbrake to encode most of the MKVs, which has been part of the frustration. I thought I had a handbrake profile that worked, but even the same profile would produce some files that worked and some that don't.

The replies definitely give me a few things to look into and try out. Thanks again!
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Old 06-04-2013, 03:34 PM - Thread Starter
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I've also had good luck with MKVtoMP4 which does support batch conversions and will keep chapters and subtitles.

I tried this on a few of the videos that wouldn't play properly, and all of them played fine on the Echo after running them through MKVtoMP4, which is great, but I'm trying to understand what to make of that fact.

Does the fact that I can keep the same video stream and just remux it into a different container and make it work mean that the problem lies in the splitter, not in the anything inherent to the video stream itself? In other words, would that rule out issues related to things like bitrate and reference/B frames in the video stream? I've tried taking the same .MKV that was fixed by MKVtoMP4 and simply removing the subtitles and re-muxing it with MKVMerge, but it still didn't work... so I don't think subtitles are the issue.

It seems like it must be something with the container or the splitter that is handling the container, unless I'm misinterpreting the data.

Since the Echo runs under a different user account than either the administrator account or the local user account on my Media Center PC, I'm a little unsure if when I change setting in Shark's settings applications if the changes are actually being applied for the extender user account.

Anyway, it's fantastic that MKVtoMP4 did seem to solve the issue. I'm going to spend a little more time trying to see if I can get the media to work before I go and remux my entire library, but at least I have a work-around for those movies that my kids just can't live without.

Thanks again!
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Old 06-04-2013, 04:04 PM
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What player do you use on the HTPC itself and more importantly, how do these file playback on the HTPC?

Do you see changes in the PQ or AQ?

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Old 06-04-2013, 05:00 PM - Thread Starter
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On the HTPC I use Media Center (Win 7 64 bit). They all play fine, no issues at all on the HTPC itself. I don't really see any difference in quality between the MKV and MP4 version on the HTPC, but haven't really compared much.

I have a nagging suspicion that more of the MKVs used to work on the Echo, but I can't be sure. It just seems like now most of the movies the kids try to watch don't work. I'm not sure if I changed some setting or if maybe it was an update that broke it. I'm really trying to figure out what is common to the ones that work or common to the ones that don't work.
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Old 06-04-2013, 05:16 PM
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So you must have a splitter of some sort set up on your HTPC if you are/were playing mkv on it using WMC. I prefer MPC-HC with LAV and madVR on the HTPC. Maybe this set up is not appreciated by the echo as much?

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Old 06-04-2013, 07:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MediaManXL View Post

I tried this on a few of the videos that wouldn't play properly, and all of them played fine on the Echo after running them through MKVtoMP4, which is great, but I'm trying to understand what to make of that fact.

Does the fact that I can keep the same video stream and just remux it into a different container and make it work mean that the problem lies in the splitter, not in the anything inherent to the video stream itself? In other words, would that rule out issues related to things like bitrate and reference/B frames in the video stream? I've tried taking the same .MKV that was fixed by MKVtoMP4 and simply removing the subtitles and re-muxing it with MKVMerge, but it still didn't work... so I don't think subtitles are the issue.

It seems like it must be something with the container or the splitter that is handling the container, unless I'm misinterpreting the data.

Since the Echo runs under a different user account than either the administrator account or the local user account on my Media Center PC, I'm a little unsure if when I change setting in Shark's settings applications if the changes are actually being applied for the extender user account.

Anyway, it's fantastic that MKVtoMP4 did seem to solve the issue. I'm going to spend a little more time trying to see if I can get the media to work before I go and remux my entire library, but at least I have a work-around for those movies that my kids just can't live without.

Thanks again!

I wouldn't bet my life on it, but from what you've posted above, it certainly appears to be a splitter issue. It eliminates bitrate problems pretty conclusively. Your remux sans subtitles also puts those pretty solidly in the "not it" column. I don't think it is an issue with the ref/b-frames, as it seems pretty intuitive, but honestly, I'm not 100% sure if anyone has tested that, and I'm on the road for a few days, so I can't test that fact at the moment. (when I get home, I will try it with some of my test encodes)

I know Shark007 posts on these boards and occasionally weighs in but I don't know if the thread title will catch his attention. But he may be able to shed some light on what specifically his setting app will change regarding extenders. I do know that installing his coded pack will allow playback of MKVs containing DTS audio (I think the audio is converted to PCM and possibly downmixed to stereo, but I'm not 100% sure about the details) on extenders, and since that doesn't work natively on the XBox or Echo, I think it's safe to say that his app does have some effect on extenders.

And I can't remember where I stumbled across MKVToMP4 but it was a great find. I was actually looking for a tool for another purpose, but it dawned on me that it might solve some of my problems I was having with some files playing on the Echo. It's particularly handy since it can remux files without having to do a re-encode (at least with AC-3 audio, I haven't tried muxing DTS into an MP4) but I have it setup to leave the video stream untouched but it re-encodes the audio to AAC. I think you can leave it with AC-3 audio but AAC in an MP4 seems to be a little more "universal" so I figured if I'm going to the trouble of remuxing I might as well make it a file that'll play on everything, and re-encoding the audio doesn't take very long.
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Old 06-04-2013, 09:21 PM
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I wouldn't bet my life on it, but from what you've posted above, it certainly appears to be a splitter issue.

Media Foundation is used to present (split) the raw contents of a file (avi, mkv, etc) to the Extender for playback.
The only MKV splitter available that is Media Foundation based is the one made by Divx.
This is the splitter I use to assist with MKV playback on Extenders.

There are many limitations to mkv playback on Extenders.
THIS THREAD on my forum is your best bet for information.
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Old 06-04-2013, 09:35 PM
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Media Foundation is used to present (split) the raw contents of a file (avi, mkv, etc) to the Extender for playback.
The only MKV splitter available that is Media Foundation based is the one made by Divx.
This is the splitter I use to assist with MKV playback on Extenders.

There are many limitations to mkv playback on Extenders.
THIS THREAD on my forum is your best bet for information.

Good advice.. and while I won't' put this up on your forums: appreciate the work you do on your CODEC pack, why don't you offer people a backers version so we can get it without the SearchConduit spyware garbage that we have to remember to chose advanced so we can make sure it doesn't install..
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Old 06-04-2013, 09:38 PM
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Good advice.. and while I won't' put this up on your forums: appreciate the work you do on your CODEC pack, why don't you offer people a backers version so we can get it without the SearchConduit spyware garbage that we have to remember to chose advanced so we can make sure it doesn't install..

Avoiding the stuff that lines my pockets is easy...
use 7zip to extract the distributed file and you'll have a clean installer with no extra junk.

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Old 06-04-2013, 09:47 PM
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Avoiding the stuff that lines my pockets is easy...
use 7zip to extract the distributed file and you'll have a clean installer with no extra junk.

Kind of misses the point; I have no problem contributing or at least acknowledging you need to make something more than free; I'm saying it would be nice if people could just kick cash directly your way and get a cleaned out version/seperate download etc.. that way, everyone benefits. (See as in those of us who chip toward mediabrowser)
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Old 06-04-2013, 09:56 PM
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Kind of misses the point; I have no problem contributing or at least acknowledging you need to make something more than free; I'm saying it would be nice if people could just kick cash directly your way and get a cleaned out version/seperate download etc.. that way, everyone benefits. (See as in those of us who chip toward mediabrowser)

I didn't miss the point, you did.
Is extracting the distributed file to time consuming or something? what if I distributed a 7z archive? then what?
I'm sorry to hear you think this should be somewhat easier.

I appreciate your opinion none-the-less.
I welcome you to show me one single person that felt the donations received equaled the work.

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Old 06-05-2013, 09:31 PM - Thread Starter
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I posted this information on Shark's Forum also, just for anyone else who might be running into this issue.

But, installing version 3.80 of Shark's Codecs with installation defaults seems to have cleared up my issues on the Echo.

I just arbitarily chose 3.80 as a trial point. I haven't stepped forward to see which version actually introduces the issue. I did confirm that I had problems with 4.13 and 4.15 of the packs. (And as I said on his forum, I certainly don't blame Shark for this... I assume it is some component updated within the bundle that is causing the problem. I suspect DIVX MF splitter based on the conversation above.)

Thanks!
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Old 06-05-2013, 09:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Shark007 View Post

I didn't miss the point, you did.
Is extracting the distributed file to time consuming or something? what if I distributed a 7z archive? then what?
I'm sorry to hear you think this should be somewhat easier.

I appreciate your opinion none-the-less.
I welcome you to show me one single person that felt the donations received equaled the work.

Whoa, dude. Don't take anything I said as an attack, I'm trying to offer you money.

*boggle*

I'm sure lots of people don't get paid nearly the level of their work; but it doesn't mean that all of us are dead beats. Fact is, the Search Conduit lump in that was bundled basically -is- a freaking browser hijack, and yes, I can get around it, but it makes it hard to recommend your product because it's included. That's just how it is. I can unzip it, as you said, not a lot of work, and use that to get to friends and others that I recommend your product to.

But how fair is that to you? Shouldn't you be compensated for your work? I assume you're bundling it because you want to be compensated. Look, TMTX (every upgrade) has basically run me $30. If you said "kick in $30 paypal, and you'll get first crack of downloads without the ****" you'd get more than a few people who would back you because we like the effort.

I know this sounds silly, but it does work. Hell, check the mediabrowser forums, I kicked in a few hundred (and beer) for a change in Media Browser. A lot of us invest a LOT of money into our HTPCs. We value them highly and ask others to do the same thing.

Don't take this as an attack, because it is definitely not.. I'm just saying:

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Old 06-06-2013, 12:38 AM
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I posted this information on Shark's Forum also, just for anyone else who might be running into this issue.

But, installing version 3.80 of Shark's Codecs with installation defaults seems to have cleared up my issues on the Echo.

I just arbitarily chose 3.80 as a trial point. I haven't stepped forward to see which version actually introduces the issue. I did confirm that I had problems with 4.13 and 4.15 of the packs. (And as I said on his forum, I certainly don't blame Shark for this... I assume it is some component updated within the bundle that is causing the problem. I suspect DIVX MF splitter based on the conversation above.)

Thanks!

Did this smooth out H.264 MP4 playback? I could not find 3.80, but installed 4.15 and noticed no difference. Playback is still jerky. The files were created with Handbrake using Apple TV2 & Apple TV3 profiles.

If I'm correct, I don't need to check the DIvX MF splitter since these are not MKV's but MP4s. I used the recommended settings only.
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Old 06-06-2013, 12:06 PM
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But, installing version 3.80 of Shark's Codecs with installation defaults seems to have cleared up my issues on the Echo.

getting back on topic... I only own a 360 to test with and current releases of my software support 360's very well. MediaManXL eludes to the fact that it may be possible to improve Echo support of MKV playback using an older configuration set than what I currently use. In light of the above quote, I have prepared 64bit installers for testing which has a new selection on the MKV TAB to support common Extenders vs. Echo Extenders.

If anyone using my software and owning an Echo would like to test this newly revised support (64bit only at this time)
download URL's ar attached - UNINSTALL your old version before testing the new version.


URL's removed - testing no longer needed - thanks to those assisting.

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Old 06-06-2013, 03:05 PM
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Okay, so that makes sense on the MKV support.

My questions is there a way to improve H.264 playback in an MP4 / M4V container on the Echo without breaking Live TV? Every change I've played with either breaks Live TV or I get a black screen with "Buffering..." message. Right now only the Shark recommended settings work on 4.15. My M4V collection playback is pretty choppy.
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Old 06-06-2013, 03:08 PM
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Is a 32 bit version forthcoming?

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Old 06-06-2013, 03:11 PM
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Okay, so that makes sense on the MKV support.

My questions is there a way to improve H.264 playback in an MP4 / M4V container on the Echo without breaking Live TV? Every change I've played with either breaks Live TV or I get a black screen with "Buffering..." message. Right now only the Shark recommended settings work on 4.15. My M4V collection playback is pretty choppy.

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Is a 32 bit version forthcoming?

shortcut3d, If that is a 32bit system, I found a typo in my code just an hour ago that would have caused issues for MKV playback on Extenders
Sammy, as you can see from the above statement, yes. I am working on it as I type here.

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Old 06-06-2013, 03:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shark007 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by shortcut3d View Post

Okay, so that makes sense on the MKV support.

My questions is there a way to improve H.264 playback in an MP4 / M4V container on the Echo without breaking Live TV? Every change I've played with either breaks Live TV or I get a black screen with "Buffering..." message. Right now only the Shark recommended settings work on 4.15. My M4V collection playback is pretty choppy.

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Is a 32 bit version forthcoming?

shortcut3d, If that is a 32bit system, I found a typo in my code just an hour ago that would have caused issues for MKV playback on Extenders
Sammy, as you can see from the above statement, yes. I am working on it as I type here.

THANKS! As soon as the 32bit one is ready, I'll test it out.

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Old 06-06-2013, 04:38 PM
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THANKS! As soon as the 32bit one is ready, I'll test it out.

Sammy, MajorGeeks has posted new versions.

If you werent aware, I recently renamed my distributions.
Win7codecs + x64Components are now called, ADVANCED Codecs for Windows 7 and 8
Windows 8 Codecs + its x64 addon is now called, STANDARD Codecs for Windows 7 and 8

The Standard Codecs (32 and 64bit) are a stripped down version of the Advanced release. Haali, FFDshow and the Gabest filters are removed from the Standard releases. If you need a feature such as FFDshow or Haali, you can install the Advanced Codecs onto any Windows 7 or 8 system instead of the STANDARD version to give you more decoder chain options to choose from.

The 32bit Standard release will not have these Extender updates until version 161

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Old 06-07-2013, 06:43 AM
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I will give this a go over the weekend. I haven't updated in a while as there didn't seem to be a need on my HTPC and nothing seemed new for making extenders work better.

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Old 06-07-2013, 07:22 AM
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I will give this a go over the weekend. I haven't updated in a while as there didn't seem to be a need on my HTPC and nothing seemed new for making extenders work better.

Just to give you some incentive, here is the thread on my forum by MediaManXL where he reports favourable results with current releases. Keep in mind, it is not a default setting. You must go to the MKV TAB and enable 'Support Echo Extenders'.


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Old 06-07-2013, 09:01 AM
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I am noticing that "Suggested Settings" is un-ticked on this tab?

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Old 06-07-2013, 09:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sammy2 View Post

I am noticing that "Suggested Settings" is un-ticked on this tab?

The suggested settings do not have an affect Echo support. (to the best of my knowledge, I do not own an Echo)
They are mainly for WMP and Media Center playback on the PC
but on Windows 8 systems, they also assist with playback when pushing to a DLNA device allowing the LAV filters to be used for playback.

Use Shark007 Codecs and retain your sanity.
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Old 06-07-2013, 09:17 AM - Thread Starter
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As Shark mentioned, I confirmed that his codec pack 4.16 using all the installation default settings except for making the change to "support Echo extenders" fixed the problem I was having with MKV files (specifically the problem where audio would play, but video would remain a black screen with 'buffering'.) That specific issue was completely reproducable and is resovled with ths.

I haven't yet had a chance to check and see if this has had any effect good or bad on playback of other container types or on playback of live tv (or even on the quality of play back of the MKV files.) I only tested a few seconds of a few MKV files that I was able to reproduce this particular issue with.

Unfortuantely, my experience thus far with the Echo has been somewhat like pushing on a balloon. I'll tweak settings or make updates to fix one issue and then something else will start having problems. I'll test some more over the weekend and see how live TV and other containers like the current configuration.
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Old 06-07-2013, 09:36 AM
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I'm going to start tinkering with 4.16 this weekend. I'm curious to see how an Echo and XBox will coexist on the same HTPC.

RAID protection is only for failed drives. That's it. It's no replacement for a proper backup.
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