Which media players reconfigure HDMI to match number of source channels? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 42 Old 10-17-2013, 06:51 AM - Thread Starter
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Under Windows 7, when the HDMI default audio output is configured for 7.1 channels (matching the capability of the external audio system), some media players play stereo soundtracks using just the front left and right channels, transmitting silence in the center and surround channels. As a result, ProLogic and Neo can't be applied to expand the sound into the other channels.

VLC seems to be one of these.

However, when playing stereo soundtracks, some media players reconfigure the HDMI output so that the external audio system sees that it is receiving only two audio channels, thus allowing ProLogic and Neo to be used.

My understanding is that XBMC does this.

Are there any others?
Or is there a way to configure VLC so it will automatically send stereo when a two-channel audio track is played?


Thanks for whatever help you can provide.

===================================
Edited to add:

Here's a list of free Windows media players that I've tried which directly support WASAPI and thus will output the correct number of channels; e.g. 2.0 HDMI channels to a 7.1 channel system when stereo soundtracks are played. Note that "bitstreaming" is irrelevant, since the players need to be able to convert a variety of computer audio file formats to PCM so AVRs can play them.
Audio/video players:

MediaMonkey
MPC-BE (64 bit) v 1.2.1.0-3592 (note 1)
XBMC (note 2)
Plex (note 4)
Foobar 2000 (note 3)

Limitations:

note 1:
MPC-BE requires DirectX to be fully patched. These patches are not provided by the Windows Update service. You must use Microsoft's DirectX Web Installer at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=35

note 2:
a) The Windows version of XBMC v12.2 (Frodo) will only play a video disc if it's in the DVD drive which is alphabetically first. Reassignment of drive letters might be required if your computer has multiple DVD drives.
b) After updating my Nvidia audio/video drivers from v320.92 to v331.82, XBMC v12.2 stopped sending 2 channel soundtracks as 2 channels over HDMI frown.gif MediaMonkey and MPC-BE continued to work properly. Changing XBMC's system audio settings to DirectSound and then back to WASAPI fixed it.

note 3:
Foobar's WASAPI plugin causes problems for some Anti-virus programs. Like mine frown.gif

note 4:
a) Plex is designed to be used with multiple network-connected player devices. When running on a single computer, both the Plex Server and the Plex Home Theater (PHT) programs need to be installed. Although the Server includes a Web interface which can play media, it has no hardware configuration options and uses DirectSound.
b) After playing with Plex for a while, I decided it was a poor match for my environment and reverted to a previous Restore Point.
c) Finding the PHT setup menu which includes the WASAPI options was a challenge. The available documentation is, umm, less than adequate. On my computer, it ignored my mouse.
To enable WASAPI using the keyboard, start on PHT's home page:
- press the keyboard left-arrow key. Then the up/down arrows to select Preferences
- Type Enter key
- Type Left Arrow to iconic menu
- Down arrow twice to "Change Preferences for System"
- Type Enter key
- Type Down Arrow to get to Advanced
- Type Right arrow to get to menu
- Type Down Arrow multiple times to scroll down to "Audio output device" (it's hidden down off the bottom of the initial menu)
- Type Enter key multiple times to get to the desired WASAPI entry
- Type Down Arrow key once to scroll down to "Passthrough output Device"
- Type Enter key multiple times to get to the desired WASAPI entry
- Type the Esc key to get back to the main menu.
(of course, you can change other entries to your preferences)

*sigh*
Audio-only players:

PlayPcmWin
PurePlayer

They both support only a relatively limited number of audio file formats, though. e.g. PurePlayer can't handle multi-channel FLAC files.
Players which don't directly support WASAPI but for which a 3rd party plugin is readily available and works for me

Winamp ( + maiko plugin)

Some file formats are not supported by the free version and only work with the paid version of Winamp.
Players which are known not to directly support WASAPI. (Using ReClock or some other external device driver might work.)

MPC-HC (has it but is very buggy)
MusicBee v2.1
VLC v2.1.0
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post #2 of 42 Old 10-17-2013, 09:43 AM
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The audio system should be able to fil in the empty channels.

Most sounds cards have that capability too, if you were to connect analog output from the sound card to analog input on the AVR (if you have them).

6 TV's in the house on FiOS and we only pay $4.99/month to connect them all!!! Power to the CableCard and WMC7!!!
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post #3 of 42 Old 10-17-2013, 12:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blueiedgod View Post

The audio system should be able to fil in the empty channels.
That would be nice, but that's not how ProLogic and Neo work in receivers and pre/pros. If the HDMI source device (BD player, cable TV box, computer, whatever) sends a 7.1 signal, it has to provide the audio for all of those channels. In other words, a two-channel (stereo) track needs to be sent as two channels and not claim that it's 7.1.
Quote:
Most sounds cards have that capability too, if you were to connect analog output from the sound card to analog input on the AVR (if you have them).
The audio processing in modern receivers and pre/pros is done digitally, so the input signal needs to be digital (HDMI or S/PDIF) or stereo analog. (Only a very few extremely expensive AVRs or pre/pros digitize their multichannel analog inputs.)

In my case, I'm connecting the HTPC to the receiver using only HDMI. I want to be able to select either a stereo or a multichannel soundtrack and have the correct signal be output by the computer. If XBMC is the only package which can do that, that's the way it is. I'd just like to have other options to consider.

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post #4 of 42 Old 10-17-2013, 01:08 PM
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Set Windows to 2.0 Stereo and then the media player/codec settings to bitstream 7.1 output.

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post #5 of 42 Old 10-17-2013, 01:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Sorry, but I do not want to have to keep changing the HDMI output audio settings for the right thing to happen: stereo output for 2 channel soundtracks, 5.1 output for soundtracks which have 5.1 channels, and 7.1 when playing a movie with 7.1 channels.

XMBC supposedly does it right. (I'll be verifying that tonight.)
Are there any other players which do it?

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post #6 of 42 Old 10-17-2013, 02:12 PM
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any with wasapi exclusive mode or asio.
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post #7 of 42 Old 10-18-2013, 03:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Indeed, XBMC does provide true stereo when WASAPI output is selected instead of DirectSound.

What other players use WASAPI ?

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post #8 of 42 Old 10-18-2013, 05:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Selden Ball View Post

Sorry, but I do not want to have to keep changing the HDMI output audio settings for the right thing to happen: stereo output for 2 channel soundtracks, 5.1 output for soundtracks which have 5.1 channels, and 7.1 when playing a movie with 7.1 channels.

XMBC supposedly does it right. (I'll be verifying that tonight.)
Are there any other players which do it?

OK, but you don't have to switch from stereo to 5.1 or 7.1 as long as the 5.1 and 7.1 bitstream. The only time you would need to switch if you set Windows to 2.0 stereo is if you were playing a surround sound game. Otherwise the audio codec will send the multichannel bitstream content to the AVR correctly even though you've set 2.0 in the speaker panel.

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post #9 of 42 Old 10-18-2013, 07:59 AM - Thread Starter
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bryan,

Unfortunately, I don't think you're understanding what I want to do or the cause of the problem.

Quite a few Windows media players, by default, use Windows DirectSound to output their audio. When DirectSound is used, the audio goes through the Windows audio software libraries, which results in HDMI audio always using whatever setting has been configured in the Playback Devices configuration menu for that HDMI device. This results in silent surround channels when a two-channel soundtrack is played to an HDMI device configured for 7.1 channels.

In contrast, if a player uses the Windows Audio Service API (aka WASAPI) with exclusive access, then the player has direct control over how many channels are actually used. In particular, stereo audio soundtracks can be transmitted as 2.0.

XBMC's default skin provides the option in its system audio menu to use either DirectSound or WASAPI.

Foobar2000 requires one to load an optional plugin to provide WASAPI.

It looks like VLC might provide it as an option, too, but I have not yet figured out how to enable it.

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post #10 of 42 Old 10-18-2013, 11:11 AM
 
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Selden, are you saying the media player, when set to bitstream, will decode the bistream and alter it and then re-encode it back into a bistream to send it out? AFAIK, if the player is set to bistream, it does not decode, it sends it out unmolested to be decoded by the next device in the chain.

It appears you are having the player decode the bitstream and send out the PCM channels - which then can be altered by anything else in the line. Change to using bitstream and it will go away.
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post #11 of 42 Old 10-18-2013, 12:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Where and in which players can one specify "bitstream"?

I haven't been able to find any such setting in VLC, for example, but maybe I overlooked it.

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post #12 of 42 Old 10-18-2013, 12:56 PM
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Even though I might not understand your problem, one way is simply to use LAV Audio codec (or Shark007) and select what formats you want to bitstream. Then use WMC's internal player to play the bitstreamed content. Or you can use MPC-HC with LAV.

Here is an older thread with setup info http://www.avsforum.com/t/1250607/windows-7-media-center-setup-guide-knowledge-base-support#post_18654055

In my setup I send my content bitstreamed to my AVR which then decodes it (7.1 up to Dolby TrueHD and DTS-MA HD Audio). If it is stereo only then it gets sent as stereo to my AVR and I can either keep it 2 channel (for music) or process it using a surround mode on my AVR such as Dolby PLIIx. I don't game on my HTPC so I have not need to ever manually change Windows audio from 2.0 to 7.1.

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post #13 of 42 Old 10-18-2013, 01:37 PM - Thread Starter
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MediaMonkey comes with a plugin which enables WASAPI and properly sends two channel soundtracks as stereo over a 7.1 HDMI connection.

Like the other players with this kind of support, there's no explicit "bitstream" option. The user has to enable WASAPI and select the appropriate output options.

So now I'm sure of 3 free players with this capability:

Foobar2000
MediaMonkey
XBMC

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post #14 of 42 Old 10-18-2013, 01:40 PM
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Any directshow media player can use wasapi with reclock... Correct me if I'm wrong here.



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post #15 of 42 Old 10-18-2013, 02:07 PM - Thread Starter
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I did notice some posts implying reclock might do what I'm interested in. I also discovered that v 1.7b4 beta has been available for several years but hasn't been released as "stable". Is there any reason to choose it over v1.6?

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post #16 of 42 Old 10-18-2013, 03:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Unfortunately, both versions of ReClock gave me an error message when trying to configure them. And afterward, XBMC's output was silent frown.gif

Fortunately, I'd created a restore point before installing ReClock and was able to recover.
*sigh*

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post #17 of 42 Old 10-18-2013, 06:21 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Selden Ball View Post

Where and in which players can one specify "bitstream"?

I haven't been able to find any such setting in VLC, for example, but maybe I overlooked it.

Arcsoft TMT and Corel WinDVD both bitstream. Most likely Cyberlink PowerDVD does as well, but I have never used it.
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post #18 of 42 Old 10-19-2013, 06:09 AM - Thread Starter
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The three players mentioned are commercial packages which started out strictly as disc players, thus they're emulating the features and terminology used by stand-alone disc players. This includes the term "bitstream". Unfortunately, there's no way to know how they've actually implemented that feature. They might be using WASAPI, or, more likely, they each have their own proprietary method of bypassing the audio libraries that Windows provides.

I've been primarily considering the freeware packages, none of which seem to use that terminology.

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post #19 of 42 Old 10-19-2013, 06:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Selden Ball View Post

The three players mentioned are commercial packages which started out strictly as disc players, thus they're emulating the features and terminology used by stand-alone disc players. This includes the term "bitstream". Unfortunately, there's no way to know how they've actually implemented that feature. They might be using WASAPI, or, more likely, they each have their own proprietary method of bypassing the audio libraries that Windows provides.

I've been primarily considering the freeware packages, none of which seem to use that terminology.

When you bitstream the appropriate stream lights up (e.g. DTS HD MA, Dolby True HD, etc) on the AVR. You can't shape the audio (e.g. apply effects) to bitstream audio. The ability to bitstream correctly used to be an issue many years ago and has been resolved since. Do a search and you shall find the frustration we all went through back then right here on this forum. Bitstream has no double meaning based on implementation.
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post #20 of 42 Old 10-19-2013, 07:11 AM
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Free bitstreaming.

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post #21 of 42 Old 10-19-2013, 07:25 AM - Thread Starter
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I suspect we're talking past one another, with each not grasping what the other is trying to say.

I've been trying to find freeware media players which send 2 channel audio streams (e.g. ripped CDs) using 2.0 HDMI audio channels. Whether or not they can bitstream has not been a consideration in my search.

Players which use only DirectSound don't/can't do what I want: they send 2 channel audio streams using 7.1 HDMI audio channels with the unused channels silent. If I understand your definition correctly, they're not bitstreaming. (e.g. by itself, VLC 2.1.0 Rincewind does not/can not bitstream.) In some cases an external driver (like ReClock) might be able to provide the ability to use only 2.0 HDMI channels. I didn't manage to install ReClock, so I can't be sure of that.

Media players which include WASAPI support are able to send 2 channel audio using 2.0 HDMI audio channels if they're configured properly, and thus, presumably, can bitstream. Obviously if they manipulate the audio before handing it off to WASAPI, then they're not bitstreaming. (In some cases, e.g. with HDCD tracks, that manipulation -- expanding 16 bits to 20 bits -- is essential, since most modern receivers and pre/pros no longer include HDCD decoding.)

If you could provide the name of a non-commercial, preferably freeware, media player which explicitly provides bitstreaming, I'd greatly appreciate it.

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post #22 of 42 Old 10-19-2013, 08:03 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Selden Ball View Post

The three players mentioned are commercial packages which started out strictly as disc players, thus they're emulating the features and terminology used by stand-alone disc players. This includes the term "bitstream". Unfortunately, there's no way to know how they've actually implemented that feature. They might be using WASAPI, or, more likely, they each have their own proprietary method of bypassing the audio libraries that Windows provides.

I've been primarily considering the freeware packages, none of which seem to use that terminology.

There is a way to know. When I use either of the first two software players, my receiver lights up with the relevant decoder used to decode the bitstream (DTS Master, etc). When they send it out as PCM, it lights up saying it is receiving PCM. My receiver also tells me how many channels it is receiving and the players tell me how many channels they are sending, when using PCM. If I play a 6 channel movie and my player decodes to PCM, the receiver receives 6 channels of PCM.

My only complaint about bitstreaming is when you pause the movie. Pausing causes Windows to release the lock on audio and when you resume it has to restore the lock and sync up again. This causes you to lose a moment of audio when resuming, which bothers my wife more than if I were to kick a kitten. I therefor have my software player decode the bitstream and send out as PCM. Bitstreaming is akin to zipping a file - it is lossless. It does not matter where the bitstreaming happens as the end result is the same.
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post #23 of 42 Old 10-19-2013, 08:20 AM - Thread Starter
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bryansj,

Is that a screengrab from MPC-HC?

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to persuade MPC-HC to play two-channel CD rips in 2.0 HDMI channels. It plays them in the front rignt and left channels of 7.1 channels with the other channels silent.

cybrsage,

The indicators you mention do indicate that a movie's audio is being bitstreamed to the receiver with the correct number of channels. That's how I know which of the player software packages that I've been testing are outputting the correct number of HDMI channels from my CD rips. That and whether or not the Dolby ProLogic indicator comes on smile.gif -- it doesn't come on when the receiver is being fed 7.1 audio.

edited to add:

cybrsage,

You might want to consider using something like AVR Audio Guard. It's supposed to keep the HDMI output active so that a resync isn't needed, minimizing dropouts. It's been reasonably effective on my system. See http://www.avsforum.com/t/1317491/silent-stream-bug

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post #24 of 42 Old 10-19-2013, 08:52 AM
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No. It is LAV audio decoder, but can be linked with MPC-HC. Since my Windows speakers are set to 2.0 my music is sent through HDMI via 2.0, but anything bitstreamed is received in its correct format. I simply use the WMC player for mkv and others and TMT6 for Blu-ray playback.

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post #25 of 42 Old 10-19-2013, 09:00 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm y using HDMI to an audio/video receiver (currently with a 5.0 speaker configuration), so for me it's important that the number of HDMI channels be handled correctly.

To reiterate what I wrote previously:

Having to manually switch between stereo and multichannel audio in the Windows Playback Devices menu is what I'm trying to avoid. (It's currently set to 7.1.) Media players which use WASAPI make this possible by correctly sending 2.0 HDMI channels when a stereo soundtrack is played. Media players which use DirectSound do not. So far I've found three freeware players which include WASAPI:

Foobar2000
MediaMonkey
XBMC

Supposedly VLC V2.1.0 was going to include WASAPI support, too, but it doesn't seem to have happened.

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post #26 of 42 Old 10-19-2013, 09:13 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

No. It is LAV audio decoder, but can be linked with MPC-HC.
I downloaded and installed LAV and the page you showed is present in MPC-HC. Making sure those settings are as you show didn't make any difference in the number of HDMI channels it uses when playing CD rips.
Quote:
Since my Windows speakers are set to 2.0 my music is sent through HDMI via 2.0, but anything bitstreamed is received in its correct format. I simply use the WMC player for mkv and others and TMT6 for Blu-ray playback.

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post #27 of 42 Old 10-19-2013, 10:59 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Selden Ball View Post

You might want to consider using something like AVR Audio Guard. It's supposed to keep the HDMI output active so that a resync isn't needed, minimizing dropouts. It's been reasonably effective on my system. See http://www.avsforum.com/t/1317491/silent-stream-bug

I tried it, it is not fast enough for my wife. She takes WAF to an entirely new level. For example, I added a WIFI range expander to give her much better throughput in the room she usually uses her laptop in...but it added 4 seconds to her wake from sleep time - you would think I killed babies. Eventually I got her to admit she only uses the laptop in one specific location now that she also has a Windows Tablet, so I ran an Ethernet cable there and she leaves the laptop plugged in like a small form factor desktop. I then statically assigned a DHCP address and she is happier than a clam at the speeds. smile.gif

She keeps me on my game!
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post #28 of 42 Old 10-19-2013, 01:45 PM - Thread Starter
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cybrsage,

That sounds like a very reasonable compromise smile.gif

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post #29 of 42 Old 10-19-2013, 03:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Two audio-only players which use WASAPI, delivering 2.0 HDMI channels when playing files containing two channels:

PlayPcmWin
PurePlayer

They support a relatively limited number of audio file formats, though. e.g. PurePlayer can't handle multi-channel FLAC files.

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post #30 of 42 Old 10-19-2013, 04:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Another one:

MusicBee v2.1

Unfortunately, it also is unable to play multichannel FLAC files when using WASAPI. They do play when using DirectSound, though. Maybe that'll be fixed in v2.2, which is in final beta testing now.

(FWIW, both MediaMonkey and XBMC play multichannel high-resloution FLAC files with no problems using WASAPI .)

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