Transcoding for Extenders Question - AVS Forum
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BillBragg's Avatar BillBragg 11:42 AM 03-30-2014
I'm using an Echo extender to access TV (live and recorded) and Movies (in MKV containers) stored on a Win7/64 Media Center HTPC. The HTPC runs an i3-3225 and has 8GB of ram. The HTPC is running Shark007's recent 4.5.2 pack. It's also running Media Browser 3 for organizing and accessing MKVs.

My Echo is running firmware 2013.304.1657. The echo has always played live and recorded TV very well for me. I've had some struggles with movies in MKV's however.

The Echo has it's video set to 720p. The television it's hooked to has a 1366x768 panel. If I set the Echo to "native", it breaks the communication with the display and I have to spend about 30 minutes recovering back to 720p ... not fun.

The Echo and HTPC are connected via GbE and the links have been verified clean with a Fluke analyzer.

Thanks to a forum member here who answered a recent question, I've set the 64-bit Shark control panel to optimize for "alternate extender support" which has fixed my lack of picture when playing most MKV's.

My issue is that I can't play 1080p H.264 MKV's. I can play 720p versions all day long. The Echo hangs on the 1080p versions and requires a power down / up to come back. My understanding is that the HTPC should be performing an on-the-fly transcode of the material to accommodate the extender. Perhaps that's not taking place. Or perhaps the Echo can't handle the 1080p bit rate.

I'll use an example. I pulled a BluRay using MakeMKV (the latest 1.9 I think). The resulting file for the 100 minute movie was 18.5GB. I'm sure the bitrate was pretty high left in the native format. The Echo couldn't play it. I then ran HandBrake on it with a 20 Quality and AC3 pass-through to recode it to H.264. The resulting file was 3.6GB and the Echo still couldn't play it. I then re-coded the original down to 720p with AC3 pass-through and it played great on the Echo.

BTW, the most recent HandBrake (nightly) with QSV support is crazy fast. It did the 720p transcode in 7-1/2 minutes and the 1080p transcode in 13 minutes for the 100 minute movie.

Is there something that I'm not setting properly on the HTPC to allow for the playing of 1080p material on the Echo? I've not tried setting the Echo to 1080p to see if it a) remains viable and b) then also plays 720p material. I've been coding most of my movies down to 720p to allow them to play on the Echo and the HTPC but I would be getting a better picture on the HTPC if I could leave them in 1080p.

In the Shark setup, in LAV in particular, I also have LAV set to use QSV. I believe I'm on LAV 60.1 or whatever comes in Shark 4.5.2. I've run older versions of LAV without QSV support and still had this problem though.

Anyone run into this? Is transcoding failing me on the HTPC?

I think my next step is to create some 1080p MP4's and see if the Echo can play them. I would hate to have to covert everything I have from MKV to MP4 though. Sure, it's doable but what a pain.

Shark007's Avatar Shark007 12:26 PM 03-30-2014
THIS THREAD on the Shark007 forum refers to an Xbox360 but most likely will help you solve your issue also. 1080 vs 720 is not the issue.
BillBragg's Avatar BillBragg 03:19 PM 03-30-2014
If you notice in the post you provided, he re-coded it down to 720p and it worked. That's been working for me as well. Most of my 1080p stuff is at the High 4.1 level and that's how I leave it for 720p when I re-code. Obviously the bitrate is higher in 1080p but it's not much over 10Mbps or 10,000Kbps and is often under that. I will try a re-code under 10Mbps and see if that will play. I can understand the 5.0 level not playing on an extender. I thought 4.1 would be fine though as the 720p stuff I have is mostly 4.1.

Also, to be clear, I just moved to Shark 4.5.3 which brings me to LAV 0.61.1.3.

I thought I would try to set my Echo up for 1080p output as I couldn't remember that last time I had done that and wanted to make sure that what I said about it not working was correct. I was right, moving to 1080p on the Echo display output leaves me in a pickle. I'll have to remember how to un-brick it now. The display starts in 720p but moves to 1080p when it starts Media Center.

I will spend some time re-coding movies to see if there's some bitrate or chroma limit that will allow 1080p MKVs to play on my Echo. I was just hoping someone already knew.

I'd also like to note that playing a 1080p MKV on my Echo doesn't always require a restart. Sometime I can press Stop and hit the back button to get back to the prior screen. Sometimes not.

Generally I'm pretty happy with my Echo at this point. I'm just trying to kill off some of the last of the inconveniences.
Foxbat121's Avatar Foxbat121 03:34 PM 03-30-2014
Echo can't handle high bitrate MKVs, That's the problem with Echo, not extenders in general. You don't want transcoding on the fly. For one, your CPU is not powerful enough for that task. All you will get is 480p or lower resolution video if you do. Sorry to say, it is time to ditch the Echo and get a real extender like Xbox 360.
BillBragg's Avatar BillBragg 03:46 PM 03-30-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by Foxbat121 View Post

Sorry to say, it is time to ditch the Echo and get a real extender like Xbox 360.

Yeah, I have an Xbox360 in another room that seems to do just fine with 1080p and 720p MKV files. I just don't have the room for one in this setup ... a plasma located above a fireplace with power, cable, and Cat5e on an outlet behind it. The Echo is nice and small and sits velcro'd to the top of the TV with all wiring hidden behind the panel.

I'll start with a 10Mbps rate and work my way down and see if I can get some 1080p stuff to play right. Of course, then I'm degrading the material for display on my main HTPC. Not sure how low I'm willing to go.
Foxbat121's Avatar Foxbat121 03:48 PM 03-30-2014
IIRC, back when I was beta testing it, it puked out in around 8mbps or below.
BillBragg's Avatar BillBragg 03:54 PM 03-30-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by Foxbat121 View Post

IIRC, back when I was beta testing it, it puked out in around 8mbps or below.

Sounds like a better starting point than 10Mbps ... I'll start at 8.
ajhieb's Avatar ajhieb 04:10 PM 03-30-2014
So for those of us that do have a little graphics horsepower, what are the best transcoding options for extenders?
Foxbat121's Avatar Foxbat121 05:29 PM 03-30-2014
I have yet to see any real life transcoding solution that utilizes GPU. I know both nVidia and Intel demonstrated this capability early on when Win7 was first released but all my search came up empty as to how to get this enabled. Plex server is probably the most popular transcoding solution out there but it requires Plex client to use it.

I personally avoid transcoding like plague.
ajhieb's Avatar ajhieb 11:47 PM 03-30-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by Foxbat121 View Post

I have yet to see any real life transcoding solution that utilizes GPU. I know both nVidia and Intel demonstrated this capability early on when Win7 was first released but all my search came up empty as to how to get this enabled. Plex server is probably the most popular transcoding solution out there but it requires Plex client to use it.

I personally avoid transcoding like plague.

I know in general that transcoding is a less than ideal situation, but when tied to the WMC extender model, I see the choices as:

1) Transcode Bluray rips to something that Extenders can play.
2) Re-encode Bluray rips and keep a lower quality version for extenders and a higher quality version for HTPC
3) Re-encode Bluray rips. Keep lower quality version for everything.
4) Buy additional devices to watch Bluray rips throughout the house
5) Don't watch Bluray rips throughout the house.

If there was a way to make #1 reliable it has the fewest drawbacks by far. I don't like re-encoding my movies. (I've re-encoded a lot to play on the XBoxes, but the quality isn't what I'd really like for viewing on my main screen) Keeping two versions wastes a lot of space. I'm not opposed to buying additional devices in theory, but WMC has made me lazy and I hate switching inputs and switching UIs and additional network drops, power adapters... ugh. I'd rather avoid that if I could. And lets face it, since I'm here, not watching blurays everywhere isn't really an option.

I'm making due right now with a combination of #2 and #3. I've thought about trying to add Transcode360, but it looks somewhat complicated, there appears to be a lot of fiddly things to install, if I'm not mistaken it hasn't been updated in quite some time, and since I have a pretty stable HTPC, I don't want to rock the boat too much.

Anyway, just rambling a bit there about my dilemma. Thansk for the response, and I'll keep my eyes open to see if anything along that front becomes available.
Foxbat121's Avatar Foxbat121 05:21 AM 03-31-2014
If you don't like the quality of re-encoded movie, you won't like transcoding either. It will be much worse than re-encoding because it has to re-encode in real time.
I have no problem playback BD rip directly on my Xbox 360s via WMC with the exception of audio. I only have trouble with DTS-HD/DTS audio playback. AC3 works fine. I only need to install Shark007 codec pack to get this to work.
ajhieb's Avatar ajhieb 06:05 AM 03-31-2014
Quote:
Originally Posted by Foxbat121 View Post

If you don't like the quality of re-encoded movie, you won't like transcoding either. It will be much worse than re-encoding because it has to re-encode in real time.
I have no problem playback BD rip directly on my Xbox 360s via WMC with the exception of audio. I only have trouble with DTS-HD/DTS audio playback. AC3 works fine. I only need to install Shark007 codec pack to get this to work.

I'm concerned about quality on the main viewing screen primarily. I can tolerate a lower quality picture on a significantly smaller screen, especially if it let's me avoid re-encoding my entire library. (well, a significant portion of it)

From my experience the XBox is good about playing a wide variety of media, (much better than the Echo) but it still won't play 1:1 bluray rips regardless of the codec pack installed. (I'm currently running the latest version of Shark007's)
Foxbat121's Avatar Foxbat121 06:15 AM 03-31-2014
Well, I never had problem on 1:1 BD rips on any of my Xbox 360s except the audio as mentioned above. But I don't use Xbox for media streaming due to its lack of chapter support. My Sony BD player is a much better streamer than Xbox 360. It can stream 1:1 BD rip with HD Audio.
BillBragg's Avatar BillBragg 09:40 AM 04-02-2014
Well, I transcoded a native BluRay to 1080p but with a 7Mpbs video stream and basic AC3 sound track and it played fine on the Echo. So basically, as was mentioned by other posters, the Echo is somewhat under powered or could use a bit more optimization in it's H.264 decoder. I'm going to try 8Mbps on the same movie tonight and see if I can improve quality while moving closer to the Echo limit and keep myself in the position of having one set of MKVs for all of my devices.

Again, the latest Nightly Build of Handbrake romped through it in about 13 minutes using QSV. My CPU now averages about 20% when transcoding versus the 100% for the non-QSV version and the three hours it would take. I had resorted to setting the CPU affinity mask in the executable header on the normal release version of Handbrake just to leave me some headroom and keep the system more responsive. Now I can do away with that.
BillBragg's Avatar BillBragg 04:38 PM 04-03-2014
I recoded to 8Mpbs overall at 1080p w/ AC3. That played fine on my Echo. I'm creeping up on 10Mpbs ... which I would stop at as a reasonable compromise.
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