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post #1 of 60 Old 06-24-2017, 05:28 PM - Thread Starter
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4K HTPC for the Poors

I spent the better part of last year working for Verimatrix, and discovered the wonders of 4K television.

I wanted to have some of this high def goodness at home, but I'm cheap. So I thought I'd figure out how to do 4K playback for as little as humanly possible.

Here's what I came up with.

Step 1: get yourself a 4K TV. This should be self explanatory. I bought mine at Fry's, it was cheap

Step 2: Netflix and Amazon have some great 4K content. If I wasn't such a control freak, I'd stick with that. But I like tinkering with AV gear, so I built a HTPC. If you're going to go the HTPC route, you really REALLY want to get hardware that supports 4K resolutions. A couple of years ago, this gear was rare, but in 2017 it's getting affordable. My previous HTPC used the following components:

case: thermaltake core v1. This is a $50 case that you can get at Fry's. My favorite thing about it is that it fits in my cheap Ikea shelving.
hard drive : something big and affordable
motherboard : Gigabyte AM1
CPU : AMD 5350. I bought this in a 'combo' deal at Frys. The complete package was under $100 and included a CPU, motherboard, and power supply. Just add whatever hard driver you have, a stick of ram, and you're off to the races for well under $200. The thing that I like about this combination is that it's very small, which is good for a HTPC. It also supports UHD TV right out of the box, no need to add an expensive GPU
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post #2 of 60 Old 06-24-2017, 05:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John van Ommen View Post
I spent the better part of last year working for Verimatrix, and discovered the wonders of 4K television.

I wanted to have some of this high def goodness at home, but I'm cheap. So I thought I'd figure out how to do 4K playback for as little as humanly possible.

Here's what I came up with.

Step 1: get yourself a 4K TV. This should be self explanatory. I bought mine at Fry's, it was cheap

Step 2: Netflix and Amazon have some great 4K content. If I wasn't such a control freak, I'd stick with that. But I like tinkering with AV gear, so I built a HTPC. If you're going to go the HTPC route, you really REALLY want to get hardware that supports 4K resolutions. A couple of years ago, this gear was rare, but in 2017 it's getting affordable. My previous HTPC used the following components:

case: thermaltake core v1. This is a $50 case that you can get at Fry's. My favorite thing about it is that it fits in my cheap Ikea shelving.
hard drive : something big and affordable
motherboard : Gigabyte AM1
CPU : AMD 5350. I bought this in a 'combo' deal at Frys. The complete package was under $100 and included a CPU, motherboard, and power supply. Just add whatever hard driver you have, a stick of ram, and you're off to the races for well under $200. The thing that I like about this combination is that it's very small, which is good for a HTPC. It also supports UHD TV right out of the box, no need to add an expensive GPU
You bought a case for $50 and the CPU bundle for $100. Then you have to add RAM and storage (and software). That looks to be over $200 to me.

Does Amazon support 4K on a PC yet? I know with Netflix you need the app.

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post #3 of 60 Old 06-24-2017, 05:43 PM - Thread Starter
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For me, the key to getting great 4K playback was to figure out what hardware offers hardware accelerated encoding and decoding.

Without this info, don't bother building a UHD PC. As far as I can see, hardware acceleration is absolutely essential. For instance, in 2015 you'd need about sixteen Xeon cores to do H265 encoding in real time. In 2015, that would cost about $3000. In 2017, you can do H265 encoding and decoding in real time with a $100 GPU that's readily available at Amazon, Frys and Best Buy. The key to all of this is hardware acceleration. Basically you can buy modern GPUs that have hundreds of cores dedicated to H265 decoding and encoding; in 2015 you'd need to purchase very expensive Xeon servers or workstations to accomplish the same thing.

I am personally using an Nvidia GTX1050 that sells on Amazon for $99. You can get hardware accelerated H265 encoding and decodoing from the Maxwell and Pascal GPUs sold by Nvidia. I would post a link but I'm not allowed to. Google "H265 wikipedia nvidia"
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post #4 of 60 Old 06-24-2017, 07:19 PM
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Looks like you are up to around $400 by now.

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post #5 of 60 Old 06-24-2017, 07:23 PM
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How does hardware accelerated H265 encoding help 4K playback?

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post #6 of 60 Old 06-25-2017, 12:49 AM - Thread Starter
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In post 3, I mentioned that hardware decoding and encoding is an important component of a cheap UHD HTPC build in 2017.

Here's an example of this:

My office workstation has a quad core Xeon and sixteen gigabytes of RAM. When it was new, it cost about $5000. That workstation requires about thirty hours to encode a movie in x265.
On Friday I purchased an Nvidia GTX 1050 for $99, with same-day-delivery for free on Amazon. That videocard can encode the same movie in 40 minutes. A $99 videocard is about as fast as 40 Intel Xeon CPUs

I'm not saying Intel makes bad CPUs, in fact I love them! But GPUs that offer hardware support for HEVC encoding and decoding are a great option for HTPCs. They're cheap, they're silent, they're small. IMHO, they're everything you want in a HTPC build.
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post #7 of 60 Old 06-25-2017, 04:07 AM
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Netflix has a requirement for 4K streaming and needs at least a GeForce GTX 1050TI. You should return your card and get the 1050 TI.

The AMD 5350 won't handle 4K and it doesn't have SGX which is required for UHD Blu-ray. Only Intel Kaby Lake i5 processors are supported. Also, the motherboard has to have 200 chipset series with SGX support and the SGX needs to be able to be enabled in the BIOS/UEFI. The Intel Kaby Lake processors can do both encoding and decoding of H.265/HEVC in hardware, so a dedicated video card is not necessary. Xeon processors don't always include Quick Sync. Quick Sync is Intel's technology to decode and encode video using hardware. nVidia calls their hardware decoder and encoder Pure Video even though they use their stream processors to do the encoding and decode of the video instead of dedicated ASIC chip. AMD calls their hardware decoder and encoder Unified Video Decoder. Any software encoder and decoder could use OpenCL to support future codecs. Though encoding VP9 in software can be done on regular CPU faster than H.265/HEVC software encoders. I don't know why you are saying that Xeon is better. Actually, they aren't any better than i7 for desktop tasks.

You will need like Pioneer BDR-211UBK or any certified UHD Blu-ray player for PowerDVD 17 or above. This drive costs $130 US dollars. PowerDVD 17 or above for UHD Blu-ray is $100.

IMHO, the only reason to go to 4K is some 4K screens includes HDR. It's HDR that you should upgrade to and not because of the resolution increase.

To get 4K on the cheap and make the setup easy to use is either use a UHD Blu-ray set top box that supports HDR or nVidia Shield TV.
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post #8 of 60 Old 06-25-2017, 06:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John van Ommen View Post
I spent the better part of last year working for Verimatrix, and discovered the wonders of 4K television.

I wanted to have some of this high def goodness at home, but I'm cheap. So I thought I'd figure out how to do 4K playback for as little as humanly possible.

Here's what I came up with.

Step 1: get yourself a 4K TV. This should be self explanatory. I bought mine at Fry's, it was cheap

Step 2: Netflix and Amazon have some great 4K content. If I wasn't such a control freak, I'd stick with that. But I like tinkering with AV gear, so I built a HTPC. If you're going to go the HTPC route, you really REALLY want to get hardware that supports 4K resolutions. A couple of years ago, this gear was rare, but in 2017 it's getting affordable. My previous HTPC used the following components:

case: thermaltake core v1. This is a $50 case that you can get at Fry's. My favorite thing about it is that it fits in my cheap Ikea shelving.
hard drive : something big and affordable
motherboard : Gigabyte AM1
CPU : AMD 5350. I bought this in a 'combo' deal at Frys. The complete package was under $100 and included a CPU, motherboard, and power supply. Just add whatever hard driver you have, a stick of ram, and you're off to the races for well under $200. The thing that I like about this combination is that it's very small, which is good for a HTPC. It also supports UHD TV right out of the box, no need to add an expensive GPU

A decent 4K TV is going to have everything you need already built into it. 4K downloads are not on the horizon at this point, so there's no reason for you to build a 4K HTPC unless you have a lot of 4K porn or make your own 4K videos with your phone or whatever and even then, you're better off using a media box with an HDD for playback.
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post #9 of 60 Old 06-25-2017, 02:16 PM - Thread Starter
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Great post from @tecknurd . Thank you, a lot of valuable information in there. I'm surprised how difficult it is to get consistent answers when it comes to h265 encoding and decoding. Looks like I came to the right place.

In regards to h265 streaming, I am using my TV to do that. It's an LG model that has h265 encoding built into the OS. I am only using my HTPC for other media.
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post #10 of 60 Old 06-25-2017, 08:39 PM - Thread Starter
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If you followed steps 1-3, you have the following:

1) a UHD tv
2) a PC that's capable of UHD output.
3) an Nvidia GPU that can accelerate the encoding and decoding of 4K content.

There isn't a lot of 4K content out there, so an upscaler is needed to turn 1080P or even 720P content into 2160P. There's quite a few ways to do this:

1) if you set your HTPC to output 2160P and you play a 1080P clip, your playback software can scale the 1080P file to 2160P. This is probably the easiest method. On my HTPC, I found that the results looked a bit 'soft.'
2) Theoretically, the television should be able to upscale 1080P to 2160P. This didn't work on my set. YMMV
3) The method that worked the best for me was to upscale the clips themselves. So we're taking a 1080P or a 720P clip and we're re-encoding it to 2160P. Here's how I do that:

NVEncC64.exe --vbrhq 2500 --codec h265 --output-buf 128 --output-res 3840x2160 -i my1080Pfile.mp4 -o my2160Pfile.h265

Here's what the switches do:
First, we're setting the bitrate to 2500kbps using the "vbrhq" switch. The file is being upscaled to 2160P using the "output-res" switch. The input file is denoted by "-i" and the output file is denoted by "-o"

You can get NVEncC64 here : rigaya34589.blog135.fc2 dot com
The page is in Japanese; the link to NVEncc65 is on the right hand side of the page.

I don't have enough posts to post a link yet.
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post #11 of 60 Old 06-25-2017, 08:51 PM
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Originally Posted by John van Ommen View Post
2) Theoretically, the television should be able to upscale 1080P to 2160P. This didn't work on my set. YMMV
If you sent a 1080p signal to your TV and it covered the entire screen then your TV was doing upscaling. If your TV is a 4K display and didn't upscale then the 1080p clip would take up 1/4 of the screen.

Quote:
3) The method that worked the best for me was to upscale the clips themselves. So we're taking a 1080P or a 720P clip and we're re-encoding it to 2160P. Here's how I do that:
I think you'll find that most here would strongly recommend against reencoding just for the purpose of upscaling.

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post #12 of 60 Old 06-25-2017, 11:20 PM - Thread Starter
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If you sent a 1080p signal to your TV and it covered the entire screen then your TV was doing upscaling. If your TV is a 4K display and didn't upscale then the 1080p clip would take up 1/4 of the screen.
Ah, good point. Then the TV upscaler WAS working. All three upscaling options look different:

1) If I set the HTPC to output 1080P, the image on the TV is noticeably soft. I'd say it actually looks *worse* than a 1080P set. There's been some raging threads about this on Reddit; people would like an option where the 1080P output is scaled 2X. (When the TV upscales, it interpolates, and this makes the picture look noticeably "soft")

2) If I set the HTPC to output 2160P, the image is better than option 1. But it's still "soft." At the moment, this may be my favorite option. Option 3 provides a better picture, but the motion is better with option 2.
3) Option 3 is to resize the video from 1080P to 2160P. Basically do a permanent resize.

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I think you'll find that most here would strongly recommend against reencoding just for the purpose of upscaling.
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post #13 of 60 Old 06-27-2017, 12:18 AM
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Why are you obsessed with encoding?

A $46 odroid c2 will decode 4k h265.
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post #14 of 60 Old 06-27-2017, 01:42 AM
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Why are you obsessed with encoding?

A $46 odroid c2 will decode 4k h265.
Yep - and a Wetek Hub will do 4K Netflix as well.
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post #15 of 60 Old 07-05-2017, 11:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Why are you obsessed with encoding?

A $46 odroid c2 will decode 4k h265.
My TV set is perfectly capable of decoding 4K streams

I have a HTPC for things that I can't stream. For instance, I don't want to spend $4 to stream "Fight Club" when I already bought the BluRay.
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post #16 of 60 Old 07-05-2017, 01:00 PM
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My TV set is perfectly capable of decoding 4K streams
That has nothing to do with a PC. HDMI is not encoded/compressed.
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post #17 of 60 Old 07-06-2017, 07:02 AM
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2) Theoretically, the television should be able to upscale 1080P to 2160P. This didn't work on my set. YMMV
What's funny is that most all of this entire audio/video enthusiast forum is dedicated to "non-Poors" even though many of us are cheapskates who want to stretch the budget as far as it will go

That being said, if you take a little while researching this step prior to picking up a cheap 4k display you'll get pretty impressive upscaling built into your display plus all the goodies that can accompany native 4k playback

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3) The method that worked the best for me was to upscale the clips themselves. So we're taking a 1080P or a 720P clip and we're re-encoding it to 2160P
A lot of people with existing media libraries did this various ways when BD became de-facto, but I never thought any of it looked too good. With netflix, amazon, and google play already offering native 4k video why not just enjoy that until the new format can be ripped?
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post #18 of 60 Old 07-06-2017, 07:59 AM
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With netflix, amazon, and google play already offering native 4k video why not just enjoy that until the new format can be ripped?
Because they're ridiculously expensive. If I'm going to buy a "4K" copy, it's going to be a UHD Blu-ray.
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post #19 of 60 Old 07-06-2017, 09:44 AM
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With netflix, amazon, and google play already offering native 4k video why not just enjoy that until the new format can be ripped?
For me Internet streaming only comes into play when it's exclusive content... far too many compromises to use it for content available elsewhere. Just this week the LG UHD player was $140... if you have an "investment" in 4K adding a player doesn't rock the boat.

Although I only have around 35 UHD titles. Via various Fry's specials ($5-$12) I think my total outlay is zero or less by the time you unload their Blu-ray disc and digital code.

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post #20 of 60 Old 07-10-2017, 04:06 AM
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So at the end, what are the minimum requirement for 4K HTPC?
CPU?
Video card?
Others?

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post #21 of 60 Old 07-10-2017, 04:52 AM
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So at the end, what are the minimum requirement for 4K HTPC?
CPU?
Video card?
Others?
It depends on if you want to watch UHD discs on your HTPC. If you do then you can't be one of the poors.
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It depends on if you want to watch UHD discs on your HTPC. If you do then you can't be one of the poors.
And if you don't plan to watch UHD Blu-ray, then I'm not sure what 4K content you plan to watch, because most of it is locked away from PC access, other than some demo clips.
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post #23 of 60 Old 07-10-2017, 05:27 AM
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It depends on if you want to watch UHD discs on your HTPC. If you do then you can't be one of the poors.
LEts say I am planing on UHD, what would be the mini configuration?
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post #24 of 60 Old 07-10-2017, 05:33 AM
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LEts say I am planing on UHD, what would be the mini configuration?
Your system must support the requirements of PowerDVD 17 Ultra. It isn't a system power issues, but a security compliance chain. Plus a UHD drive which isn't common.
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post #25 of 60 Old 07-10-2017, 06:38 AM
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And if you don't plan to watch UHD Blu-ray, then I'm not sure what 4K content you plan to watch, because most of it is locked away from PC access, other than some demo clips.
And if I want to watch all kinds of demo clips in all formats such as 4K HDR HEVC VP9.2 etc. at 60fps, then what's the MINIMUM configuration requirements ?
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post #26 of 60 Old 07-10-2017, 08:17 AM
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And if I want to watch all kinds of demo clips in all formats such as 4K HDR HEVC VP9.2 etc. at 60fps, then what's the MINIMUM configuration requirements ?

An NVidia GTX 960 4GB at minimum and a 4k player. (some newer GPU models do not hardware decode as well as 960 so check) Nothing else is 'needed'. Players are PowerDVD, MPC-BE/HC with madVR and LAVfilters, or Windows movie and TV app. There may be others.
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3) The method that worked the best for me was to upscale the clips themselves. So we're taking a 1080P or a 720P clip and we're re-encoding it to 2160P. Here's how I do that:
No way. Any time you transcode you lose quality, like a photocopy of a photocopy, even if you're upscaling. It's largely pointless unless you're upscaling to UHD using some fancy TensorFlow machine learning tech. It mostly makes sense to transcode to save space or for codec compatibility.

MadVR has excellent upscaling tech in realtime but it needs a hefty GPU to do it all at the highest possible settings.

I would leave your 1080p content as is, unless you are ripping your own 1080p Blurays, in which case it actually makes great sense to transcode high bitrate AVC to HEVC in 10-bit. 10-bit transcoding even with 8-bit source content results in less quantization errors, thus less banding, thus less dithering required, thus better compression (dithering in static frames looks like noise to a video codecs, like film grain). Noise compresses poorly.

AFAIK there is a new NVenc setting to remove banding, which is definitely something I would suggest trying unless you own a high end Sony TV which does de-banding / bit depth upgrade from 8- to 10- bit internally.

NB I worked in VR video production that pushed the limits of the hardware encoding / decoding capabilities of all these videocards. NVidia works much better, IMO. Although the AMD 480 is decent too. I want to buy an AMD Vega 10 for my next videocard but I'm worried that it will never support Netflix or UHD Bluray playback. I'm going to wait until all this shakes out before upgrading.

I really want an HDMI 2.1 videocard with VRR and HBM2 memory, with excellent performance for HEVC / VP9 decoding in hardware that I can do FI on my PC. DmitriRender is the best, hardly any visible artifacts and way more stable than SVP. I highly recommend HTPC users give it a try. One of the best reasons to decode video on a PC is to add FI (if you don't already have it) and then take advantage of 60 fps all the time.
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Originally Posted by brazen1 View Post
An NVidia GTX 960 4GB at minimum and a 4k player. (some newer GPU models do not hardware decode as well as 960 so check) Nothing else is 'needed'. Players are PowerDVD, MPC-BE/HC with madVR and LAVfilters, or Windows movie and TV app. There may be others.
Yeah it's weird that the 960 has better HEVC decoding than the 970. There are all kinds of funny "gotchas" like that in videocard market. Cheaper is actually sometimes way better than midrange cards.
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post #29 of 60 Old 07-10-2017, 09:00 AM
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No way. Any time you transcode you lose quality, like a photocopy of a photocopy, even if you're upscaling. It's largely pointless unless you're upscaling to UHD using some fancy TensorFlow machine learning tech. It mostly makes sense to transcode to save space or for codec compatibility.
There are some cases where it can be beneficial to upconvert offline, but that's cases where you have a "problematic" source, and advanced processing that can't be done in real time is required. But yeah, in general, scaling on the fly is the best route.

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I would leave your 1080p content as is, unless you are ripping your own 1080p Blurays, in which case it actually makes great sense to transcode high bitrate AVC to HEVC in 10-bit. 10-bit transcoding even with 8-bit source content results in less quantization errors, thus less banding, thus less dithering required, thus better compression (dithering in static frames looks like noise to a video codecs, like film grain). Noise compresses poorly.
It's true that 10-bit can reduce the addition of more errors and banding, but it's not going to magically fix the banding or dithering already in the source. Further, the artifacts (banding, dithering, blocking, etc) make the transcode harder and more likely to add additional artifacts.

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AFAIK there is a new NVenc setting to remove banding, which is definitely something I would suggest trying unless you own a high end Sony TV which does de-banding / bit depth upgrade from 8- to 10- bit internally.
This is back to the first case I mentioned, if you're trying to deal with a troublesome source, advanced offline processing can be beneficial, but that requires re-encoding, re-encoding is a necessary evil in that case.
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post #30 of 60 Old 07-10-2017, 10:58 PM
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Originally Posted by brazen1 View Post
An NVidia GTX 960 4GB at minimum and a 4k player. (some newer GPU models do not hardware decode as well as 960 so check) Nothing else is 'needed'. Players are PowerDVD, MPC-BE/HC with madVR and LAVfilters, or Windows movie and TV app. There may be others.
GTX 960 doesn't support VP9.2 10bit hardware decoding needed for Youtube 4K HDR video

Last edited by long_pn; 07-10-2017 at 11:02 PM.
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