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$100 reward: HDTV on my HTPC

1274 Views 12 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  br0wser
So far my experience has shown me that no one really knows how to truly troubleshoot video issues, so I'm going to put my money on the table and offer any expert here $100 to solve a (theoretically) simple problem:

I have a HTPC based around a Asus P4p800E Deluxe motherboard (Intel 865pe chip set). I am running a Prescott p4, 533fsb at 2.4ghz with 256 megs of ram. The video card is a GeForce 6600GT AGP running the most recent Nvidia drivers (84.21).

I have a dual boot system: a primary partition running Windows XP with minimal applications installed (HD software which will be described below and Theatertek). and the second partition is a testing ground featuring a fresh install of XP patched and Service Packed up to date that I can refresh, as needed, from a disc image... so I have a pristine windows partition to allow any conflict-free testing...

So here we go

I bought a FUSION HDTV5 USB tuner. I installed the software that came with the tuner (FusionHDTV version 3.20) and added channels. The card would only display analog channels. Any attempt to tune digital channels resulted in a box saying "Overlay not available." If I disable DXVA and let it do all the rendering in the CPU, it works, however it pretty much maxes out my P4 even at the lowest quality setting.

I tried the most recent official release, 3.30.01 and got the identical behavior: when using DXVA it would tell me "OVERLAY NOT AVAILABLE." I was given a link by DVICO tech support to a beta for 3.40, again same behavior. It "works" when not using DXVA (although not to my liking) but will not allow DXVA...

I tried changing Nvidia drivers back to a 77.xx series as suggested by DVICO tech support. Same behavior. In the end I've tried 3 different version of the software and three different versions of the drivers in all possible combinations, and always the exact same behavior: it refuses to use DXVA and pretty much sucks when disabling DXVA.

So onto plan B

I looked around and figured out that the SAGETV application works with this tuner, so I downloaded and tried it. With it, I get similar, although not identical, behavior.

When using the SAGE decoders, I get constant 100% CPU use and dozens of dropped frames, staggers, audio pops, video pixeling and tearing, general garbage.

Again, I hoped to force some use of DXVA/VMR9 use to take the load off of the CPU-- so I try to use the Nvidia decoders. When using the Nvidia Post Processing setting in SAGE, the Nvidia purevideo system tray icon and panel appears, and seems to be using 'hardware acceleration" however I still get dozens of dropped frames and staggering, super slow gui response, 100% cpu use, etc-- so it doesn't really seem to be any different.

Most of the time when trying the Nvidia decoders, SAGE will crash. Their tech support forum suggest I stop using the Nvidia decoders (GENIUS!).

I've tried playing with sage FSE (the so-called "fullscreen exclusive" mode) which basically just makes the software complete unstable and it crashes constantly.

Onto plan C.

I tried WatchHDTV, software suggested here on AVS, which I believe uses the fusion decoders. Watch HDTV crashes on launch for me 100% of the time. Dead. Done. Period.

So here I am.

- I assume that 1080/720 content decoding is possible with my configuration as I've read dozens and dozens of threads from people with seamless playback of this material with the 6600. This thread suggested that Microsoft says you need at least 10 Gbps of memory bandwidth to play back 1080i content in applications using VMR9, however the 6600 has 16Gbps.

- I believe I am able to get DXVA/VMR9 hardware mpeg decoding from the card using Theatertek-- however, part of me wonders if there is something PHYSICALLY wrong with the video card, because:

* I have some weird menu/navigation issues with TT which cause it to crash-- disabling some advanced TT/DX features like "allow subtitle movement" seems to fix these problems.

* I tried to test the card with a higher end DX game-- while trying to load HalfLife2 it will hard crash the machine and it will not reboot properly again unless forced into safe mode and the display resolution is reset. However, this is not a legit copy of the game, so it might be an issue with the crack.

- Sage TV crashes within minutes when using the Nvidia Postprocessor as it's filter, and instantly dies when placed in "FSE" mode.

* FusionHDTV software absolutely refuses to use the DXVA mode no matter what combination of drivers and application-- where DVICO tech support claims they have perfect DXVA performance with a 6600GT, 84.21 drivers and versions 3.30 and 3.40 of their software.

* I was hoping to find some sort of benchmark/stress test that would test specifically if all functions of the DXVA/VMR9 system were operating properly, but I have not yet found if such a utility exists.

So, can you help me?

- Shouldn't I be able to get HDTV content to playback using primarily Hardware decoding on the 6600GT?

- FusionHDTV says if you have a DxVA card a p3 800mhz processor should be enough. Without DxVA it says P4 1.6 is required. I exceed BOTH specifications, yet cannot get decent playback - and when i get semi-stable playback it's non-DxVA and at 100% processor.

- SageTV says it will work on sytstems slower than 3.0g as long as the card is DxVA compliant... which mine is, however I'm not sure if it's being use properly when selecting the nvidia post processor it crashes often and instantly dies when placed in "FSE" mode.

- IS there any other tuner applications I can try? IS there any better troubleshooting I can attempt to figure out what is being used or not used (like some sort of processor metering for the video card?).

Seriously, a crisp $100 bill to whoever helps me figure out why this doesn't work when it seems like it should...
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Sounds like the video card to me. You could prove this out by trying to play clips from your hard drive. I believe DVICO has a few on their website.

Not sure what to use to benchmark DXVA/VMR9. You might try 3dmark from Futuremark. It is a well-known benchmarking program; however, I have no idea if it will shed any light on your problems. Otherwise, you could try the tests in dxdiag.exe. Again, not sure how helpful they will be, but it's a start.

Also, I would check the oddball hardware stuff like the power supply (beefy enough for the system you are running,) maybe reseat the video card and make sure the supplemental power connector is plugged in (if it has one.)

Let us know what you find.

Good luck!
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^link to demo videos. You don't want the ones that have DVB in the name. You also don't want the demo software itself.
Wut kind of display are you using? PC monitor AND TV? or just TV?

If you are using both I would try selecting the TV as the primary monitor. Often times a vid card won't do overlay on a secondary monitor. Try going into the nvidia driver control panel and selecting it as primary. Also check the settings on the "extending desktop" in the driver or whereever it is to see if you can select overlay settings for it.

Is your card overheating? That can cause problems, but you probably would have already noticed artifacts that invariably show up when a vid card gets to hot. Try to get another card from somewhere to test if it is the culprit.

Type this Go to start>run>dxdiag hit enter. This will bring up Direct X Diagnostics. Perhaps this will reveal your problem or reveal that DX is just fine.

Good luck, maybe the smarties can help u!

This is from a DVICO support person on their Korean Site translated with google. Does this make any sense to you? At the least it shows ur problem is not singular in nature.

Here was the problem:

HDTV it holds and to come continuously “only OVERLAY NOT AVAILABLE†these ends the bedspread which it does

Here's The Answer:

Try to establish the graphics card driver in version of lower part address.

Driver the knock-down road, after removing the previously driver, about under re-starting

To establish.

OVERLAY NOT AVAILABLE the graphics card driver are not established in the normality

It is not, or, when the overlay mixer discrete point doing from regenerative apparatus it is different it appears

It is an error and HDTV program or driver establishment and does the attache.

It thanks.
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I think I might have made a breakthrough of sorts... still seem pretty lame the performance i feel like i should be getting with this system-- but I'm starting to get consistant results...

Any additional input is welcomed, but i will post tomorrow after a little bit of sleep and reflection.
If you're not happy with your performance the first thing I would do is bump your ram to 512 or 1gb. 256 is not a lot when talking about HD.
Does your P4 support hyperthreading? Haven't a lot of people had issues when hyperthreading has been enabled? Or was that just for ffDshow?

Anyway, wouldn't hurt disabling it and testing.

Yikes, only 256mb of RAM? You need MORE! 512mb would be my minimum.

Some guesses:

Is the AGP bus set to 8x speed? It is also possible that the AGP is running really slow - I recall a user on the TheaterTek forums discovering that his P4 motherboard will not run at AGP 8x if the voltage is too low (1.5V). Or maybe it is too high? I can't recall.

Also, with only 256 mb of RAM, the AGP System Memory setting in the BIOS may be further limiting memory - for example, if it is set to 64 mb, you will have even less RAM available!

I would check your AGP speed using a program like Powerstrip or a similar system monitoring utility.
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Any attempt to tune digital channels resulted in a box saying "Overlay not available."

I had the same problem, all I had to do was to upgraded DirectX to the latest one.
I would check your IRQ's and see if anything is being shared and as the other poster mentiond disable HT in your bios. APIC and MPS seem to suffer from IRQ conflicts on that board and really affect performance. You need more ram as mentioned and check for the latest Intel chipset drivers.

Regards, smurfer/nimo
Originally Posted by Vince Maskeeper

I bought a FUSION HDTV5 USB tuner. I installed the software that came with the tuner (FusionHDTV version 3.20) and added channels. The card would only display analog channels. Any attempt to tune digital channels resulted in a box saying "Overlay not available." If I disable DXVA and let it do all the rendering in the CPU, it works, however it pretty much maxes out my P4 even at the lowest quality setting.

get a mx440 agp video card. install the nvida drivers for the mx440 agp card. make sure you have Directx 9 installed properly. remove and re-install the fusion software using the method found at the following post.
honestly if its QAM your looking for i would stick that dvico in a system that you play with and stick a real card in there ......MYHD130.....then it wont matter what kind of video card you have , quit playing around with a software card and play with the BIG BOYS, just my 2 cents
^^^ What KAXKID said, or use the 100 to buy an ATI card. I have a fusion 3 qam, and it was a pain to get it to work with the recent nvidia cards on P4/2.66GHz . It runs withouth problems on P3/1GHz and ATI 9600se using dxva. Go figure...
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