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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
BTW, I love that this forum comes up with a list of related threads when I type in a title. That's awesome.



Anyway, i know jack about HTPC's but I decided that i want to digitize my movie collection; it's not as expansive as alot of your guy's libraries seems at about 150 movies, but I still hate loading dvd's and worrying about my daughter throwing them like frisbees.


At any rate, my biggest problem is probably that I really don't know a ton about computers in general; like 95% of the population I can use them just fine and know enough to get by, but man, you guys love your acronyms. Anyway, I intend to read and learn and keep out of things but hopefully figure out the right components and as importantly, software, to make a HTPC that runs great, didn't cost me a million dollars and have an easy interface; its got to be simple enough that my wife can use it the first time and not say "This thing is stupid, I can't believe you spent x dollars on it." Though my budget is probably somewhere in the $600 range, software (hopefully) included.
 

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If you're not particularly computer savvy and want something that "just works" for a relatively small media collection, one of the many streaming video players may better serve your needs than an HTPC. It won't be nearly as slick looking, nor will it do much besides play videos, but they are cheap and dead simple to use. There is a whole forum devoted to these devices, which you might want to check out.


While there are dozens of these devices, mostly from companies you've never heard of, there are really only two types. There are the devices which run NMT software (Popcorn Hour), and there is everything else. All you really need to do is decide whether you want a device with internal or external HDD storage and whether you want wired or wireless networking (or none at all).


Beyond that, they're pretty much all the same capability-wise. All of them will play pretty much any video you throw at them. None of them do web video well enough to be worth mentioning, except perhaps the Boxee Box, which isn't out yet. The newer NMT devices will handle blu-ray ISOs with basic menu support, as well as bitstream 7.1 HD audio. But if you don't have a 7.1 setup then this is irrelevant for your purposes.


Reliability is another issue, but you'll have to search for reviews on particular units for that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Part of the reason that I want to build an HTPC is that my current comp recently went the way of all things and died. Nothing on it was terribly valuable and was all outdated, so I just figured I would 'build' a new comp that could handle my media needs. I'm not a big time gamer or anything and from what i have read, an HTPC can double just fine as a home work station... true/false? I currently have no computer at home, and am using one on loan from the in-laws.
 

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Please give a little more background if you don't mind...I'm a relative newbie to HTPC's as well, but have 20+ years experience building PC's. Your answer to the preliminary questions below will help everyone understand your level of experience and what you want to get out of your HTPC:


- have you built a computer before?

- if not, have you ever installed/replaced video cards, sound cards and their software drivers, or things like that?

- are the movies you want to rip DVD's or Blu-rays? (If DVD, will you ever want or need Blu-ray support?)

- do you want this PC to just play back movie backups, or do you need it to function as a DVR also?

- does your display device (TV?) or receiver have an HDMI input?

- I'm assuming from your post that you want to use a monitor for PC use, and also some separate display device for watching movies...is that correct?

- will the PC and display device be close enough to each other to use keyboard / mouse to control the movie playback, or are they in separate rooms?

- do you have a receiver (AVR) to connect the sound to, or will it go directly to the TV?


If you don't mind answering those initial questions, I might be able to help you figure out a scheme that would work best for you...and don't worry about the acronyms, all of that comes with experience and we can point you in the right direction given your needs.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom_L /forum/post/18276348


Please give a little more background if you don't mind...I'm a relative newbie to HTPC's as well, but have 20+ years experience building PC's. Your answer to the preliminary questions below will help everyone understand your level of experience and what you want to get out of your HTPC:


- have you built a computer before?

- if not, have you ever installed/replaced video cards, sound cards and their software drivers, or things like that?

- are the movies you want to rip DVD's or Blu-rays? (If DVD, will you ever want or need Blu-ray support?)

- do you want this PC to just play back movie backups, or do you need it to function as a DVR also?

- does your display device (TV?) or receiver have an HDMI input?

- I'm assuming from your post that you want to use a monitor for PC use, and also some separate display device for watching movies...is that correct?

- will the PC and display device be close enough to each other to use keyboard / mouse to control the movie playback, or are they in separate rooms?

- do you have a receiver (AVR) to connect the sound to, or will it go directly to the TV?


If you don't mind answering those initial questions, I might be able to help you figure out a scheme that would work best for you...and don't worry about the acronyms, all of that comes with experience and we can point you in the right direction given your needs.

you need to add:


"Do you mind giving up the rest of your life to this addictive hobby?"
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_311 /forum/post/18276854


you need to add:


"Do you mind giving up the rest of your life to this addictive hobby?"
Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_311 /forum/post/18276854


you need to add:


"Do you mind giving up the rest of your life to this addictive hobby?"

I'm already into cars; not sure how much life I have left to give...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom_L /forum/post/18276348


Please give a little more background if you don't mind...I'm a relative newbie to HTPC's as well, but have 20+ years experience building PC's. Your answer to the preliminary questions below will help everyone understand your level of experience and what you want to get out of your HTPC:
No problem

- have you built a computer before?No, but I understand the basics and am mechanically inclined.

- if not, have you ever installed/replaced video cards, sound cards and their software drivers, or things like that?Yes, it's beena few years but I have.

- are the movies you want to rip DVD's or Blu-rays? (If DVD, will you ever want or need Blu-ray support?)DVD's for now, and the forseable future.

- do you want this PC to just play back movie backups, or do you need it to function as a DVR also?As a DVR would be great, though not a necessity. Hopefully it would be built to support that in the future, though from what I have seen TV Capture Cards are pretty expensive.

- does your display device (TV?) or receiver have an HDMI input?Yes, it has 4 HDMI, 3 HD, and 1 PC. No ethernet though.

- I'm assuming from your post that you want to use a monitor for PC use, and also some separate display device for watching movies...is that correct?I was planning on just using my TV for both; we don't use a computer all that much and have the laptop to use if I need to... and all I ever really use it for is basic word documents and a few excell documents.

- will the PC and display device be close enough to each other to use keyboard / mouse to control the movie playback, or are they in separate rooms?The PC will be in the cabinet the tc sits on. Is it possible to have a remote that can function as if it were a mouse? Point it at the sceen and get a cursor, or is that imaginary?

- do you have a receiver (AVR) to connect the sound to, or will it go directly to the TV? Directly to the TV for now, but if this all works out well and in budget I'll probably buy a cheap surround sound system, probably ~200 or so.


If you don't mind answering those initial questions, I might be able to help you figure out a scheme that would work best for you...and don't worry about the acronyms, all of that comes with experience and we can point you in the right direction given your needs.


Hope that help, I appreciate any guidance.
 

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Its not hard to digitize your library. If you have just dvd then get a good dvd ripper and the rest is just putting it on a hard drive. If its not that big then just use a few. You can get fancier if you want but that will get them available to be played. How you play them is again up to you and can be hard or easy depending on what you need to control. All the threads are here for all the information you need but you need to do a lot of homework first.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by ogormask /forum/post/18282525


Its not hard to digitize your library. If you have just dvd then get a good dvd ripper and the rest is just putting it on a hard drive. If its not that big then just use a few. You can get fancier if you want but that will get them available to be played. How you play them is again up to you and can be hard or easy depending on what you need to control. All the threads are here for all the information you need but you need to do a lot of homework first.

Lots of homework to do, but it can be hard to know where to start... hence the questions. As for what I want to be able to control, I want to be able to display a DVD that I stored digitally, on my 1080p tv with as little degredation as possible. It wouldn't bother me if it took 2 hours to grab the DVD, as long as once it was on my comp I could play it easily and at full quality. I really like the interface of Media Browser so that is the way that I am leaning right now.


I'm confident that I can physically put the PC together once i get the components, and if not I have a friend who is quite capable, but I'd like to try on my own. What I can't do (rather, don't have any interest in) is any sort of 'reprogramming' or modifying of software, beyond the typical settings, etc. I've looked at a few threads here and it seems like alot of you guys must double as software engineers... that's out of my league. Professionally speaking I am a cabinet maker (finishing, specifically) and aspire to be a firefighter.
 

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If you really want to build your own PC, I suggest starting with the "Low End I" system here . If you want it to be your main household PC I suggest upping to 4GB RAM and installing Win7 64 bit (home premium or better). This should keep you within your $600 budget and get you started.
 

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Ross its real simple then. Get the computer put together. Install something to rip the dvds such as dvdfab preferred or dvdshrink free or the other one thats like that. That puts the movie on your hard drive. Then set up media browser to use that folder where you are putting your movies. Thats it. You can add more later but that will do it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by ogormask /forum/post/18283133


Ross its real simple then. Get the computer put together. Install something to rip the dvds such as dvdfab preferred or dvdshrink free or the other one thats like that. That puts the movie on your hard drive. Then set up media browser to use that folder where you are putting your movies. Thats it. You can add more later but that will do it.

Will I be able to have 100% acurate video? I know I sound like a guy who's wife wears the pants, but I have found that the key to building a good car, and not having my wife complain about the expense, is to never complain about something not working right. The same goes for something like this; if she can pick it up and have it work 1005, she won't complain... but if it does... and will that minimum system allow me room to expand later without having to shoulder the cost of a whole new cpu or mobo? If this HTPC had the capability of doing multiple things at once at full speed, that would be great.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Also I noticed that the link for the low-end system brought me to a post dated in Nov of 07... should I follow that or the one dated Jan 2010?


And is there anything that the layman (me) would notice in terms of difference between an AMD and Intel CPU? My TV can to 1080p/24; it's a KDL40EX500.
 

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Here is my suggestion:


Since you are focused on DVD's and not Blu-rays, you don't need support for HD audio tracks. This simplifies things and keeps you away from the scary cutting edge that is PAP (protected audio path).


Also, using the TV as the PC monitor and display device keeps things simple too.


So, without commenting on the actual PC hardware at this point, I would make these suggestions for software configuration.

- use Win 7 Home Premium 64bit as the OS, it has been absolutely rock solid for me.

- purchase AnyDVD-HD and CloneDVD2, both from Slysoft

- download Virtual Clone Drive from Slysoft (free)

- I also like TMT3 (Total Media Theatre 3) as my player, since it can play Blu-rays as well. If you are going to BUY a software player, this is the one in my opinion.

- Use 7MC (Windows 7 Media Center, included in Windows 7) with MediaBrowser (free) installed on top.

- Use MetaBrowser (currently free) to download and store metadata for your movies.


What this will give you is a solid PC, which will boot right into a "cover flow" like view of movie posters if you want, with movie-specific backgrounds too. (You can always just click out of 7MC and get your desktop back, or boot to the desktop and launch 7MC when it's movie time...it's just like any app and can be added to the startup folder). In MediaBrowser, you scroll left to right to view the library. Clicking a movie once shows it's details and lists the actors, etc. Clicking again will launch the full, original DVD with no degradation in quality. View MediaBrowser's website for some screenshots...warning: you WILL be hooked on this HTPC thing once you go look.


AnyDVD and CloneDVD2 will make a perfect 1-for-1 image of your DVD on your hard drive. This is an exact copy, with no compression or re-encoding to reduce video quality...however, it also means that all of the annoying FBI warnings and previews are included as well. But, in my experience, this leads to high WAF (wife acceptance factor) since it looks and acts EXACTLY like you put a DVD in the drive. I.e, the menu, extras, etc are all still there.


When I create my DVD backups, I store them as an .iso image using CloneDVD2. This makes it easier I think, as each disk is a single file. It makes them easier to manage. What happens when you click a movie in MediaBrowser is that MediaBrowser calls Virtual Clone Drive to "mount" the .iso file. In other words, Virtual Clone Drive fools Windows into thinking that the .iso file is a DVD that you just put in the drive. TMT3 or your other player just takes over from there, automatically playing the "DVD" as if it was a real disk.


Controlling your system can be done in multiple ways, but I think that something like Hillcrest Labs "Loop" pointer might be the easiest. Granted, I have not personally tried it, but it acts just like a regular mouse. Google it and check it out. It supposedly works with your PC in a cabinet too, due to being RF and not IR. There are others ways using universal remotes and IR blasters, but configuration of such can be a pain...and you don't get an actual mouse pointer on the screen.


Final caveat: there are many ways to achieve what you want, and the above is just my suggestion. It does not include DVR functionality, as I am not familiar with that and don't need or want it. Also, there are ways to do the same without buying so much software. However, the advantages are that it is about as dirt simple as you can get. You will not spend countless hours trying to figure out the "acceptable quality" level to rip / re-encode the DVD's, get the player working, etc.


Hope that helps...
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by rossmacd /forum/post/18288519


Also I noticed that the link for the low-end system brought me to a post dated in Nov of 07... should I follow that or the one dated Jan 2010?

I believe it's the same post, updated in January 2010. Things have changed but not much in 2 months.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rossmacd /forum/post/18288519


And is there anything that the layman (me) would notice in terms of difference between an AMD and Intel CPU?

You would have to be specific between CPUs you are comparing, otherwise it's like asking if there is a difference between Honda and Toyota. For low-end HTPC or regular PC, an AMD platform is considered to be the best bang/buck at the moment. You don't have a lot of wiggle room with a $600 budget including software. Win7 and AnyDVD will run about ~$200 total.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Tom_L, thanks for the reply. That really simplified things and told me that I might be over thinking it a bit. An ongoing addiction is easier to deal with if it doesn't have a high buy in which it looks like I may be able to avoid. I guess my fear about expense is spending more than I need to or getting programs that are in some way 'incomplete' in that they don't do the things I though they did, or don't do them as well as I had hoped. It soulds to me like I should be fine on that front.


Would it be possible to remove the FBI warnings and make the previes optional using the above mentioned software? FBI warnings are actually the thing that would make my wife prefer to have this type of setup, because she hates seeing that Interpol warning everytime we load a disc.


The budget is more of a guideline so I don't let my self get out of control.
 

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Please get some second opinions, as I do not rip anything out of my backups...I always leave them as 1-on-1 images as much as possible. I have some experience with ripping, but not much...


However, if you want to strip things out of the DVD, then I think you are looking at using something like DVDfab, DVDShrink or MakeMKV.


I don't know of any way to make the previews optional...I think they are either there or they are not.


I've never used DVDfab, but it is very popular.


DVDShrink scans the disk, shows you a list of what titles are on it, and you unclick the ones you don't want. You can remove extras, other language audio tracks, etc too to help save hard drive space. It also allows you to compress the main movie if you want, but you can also just leave it at 100%. This then re-authors a DVD, giving you a Video_TS folder (just like a real DVD)...but with the stuff you don't want stripped out. The advantage is that you saved some hard drive space, kept the menus and the main movie, and stripped out other stuff. Also, the files still look and act like a "normal" DVD as far as Windows is concerned. In this case, you wouldn't need CloneDVD2, or Virtual Clone Drive. I think you'd still need AnyDVD, since as far as I know DVDShrink is "old" and cannot bypass new protection methods on DVDs. There may be issues with some players not wanting to play from a Video_Ts folder, I'm not sure. (In contrast, the mounting of an .iso file is foolproof, as Windows doesn't know that difference between that and a real disk).


MakeMKV scans the disk , and also automatically identifies the main movie and rips that to a single .mkv file. You don't have to lose quality at all with this either, .mkv is just a container. I can't remember if AnyDVD is required to be running in the background or not for this program to strip out DVD protection. With this approach, you get just the main movie...no previews, menus or other annoyances. I think there are issues with subtitles, and also perhaps with losing chapters, however...I'm not sure. Again, get some second opinions. To play back .mkv files requires a matroska splitter to be installed (free), such as Haali Media Splitter. This then lets Windows Media Player and Windows 7 Media Center to "natively" play the file...eliminating the need for TMT3. However, I cannot speak to the video quality of doing so...the video data is all 100% still in the .mkv file, but I think there are differences in the performance of which player you use. However, I think that most of the respected ones are actually free, so you can experiment.


So, I'm sure somebody will correct me if I misspoke, but that should at least give you some more background or things to Google...
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by rossmacd /forum/post/18289452


Would it be possible to remove the FBI warnings and make the previews optional using the above mentioned software? FBI warnings are actually the thing that would make my wife prefer to have this type of setup, because she hates seeing that Interpol warning everytime we load a disc.

this is the reason most people rip their dvds. Who wants to spend all that money on a dvd or bluray and have to sit through commercials and previews.


rip out the garbage and you can keep what you want. Sometime the kids just want to see a movie and not watch every preview of every Disney dvd out.


I think its despicable that we now pay $30 for blurays and there are previews we can't just "jump" past. You have to skip each one, if you can even do that.
 

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Tom_L

I'm in the middle of a HTPC build with the similar situation as rossmacd. I didn't want to start a thread and ask the same questions and get the same answers you have already answered here, but I'm planning on storing DVD's not BD. I'm going to follow the software recommendation you made and here is want I have so far for hardware, Silverstone ATX case, I5 3.33GHz CPU, ASUS P7P55D-E Motherboard. My question is if I'm going to store DVD's (I have about 100 to start with), pictures and some TV shows how much hard drive space should I start with?
 

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I would reccomend starting with a terabyte drive for that number of movies, but you can never have too much hard drive space and those 2 tb drives keep getting cheaper. I would also reccomend to anybody who is starting down this path and has a wife, to test for at least a month before declaring to your wife that this is done and staying in the living room. something always pops up after the first week or so when it all was working perfectly.


Oh BTW for control you may want to consider this gyration remote. http://www.compusa.com/applications/...8195&CatId=358

I have never used one, but plenty of people around here like them.
 

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I think I have room for 3 or 4 drives and at 2tb each I should have plenty of space before I need to start thinking about a home server. Thanks
 
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