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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am a 19 year old college (university) student with a studio apartment. I set off to create a very chic and elaborate (as elaborate as student funds allow) home entertainment system. I paid for everything myself and I am self-sufficient in all aspects of life (rent, insurance, etc).. however.. for the life of me, I cannot seem to get my HTPC to work as I had hoped. Thus, I am very dissapointed in this venture and though I learned a lot and did have fun researching and setting everything up, the fact remains that I invested several thousand dollars (roughly 4.5-5k) and as a student that's quite the pinch in the ass.


I have a brand new (custom built) 2.4ghz Intel P4 FSB 800 1gig RAM ... all that good stuff. Now, onto the important stuff that I have regarding my setup:


- Windows XP Pro

- ATI Radeon 9600 PRO

- Aopen AW-850 Cobra Deluxe Sound Card (for SPDIF-in)

- Panasonic PT-L300U

- Yamaha RX-V540 (6.1 Receiver) & 6.1 Package Speakers (Yamaha NS-p436)

- Adaptec's VideOh! DVD Media Center (PCI Edition)

- Cox Digital Set Top Box


As for the connections, baiscally I went with the most optimal setup possible... which cost me more money, but on the basis of "quality" I pushed forth:


for TV:

STB -> s-video -> PC (adaptec videoh tv tuner)

STB -> audio digital coax (spdif) -> PC (aopen deluxe sound card)


for Video:

PC (ati radeon 9600 pro) -> 5m single link dvi-d -> Projector


for Audio:

PC (Aopen dauther card) -> audio digial coax (spdif) -> Receiver


Here are my gripes/problems:


Picture quality isn't that great. It actually kind of sucks for TV -- you basically see some small boxes... as opposed to that clean, crisp look that I was going for. It's not really that noticable to _everyday_ users, but anyone who knows anything about digital television, computers or resolution will take note. You can totally tell the 'resolution' sucks on certain scenees. However, it's not !so! bad, since well, I understand it's TV .. but my heart breaks during DVDs. Even though they are way better than TV, I do not feel as though they are up to par with my expectations (and probably everyone else's results).


I do not feel as though my expectations are unrealistic, I just feel the setup is not optimal and thus giving me a less than average results.


My second problem is that I cannot seem to have ALL speakers work at the same time. I have a sort of stereo thing going on, where, only the fronts will work or the backs will work. I tried all sorts of different media, always with the same results. I have a sneaking suspicioun that the spdif setting is setting it to stereo as opposed to 5.1 (which later gets remixed to 6.1 on the receiver). So, I'm a little baffled. I paid good money for better cables and got the exact same results? What am I doing wrong?


As for other miscellanous responses that will come up:


a) I do have PowerStrip installed. I don't like it very much since it doesn't seem to let me select the custom resolution that I want (and when I do select it, it turns the projector screen black... meaning it did not accept the resolution.. the highest resolution I've got it to accept thus far is the typical 1024x768.


b) I do have the latest drivers for audio, video and OS.


Thanks. I really appreciate this forum as it has guided me from the start. It has resolved so many of my problems and so many of my questions.. yet, sadly, I sit back to watch TV and I'm just saddened by the entire project and how it turned out. I could have put down a down payment on a nice M3! :mad:


-- Navid
 

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> Picture quality isn't that great. It actually kind of

> sucks for TV


The problem could be the video source. You may have digital STB but it isn't HDTV. So, at best you may get DVD quality, but most of time you get lots of compressed artifacts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by eknoo
The problem could be the video source. You may have digital STB but it isn't HDTV. So, at best you may get DVD quality, but most of time you get lots of compressed artifacts.
Do you just that I dished out the extra $9.95/month for HDTV (6 channels)? I thought that only those channels would then be 'hd' ... I figured I have ordered 'digital cable' and thus, there would be no difference in the other channels.. Am I mistaken?


Thanks for the prompt reply,

-- Navid
 

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I have a simular set-up.


Panny 300U

ATI 9700 AIW

Revo 7.1

P4 2.4

512MB RAM


I use VGA from PC to PJ

I use 6-CH analog from REVO to 6CH on receiver

I have Cox HDTV and run 3 RG6 coax


I really like my out come considering the low cost.


SDTV is good, little soft/fuzzy. No block

HDTV is great

DVD is really good. I use Theater Tek


I have never use DVI as I've read that using Power Strip with this combination limits possible resolutions.

Are you using the 952 by 518 resolution?


You have alot of issues going on, but buck up dude!!!


So lets concider the video first.


I use to install DTV, HDTV etc.

SOunds to me that you have a cable issue.

tune to a digital channel like HBO (anything above 200)

On the front of the box in the center of the directional buttons hold down the center button until you see the email light come on.

Now hit the info button.

You shoulld see a service screen.

Look at the RF Parameters, do you see anything in red or yellow?

Hit exit button to close service menu

If so you have a weak signal to the cable box. Call COX and tell them your box is giving you blocky video.

Your cable should all be RG6 also, including jumpers.cDo you have it going threw a surge protector? If so try it direct from wall to cable box.


Let me now what you find.


Eddie
 

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Depending on the size of the screen... you can't hope for much with standard TV programming. Crap in, crap out as they say. Not much you can do about that, although you should be able to get rid of blockiness, but to me that sounds like your cable provider is compressing the channels too much. I recently started noticing blocking on a 20" TV when watching cable.


For the speaker thing... what audio DVD drivers are you using?

If you're using intervideo WinDVDs, try using Cyberlinks PowerDVD audio filters. You then select the audio output from there and just choose "SPDIF"

Now.. for your soundcard drivers you may need to do the same thing. For my soundcard I have to go to its properties and it gives me 3 options on the spdif output: Main outputs (I think you might have this enabled) which basically send out what your PC speakers would be getting through the spdif. The others are "PowerDVD software player" which passes through dolby digital and DTS soundtracks, and "Digital Audio source" is the last one... I've never used this one, but since it has spdif in, I'm assuming it will just passthrough the signal it gets back out. Now when watching a DVD you will need option 2 selected, and when watching cable with sound coming from spdif, you will need the last one selected. The only problem you would have with this in my setup is you need to restart anytime these options are changed.
 

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Not that I'm an expert with Projectors but what you are projecting onto can make a huge difference in your colors (a painted wall vs. a specialized screen)... check out the other forums for better tips regarding this.


What kind of video card is an AOpen Cobra? What chipset is it based on? Getting a better sound card with more robust drivers and options (such as a Revo, or possibly an Audigy) will most likely help.


Remember that only the nforce mobos can do dolby digital ENCODING... all other sound cards will only put out a stereo type signal with regular computer sounds (MP3s, games, etc.) The only time you will get DD5.1 or DTS is if you are playing a movie and using SPDIF pass through.


Hope some of this helps...


I've definitely noticed a large leap in quality on my NEC plasma when I went from a JVC progressive DVD player to using an HTPC... not to mention the fact that I could get rid of my STB and DVD player, and consolidate inputs on my receiver. ;-)
 

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The reason your picture isn't that great is that you're using the s-video from your STB to the PC. HD cannot be transmitted through s-video, only component, VGA or DVI (and firewire, but whole different story). As for your audio, it may be that your spdif input won't take DD or DTS (you may want to check your manual and see if later drivers do the trick).

What PJ are you using? I didn't see it listed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for all the replies.


fasteddielv: I will go ahead and contact Cox regarding the subscriber services if I see yellow/red signal indicators. Thank you, I had no idea such a thing existed.


Vaggeto: I am using PowerDVD to watch DVDs and WinDVR to watch TV. (I liked SageTV but I already get guide through the STB... no real features are better and PQ is identical). I'll give WinDVD a try (with the PowerDVD audio filters) to see if I can fix that audio bug. Also, if I'm going to use WinDVD, I will give WinDVD Tweaker a try. Maybe that can help improve my PQ. As for my sound card, I don't get those kind of options at all. I'll post a snapshot of the control panel when I get home. It's difficult to explain. Again, thanks for your input. I really appreciate it.


zen313: AOpen 850 Deluxe Cobra is actually a "high-end" audio card and it was introduced and recommended to me from people on this forum. It comes with your standard 5.1 analog inputs and all those goodies, however, the Deluxe comes with a daughter card which has SP/DIF in/out and Optical in/out. Since all my audio manipulations are to be done by my receiver, the audio card is supposed to act as basically a pass-through... which would be a waste of money to drop on other cards (that didn't even accomplish what I had requested). As for your note about projectors, you are right. It makes a huge difference where you project on to, how far, etc. I feel I have an adequate environment setup (still saving up for the screen).. well, let's put it this way: I feel that the current setup can achieve better results given the same environment. But yes, I'm projecting onto a white wall.


Paul_Seng: My STB from Cox Communications has two video outputs. The primary is the regular white coaxial cable and the second is s-video. I notice an improve in video when I switch from 'tv' to 's-video'. I'm a little confused about your assertions here. It doesn't appear that VGA nor DVI can be connected to my STB. I do have DVI set up from my PC to my PT-L300U (Projector).


Again, thanks for all who tried to help. I'll get back to all the inqueries posted above and will also post a couple screenshots of the audio stuff.. cause that should work and should be easier than PQ tweaks.


Thanks.

-- Navid, humbly grateful.
 

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Eddie, so Navid doesn't get HD? His second post confused me. If not then if he wants everything to go through his PC he should install dscaler and play around with it.

Also with digital cable, it just means that the channels are transmitted digitally. How much they are compressed depends on the cable company. And no matter what you try to do the old saying "garbage in=garbage out" comes into play.
 

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Quote:
STB -> audio digital coax (spdif) -> PC (aopen deluxe sound card)
Why make the audio from the STB go thru the PC?

Why not just connect the digital coax cable from the STB directly to your receiver?
 

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here's some thoughts for dvd. ....these are just what i would try if i were in your position..... first of all, if you haven't already...find the optimal values for contrast/brightness/colors/hue by using avia or the many other methods we've discussed in these forums.


Next, find a way to output at your projector's maximum native resolution, then use ffdshow to scale the dvd image to that same resolution via sinc or lanzcos resize (sinc is better but lanzcos is faster).


Or if that is too much for your cpu, scale to half the verticle and horizontal resolution of your projector's maximum res (or half verticle and full horizontal, or full verticle and hald horizontal, depending on what looks best and how much cpu is eats). Also try gradual denoise, resize sharpening, or decscaler sharpening in ffdshow if it looks good and if your cpu can handle it.


With a radeon on the big screen I would suggest using VMR9 rather than overlay, it will look a little smoother, and you will notice less artifacts (but again it takes up cpu). You will of course have to become a zoomplayer expert to try vmr and ffdshow. Also, as others can attest, and i'm my opinion, powerdvd isn't the best video decoder, try windvd, cineplayer 1.5, or nvdvd.


What sort of screen are you projecting to? Is there a screen you could by which reflects light better, allowing you to lower brightness and increase the depth of your black levels? Blacks levelsl are crucial to getting a great looking image on a bigger screen.


Finally, I'm unfamiliar with projectors, but there are many service menu tweaks for RPTVs which improve image quality substantially, maybe there is something equivolent which you could find by researching into your model?
 

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Paul, that's the whole point of finding out if his cable box is performing at it's best! Reduce the garbage in! Sheez!

I've install a few thousand cable boxes. From what he describes (Bockiness) it tells me that he has a signal issue. Which is common in apartment buildings.


OK to settle the HDTV thing, what model of cable box do you have?

2000, 2100,3100 etc.


I asume he is routing audio through PC in order to record, if not then ya just go direct from cable box to receiver.


Eddie
 

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Also, with your projector, the panansonic, make sure you use the smooth screen feature on the projector!


When you said you were seeing boxes, that`s the first thing that came to mind. You could be looking at the screendoor effect.


Use you smooth screen feature to get a smoother picture also.



For your audio, be sure to set windows in the control panel-sounds audio.audio tap- select audio-select 5.1 or 7.1 .



Also make sure you use Descaler and the best svideo input tv tuner, Flyvideo or Aopen 1000 2 or something, I have both cards, and they both have the newest phillips chips. I get really good cable reception through them.
 

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> Also make sure you use Descaler and the best

> svideo input tv tuner


I got Samsung HDTV receiver, and as everyone with this receiver knows that it produces grey bars top and bottom with widescreen setting. In order to get rid of it, I tried using Descaler to watch tv, but got no sound with composite/svideo input. Can anyone tell me how to set it in Descaler?
 

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eknoo, composite and S-video carry video signal only. You must route audio seperate to your sound card for recording or go straight to receiver.


Eddie
 

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Navid,


It appears that the other replies are giving you a lot to think about, and probably some unwanted homework. I'm going to add my perspective. I have a HTPC, Denon Receiver, Axiom Speakers, and Sony HS10 projector, with 1:1 pixel mapping, Snapstream PVR, DScaler 4.1.7 Alpha, Power DVD, WinDVD Platinum. First, some generic suggestions:


- For overall best picture quality, you need to get the DVI-D 1:1 Pixel Mapping figured out. This is the first and most difficult step in your journey. You must install Powerstrip and use the following device timings:

960x540=960,16,32,96,540,2,6,15,37293,1

Following is a description from another web site on how a user accomplished 1:1 pixel mapping with the 300U: First of all, add 1280x768 and 960x540 to custom resolutions in powerstrip. When that is done:

With your regular monitor connected via DVI, use powerstrip to set the res. to 1280x768 at 60hz. Then turn off your monitor and unplug the DVI. With the 300U off, plug the 300u DVI cable into the same DVI port on your graphics adapter. Turn the 300u on. At this point I get an image from the panny but only part of the desktop is visible. Then go to "my computer" (since the Start Menu is not visible) and go into control panel and display properties and change the res to 960x540. It should flicker and resync with the full desktop visible at 960x540. Alternatively you can leave Powerstrip open and use it to change res after you connect the panny. I think it's easier to use display properties though.


- HDTV - OK, you aren't getting good direction on this topic yet, so I'm going to give it to you straight. Currently there is no way to capture DVI output from a set-top-box with your HTPC and pass it to your projector. The HDTV capture cards that are available actually decode the terrestrial HDTV signal and their DVI output connector has to connect directly to your projector. Now, some HDTV cards do offer a daughterboard or DVI pass-thru capabilit (like the MyHD product). This would allow you to pass the signal through, but wouldn't allow for time-shifting from your set-top box (only timeshifting from the terrestrial content) The problem with the HDTV capture cards is that they may not support the custom timing resolutions to obtain 1:1 pixel mapping, thus requiring your to send a 720p or 1080i signal to your projector and rely on the projector's own internal scaler. Depending on your projector, this can be good or bad. Don't know on the 300U.


- Video Quality - one word for you: Dscaler. This is the only application that creates an even remotely acceptable image from either DirecTV, Dish, or a Digital Cable box. Even if you had a high-def cable box, or Satellite set top box, you would gain nothing by having the HTPC in the loop. The DScaler authors are working on version 5 now, which should be a great improvement to an already amazing free open source app.


- Audio - If you have WinDVD, the SPDIF pass-thru effectively sends the digital signal directly to your receiver for processing. The receiver then interprets the content as either Dolby Digital, DTS, or just Pro-Logic. My nForce2-based motherboard already has the SPDIF out included. Since you went Intel-based, you will need a SPDIF out going to the receiver. I'm not surprised that your TV audio quality is poor, but your DVD playback audio quality should be perfect. Just get the right software DVD player, and that should fix that problem.


- For just watching Cable/DirecTV High-Def content, you don't need the HTPC at all. Just connect the STB to the receiver and projector, and enjoy the show. Only if you want PVR functionality, DVD playback, or media jukebox ability, should you keep the HTPC around. For most of us, it's more of a hobby anyway.


Hope this helps,


HTBuilder
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by fasteddielv
eknoo, composite and S-video carry video signal only. You must route audio seperate to your sound card for recording or go straight to receiver.


Eddie
Excellent! Another problem solved. Thanks.
 

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Persian Pimp, I don't if this was answered in the above responses, but Digital TV does NOT equal HDTV.


This is a problem with the Cable Companies who are over-aggressively marketing their switch to digital cable systems. Digital cable is a compressed stream of television signals that is NOT necessarily High Definition. Most digital cable channels are still standard definiton, or 480 interlaced lines. Digital cable allows cable companies to provide more channels using less bandwidth, thus allowing to compete with satellite in terms of pure quantity of channels offered. I remember when Cox was transitioning to "Digital Cable" and eveyrone was excited b/c they thought that their TV resolution would be going up, and I had to keep telling them that this is not at all the case.


HDTV is the true high definition telelvision that all the ppl on this forum rave about. The $9.95 package of HDTV channels that you mentioned yoru cable company offers is most likely high definition. If it says HD, it is definitely higher definition than standard television, but there are different resoultions even within channels with the "HD" moniker.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I love you guys so much. These have been great suggestions. I just changed my sounds in control panel from Stereo to 7.1, 5.1 presented no sound (but I might have to change something on the reciever).


I'll go ahead and try all that 1:1 mapping for optimal PQ. Thanks a lot for the detailed instructions. I'll let you know how it goes. You guys have revived some enthusiasm and hope for me.


I love you all so much. This is my favorite forums.


-- Navid
 
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