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I am putting together a new home theater and I just heard about these home theater computers. I was planning on hooking up a computer to my front projector for gaming anyway. I assume I could also use the computer as a DVD player. What are the other benefits? Does the CPU DVD perform as well as a dedicated player? Help out a newbie. Thanks.
 

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If you have a front projection system, you can get a very, very good scaled image from the computer, basically 'for free'. So, in addition to being a DVD player, its as good as a many thousands of dollar scaler.


It also can do recording of OTA HD material, and using control software (have to plug my [CQC software here) you can do automation of your home theater. And it can be a scaler for external sources (e.g. S-VHS) using a capture board and free software like dscaler.


And, as time goes on, more and more functionality will move into the computer, creating an 'Uber Component' that will provide the performance of tens of thousands of dollars of standalone equipment for couples of thousands of dollars.


Its not all sweetness and light yet. Personal computers are not really designed to do all this, so we are pushing them hard and they do get a bit flakey sometimes. The challenge now, as I see it, is to get the platform stable, as apposed to adding more functionality, if it is going to move out of the hobbyist realm and into a more mainstream world.


But, in terms of functionality that is highly desired, replacing the processor/receiver is high on the list. In some ways, I think that this might be just as well done via an external device controlled from the PC, instead of trying to move it into the PC. But one way or another, having the PC become the central control unit, as well as the other stuff mentioned above, is a long term goal.
 

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can a HTPC do DTS-ES and Dolby digital ES?

I thinking they can't and if not that would be a big trade off to me.

Also I hear that they don't do well with animated movies like Toy story...


Bill
 

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I can´t comment on the DTS question since I´m no audiophile, for me normal surround sound is enough as long I have a rather clean sound.

But to comment on the original question. If you have the choice to go for a HTPC or standalone equipment. And if you have enough knowledge to build a PC then by all means go for the HTPC. There are several reasons. A well built HTPC is mich cheaper than separate equipment with equal or better quality. (For instance I have digital VCR funcionality in my machine which basically records the MPEG2 stream from the sat without any losses to the HD and then converts it to MPEG2 how much do you spend on that for a standalone machine)


The other problems is many of this big electronic manufacturers also own media companies and to protect those they will put more and more unwanted sh** into their equipment to protect their revenues. I don´t have a problem with that I only have a problem with doing that without telling people. How many of you really know what SD stands for (basically it stands for a copy protection scheme) how many of the normal DVD buyers inside the USA are aware of the whole region code thing. And how many of you are aware about the castration of PC DVD drives with RPC2 which basically is a betrayal of the customer because they don´t tell them about this thing and the customer might end up with a unusable drive. Now still it is possible to build a machine without all that but in a few years...
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by bplemmons
can a HTPC do DTS-ES and Dolby digital ES?

I thinking they can't ...

Bill
Bill-


The HTPC will pass these formats on to your receiver or preamp, which will do the decoding. I have a low/medium cost receiver from Denon that does DTS ES Discreet, and it sounds fantastic with the HTPC as a source.


BTW, the soundcard is the Audiophile 24/96, O.S. is M.E., and the HTPC was built by Excel, one of the forum moderators.
 

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Bill, Heck yea! Snathan, you'll need a SPDIF pass-thru to your AVreceiver. And, for DVD player software, choices, choices, choices. You'll have to lurk in all of the threads for a while.


Other cool uses for an HTPC: MP3 Jukeboxes (I use Winamp) with cool visualization plugins that groove to the beat. Like, Wild Tangent Wildamp sexy dancers (check out the new Cavegirl dancer) or far-out graphics Albedo plugin, etc. Many, many choices.


Also, don't forget you can surf the net (oooo!!!, weather radar loops, how exciting!). Download movie trailers. Download Sandra Bullock movie trailers. Download information from IMDB about Sandra Bullock movies. Download Mapquest directions to Sandra Bullock's ranch in Texas. etc.


Watch digital photo slide-shows. Powerpoint presentation, ha! Scale TV, Cable, Satellite with capture cards, or HDTV signals with HDTV cards. -Pat
 

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I'm a newbie too, and would like to ask a few further questions on HTPC.


1. Progressive Scan DVD on HTPC - what makes it better on an HTPC than a standalone progressive dvd player?


2. What's the max resolution on a HTPC using the best HTPC video card?


3. What's a scaler/dscaler do?
 

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The following answers do not apply to CRT projectors.

Quote:
Originally posted by vectorzsigma


1. Progressive Scan DVD on HTPC - what makes it better on an HTPC than a standalone progressive dvd player?
An Htpc will allow you to scale the output to the native resolution of your projector (DLP/Dila/LCD), eliminating the need for the (usually inferior) onboard scaler. This results in fewer digital scaling artifacts.


Quote:
Originally posted by vectorzsigma


2. What's the max resolution on a HTPC using the best HTPC video card?
The sky is the limit. Just match the native resolution of your display device, if it is a DLP/Dila/LCD.

Quote:
Originally posted by vectorzsigma


3. What's a scaler/dscaler do?
Out of time. Someone else will be along to answer, or do a search.
 

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Okay Jeff, let's tag team,


Good scaling discussion: What exactly is scaling?

Dscaler is an excellent freeware program which can de-interlace and scale the image from a video capture card. The authors of this freeware software contribute to this forum frequently. -Pat
 

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Jeffrey and Paddy,


Thanks for the info. I'll look up the scaler/dscaler stuff. Why is it that these answers don't apply to CRT HDTV's? I have a 65" Scenium, which I believe is CRT.
 

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This all absolutely does apply to HDTV CRT-based rear projection TV's. Lots of people here use HTPC's for that.


I think Jeffrey was referring to the fact that it's less of a concern to output a specific resolution for CRT displays than for digital displays. CRT displays do have a sweet spot, though, that you can customize your HTPC's output to meet. Basically, using an HTPC is analogous to using a DVD player and a scaler, it will give you much better results than using a DVD player alone, and will beat many DVD player/scaler combo's, too.
 

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Okay I'll jump in here.


I qualify as a newbie too. For 4 months now I've been enjoying my Front Projection Sony 1272Q on a 45x80 (16:9) widescreen in a dedicated (light controlled) room.


I have been viewing DVD's through a DVDO v2.


But I still see scan lines .. the anamorphic titles are pretty damn good, but even those display the line structure - especially on really sharp DVD's (Fifth Element, Star Wars TPM).


I've been lurking here in the HTPC area for a while, and I've built many PC's on my own so I think this is the way to go.


My questions:


1. Everyone raves about the DVDO's ability to detect the frame rate (film mode vs. video mode). Is this an issue with HTPC's, if so what are the best options?


2. Which video/audio cards output digital audio for my DTS receiver? I know I had to upgrade my DVD player so it would output DTS, and assume for HTPC it is the function of the audio card.


And lastly (also most important to me):


3. How do you deal with anamorphic "squeeze"? It would seem to me that an optimal resolution for non-anamorphic DVD's (where scan lines are no longer visible) might be too high for anamorphic DVD's... Meaning that the high resolution, plus the "squeeze" of the projector might make scan lines overlap and reduce the quality of the image. ???


Thanks guys. "I love this place"


Paul
 

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Quote:
1. Everyone raves about the DVDO's ability to detect the frame rate (film mode vs. video mode). Is this an issue with HTPC's, if so what are the best options?
Software DVD players do this as well, so no problem there.

Quote:
2. Which video/audio cards output digital audio for my DTS receiver? I know I had to upgrade my DVD player so it would output DTS, and assume for HTPC it is the function of the audio card.
The audio card of choice right now is the M-Audio Audiophile 24/96. It'll pass DD and DTS to your processor just fine, and it has analog outs if you want to play MP3s and whatnot.


Quote:
3. How do you deal with anamorphic "squeeze"? It would seem to me that an optimal resolution for non-anamorphic DVD's (where scan lines are no longer visible) might be too high for anamorphic DVD's... Meaning that the high resolution, plus the "squeeze" of the projector might make scan lines overlap and reduce the quality of the image. ???
That is really an issue with the display device, not the HTPC, and there are a lot of different scenarios. If your device is digital and has a wide screen aspect, just scale the video to exactly that display's resolution. If its a standard RPTV, then you are stuck with 480p (or you can do 540p if you have an HD ready set.) But you can have the software DVD player handle all of the aspect ratio stuff so you can always run it in 'full mode' (anamorphic mode), even with non-anamorphics and even though you really might be putting out a literally 16x9 pixel ratio. If you have a front projector, you just use a 16x9 screen, sqeeze down the raster to that shape, and then create a 16x9 desktop of the desired resolution to best match your projector's capabilities.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Dean Roddey



That is really an issue with the display device, not the HTPC, and there are a lot of different scenarios. If your device is digital and has a wide screen aspect, just scale the video to exactly that display's resolution. If its a standard RPTV, then you are stuck with 480p (or you can do 540p if you have an HD ready set.) But you can have the software DVD player handle all of the aspect ratio stuff so you can always run it in 'full mode' (anamorphic mode), even with non-anamorphics and even though you really might be putting out a literally 16x9 pixel ratio. If you have a front projector, you just use a 16x9 screen, sqeeze down the raster to that shape, and then create a 16x9 desktop of the desired resolution to best match your projector's capabilities.
Thanks for the great info, Dean!


Another clarification: This makes sense. I am using a Sony 1272Q front projection to a 16:9 screen. Do most HTPC users configure their projectors as "anamorphic" mode then use the DVD software to "stretch" the actual image (when viewing non-anamorphic, widescreen DVDs)???


Paul
 

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When you use an HTPC, the whole 'stretch/squeeze' thing doesn't have any meaning anymore. If you set up a desktop that's 16x9 in shape, say 1280x720, and you maximize the DVD window, the HTPC just literally scales the image to 1280x720, so there's not stretching or squeezing being done. The only reason the stretch/squeeze stuff comes in is because most DVD players don't scale the image, so the image that comes out is a direct reflection of the anamorphic/non-anamorphic nature of the DVD data. But the HTPC can just literally resample the signal and scale it to directly fit onto your desktop (square pixels), so you don't need to stretch anything.


When you play a 4x3 DVD, it just window-boxes the image with black bars on either side. If its a non-anamorphic letterboxed DVD, then most new DVD players contain built in aspect ratio controls and will resample it based on the knowledge that its 4x3 LB, so you still end up with a wide screen image with a 1 to 1 pixel mapping to your desktop. Its just that it had to start with a lot less resolution, so it won't be as good a result.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Dean Roddey
If its a non-anamorphic letterboxed DVD, then ... Its just that it had to start with a lot less resolution, so it won't be as good a result.
So riddle me this :)


Right now I prefer DVD's that are "anamporphic" because the scan lines are almost non-existent. I dislike the "letterboxed" non-anamorphic DVD's because I can see scanlines.


If I understand you, with a HTPC I should be able to have an image with no (or barely) visible scan lines with BOTH anamorphic and non-anamorphic DVD's, right?


With a HTPC, what do you mean "it won't be as good" when referring to the PC dealing with a non-anamorphic movie?


Thanks again


Paul
 

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Look at it this way. I can give you a painting of a particular size, made up of 720x480 dots of paint. I can then give you a painting of the same scene, but where its drawn on just the center part of the canvas. Since the canvas only has 720x480 dots available, by putting the scene only in the center of the canvas, fewer dots must be used to make up the picture. You can then walk up closer to the 'boxed' canvas and it will look the same apparent size. But, since the same amount of information had to be 'encoded' in much fewer dots, there will be less detail in the picture, even though it looks as big.


The HTPC can take any part of the image and scale it up to fit your desktop pixel count. So it can take a full 720x480 samples in an anamorphic DVD and scale it up to 1280x720. Or, it can take the significantly smaller number of samples in the active part of a non-amamorphic LB DVD (in which the black bars are literally part of the image, so the picture only covers the center of the canvas) and scale that up to 1280x720.


Both of those images have the same end number of pixels. The scaler takes the number of original pixels it has to work with and looks at how many pixels it needs to create the target desktop size, and makes up (interpolates) the in between pixels. As you can imagine, if it has more 'real' samples to start with, it has to interpolate fewer pixels, so more of the pixels up there on the screen are from the original content and fewer are made up on the fly.


But in both cases, its resampled the image up to the number of pixels you wanted, so you always have a 1280x720 (or whatever) image either way.
 

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Great analogy Dean, thanks.


So on non-anamorphic DVD's I won't see scan lines BUT the image resolution will suffer?


How would you best describe the image degredation? Artifacts? Soft image? Grainy?


Paul
 

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It can be a number of things, but mostly just less detail. It will depend a lot on who well the scaler can deal with the lower resolution. But it can exacerbate other types of artifacts, such as 'line popping' and noisiness. Believe me, its way better than seeing big mondo scan lines, and the very best non-anamorphics (such as Kundu or Criterion's Armegeddon) can look quite reasonable. But if you had an equally careful anamorphic transfer to compare it to, on projection system where size and pixel count matters, you'd certainly notice the difference.


One that is available for comparison is A Bug's Life. Its a purely digital, high quality transfer in both its LB and anamorphic versions. You can directly compare the two, and the anamorphic one has very noticeably more detail.
 
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