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155 posts

Master Geek


Topic # 29687 15-Jan-2009 09:12
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Hey everyone, it's your favourite HTPC noob with a million questions about everything! Tongue out

I'm thinking about setting up my pc to play blu-ray discs some time soon, but it struck me that I'm not actually sure what I'll need to do so!

Obviously I will need a blu-ray drive... but beyond that, what else do I need? I'm currently using windows 7 but if the beta ends in august I'll be back in vista. Do I need to buy software? Are there other hardware requirements (e.g. a particular sound card/video card). At the moment I'm outputting my sound and video from my ati hd 4870 via hdmi to my 1080p lcd, but before I get a blu-ray drive, I anticipate buying an entry level hdmi A/V receiver - so hopefully I'll be able to take advantage of dolby hd.


*update*

Decided to stay away from tru-HD for now. I bought a basement price Onkyo TX-SR575 which I'll be sending downconverted dolby or DTS spdif signals to. I only have 5 speakers anyway : )

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  Reply # 189771 15-Jan-2009 13:08
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OK as you say you will need a blu ray drive.

Even running Windows 7 you will need software to play the blu rays. Windows 7 adds support for blu rays but only data not movies.
I run Arcsoft's Totalmedia Theatre which intergretes well with VMC. No other software intergrates as well if at all from what I found.
You can also get the higher end apps like PowerDVD which are great stand alone apps.
I know TMT currently does not work under Windows 7 but expect support to be out soon for it. Not sure about the other apps.

Sound is a bit of a can of worms.

In short as of right now there is no good way to get the HD formats to your HD A/V receiver. There are one or two cards out now that are supposed to be able to output HD sound but they still seem to be very VERY buggy and also very very expensive.

TMT will downconvert the HD tracks to DTS with a high bitrate. Not sure if the other apps do this or not.

For now I would stick with the soundcard you have. Wait for the soundcard people to get the soundcards sorted out then look at getting one.

Also be aware that you need to have a 8400GS bare minimum video card or the picture will really not look that nice. This is because you really need full hardware decoding. Not sure what the ATI video card minimum is.







Media centre PC - Case Silverstone LC16M with 2 X 80mm AcoustiFan DustPROOF, MOBO Gigabyte MA785GT-UD3H, CPU AMD X2 240 under volted, RAM 4 Gig DDR3 1033, HDD 120Gig System/512Gig data, Tuners 2 X Hauppauge HVR-3000, 1 X HVR-2200, Video Palit GT 220, Sound Realtek 886A HD (onboard), Optical LiteOn DH-401S Blue-ray using TotalMedia Theatre Power Corsair VX Series, 450W ATX PSU OS Windows 7 x64

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  Reply # 189772 15-Jan-2009 13:21
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don't forget your video card and monitor will BOTH need to be HDCP compliant.  bear that in mind when shopping.

alternatively something like slysoft's anydvdhd will help you get around your hardware limitations.

+1 for Arcsoft TotalMedia Theatre - I'm using this on my VMC and it's just fantastic for integration and playback.

 
 
 
 


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Ultimate Geek


  Reply # 189777 15-Jan-2009 13:42
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I upgraded to Blu-ray at Christmas. I bought the AnyDVD HD, even though I still think it's overpriced, but that's an other issue. It is easily the best app around for what it does: turns your drive into a region-free device; allows unencrypted ripping to your HDD or to image; Runs drives effectively in silent mode as it can control your drives' spin speeds. Etc.

If your system is running fine woth no codec issues you should just be able to install the drive & software. My drive -LG GGC-H20L. BD reader & DVD writer- comes complete with PowerDVD 7.3 which I upgraded & have apparently found they give a free downloadable upgrade to the Ultra version which does allow AC3 playback. Regarding the HD audio formats, even though it is not AC3 (I use SPDif) the sounds sound softer, more real, though I am still in early testing with different movies.




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Master Geek


  Reply # 189788 15-Jan-2009 14:31
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Yeah, I'm definately worried about the sound format thing. I haven't bought a receiver yet, as I'm honesty not sure what formats of sound my hardware even supports.

I've got an ati hd 4870, which is definately no slouch, performance-wise, but which appears to have some driver issues. For instance, half my freeview channels don't work - apparently ati video cards have some issues with h.264 acceleration (which is irrelevant to blu-ray anyway, right?)

My video card is definately supposed to support hdcp, and I'll have to check whethe my screen does. But it's a 47" 1080p philips lcd, so I imagine it would be weird if it didn't (wouldn't blu-ray playback be the screen's intended use?). So hopefully, video-wise, it won't be a problem.

Sound-wise, I'm not sure. Last time I checked, the 4870 was supposed to output 7.1  channels through hdmi along with the video signal thought a dongle. I imagine this will just be passed through with absolutely zero processing at all.....(bitstream?)?? In which case, will I need to spend a bit more on my A/V receiver in order to decode blu ray audio? I'm honestly confused as to what this will involve. Any suggestions for a sufficient, but still entry-level, AV hdmi receiver?

Other than the video card, I just have my motherboard for sound. Not sure of the chipset, would have to check that too.

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Ultimate Geek


  Reply # 189805 15-Jan-2009 16:29
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psk20: Yeah, I'm definately worried about the sound format thing. I haven't bought a receiver yet, as I'm honesty not sure what formats of sound my hardware even supports.

I've got an ati hd 4870, which is definately no slouch, performance-wise, but which appears to have some driver issues. For instance, half my freeview channels don't work - apparently ati video cards have some issues with h.264 acceleration (which is irrelevant to blu-ray anyway, right?) Freeview is another issue totally. If it can decode H.264 it can decode Blu-ray. It will just use the software, eg.  PowerDVD for its Blu-ray decoding. Whether it can pass the hardware acceleration off to the video card's GPU is another matter. If you have a decent powered CPU, you could always software decode; but not optimal. Haven't done any research on ATI so can't really comment further.

My video card is definately supposed to support hdcp, and I'll have to check whethe my screen does. But it's a 47" 1080p philips lcd, so I imagine it would be weird if it didn't (wouldn't blu-ray playback be the screen's intended use?). So hopefully, video-wise, it won't be a problem. Yes. Given it's 1080P means it will be HDCP compliant. Strike that off your list of worries.

Sound-wise, I'm not sure. Last time I checked, the 4870 was supposed to output 7.1  channels through hdmi along with the video signal thought a dongle. I imagine this will just be passed through with absolutely zero processing at all.....(bitstream?)?? In which case, will I need to spend a bit more on my A/V receiver in order to decode blu ray audio? I'm honestly confused as to what this will involve. Any suggestions for a sufficient, but still entry-level, AV hdmi receiver? I haven't investigated but would imagine that any AV receiver that can decode TrueHD & its ancilliary formats (eg. HD variants of ACS & DTS) should be ample. then it's just getting the raw signal to the receiver. Count SPDif out; it has a maximum bandwidth capability of around 1540kbps so can't be used. Any signal sent via SPDif will automatically be downmixed to its core sound structure, ie. AC3 or DTS.

Other than the video card, I just have my motherboard for sound. Not sure of the chipset, would have to check that too.
Believe me, standard AC3 , DTS is pretty good. If you care concerned about your system's HD sound capabilities, I think you are just too early to worry as there seems to be misinformation around as to whether any of the present sound cards can playback trueHD sound at the moment. See here for one such thread.




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Master Geek


  Reply # 189830 15-Jan-2009 19:04
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Thanks for the advice.

Yeah, I've looked around the net a bit today and it seems that practically no PC hardware supports "protected audio path" which means that any HD content will be downmixed to 48kHz/16bit :(

On top of that, I have 5 speakers at the moment. I really shouldn't care whether I'm able to process true HD or anything 7.1 now that I think about it - so DTS or dolby digital is probably fine. The main thing I care about is that the receiver can take a 1080p video signal along with 5.1 channel digital audio over the same hdmi connection... and that it all works. heh.

To be honest, gaming performance aside, I've been really disappointed with this video card - as far as I can tell by googling, it has issues with pretty much every aspect of HTPC use!

How does it actually get, say, a DTS signal off of a blu-ray disc? Does it somehow downgrade the true-HD signal to DTS, or does the disc have several audio formats on it?

Another question... does powerdvd 8 ultra give me the option to decode all these digital signals and output them through LPCM or whatever it's called (as opposed to just passing through the signal unadulterated? If that's true, perhaps this A/V receiver would be good enough?

Onkyo TX SR576
Specs
as discussed in this thread: http://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?ForumId=34&TopicId=29191
I get the impression that this is good enough unless my computer lacks the capability to decode the digital signal.
Oh, for the record, my CPU is an AMD Phenom 9750. Apparently the audio chip on my video card is a Realtek HD audio driver, and it is supposed to be basically identical to what comes on many motherboards.

Once again, I appreciate the help!



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Master Geek


  Reply # 189846 15-Jan-2009 20:16
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Another quick question to add... is there any (legit) way to get PowerDVD 8 Ultra cheaper than US$99? I think I have bundled powerdvd 7 that came with my motherboard. Is it possible to upgrade?

EDIT: never mind... I searched for "upgrade" on cyberlink's site... voila! :P Is US$80 about as well as I can do?

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  Reply # 189852 15-Jan-2009 20:40
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psk20: Another quick question to add... is there any (legit) way to get PowerDVD 8 Ultra cheaper than US$99? I think I have bundled powerdvd 7 that came with my motherboard. Is it possible to upgrade?

EDIT: never mind... I searched for "upgrade" on cyberlink's site... voila! :P Is US$80 about as well as I can do?


try googling for cyberlink and coupon.  i found dozens of sites that let you get it for $80 or less without having to upgrade...




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Ultimate Geek


  Reply # 189861 15-Jan-2009 21:00
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psk20: Thanks for the advice.

Yeah, I've looked around the net a bit today and it seems that practically no PC hardware supports "protected audio path" which means that any HD content will be downmixed to 48kHz/16bit :(

On top of that, I have 5 speakers at the moment. I really shouldn't care whether I'm able to process true HD or anything 7.1 now that I think about it - so DTS or dolby digital is probably fine. The main thing I care about is that the receiver can take a 1080p video signal along with 5.1 channel digital audio over the same hdmi connection... and that it all works. heh.

To be honest, gaming performance aside, I've been really disappointed with this video card - as far as I can tell by googling, it has issues with pretty much every aspect of HTPC use!

How does it actually get, say, a DTS signal off of a blu-ray disc? Does it somehow downgrade the true-HD signal to DTS, or does the disc have several audio formats on it? There are multiple audio channels & you choose within the software player. In PowerDVD Ultra, right-click in the movie & select 'audio languages', the various options are there, usually marked as English (United States) 1, 2, etc. To see which audio is used, select 'show information' from right-click.

Another question... does powerdvd 8 ultra give me the option to decode all these digital signals and output them through LPCM or whatever it's called (as opposed to just passing through the signal unadulterated? If that's true, perhaps this A/V receiver would be good enough? If the AV receiver can decode the raw TrueHD sound & your system can pass that raw sound through to the receiver, then I don't see why it can't. But I'm no expert on the matter. There may be other, limiting factors I'm not aware of. As I said, I have not done any research into this area. The question is, does your video card pass the video directly via HDMI? Or via DVI through a DVI>HDMI dongle? If the latter, then you will have issues with the sound transfer.

Onkyo TX SR576
Specs
as discussed in this thread: http://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?ForumId=34&TopicId=29191
I get the impression that this is good enough unless my computer lacks the capability to decode the digital signal.
Oh, for the record, my CPU is an AMD Phenom 9750. Apparently the audio chip on my video card is a Realtek HD audio driver, and it is supposed to be basically identical to what comes on many motherboards.

Once again, I appreciate the help!




Silverstone LC14 HTPC Case/Intel E4600 CPU/GA-EP35-DS3 MOBO/Asus EN9500GT graphics/2GB RAM/total 2TB HDD space/HVR-2200 & 2X 150MCE tuner cards/LG GGC-H20L BD Drive/MCE2005/Mediaportal/TVServer 1.1.0Final/LG 55"3D LED-TV/Denon AVR-1803 receiver/X1 projector

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Ultimate Geek


  Reply # 189863 15-Jan-2009 21:10
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psk20: Another quick question to add... is there any (legit) way to get PowerDVD 8 Ultra cheaper than US$99? I think I have bundled powerdvd 7 that came with my motherboard. Is it possible to upgrade?

EDIT: never mind... I searched for "upgrade" on cyberlink's site... voila! :P Is US$80 about as well as I can do?

As I said previously, PowerDVD 7.3 (crippleware), which limits SPDif sound from Blu-rays, was supplied with my Blu-ray drive & I seem to have gotten free via a downloadable upgrade the Ultra version which has no limitations on sound, ie. I can get TrueHD & full AC3 to my sound system. This is something I was not expecting as threads I have read have stipulated the limitations on sound & any Ultra upgrades would require a monetary purchase Cool. And as far as I can tell, it is NOT any form of trialware.

NB. don't be confused when I say I have gotten TrueHD sound, it is still downmixed because of the prerequisites as per our previous discussion.




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Master Geek


  Reply # 189929 16-Jan-2009 07:41
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1gkar:
The question is, does your video card pass the video directly via HDMI? Or via DVI through a DVI>HDMI dongle? If the latter, then you will have issues with the sound transfer.


It's a DVI-> hdmi dongle.
Strangely, when I go to audio properties, it doesn't list any multichannel formats as supported, it says hdcp supported:no, and it lists maximum number of channels supported as 2. I'm *hoping* that this is simply because I'm only plugged into a TV, which presumaby only supports 2 channel audio. Presumably it reads the EDID for the tv and doesn't display audio formats the speakers don't support, just as it won't display resolutions or refresh rates that the screen doesn't support? If it's not this, then I'm really not sure what the issue is. This video card has hdcp stickers all over it, and heaps of stuff on the box saying it's supposed to support blu-ray. hmmm....

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  Reply # 189937 16-Jan-2009 09:05
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Yip I would be quite confident that you are right. It will only be showing 2 channel because that is what the TV supports. I have never had any problems with HDCP on the sound side of things and I am running an old Soundblaster Audigy 2 that certainly does not support HDCP. Twice now I have had a problem where telling the media centre to play a blu ray has resulted in a message from TMT to say that HDCP failed and it could not play the blu ray. However rebooting the media centre fixed it in both cases. In both cases I think the handshake between the video card and the TV failed for some reason.







Media centre PC - Case Silverstone LC16M with 2 X 80mm AcoustiFan DustPROOF, MOBO Gigabyte MA785GT-UD3H, CPU AMD X2 240 under volted, RAM 4 Gig DDR3 1033, HDD 120Gig System/512Gig data, Tuners 2 X Hauppauge HVR-3000, 1 X HVR-2200, Video Palit GT 220, Sound Realtek 886A HD (onboard), Optical LiteOn DH-401S Blue-ray using TotalMedia Theatre Power Corsair VX Series, 450W ATX PSU OS Windows 7 x64



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Master Geek


  Reply # 190160 17-Jan-2009 12:53
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I'm thinking about dropping the hdmi audio altogether, using my motherboard's build in AC97 audio, and outputting dolby digital through the combo jack on the back of my mobo with a 3.5mm -> coaxial converter. Then I'll plug it into an Onkyo TX-SR575, which is only $498.

Does this sound wise? I'll still be fine for watching blu-rays, correct? I just won't get true hd audio, but I'll still get more than decent sound through the coaxial/dolby digital 5.1 connection. After all, I only have 5 speakers anyway. Honestly it seems like intel and the movie industry are making honest customers jump through hoops in order to get it working, between PAP//HDCP and all that... it's probably not worth the effort.

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  Reply # 190207 17-Jan-2009 18:07
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You would need to output the raw data by selecting SPDIF and then let the receiver do the decoding. That will give you up to 6.1 Dolby digital or DTS.

As I said earlier TMT will downconvert the HD stuff on the fly so that your amp can decode it not sure on the other software but I am guessing they can do the same (check first though)

Personally if I were getting a receiver at this point in time I would make sure it did the HD formats. Sure you can't use them now with the Media centre you have but who knows that will happen down the track and you can't add it to your receiver later.

That is the great thing with media centres. You can add to them as new stuff is released.







Media centre PC - Case Silverstone LC16M with 2 X 80mm AcoustiFan DustPROOF, MOBO Gigabyte MA785GT-UD3H, CPU AMD X2 240 under volted, RAM 4 Gig DDR3 1033, HDD 120Gig System/512Gig data, Tuners 2 X Hauppauge HVR-3000, 1 X HVR-2200, Video Palit GT 220, Sound Realtek 886A HD (onboard), Optical LiteOn DH-401S Blue-ray using TotalMedia Theatre Power Corsair VX Series, 450W ATX PSU OS Windows 7 x64



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Master Geek


  Reply # 190332 18-Jan-2009 10:44
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Hmm, I took the somewhat ill-advised route and got the 575.

Apparently there actually isn't a way to convert a 3.5" minijack to a coaxial connection? At least, that's what the dudes at jaycar and dragonpc said - they insisted I get a 3.5" to RCA connection.

I've noticed a few options that I have available now that I've played around with it a bit. Correct me if I'm wrong!

1) I can use software to decode the digital signal and output it as an analogue signal using 3 (front l/r, center/woofer, rear l/r) minijack to RCA cablesfor 5.1 or 4 (as before plus surround l/r)minijack to RCA cables for 7.1 audio. This probably isn't that good for audio fidelity I'm guessing.

2) I can buy an spdif coaxial/optical bracket that my motherboard supports from gigabyte. Then I can just plug a single coaxial cable into the receiver. Probably a better option - higher fidelity, less clutter.

If I want true HD, I imagine that my only option at the moment will be to make sure my computer is capable of decoding the 7.1 signal. I guess one option would be to output this using the 4 analogue cables, though I don't think there'd be much point, as those minijack connections tend to be pretty bad, correct? The other option would be to output the 7.1 channel connection as a 7.1 lpcm stream. Would this work? There are several areas where my knowledge is shakey where I can imagine things getting in the way. Does coaxial have the necessary bandwidth? Is my receiver capable of processing the signal (I know it can't process tru-hd, but lpcm is already decoded, correct?)

It seems like the 575 isn't toooo bad. It might be a bit more hassle than the 605 or 606 would have been, but it seems like it's basically the same as the 576 except that I have to output the signal via coaxial rather than hdmi. And honestly, when you take into account the fact that my nice speakers have been sitting around for about 5 years unused now, as I haven't been able to justify putting the money down for a receiver, a $498 solution might be the best option for me at the moment, hahah!

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