what can i use an HTPC for?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Lyden, Nov 17, 2002.

  1. Lyden

    Lyden Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 23, 2002
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    hello all

    im curious what a HTPC is for so far i use mine to run MP3's through my surround but im thinking of selling this system ang getting something small and keep left over cash but if i could i'd like to use it as is and intergrate into HT but what can i use it for? i built it for games but i stoped playing so im not sure the power is needed anymore. ..... is there any where i can get a S-video to RCA(composite) converter i'd prefer oen that can plug right into the S-V out on my video card and have the RCA jack to hook up a plug to i really dont want to spend 20 for a converter and then 50 for a S-V cable and then even more for a good composite video cable. thank you for any help
  2. Scott Falkler

    Scott Falkler Second Unit

    Oct 23, 2001
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    It is not worth it to use a "TV out" on any video cards, IMO. Even using S-video, it looks terrible. The cheapest standalone DVD player will look better, and cost less.
  3. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

    Jan 18, 1999
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    HTPC: Home Theater Personal Computer
    An introduction to HTPC
    Most modern video projectors, at least the majority made since the early 90's, are designed to take higher resolution images from computers (1024x768 for example). The modern projector was designed to do computer presentations, so using them as strictly video projectors means a lot of usable resolution going to waste!
    Many of the new digital projectors have built in scaler devices that process incoming low-resolution video signals and "scales" them up to the resolution that the projector wants them to be (called the projector's "native resolution"). However, many of these internal scaling devices are poor and introduce artifacts to the picture in the process of resampling the image... An outboard scaling device would be able to do a better job and create an image equal to the "native resolution" of the projector- but a good scaler costs thousands of dollars!
    Someone somewhere got the bright idea that the mpeg decoding engine on a high buck PC video card coupled with a DVD-Rom drive might make a good dvd player to feed high resolution images to these compatible devices. By connecting a PC to the projector via the VGA connection you could scale the DVD playback to really high computer resolutions- exploiting the potential of these projector devices and avoiding the poor processing of internal scalers...
    Turned out, they were right! The scaling possibilities of a computer coupled with high buck super-dooper video cards became serious competition for $10,000 video processors, all for less than $1500! This is the best way (in terms of value) to get to quality DVD images, if you have a projector or set that supports VGA or better resolutions...
    The image is really good, much smoother and more film like than even a progressive scan DVD player can offer. The scaled output from decent HTPC even rivals majority of expensive scalers, up to and including systems costing $10,000+.
    So, once it was started the quest began- the computer geekers and tweakers came out of the woodwork. Guys who were good with computers anyway saw the potential- and many specific applications have been written making computers the ideal player for DVD and so much more. There are applications (like Powerstrip) that let you dial in resolution to the pixel- meaning you can find the best possible "sweet spot" resolution for your projector or display device.
    The HTPC craze has extended beyond the Front Projector users- now that rear projection HDTVs are becoming popular- many support higher resolution inputs, just like Front Projectors can, so a PC can be used to scale DVD to HD resolutions like 720p, 540p or 1080i to a HD compatible display! Some rear projection sets will even handle computer resolutions like 1024x768 and higher...
    If you're interested in learning more about HTPC, you can read the HTPC/PC area here on the HTF: Home Theater Forum HTPC Area
    Or the great (but very advanced) HTPC area on AVS: AV Sciences Forum HTPC Area
    In addition to the appeal of excellent DVD playback, the HTPC concept has hundreds of possibilities like:
    -CD and mp3 playback in your HT, with visualizations and file controls.
    -PVR functionality- basically a custom TIVO like machine that with the right configuration can record HD programming as well!
    -PC tasks like Websurfing and gaming in your HT on the big screen!
    -You can use it to scale external sources (with the excellent, free Dscaler).
    -Completely custom resolutions for Projector/HDTV owners: dial the sweet spot of your set
    -Region free playback, PAL conversion, no layer changes.
    -Custom “preroll” and intros for movie night. Compile your own theater intro- and even play it back at full HIDEF resolutions direct from the PC (no need to down convert it like DVD-R users do!)
    -Neat add-on applications like DVD subber allow you to access subtitle streams from the internet (useful for anime fans or other foreign films not subtitled for English!)
    -DVD playback applications that allow you total control: have your movies play as soon as you put them in with your preferred soundtrack and settings (skip the warnings and the menus), automatic aspect ratio adjustments and more.
    -See what others are doing with their HTPC here: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...threadid=31877
    I’ve got a video card with a Svideo output on it, can I use this for HTPC?
    Yes, although you miss a good deal of the point of HTPC, in my honest opinion.
    If you're coming from the PC via SVIDEO, you are getting a signal that has been down converted to standard interlaced NTSC resolution not matter how high your desktop resolution is set. The desktop setting is the VGA output resolution; as long as you're using Svideo you're nowhere close to that.
    The only way to get the actual full resolution from the PC to a TV set would be to use the RGB (VGA 15 pin connector) output or DVI output from the card.
    The bottom line is that the TV (S-video) output on these cards provides a video feed compatible with a standard TV- that is 480i- regardless of your desktop settings.
    Even if you’re looking to just pass regular DVD playback to a standard TV, the majority of these cards have a $2 circuit to handle this TV send- so most are lower quality than even an entry-level DVD player. So if you’re going Svideo, chances are good even a $200 DVD player would be better for you than the HTPC solution.
    How can I get the HTPC to hook up to other sources besides DVD?
    You need some sort of video input card to accept the incoming video signal and display software to put it on screen..
    Most people use an excellent free application called Dscaler. This is an open source PC based scaling engine that does amazing video processing. It does full scaling to output resolutions, does 3:2 pulldown, aspect toggling and even has built in TV tuner functions. It is free: http://dscaler.org
    The one hitch with Dscaler is that you have to use a particular type of input card: any card based on the Brooktree (now Conexant) chipset. DO NOT PLAN TO USE THE ATI INPUT ON THE ALL IN WONDER CARDS FOR INPUTTING VIDEO TO DSCALER. These video inputs are mediocre at best, and will not work with Dscaler. You can check the Dscaler FAQ for some specific cards, or just do a search on the AVSforum and start reading. I got an I/O Magic input card from Circuit City for like $35- it's a little blown out on the whites- but for analog cable and a few Dreamcast games, it's "good enough". Another hitch is that your OUPUT video card must be AGP, it won't work with a PCI card (it will but you run a serious bandwidth risk to doing decent resolutions).
    If you're looking for top of the line input, a member on AVS (look for username KBK) does a modification of the WinTV series card that is supposed to provide the very best quality external input. Expect to spend a few hundred bucks to get one however!
    One extra note on the “cutting edge”: Some people have started using SDI input Conexant cards with Dscaler, and have gotten their DVD player or DSS receiver modified to put out a SDI digital output. This is really the cutting edge as far as top quality processing goes- and it won't help you for analog sources like VHS and is not yet available for any video game systems, but for DSS and DVD provides Dscaler processing (which is great) with a direct digital path!
    Also, you can read the FAQ over at http://www.dscaler.org/ which has plenty of details on how the software works, what cards to look for, etc.
    Ok, I’m sold- can I buy a HTPC somewhere or do I have to built one?
    Several companies are now offering what’s called “TURN KEY” HTPC configurations- AVS and Digital Connection both offer several excellent models of HTPC. However- it is far more cost effective to build one yourself if you are even remotely computer literate (or even if you’re just brave!)
    Like with any portion of PC use, what is a “hot” technology changes seemingly everyday, but the basics for HTPC are:
    Video- ATI Radeon based cards are the popular ones as they usually exceed similarly priced cards from competitors in MPEG decoding. If you’re emphasis is more on gaming than DVD- you might look elsewhere.
    Audio- M-audio (aka “Midiman”) cards are very popular in HTPC circles for offering “bit for bit” digital transfer. Some people use http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?threadid=31364&perpage=999 ]Soundblaster[/url] cards however.
    Software- TheaterTek is very popular for HTPC, with the free ZOOM player also being a top choice!
    As far as the rest of the hardware- I’d point you to these FAQ documents on the AVS forum. Happy hunting!:
  4. Lyden

    Lyden Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 23, 2002
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    hmm it seems that my PC is well beyond the minimum for HTPC thanks alot [​IMG] now all i have to get is a VGA converter thing [​IMG] i fel like babbling heres my system
    Antec Performance II (Black) case
    MSI KT3 Ultra mother board
    AMD Athl;on XP1700+ OC'd to 1.7ghz
    512MB DDR PC 2100 ram
    dual 20 gig HDD's
    Volcano 7+ CPU cooler
    Gforce4 MX 420
    and asorted custom mods ive done

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