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Thread: "massive" setup, tiny budget....can it be done?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    St. Louis, MO - USA
    Posts
    4

    "massive" setup, tiny budget....can it be done?

    Hey everyone!

    I'm working from the ground up on this, so bear with me here...

    Let me start out by going over my goals. I have 2 TV's (living room / bedroom), both HD. I'm sick of not being able to archive my recordings (currently through dish Network and their STB DVR), so I've decided it was high time to build my own HTPC. Here are my goals:

    • Watch different channels of live TV on both TV's simultaneously.
    • Record one (or maybe two) shows simultaneously, while still being able to watch live tv
    • Recording of both HD and SD programming
    • archive recordings as necessary
    • integrate my DVD library if possible (currently in .ISO format)
    • integrate my audio library (currently .mp3 / .wma)
    • spend as little as possible


    Currently, I have a Pentium D (dual core, 64 bit, early edition...) machine with a nVidia 7600GT and 2GB of RAM and a couple of 300GB hard drives. This system is also my gaming machine; and I would like to keep it that way. I also have access to just about as many Celeron / PIII machines as I need. I will also likely have access to a P4 (2GHz) with 1GB of RAM server class system in the very near future. Living room system is surround sound; run through a Sony 5.1 receiver.

    My thoughts are as follows:

    • I want to move my "main" machine to the living room TV. Will connect via DVI-> HDMI cable. I will be using it for gaming on the TV, as well as the client for the living room.
    • "Server class" machine will run tuners, and act as a primary server for all my media (DVD ISOs, archived TV recording, music, and pictures).
    • Build a "client" machine for bedroom TV using PIII machine.
    • All media will be streamed to the client machines, except HD which will have to be copied to local drives for viewing


    Here's what I'm still having trouble with;
    • Is there a better way to set this up? I'm thinking now that I'm going to have to have something on the order of 3 or 4 cable boxes to make this work, along with 3 or 4 tuner cards. That doesn't exactly fit in with my tiny budget...
    • Is there a good client front end for serving all of this media, including playback of .ISO DVD's? (I'm currently using XBMC via an old xbox.)
    • About 90-95% of our current TV watching is still SD. Even though I have an HD TV in both rooms...we really only watch HD programming if it's available for a program we want to watch already (like something that's broadcast on a local channel in HD as well as SD). Would we be better off using OTA transmissions for HD (since we're not really using the HD channels), and then just getting say 2-3 SD cable boxes? If so, would we need a single dedicated card for OTA HD, and like 2 more for cable box controlled SD TV?
    • I need card recommendations for video capture.
    • Finally...I'm a freak about video quality / audio quality. I know that doesn't really make sense with a dot two points up, but hear me out. My TV is capable of doing 1080i. I don't have a problem watching things at 720p, and SD is fine at 480i. But I refuse to go lower then that. If I have to transcode things to lower then 480, I can't make this work. Ideally, my HD recordings will be as high quality as possible. My SD recordings should not loose quality.


    Thanks for helping a newbie out with all this!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    US - Florida
    Posts
    782
    You're going to have an impossible time doing anything HD other than recording with a PIII unless you get a video card that can do crazy hardware acceleration - and as far as HA goes, many people are having a hell of a time getting any card to do it consistently. The P4 2GHz maybe enough to view mpeg2 1080i programming, but forget 1080p h.264. I've got a P4 1.8ghz no hyperthread, and it will BARELY do 1080i mpeg2. It does it at like 98% CPU if there's nothing else going on. However, using overlay, you can get away with ALOT more.

    Yeah, unfortunately, you're going to have to probably get many STB's to match your tuners unless you don't mind basic cable or OTA broadcasts.

    I'm not really sure, but GB-PVR doesn't like ISO's so much. I think some others have had limited success with ISO's using some external program. I usually just transcode everything with XVID, and now with h.264 (better picture, smaller file). XVID Movies end up around the 700-800MB range - quality is OK, not spectacular. It I'll be like 900-1000MB for exact DVD quality. H.264 can probably make a 600-700MB file that's exactly like the DVD. But, again, h.264 takes forever to transcode and your computer has to be slightly beefier to play it back.

    PIII might be ok for SD videos though - I have no experience with PIII's that I can contribute though.

    Server rebuild:GIGABYTE GA-MA78GM-S2H, CPU AMD X2 4850e 2.5GHz 45W,2GB RAM,500GB HD,Hauppauge HVR-1600,Vista Ultimate SP1,IN WIN BK623 Mini case
    Client:ASUS AMD M3A78-EMH HDMI motherboard,CPU AMD64 X2 3800+,2GB RAM,200GB HD,ATI HD3200 integrated graphics, WIN XP SP2 Pro,MCE303 case, 2x16 VFD, Irtrans MCE remote

    How to Build your own GB-PVR HTPC computer
    GB-PVR in action on YouTube

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Dunedin, NZ
    Posts
    254
    I have a dvd rip on my hard drive - the video_ts folder + all stuff within show up as 'filename.dvd' in gbpvr and plays it perfectly, so id imagine it is possible... not sure how i ripped the file, as it was a long time ago, sorry i cant be any more help than that.
    HTPC: 3000+ A64 | Gigabyte k8N 939 SLI | 1 gb ddr 400 | 2x mce150 tuners + mce remote | 1x Pinnacle 7010xi dual dvb-s, dual dvb-t tuner, 2xSky motorolla decs with IR server Suite changing channels via MCE remote| ati x1600 pro | 1x250 1x320 gb Seagate IDE drives | 29" sony CRT via svideo | Windows XP sp2
    Clients: 2x desktop pc's, 1 wired MVP connected to a 29" mitsubishi

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    217
    You can use the PIII for SD content. Anything higher, forget it. You'll spend (and waste) money trying to upgrade that PIII only to find that you can still barely watch HD content on it.

    HD cable box rentals are more expensive and you'd need even more expensive hardware to capture in HD. Hauppage's HD PVR is currently the low-cost option at $249. For HD recording, go with OTA or ClearQAM. I highly recommend SiliconDust's HDHomeRun ($170) for either. It has dual tuners and connects to your network so that frees up some PCI/USB slots for analog tuners/capture cards.

    As for the client (to replace PIII), the following are worth a look:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...c&name=Shuttle

    The pre-built K-4500-RS is recommended if you don't want to tinker. However, you can build a slightly better system for a wee bit more by going barebones and slapping in the processor, hard drive and RAM yourself. Anyhow, even the K-4500-RS with Celeron 430 1.8GHz and 512MB RAM would be able to do OTA HD up to 1080i MPEG2. Another bonus is it only consumes 30W idle and 55W load. I wouldn't add any accessories, though, as it only has a 100W PSU.

    The way I figure it, rent 2 HD cable boxes (one for each TV) for live watching. How many premium channels do you want to record? Because if you just need to record channels already available on regular analog cable, you can avoid renting additional set top boxes. There's also no need for an IR blaster if you go the analog cable route.

    One thing you seem to be lacking is hard drive space. A 1-hour HD show takes up around 6~7GB with commercials. After cutting out commercials, it's down to 4~5GB. Can't convert it to hi-def XviD or x264, though. If you do, I doubt if your PCs will have enough horsepower to play them. However, it's possible to resize them to DVD resolution and then convert to XviD or x264. Should save you a lot of space by doing that.

    Pressed for time so I'll just give a more concrete set-up with pricing later.
    Last edited by ilovejedd; 2008-04-24 at 10:50 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Posts
    23
    I've got a PIII-550 that I use for a lot of office type things. It will play SD video, but not very well. It will depend a lot on your graphics card as to how well it will work. Make sure the graphics card has a good accelerator on it. You can kiss HD good bye though. It won't be fast enough, I don't believe.
    IBM P4, 3Ghz with 1GB RAM
    500GB Storage (on this one), HVR-1600 capture card
    ATI-1050 256MB, and more as I think it up!
    OK, I finally bought a HD TV. Glad I had some stuff recorded to watch!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    217
    All prices are from Newegg unless otherwise specified.

    Media Server:
    SiliconDust HDHomeRun ~ $169.00 (CyberEstore) - good for 2 HD feeds

    Living Room:
    old Pentium D PC

    Bedroom:
    Option 1 ($219.99)
    Shuttle KPC K-4500-RS Intel Celeron 430 1.8 GHz Intel GMA 950 512MB DDR2 80GB Black Mini PC ~ $219.99

    Option 2 ($234.96)
    Shuttle KPC K45-Black Intel Socket T(LGA775) Intel 945GC KPC Barebone ~ $109.99
    Intel Celeron 430 Conroe-L 1.8GHz LGA 775 35W Single-Core Processor Model BX80557430 ~ $42.99
    Crucial 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 533 (PC2 4200) System Memory Model CT12864AA53E ~ $21.99 ($11.99 after $10 MIR)
    Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250310AS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive ~ $59.99

    Option 3 ($210.96)
    APEX DM-387 Black Steel MicroATX Slim Case Computer Case 275W Power Supply ~ $48.99
    Intel Pentium Dual Core Processor E2200 & ECS 945GCT-M/133 Motherboard ~ $79.99 (Fry's)
    Crucial 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 533 (PC2 4200) System Memory Model CT12864AA53E ~ $21.99 ($11.99 after $10 MIR)
    Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250310AS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive ~ $59.99

    I'm currently also searching for analog tuner/video capture cards. Leaning towards the Hauppage WinTV-HVR-1950 for external and WinTV-PVR-500 for internal. Still need to read up on the subject some more.

    As for software, I use GB-PVR. DVD ISO watching (w/daemontools) via GB-PVR Video Library worked for me.

    Note:
    price of operating system not included
    no optical drive included, recycle/borrow optical drive from old computer for installing OS

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    US - Florida
    Posts
    782
    Here's my high def client, plays anything: http://forums.nextpvr.com/showthread.php?t=34906

    however, it was big bux like ~$500-$600

    You don't have to spend that much though. Alot of that price was the crazy nice case. You can get a cubic case for alot less and fall into the $280-$350 cost range.

    Server rebuild:GIGABYTE GA-MA78GM-S2H, CPU AMD X2 4850e 2.5GHz 45W,2GB RAM,500GB HD,Hauppauge HVR-1600,Vista Ultimate SP1,IN WIN BK623 Mini case
    Client:ASUS AMD M3A78-EMH HDMI motherboard,CPU AMD64 X2 3800+,2GB RAM,200GB HD,ATI HD3200 integrated graphics, WIN XP SP2 Pro,MCE303 case, 2x16 VFD, Irtrans MCE remote

    How to Build your own GB-PVR HTPC computer
    GB-PVR in action on YouTube

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