Help me to configure my HTPC

Ive recently built my first dedicated HTPC with the followig specs:

Vista 32bit OS
AMD X2 6000 CPU
Gigabyte GA-MA78GM mobo with Realtek onboard sound
4GB DDR2 Ram

Denon 3808 amp connected via optical lead

FFDShow
CoreAVC codec
Media Player Classic
Video Lan Player

To be honest, I cant seem to get it 100% right and my mind is overblown with information overload which is where Im hoping you guys can assist. Im in no way an expert in this, however Im after a basic but competant setup.

- FFDShow audio options - I have set AC3 and DTS to SPDIF, is this setting the right one to use as I guess Id want the Denon to decode the audio?

- Is there any need for me to have installed CoreAVC codec in view of having also installed FFDSHOW?

- Within FFDShow, I have disabled H264/AVC, yet when I launch a X264 file the FFDshow video decoder icon still appears, is this normal or is it meant to hand all decoding over to Core?

- I would like to use just the one media player if possible for both DVD images and MKVs, Video Lan plays both but DVD images are not as sharp as FFDSHow and Media Player Classic as I presume FFDShow doesnt run alongside VideoLan?

Apologies if these have been asked before, or if they arent clear in any way if so please let me know.
 

jameson_uk

Novice Member
Right sounds like you need to decide what you want...

Audio is easiest.... You need to set the output to SPDIF and only need to use FFDShow if your player does not support SPDIF passthrough (most do)

CoreAVC seems to be a lot better at H264 decoding than the filter included with FFDShow and will use a lot less CPU. FFDShow contains a lot of filters and can be very confusing. One of these is a decoder for H264 content but if you have disabled this and are using CoreAVC to decode then you still might be using FFDShow to do post-processing (sharpening, resizing etc).

VideoLan is not a directshow based player so as far as I know you can't get FFDShow to work with it. MPC is directshow based and it sounds like FFDShow is doing some post-processing which is why it looks better?

Any directshow player will be able to do all the things you need and should in theory look exactly the same as they are using the same filters. This includes WMP11. I use the inbuilt player in MediaPortal at the moment but for an external player I always liked TheaterTek but there is not going to be support for BD/HD-DVD drives in this :( ZoomPlayer is another player I have tried which seems pretty good. Both cost but I guess you get what you pay for...

If you really do just want a basic setup then I would remove FFDShow :eek: If you have CoreAVC to do H264 decoding then you should have everything else you need already on your system. If you want to use FFDShow for post-processing then this is no longer a basic setup and will get very confusing and take a lot of time to setup...
 
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saltyzip

Novice Member
What do you hope to achieve from your HTPC?

Do you want it to play/catalogue ripped DVDs, Blu-Ray, in other words what video file formats do you need support for?

Do you want to be able to view photos?

Do you want to be able to catalogue and play MP3s?

Do you want to be able to do all the above from a common interface, such as MCE using a remote control?
 
Hi, thanks for the replies, most helpful :)

Ill start by answering saltyzips questions first -

My HTPC is used to play DVD movies which I have ripped (as an ISO) to a local HDD. Im happy to extract these if need be, seeing as only Video Lan seems to be able to play ISO files intact, and cant apply the post-processing that I get with MPC and FFDshow.

I also have a lot of MKV files, and WMV-HD conversions. As yet, I dont have a Blu-Ray drive and cant see that happening for a while yet, so thats not really of importance right now.

I wont be playing MP3s, and am happy with the default Vista explorer interface rather than any sort of MCE etc. A remote control isnt important either, Im happy to use wireless KB and mouse.

My aims are pretty simple really, I want to be able to play the above files, but having seen what post-processing does for DVD I would have to have this also. I dont need any sort of post-processing for MKV, so if someone can advise how I can isolate FFDSHOW to only take care of DVD that would be great.

I would also like to limit the number of players I use, currently I have -

VideoLAN for MKV playback
Windows Media Player 11 for WMV
Zoomplayer for DVD

If I could simply use Media Player Classic (for example) it would make things a bit easier. I find that Im forced to use other players for different things though probably due to config settings I guess.
 
An update on this, I seem to of been able to set the system up so that it used Media Player Classic Home Theatre for DVD and MKV images, and Windows Media Player for WMV.

I find that FFDSHow does appear in my taskbar (audio and video decoders) when I run a MKV file, but my CPU usage is below 50% and it plays steadily enough so perhaps I can ignore that.

Playing a WMV HD file in MPC is a different story though, the FFDshow icons still appear however the playback is very choppy in comparison to using Windows Media Player.

I guess I could live with this, I have nice upscaled DVD and am able to play my other formats. Im all open to suggestions though if any of you think I should be doing something different.
 

jameson_uk

Novice Member
I guess I could live with this, I have nice upscaled DVD and am able to play my other formats. Im all open to suggestions though if any of you think I should be doing something different.
You should be able to playback MKV in Zoomplayer and also WMP. WMV is a little more tempremental.

In order to figure out what is going on I suggest you get hold of graphedit (GraphEdit and download the mirror one not the MS one as that is the whole SDK)

Open up the exe file and select render file. Chose one of your MKV files and you will see each filter that is being used and you will be able to tell where FFDShow is being used and what it is doing.

I am presuming you have downloaded the Haali Media Splitter (Haali Media Splitter) ?? This will help playback of MKV files with most players
 
I have attached two images, one after I ran a WMV file, the other after I ran an MKV. The MKV reports that "some of the streams in this movie are in an unsupported format" when first opened.

Im unable to view MKV files in WMP, all I get is audio and no picture, unless I enable libavcdec in FFDshow (which seems to be fine that said).
 

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Is there an easy way to simply 'turn off' FFDShow without it starting automatically whenever I launch a MKV or WMV? Then I can just enable it when playing DVDs.
 

MikeK

Novice Member
If you download MKVTOOLNIX, open MKVMERGE_GUI and then load your MKV files into it, it should tell you what video type(s) the MKV files contain.
Then you can decide what decoder(s) you need to play them.

WMV and MKV files are just containers - they will usually have one or more video and audio streams and perhaps subtitles etc - but the video can be one of several types for WMV, and one of many types for MKV.


Alternatively, try using Media Player Classic Home Cinema Edition - this has decoders built in, unlike vanilla Media Player Classic.
It can play most of the common filetypes you are likely to encounter, straight from the off, with only minimal configuration needed.
 

jameson_uk

Novice Member
Is there an easy way to simply 'turn off' FFDShow without it starting automatically whenever I launch a MKV or WMV? Then I can just enable it when playing DVDs.
I assume by this you just mean that you want to do post-processing on DVDs and not use any of the decoders?

Open up FFDShow Video config and see what is set on the codecs page. If you don't want FFDShow to decode anything then these should all be set to disabled. The rawvideo at the bottom will kick in the post-processing.

Turning off post-processing is far more complex as this is done on raw video once it has been decoded. You can limit some of the post-processing by video size (eg. to stop HD content being resized) but I am guessing your MKV/WMV files are probably in the same format as DVDs? One option is to stick with your current setup and stop FFDShow working with one of your players (IIRC there is an option to stop FFDShow working with which apps you chose)

As regards getting MKVs to work then as above WMV and MKV files are just containers with streams in so you will need something installed to decode these streams. DVDs will be encoded as MPEG2 and Vista has the codecs to decode this built in. As suggested try MKVMerge and see what the streams inside the container are actually encoded with.
 
What you suggested is similar to what I tried tonight. I disabled all of the codecs within FFDshow, but left Raw Video as All Supported. Then I installed CoreAVC codec for MKV, and now find that MKV and WMV both play without post-processing from FFDshow (no icon appears), whilst DVD is resized and filters Ive set are applied. Thats pretty much what I was after, Im not convinced its an optimal setup but the CPU load is a lot less now than before.

In terms of the settings, Ive set Resize to the resolution of my plasma, Luma Method to Lanczos, 'Number of Taps' to 4 (is higher better?), Luma Sharpen to 1.5 and Chroma sharpen to 0. Ive plenty of CPU power to spare, so if theres anything else that would make a notable change then Id be more than happy to try them out :)
 

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