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HTPC DVD Software Player Findings

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by Home PC Nut, Nov 4, 2003.

  1. Home PC Nut

    Home PC Nut
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    Just thought I'd share this whilst it's still fresh in my mind as anyone who has had to mess around with getting decent PC DVD playback knows it's a real PIA.

    My HTPC system is NOT overclocked at all:
    Pentium4 2.8b 512MB Ram
    Geforce4 Ti4400 128MB
    Triple Boot Win XP Pro SP1, W2K Pro SP4, W98SE with all the latest drivers/fixes.
    DX9.0b & 52.16 Detonators on all 3 O/S's.
    Creative SBLive Value (circa 1998) latest Creative Liveware drivers/fixes. Pioneer DVD106 always set to R1.

    What I am about to talk about only applies to my R1 playback on a CRT Computer Monitor @ 1024x768x32@85Hz. I have not tried outputting the signal to an external source like a TV or Projector.

    For ages under Win2000 I have been struggling to get smooth playback without any stuttering/judder on either audio or video or both depending on the movie even though I used to have flawless playback a summer HD crash meant a rebuild and it has never worked the same since.

    My findings are:

    1: Win98SE playback with NVDVD & PowerDVD4 XP Deluxe (build 2417 patch not required) is flawless with no stutter that I can detect. WinDVD5 & PowerDVD5 however have terrible stutter. Neither gives the same result on the same movie as problems happen in different scenes sometimes audio sometimes frame drops on pan shots so forgot those 2 newer players for W98SE.

    2: Win2000 Pro SP4 playback with WinDVD5 suffers with sync issues as does PowerDVD5. NVDVD does not even run under W2K even with the Nvidia patches applied. Re-Clock does not make any difference here either. Best W2K player for me anyway is PowerDVD4 XP Deluxe with the Build 2417 patch applied otherwise it does not work.

    3: Windows XP SP1 playback with PowerDVD5 has dreadful sync issues and is unstable on my system. Not even Re-Clock can help out here as it just introduces different stuttering issues. WinDVD5 is better (you have to play aroundwith the Bob, Weave, Progressive settings on a per movie basis) but again depending on the movie minor audio/video sync issues which Re-Clock cannot totally compensate for on a CRT monitor. NVDVD does not work on XP even with Nvidia's patches. PowerDVD4 XP Deluxe (needs the build 2417 patch applied to run under XP)performs smoothly with no sync/stuttering issues I can detect. Re-Clock does not activate when PowerDVD4 XP Deluxe is running so I assume it must use an older DX overlay.

    My conclusions are:

    1: PowerDVD4 XP Deluxe with build 2417 patch applied is the best software DVD player for smooth stutter free R1 playback on a PC with CRT Monitor regardless of your O/S.

    2: NVDVD is the best choice if you only have W98SE and a recent Nvidia GFX card GF4 or higher.

    3: PowerDVD5 & WinDVD5 may have some newer features & fancy settings like placing the DVD playback in the desktop but lack basic stutter free playback so consider public beta's & avoid until they fix the problems.

    4: Microsoft must have changed the way DVD playback is handled somewhere in between W98SE & XP/2K. It could be a function of DirectX seizing more control under these newer O/S's but whatever it is needs to be fixed as it's nonsense that an older O/S built on an early 1990's legacy core can handle something the newer O/S's cannot.

    5: DXVA makes no difference on my system to DVD playback performance. The refresh rate I'm using is not even an exact multiple of the NTSC standard so as I have not been able to detect any sync/stuttering issues can only assume that it must be so slight as to not be noticeable or requires a longer movie to show up (I did all my testing on movies in the 1.5-2.5 hour range). Failing that perhaps the GFX card locks onto the signal differently for older video overlays or my Pentium4 is so fast it eliminates the stutter before I can notice it.
     
  2. perrin21

    perrin21
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    i have upgraded my memory to 1gb corsair xms4000 on a p4p800 400mhz bus, 3.2ghz processor. matrox parhelia 128, i have used all of the above software and had none of the problems you mention. theatertek is best quality of all. make sure you have no printers etc plugged in as these use resources. Oh yes and frequent visits to porno sites can add all sorts of crap to spoil dvd playback. not that anyone does this of course. your pc needs to be 100% stable for the best results. i would at least try a better video card. either a good radeon or i have had great results with a matrox parhelia. spend about 200gbp.
     
  3. Mr.D

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    I run W2K . I run Theatertek and have run windvd platinum 5.
    Both ran fine , Theatertek has the edge in pic quality and features.
    Machine is solid as a rock.
     
  4. Jack

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    Hi,

    Why do people keep saying one software dvd player is better than another? Surely they all behave exactly the same, with the only difference between them being processing requirements / system resources.

    The much regarded TheaterTek also seems to often be plauded with superior picture quality, since it uses the DXVA protocol which is able to use your graphics cards MPEG decoder instead of a software version. Hardware decoding is obviously faster than software, however this doesn't make DXVA intrinsically better than a software variation does it?
    If you have a (very) fast computer, i don't see how TheaterTek, PowerDVD, NVDVD et al will show any difference at all, since a fast pc will keep up with the mpeg decoding in software, as done in your graphics cards hardware.

    Hence shouldn't the argument really be which software dvd players require the most system resources, with maybe an extra discussion about what processor is needed to decode the mpeg properly in real time?

    If i'm wrong about this, please tell me.

    Cheers,

    Jack.
     
  5. Mr.D

    Mr.D
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    Well theatertek is the only one I've ever used that gave 100% reliable non skipping playback time after time throughout an entire movie.

    Also the aspect ratio controls are very good.

    Also the support from the theatertek website is excellent.
    And its implimentation into things like myHTPC , being able to sequence trailers, reliable information about calibration.

    I fire it up and I don't worry and thats something that just never happens if I use Windvd or powerdvd.
     
  6. JohnAd

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    Mostly because some are better than others :)

    It is not intrinsically better no, but in practice it is often better than software decode due to subtle effects caused by rounding in the software decoding. The main problem is that there is a surprising amount of lattitude (apart from introducing bugs obviously) you get when designing a decoder and the various vendors products do produce different results, some of these differences are big, some small but all present. There is as yet no "perfect" MPEG decoder although some think the elecard decoders come closest they fall down in other very serious ways.

    John
     
  7. Home PC Nut

    Home PC Nut
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    There are to me anyway big differences in the various DVD player codecs, mainly picture related. It could well be that as others find glitch free playback in one player and I don't that my 1998 soundcard is the issue. NVDVD gives me the best overall performance as I have an Nvidia GFX card and that is the only one it was designed to work on plus Nvidia also have a huge number of developers/resource on their drivers team.

    DXVA is really a Microsoft legacy idea initially designed to help slower CPU's cope with DVD playback in the late 1990's. It can make a difference on slower CPU's but on my system makes no difference either way to playback regardless of the player. Microsoft are even currently developing their own Hardware Assist Decoder Card which they will then market & sell with a view to giving Hi-Def 720/1080 playback a boost as currently it requires a P4 3.06Ghz to play titles like T2 Extreme smoothly.

    I suspect the reason a lot of people do not notice HTPC DVD playback issues is either because perhaps they are not as critical a viewer as me or do not/cannot recognise a glitch and accept whatever comes out of the player as natural. The other thing is that a lot of people nowadays view DVD's on TFT's @ 60 Hz. This is unlikely to cause many glitches on NTSC R1 material as the progessive frame rate is 29.70 x 2 = 59.40 so a 0.60 frame rate difference is unlikely to be noticeable on a 2 hours or less movie.

    I'm starting to think that as my playback is done @ 85Hz (29.7x3= 89.1 - 85 = 4.1Hz) there is only a 4.1 Hz difference on progressive playback so perhaps my findings indicate that some players handle this 4.1 Hz difference better than others on my particular system.

    To further complicate things T2 Extreme plays very smoothly on my PC even though the CPU is only a 2.8 (instead of the recommended 3.06) so the way a DVD is mastered may also have a slight bearing on the issue.
     
  8. Mr.D

    Mr.D
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    Recommendations for refresh rates are:

    If its a fixed panel device match to the res and refresh of the panel regardless of material.

    If its not a fixed panel (CRT mainly) match 525/60 to either 60Hz or multiples of 24 for film based material ( ie 72 , 120). If its 625/50 material match to multiples of 50 or again if its film based material multiples of 25.

    Have a look on here you'll find lots of discussion about it.
    Myself and an alarming amount of others on here can be said to have a critical eye. Home cinema afficienados tend to generally.
     

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