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HTPC/XCard/SDI with internal or external scaler?

Discussion in 'Projectors, Screens & Video Processors' started by starcat, Aug 8, 2005.

  1. starcat

    starcat
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    Hi there,

    I have a HTPC based on a SigmaDesigns XCard and an ATI Radeon 9200 graphics card (with dual VGA and DVI outputs). I use it mainly as a video frontend for video content stored on HDDs. I am now purchasing a projector, but I am not quite sure which route to go, which one would give the most flexible setup and highest PQ for the money:

    1. buy either the Holograph3d or SweetSpot card and connected through PDI to the XCard, use it with DScaler for upscaling and output DVI directly to a (color calibrated) Panasonic PT-AE700 which I am now about to purchase. The SweetSpot is about 400 EUR and the HoloGraph3D II is about 1100 EUR (the later would give an additional SDI input and is maybe of better quality).

    2. modifying the XCard with an SDI out interface which is about 150 EUR and get an external scaler like the Lumagen VisionPro HDP (you can find it at http://www.spatz-tech.de/lumagen/visionprohdp.htm) which is 2500 EUR.


    The main problem I have is, if I mount the projector on the ceiling (I have already run in the past 5 video coax cables and a VGA cable to this spot but unfortunately no DVI cable - 4 years ago), the distance to my A/V setup is about 15-20m which is too long for a DVI connection!!


    Most likely I would prefer the external scaler route because of the flexibility it gives me, but I was wondering if there is the possibility to output SDI from the scaler and converting to DVI right in front of the projector using for SDI one already run video coax cable? Such converters cost additional US $800 to $1500 dependeing on model. But the Lumagen VisionPro HDP outputs either in DVI-D or analog on 3-5 BNC (RGsB, RGBS, RGBHV). The other possible solution would be a DVI booster or fiber extender (I already have 2 LC-LC fiber cables 20m each).

    What would be the PQ if scaled to 1280 x 720 (projector native) and fed in to the projector trough component, VGA or DVI-D?


    On the other hand I would most welcome it if I can save the extra money for the external Lumagen but am not sure if the HTPC would do it (2GB RAM, 2.8ghz P4) and what the PQ would be, compared both, PDI SweetSpot and HoloGraph3D II to the external Lumagen.


    I would also like to connect to the scaler my other video sources (LaserDisc, digital cable box and S-VHS) which are all s-video wired and switched on my surround preamp so a single S-video input on the scaler, regardless if it is an external or PC-based model is sufficient. This is actually the easy part of the job!

    Many thanks in advance!

    Greetings,
    Bob.
     
  2. David PluggedIn

    David PluggedIn
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    Hi Bob

    first off, I wouldnt worry about the DVI connection, certainly not for PQ anyway (though there are the HDCP issues that you may have to contend with in the future)
    The SweetSpot is now just GBP129, and therefore a much better option than the discontinued Holo cards. As you already have an Xcard, and some external sources then it is really an obvious upgrade.

    As you are looking at video processors then you might want to look at the PlasmaEnhancer Pro model which also has DCDi , which I guess might be important to you as you are considering the Holo card.

    anything else you need then just drop us a line!

    regards
     
  3. Liam @ Prog AV

    Liam @ Prog AV
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    Bob, SDI as you're thinking is unfortunately SD resolutions only. HD-SDI is a very expensive technology to implement (a LOT more expensive than having a long DVI installed!). So there's not gonna be a way of using your 5 cores for digital. As David says though, you will get very impressive results with analogue RGBHV, if not as good as the projector can perform digitally.

    You really need to think about the pros and cons of scaler VS HTPC. Scaler is definitely the easier to live with, and I imagine unless you are going to build one heck of a PC will give you a better picture (or at least a better picture, easier). But you may like the functionality of a PC - web surfing, personal recording, email etc. Combining the two (having SD out of a PC into a scaler) is just a mess and doesn't really achieve anything. THe only time I would do that is feeding RGBHV into the scaler as a pass-thru for a regular PC to retain e-mail/web functions.

    Oh, and I severely doubt the Sweetspot will give the same deinterlacing as the Holograph 3D.
     
  4. David PluggedIn

    David PluggedIn
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    not quite, what it gives you is a video jukebox with SDI so you get full digital video processing.

    re the Holo, then you can either run DScaler (same as SweetSpot) or DCDi. This is really why I see it as either a choice of doing everything in the PC using a SweetSpot and PDI connection to the Xcard, or using SDI out to a video processor.
     
  5. starcat

    starcat
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    Hi

    Exactly this is why I want to do this! I have a Denon 2900 but I do not wan't go give up my XCard/Joveplayer based jukebox which I use most of the time, much more than the Denon. The Denon I also use for DVD-Audio and SACD playback, otherwise I wouldn't need as the XCard HTPC also play DVDs fine!

    Is it true that with the Holo I do not need to run DScaler, does it have the scaler built in (the DCDi chip)?

    I would have get a Sweetspot card just to experiment with it, but what I do not like is the fact that I can't combine an SDI out from Xcard and also the Sweetspot because both use the same PDI connection, or is there a way to do this?


    :lease:


    Many thanks,
    Bob.
     
  6. starcat

    starcat
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    I was thinking that even dual link 4:4:4 HD-SDI is coax based (using two coas cables)?

    Anyway I have almost decided to go with a Barcographics/Lumagen setup for the pj side and have bought yesterday a 42" panasonic plasma panel for all the other stuff. When true HD 1920x1080 panels bocome available (and affordable) I will swap the plasma panel. The Barco is already 1080p.

    Have anyone compared the Holo card (either the original or the new version II) with the Lumagen HDPpro units? I was studying the manual and read on the Lumagen forums and there are a heck of possibilities for setup.

    Greetings,
    Bob
     
  7. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Bob: It's all those configureable settings that allow the Lumagens to give you an extremely accurate image.

    The Holo3d11 and original are discontinued. It also looks like Tom and the guys have gven up support for the MK11 and any hope of fixing its issues. You may want to consider this when appraising what to purchase.

    Dscaler/Sweetspot and Holo cards are, afaiaa, de-interlacing solutions. The subsequent scaling of their outputs is done by your graphics card.

    Gordon
     
  8. starcat

    starcat
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    I have an ATI Radeon 9200 card in my HTPC and it has two outpus, one DVI and analog VGA - is it possible to select which to use for the scaled output? And also there is Powerstrip, what is its role in the setup?

    Thanks,
    Bob.
     
  9. philipb

    philipb
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    Jumping in here as a non-techie, but may be helpful as probably one of the few people who has tried all the approaches being talked about.

    First the H3DII card. Mine is now stashed away in the cupboard. A nice idea but now no longer supported by the Immersive guys. I abandoned it because its PAL performance was not good enough. The final couple of software releases before they gave up on it actually made PAL worse.

    I own two Sweetspot SDI cards, but currently only use one in my HTPC. Combined with Dscaler, PQ from Sky+ or a Denon 2900 SDI modded DVD player is fabulous. And stable. And as easy to use as a PC based approach can be. Beats the H3DII hands down.

    Finally I invested in a scaler - the Cinemateq SDI plus II acquired from Liam. Two SDI inputs and PAL friendly (I use the one SDI PC card now for archiving material from my Sky+ box to the PC HD which cannot be done via the scart connection ;) ) Went this route for ease of use combined with flexibility of the plus II. PQ is marginally better than the PC output - I think. Both are great and I wouldn't like to live or die on the difference. Before Gordon jumps all over me I'm sure the Lumagens - and the iScans and the Crystalios etc etc - are just as good.

    Gordon is essentially correct about the deinterlacing, with the graphics card doing the scaling. dscaler can do more with the picture than just deinterlace it, but it does it exceedingly well. The role of Powerstrip is to give you resolutions and refresh rates needed by your display or projector which the graphics card cannot do on its own. However the latest cards and drivers from Nvidia and ATI should be able to do anything you need, including 50Hz for PAL which is why I used to use Powerstrip but don't now because the Nvidia drivers support it.

    Given that you already have a suitable PC then the Sweetspot route is the most cost effective and should be fine. Dscaler is free and supplied with the card. Set up is a doddle and the Pluggedin people will give you all the help you need. Install some WDM drivers and a suitable software package and you can also use it to capture video to your PC in full digital glory. But remember a PC is always a PC prone to all the problems PCs can run into - crashes, viruses, etc. A set top scaler just sits there quietly doing its stuff, and once set up never needs to be tweaked again.

    What you can do via DVI or VGA in terms of resolutions, refresh rates, etc varies from display to display. DVI should be better as part of an all digital path, but check the manual for the projector that the DVI will give you the output you need.

    I'll shut up now. Hope that's been some help.
     
  10. starcat

    starcat
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    Thanks Philip, this was the answer I was looking for!! Much appreciated!

    I have integrated my XCard HTPC completely into my AMX control system using girder on the PC side and bulletproof dual-way RS232 communication to the control processor. My HTPC also needs no more than a second to power up, as it always goes into standby mode when powered off. Everything is remotely controlled and convenient to use, even when the TV is off, I get all the status information on the touchpanel! I keep the HTPC safe behind a router and use a properly configured viruswall and hostbased firewall, so viruses are also a non-issue! I guess that the next obvious thing for me would be adding a Sweetspot card next to my XCard and use it either to experiment with DScaler.

    I will also be SDI modding my Denon 2900 and in the meantime I am looking for a solution on how to add SDI out to the XCard/Sweetspot combo to use the HDD jukebox with an external scaler. If at all possible I would like to add SDI out to the XCard and also keep it connected to the Sweetspot (both use the same PDI connector - this maybe a problem?!).

    PS:
    I am using the 2900 for pure disc playback (also SACD and DVD-A) and the XCard as a jukebox for HDD based material (I rarely put discs into the HTPC). This is why I need them both with SDI outputs and need to find a solution for the "SDIout->XCard<-Sweetspot at the same time" problem. Any hints on this?

    Many thanks,
    Bob.
     
  11. philipb

    philipb
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    Not really - not something I've ever tried. David at Pluggedin should be able to advise.
     

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