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Is htpc/xbmc a sensible alternative to a Dune ?

dhts

Established Member
Hi

I'm looking for a steer on whether to head down the htpc/xbmc route. I've spent most of the weekend tinkering with my dune and zappiti as a result of adding a second NAS. I'm not 100% sure what my issues in getting it working we're, the most likely explanation being some curious behaviour of the dune when connected via a gigabit switch to a gigabit connected NAS but who knows. It's working now but I'm 48 hours older and already have enough grey hairs.

Anyhow this got me googling for alternatives and looking again at xbmc.

I'm not looking for a new hobby, ie a lifetime of setup and tweaking, I'm just looking for something to play my iso ripped blurays at the highest quality video and sound in a home cinema, ie 24fps + the normal set of lossless audio decoded by the amp. I'm not looking for the cheapest solution, just something that's reliable.

So is there a 'good' route to a painless xbmc setup ? Is it better to use a windows 7 and something like TMT for playback or a stripped down openelec ?

Does the v1 Apple TV running openelec with a upgraded graphics card really deliver 24p hd audio ?

Are the latest generation of NUC's a foolproof way to go ?

With cinavia it seems like media players like the dune are ultimately doomed and are going to be starved of investment and htpc's provide a better long term option.

So I'm interested to hear from anybody who's gone this route, and what they would recommend based on their experiences.
 

duffbeerdrinker

Distinguished Member
I went through almost exactly the same dilemma just recently.
I have switched from a Dune (which I love) to a NUC with OpenELEC. I did loads of research and asked as many questions as possible before spending any money. I was nervous about it being difficult to set up the way I wanted it and I heard lots of stories about frame rate problems and various playback issues.

Having used the NUC for a week now I have to say it was the best decision I ever made. It took a little tweaking to get it right and the remote setup was tricky until I got my head round it but XBMC is an absolute dream to use...SOOO much better than Zapitti and Yadis. The watched/unwatched markers were the main thing I wanted and they work really well.
It's also much quicker to update. I used to run Yadis and everytime I added a new movie I had to manually scrape it and change the images that it selected and then manually export the interface.
Now all I have to do is copy the file to my NAS and everything else is done automatically when you fire up the NUC. It even chooses the correct art 99% of the time.

Do it. You won't regret it!
 

sniffer66

Distinguished Member
I have both, XBMC running on Openelec in my living room and the Dune in the kids playroom running MyMovies frontend.
XBMC is running on an AMD e350 and I;m using it as a NAS as well so its got about 10TB in it.

The Dune is easier to configure but I'd go XBMC over it in an instant. Getting my films into the Dune is more of a pain and its a lot less flexible. As soon as the Dune dies its XBMC all the way.
A Harmony remote makes life a lot easier for the rest of the family though
 

dhts

Established Member
Thanks to you both for your thoughts and encouragement.

So can I just check my understanding. As you're both using OpenELEC you're relying upon XBMC itself to play the ISO blurays and neither of you see any lipsync issues with them at 24p ?

Duffbeerdrinker - do you mind my asking what spec your NUC was ?
 

duffbeerdrinker

Distinguished Member
No lip sync issues at all but there are settings to adjust if you do experience a problem. I don't play ISO's (seems like a waste of space as I never watch any of the extras) - my files are all MKVs.

I have the i5 Haswell NUC because there are a few improvements over the previous model. Integrated IR receiver and the ability to play 23.976 fps files perfectly. I added 8gb of RAM and a 30GB SSD.

The processor and RAM are overkill but I bought the higher spec because I was nervous about using OpenELEC so I wanted the option to install Windows if necessary. It totally ISN'T necessary, OpenELEC is great.
 

cjed

Prominent Member
... So can I just check my understanding. As you're both using OpenELEC you're relying upon XBMC itself to play the ISO blurays and neither of you see any lipsync issues with them at 24p ? ...

I've also got a couple of NUCs (latest i5 and Celeron N2820 based units) running Windows (7 and 8.1) and XBMC. These will NOT play Blu-ray ISOs OOTB. I do play these using a combination of Virtual CloneDrive (to mount the ISO) and Arcsoft's TotalMedia Theater 6.5 to play the Blu-rays. In theory it should be possible to get XBMC (I've been using V12.3) to use TMT as an external player for BD ISOs, but I've not managed to configure this yet (although I've not spent a serious amount of time on this yet).

If anyone has the magic config files to do this I'd appreciate a copy :)

Otherwise the NUC + XBMC makes a fine HTPC - it plays MKVs and DVD ISOs natively without problems. I've even got it to correctly catalogue and play my TV series on DVD ISOs.
 

dhts

Established Member
I've also got a couple of NUCs (latest i5 and Celeron N2820 based units) running Windows (7 and 8.1) and XBMC. These will NOT play Blu-ray ISOs OOTB.

Thanks for flagging that. Is the Blu-ray ISO a XBMC limitation generally or a limitation when running on Wndows, ie does OpenELEC have the same issue.

I can't remember why I thought ripping to ISO's (but without the extras) was the way to go but I've ripped a good few hundred of my Blurays that way so it would be a pain to have to re-do them.
 

duffbeerdrinker

Distinguished Member
Lots of people struggle to play ISOs. As far as I understand, the only reason to rip to an ISO is to preserve the menus and extras. If you are only ripping the movie then MKVs are much easier to deal with.
You could convert your ISO files to MKV without re-ripping them using MakeMKV or similar - it would make your life much simpler in the long run.
 

cjed

Prominent Member
AFAIK no version of XBMC can play Blu-ray ISOs natively. As has been mentioned, you can process them to MKVs of the main feature reasonably easily, but that usually strips out extra features, menus, audio tracks and subtitles.
 

Trollslayer

Distinguished Member
Similar history here, Dune then XBMC.
I have a PCH A400 as well as XBMC because of the VXP processing and motion handling but XBMC is the best interface.
 

duffbeerdrinker

Distinguished Member
AFAIK no version of XBMC can play Blu-ray ISOs natively. As has been mentioned, you can process them to MKVs of the main feature reasonably easily, but that usually strips out extra features, menus, audio tracks and subtitles.

You're spot - apart from the audio and subtitles. These can be included with the MKV very easily (I do it all the time).
 

Trollslayer

Distinguished Member
I use AnyDVD and Blurip for mine, lets me choose audio and subtitles I want.
 

MadScientist

Established Member

dhts

Established Member
Thanks MadScientist - Your posts were the trigger for all this. Have you got TMT6 integrated seamlessly with XMBC (so it's 100% hidden) and are you using ISO rips of your blurays ?
 

MadScientist

Established Member
I guess you have grown tired of Dune's complete lack of customer focus as well ;).

Yes pretty much seamless for both folder and ISO rips. There's a slight delay as TMT opens up but it's only a few seconds. I mainly use folder rips for my movies and MKVs for BR TV series which for the latter, the XBMC internal player works just fine. It's easy to set up TMT (or PowerDVD) as an optional player for movies. If there just one movie stream and no forced subtitles, then XBMC's lite player option is perfectly adequate. If you want to see the menus then the exterrnal player can be selected. Most of my issues with TMT have been with the audio and it took a bit of work to get it to pass 6 channels of uncompressed LPCM (my Meridian processor can decode hires audio). Other than that I'm happy with my HTPC at the moment. I've just set up live TV but I'm going to leave the PVR options until they become mor refined.
 

Trollslayer

Distinguished Member
Sadly Dune lost control of the people producing the software a few years ago or I would have stayed with them.
 

dhts

Established Member
So many thanks for those who took the trouble to offer their guidance and advice. I've purchased an i3 NUC with a view to initially seeing how I get on with OPENElec though the spec of the NUC should just about support Windows if I feel out of my comfort zone. I'll let folks know how I get on.
 

sniffer66

Distinguished Member
I may be going mad or be overtired but I'm sure my Openelec\XBMC setup plays ripped Bluray ISO's. I used to rip them all as ISO's for my Dune and havent go around to converting them all to MKV's and just getting the main title out yet.
You dont get the menus but you do get to choose which title to play. This is ripped to disk using anydvd-hd by the way and removing protection

The only thing it wont play is Full 3D BD's
 

dhts

Established Member
Well as I started the thread I felt I should give an update (and ask for help!).

So getting xbmc installed, scanning media and playing was pretty straightforward. I hit a couple of issues but a quick google found others who had hit the problem previously with a solution at hand. I hadn't realised when you download openelec it actually includes xbmc so is very simple and quick to install.

Xbmc is very slick, and zappiti and the Dune feel 10 years out of date by comparison.

But, (you knew there was one coming), despite what most people say I'm struggling to get 24p working without having to insert a significant delay into the stream when by all accounts this was all sorted in the last release.

Can I ask those who posted saying 24p was working on i5 NUC's just to confirm (a) that it's definitely 24p being received by the receiver and (b) that they haven't had to add a manual delay. As I understand the most recent releases whilst the problems have been fixed you actually have to include a 175ms delay as they have left the original work around present in advanced settings.xml.

Just in summary I get lip sync issues when playing 24p to my receiver and projector AND if I connect straight to a tv which supports 24p. Forcing either config to 50Hz cures the problem. I've posted in openelec and xbmc forums without any solution.

I notice that duffbeardrinker and cjed are on i5's and I'm using an i3 which does have a different graphics processor so maybe that's related ???
 

Trollslayer

Distinguished Member
I have always used separate graphics so can't help there.
 

steelman1991

Prominent Member
Well as I started the thread I felt I should give an update (and ask for help!).

So getting xbmc installed, scanning media and playing was pretty straightforward. I hit a couple of issues but a quick google found others who had hit the problem previously with a solution at hand. I hadn't realised when you download openelec it actually includes xbmc so is very simple and quick to install.

Xbmc is very slick, and zappiti and the Dune feel 10 years out of date by comparison.

But, (you knew there was one coming), despite what most people say I'm struggling to get 24p working without having to insert a significant delay into the stream when by all accounts this was all sorted in the last release.

Can I ask those who posted saying 24p was working on i5 NUC's just to confirm (a) that it's definitely 24p being received by the receiver and (b) that they haven't had to add a manual delay. As I understand the most recent releases whilst the problems have been fixed you actually have to include a 175ms delay as they have left the original work around present in advanced settings.xml.

Just in summary I get lip sync issues when playing 24p to my receiver and projector AND if I connect straight to a tv which supports 24p. Forcing either config to 50Hz cures the problem. I've posted in openelec and xbmc forums without any solution.

I notice that duffbeardrinker and cjed are on i5's and I'm using an i3 which does have a different graphics processor so maybe that's related ???

AFAIW a delay of 175ms is already included in all openelec builds to account for the issue (they actually polled on xbmc forums to see what the consensus was on delay timings). If you have sync problems, it may be that your system doesn't need that delay and this is what is causing your issue. Try deleting the delay setting from the advancedsettings xml and see it that helps. There are threads over at openelec forums which will help you to locate and change.

Just got an i5 nuc and will be setting up over the weekend will let you know if I encounter any similar issues.
 

dhts

Established Member
Thanks steelman1991. My reading of the openelec posts is that the most recent builds have fixed all sync issues on the latest nucs but bizarrely that delay is still in advancedsettings.xml so my understanding is that you will have to create a userdata version of advancedsettings setting the delay to 0. For my I have to set the delay in that file to something like -375.
Let me know how you get on please.
 

steelman1991

Prominent Member
Thanks steelman1991. My reading of the openelec posts is that the most recent builds have fixed all sync issues on the latest nucs but bizarrely that delay is still in advancedsettings.xml so my understanding is that you will have to create a userdata version of advancedsettings setting the delay to 0. For my I have to set the delay in that file to something like -375.
Let me know how you get on please.

Just about to start so will let you know later how I get on.

-375 seems a huge disparity, is this inclusive of the default 175ms delay, or are you saying that the most recent openelec builds no longer have any built in delay - because that wasn't my understanding. I though it was still included and if you didn't need it you were required to remove it from advancesettings.xml. :confused:

OpenELEC Mediacenter - OpenELEC Forum - Topic: 24p Audio Delay (1/1)
 
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dhts

Established Member
The delay is included in the latest builds but is not needed as they have improved the sync in any case so my reading of what you're supposed to do now is to manually overwrite the delay by setting it to 0.

Don't ask me what I've done but my nuc is now behaving itself and whereas yesterday a needed -375 I now need 0 which is what I expect.

It's annoying me that I can't track what I did to fix it. I've no theories at all !
 

steelman1991

Prominent Member
He He a PC with a mind of its own - they all have it - glad its sorted for you.
 

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