Not sure where to start

Stilez

Novice Member
I need help to narrow down what I need, and get my jumbled thoughts sorted out. I've got an idea what I want and the skill to build and configure stuff which helps. I haven't much real idea what I'm actually looking for or what software to look at.

The house is gigabit wired. There's a modern Windows 8 based server that's overpowered and underused; it currently plays video files/DVD/BR/audio (via standard audio/HDMI outputs) in the living room. Right now that's all it does, we've never looked into more. I want to add digital TV/streaming/PVR/HTPC capabilities and probably choose some suitable media/TV/PVR (client/server?) software. The hardware's easy - it's about to get a TBS6281 dual DBV-T/T2 card as soon as I know what else to set up with it.

People in the house mainly watch the standard UK free TV/radio channels. Frankly I don't even have more than a vague idea what's usually watched (I'm not a TV watcher, I'm doing this for the family, hence my problem!). I think at the moment they watch and sometimes record broadcast TV/radio (usual Freeview stuff, BBC + other TV, BBC radio, etc) and saved media (video files, MP3, DVD/CD/BR). I don't think that will change.

The "shopping list" shows my confusion. The kind of features they need include -
  1. Use as TV substitute for LAN computers: People at computers round the house would like to use their computers as a TV+digital radio substitute and not be tied to the rooms with TV. This includes watching DVD/saved media/PVR and live TV across the LAN, ideally using a single unified interface.
  2. Usual TV/video/PVR capabilities: People want whatever is "usual" in TV/video capabilities -- the usual "whats on" and TV guides, watching TV (P-in-P would help), record "live" or set off TV/radio, or record multiple programs or in advance, using the TV card/server.
  3. Different PCs watching different stuff at same time: Different people often want to watch different programmes or media from others, at the same time.
  4. Different PCs watching same stuff at same time (sync. viewing): But also, people in different rooms often want to watch the same TV or media, sort of streamed across the LAN "in sync", if possible. (Ie, if playback can be streamed, or clients can view a video, in such a way that multiple clients see the same in sync whether the stream is playing or stopped.) Example situation, some people watching in the living room, others are watching in the kitchen while making a meal, or it's paused in one room, they don't want to miss it or get "out of sync" whenever they walk between the two rooms.
  5. PVR/recording on the server not on each PC: TV/radio recording ideally centralised and handled by the server. That way, if someone sets a program to record, the recording isn't done on their own PC/laptop (which might be off, out of the house, heavily in use, low battery, inadequate CPU, low disk space or whatever). It'll also mean we can see what's been set to record and manage it all in one place which is easier. I understand a DBV card lets you watch and record multiple programmes on the same demux or channel, will that help us?
  6. Monitor recording/scheduling from LAN PCs: People will want to monitor PVR from their own PCs, to check what's recording or scheduled, or watch a PVR recording (P-in-P) along with a live programme.
  7. Advert skipping/scheduling change handling: Ideally some kind of advert skipping option, and also handles or at least notifies us if programme times change for something set to record.
  8. Bitrate/quality setting: Also ideally, we'd like to be able to set the bitrate/quality "per recording" (for some things, high quality matters more than size, others it doesn't), and perhaps if there's a choice of recording/container format, that would be nice too.
  9. Subtitles: Some video files have .srt or .sub subtitles, so it needs to be able to handle those.
  10. Watching 1st half while 2nd half still recording: Ability to begin watching a programme while it's still recording (ie if we come in the door 20 mins after a programme started recording, we can begin watch from the part already recorded, even while the 2nd half is still being broadcast and recorded.
  11. Media library: Needs to handle a large-ish media library for saved media (and not be sluggish!)
  12. Software quality/interface stuff: The software needs to be reasonably reliable, stable and good quality, actively developed, hopefully not proprietary rubbish/bloat. It needs a sort of "niceness" or polish to the interface, and good quality playing and recording. I can configure it technically, and any customising needed, but it's got to work smoothly for everyone. It also needs to have an interface that works well in a desktop window as well as full screen, so someone can have it on, or check the TV guide, in the corner of their monitor while browsing or whatever.
  13. Mobile/web? Some kind of basic web-based interface or Android/iDevice client, to let people set/check recordings or view the TV guide when away from their PC. (If there is a media client for Android/iDevices that works with it, so people can watch moving round the house, that'd be pretty useful.)
  14. CD/DVD/media and external devices: Ideally handles playing/streaming CD/DVD/BR across the network as easily as it plays/streams live TV or saved media files. I can't rule out DLNA or external USB devices, but we don't have any DLNA audio devices at the moment and USB device handling (eg friends' iStuff) might be standard on all HTPC.

I don't have a software preference yet, except to avoid Windows Media Player. Crossplatform (including mobile/tablet) would be nice but isn't essential. Open source would be nice but also not essential. Being actively developed and enduring is pretty important. I've heard of MediaPortal, Argus TV, TVHeadEnd, MythTV, XMBC, VideoLAN, DVBViewer, NextPVR, Media Player Classic, but that's a lot to check out. I also don't know whether I still need the TV card manufacturer's software as well, or if the HTPC software uses the drivers directly and replaces it.

Beyond the list above, I don't really know which features are common or rare, or if they are poorly implemented in some HTPC client/server s/w. I don't really even know what else I ought (probably) to consider looking for.

It's a bit of a "shopping list" right now. I'm lost what to choose, as I don't watch TV much. Please help me onto the right path!
 
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D

Deleted member 39241

Guest
It sounds like a very good project, good luck!

You won't need the TV card manufacturers software, just the software that you choose as your TV Server, and the manufacturers drivers.

All of the software that you mention will probably do what you want, you may just have to trial some of it to see which you like, and which your family like.

I use Argus TV on my server, and MediaPortal 1 on all my clients.

That isn't a very cross platform solution, all my devices use Windows, and I do have separate movie / tv databases on all my clients which is quite illogical, but not a problem as I use Trakt to keep them all synced. New media gets auto scraped with no user input required, other than to use conventional naming methods on any new files added to ensure that they are in all the databases correctly.

For software that maintains one central media database that you can access via different clients, you can try MediaPortal 2 (not sure if that works with Argus TV yet) MP2 is still a development product, I have only had a brief look but not used it properly. Also, Plex and MediaBrowser are popular, and I believe they are more multi platform with a centralised database server. Again, I am not sure if Argus can work with them. It does work with xbmc I believe, and I think that is more multi platform. You could have different client solutions I guess, depending on the device it is running on, and give you a chance to try out the different types.

Be aware of quality, things like how the media is presented, what sort of skins are available, whether auto scraping works well, auto refresh rate changing so that the media playback is smooth. There is an issue with getting 5.1 audio out of certain Freeview HD broadcasts. MediaPortal can do this via WASAPI / MediaPortal audio renderer. This is a bit of a niche issue, as hardly any Freeview HD shows have 5.1 audio, but Doctor Who does, and some sport (Wimbledon).
 
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MonkeyJug

Active Member
I have a gigabit wired network and an overpowered windows 8.1 server too!

It runs 24/7. It has 30TB of storage and has FlexRAID installed. It also has a Quad tuner TBS S2 card which provides Freesat to all the rooms and laptops around the house allowing any channel, TV Show, movie, or recording to be viewed at any given time anywhere in the house on any device. I can also record from any client and it will save directly onto the server and any other client can access that recording on the fly - even my OpenELEC client in the garage. I can pause a movie, goto another room and carry on watching from where I left off. It has Subsonic and Air Video installed so I can listen to my music and watch my media when away from hime. It also has Couchpotato, Sickbeard, and SABnzbd installed automatically grabbing all the latest movies and TV shows and automatically renaming/grabbing artwork/ placing in the correct folders etc. It really is a joy to behold...

The single piece of software and single plugin that holds all this together?

MediaPortal and DJBlus Customs Sky EPG grabber. I cannot recommend this setup enough as it will absolutely do everything you want and a whole lot more...

My advice: if you have a sky dish already installed, then grab an S2 card over a T2 card. You can only use DJBlus EPG grabber with an S2 card, plus you can (in theory) record or watch ten channels at the same time for each tuner you have, so a quad tuner would allow you to watch/record 40 channels simultaneously...
 
I can also record from any client and it will save directly onto the server and any other client can access that recording on the fly - even my OpenELEC client in the garage. I can pause a movie, goto another room and carry on watching from where I left off. It has Subsonic and Air Video installed so I can listen to my music and watch my media when away from hime. It also has Couchpotato, Sickbeard, and SABnzbd installed automatically grabbing all the latest movies and TV shows and automatically renaming/grabbing artwork/ placing in the correct folders etc. It really is a joy to behold...

Maybe you could make an upload a video showing all that at work on the client side as it would much better understanding all of that instead of trying to visualize it from what you wrote?

Which client do you recommend can play the most amount of file types as well as streaming live tv and viewing a 14 day epg and scheduling recording, I have used many but none of them can do everything.

Example Files types that most clients have issues supporting.

MKV (VC1 + True HD)
MKV (MPEG2 + 5.1 FLAC)
TS (4K / 60P HEVC + HE-AAC)

plus you can (in theory) record or watch ten channels at the same time for each tuner you have

Is that not 10 Channels on the same Transponder?

On a side note I have tried out most of the media center software, eg.. PLEX, Boxee, XBOX, Mediaportal Windows MCE, and they all have their flaws, not of them do everything, the best software I have found so far that plays everything is DVB Viewer but that does not have a front end.

Many times I have tried media portal after all the recommendations and endless configuring I think it's very overated, requires too much configuration and even after all the time spent with it can't even get it to support DVB-S2 Tuner with CI Module + CAM.
 

MonkeyJug

Active Member
MediaPortal with LAV filters plays everything I've thrown at it. Can't vouch for 4K content as I have no need to try. DJBlu's EPG is years ahead of Sky's native EPG with a gazillion options for recording who, what, where and when.

Each if my clients run MePo (apart from the Revo in the garage) and they are all essentially a mirror image of my master server, right down go the frontend artwork.

And yeah, it can record/view all channels from a single transponder with just one tuner...

Also, there is no denying MePo is tricky to setup, especially when you start tinkering with the TV aspect, but it is so worth it. Nothing can touch it at the minute though IMHO...
 
As I mentioned in the previous post could you make a video on your client, browsing the epg in media portal and scheduling recording and just showing what you can do with your setup.
 

MonkeyJug

Active Member
Like this?

 
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Doz007

Well-known Member
Wow! 30TB's of storage and the ability to record 40 channels simultaneously whilst still having access to your movie and music collection all from one interface, from any screen in the house!

Now that is a set up that I'd love to have, I'll have to get around to attempting something like that soon. Truly amazing, hats off to you MonkeyJug! :)

Best of luck with your build Stilez, keep us posted with your progress.
 

MonkeyJug

Active Member
Updated the video. It should be working now as it was set to private for some reason...
 

jaipal2004

Well-known Member
MonkeyJug.... What do you use for the TV backbend?

Was it a pain setting it all up? That's the only thing that scares me about MP!
 

MonkeyJug

Active Member

Doz007

Well-known Member
I use MediaPortal's own TV service. It is tricky to setup, but I posted a guide to get the TV part working a few weeks ago.

Setup MediaPortal with Sky/Freesat and DJBlu's amazing EPG Grabber in just 30 minutes! | AVForums

The rest is fairly straightforward if you follow Robbo100's sticky thread...

Thanks for the link, you've got me even more interested now! :)

What's the spec's of your server that is powering all this? Does it ever get bogged down and stuggle when all the TV's in the house are watching HD content?
 

MonkeyJug

Active Member
I have an i5-3570k and 16gig of RAM. It runs 24/7 in high performance mode. Never missed a beat in 2 years...
 

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