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Sweetspot Experiences

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by KraGorn, Dec 23, 2003.

  1. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    I thought maybe a new thread would be useful to accumulate experiences with this new card.

    Preliminary comments: a jumper :eek: ... I thought we'd left jumpers back in the stone-age. No big deal I think, once set no doubt it can be forgotten.

    WRONG. :(

    While unpacking the cards an e-mail comes in notifying of a problem which means that the latest version of D-Scaler apparently won't recognise the card, you have to go back to an older version supplied with the card .. one can only hope someone is working on a fix to ensure we can apply updates to D-Scaler in the future.

    On the positive side, well done to them for sending that e-mail notification of problems, rather than lettting the unsuspecting user discover it doesn't work and then have to go hunting for help. :smashin:

    However, I digress, also included on this e-mail is this note:

    "Remember that if you are using the RGBS SweetSpot Scart cable then you must set the jumper to ''Separated Sync', otherwise the picture will be visible but unstable. If you are using SweetSpot for component video however, the jumper must be set to 'Sync on Y/G'."

    So, one setting for RGB another for component and one can't switch between without opening up the box to change the jumper. At first sight this seems like it could become a PITA if one had component and RGB feeds one wanted to alternate between, I don't at present so it's not a big deal right now but come on chaps, jumpers went out of fashion in the mid'90s.

    X-Card: no documentation

    Absolutely no info supplied just the card in the box and nothing to indicate where documentation can be acquired, my guess this is an OEM version.

    Luckily, the afore-mentioned e-mail contains the URL of Sweetspot's support page which in turn links to Simga's web site where the manual and software can be obtained .. would have been less disconcerting if this had been included with the card, or at the very least a note saying what needs to be acquired and where from. I had problems getting the software, Sigma's FTP server proved very stubborn to accept connections, in the end though 2 2Mb+ .ZIPs were acquired.


    Oh well, there IS a CD with the Sweetspot itself so I presume its' documentation is on there ... it seems obvious where this ribbon cable goes, but one likes to be sure.


    More later .. hopefully when I've got the bits and pieces installed. :)
     
  2. KraGorn

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    Realised I have a problem I didn't plan for. :(

    When I decided I wanted one of these I had an AE300, driven via VGA. I had planned on changing to DVI and connecting the X-Card to the VGA.

    Since then I've switched to a Z2 .. and on that the same DVI connector is used for both DVI and VGA. This means it's not simply a case of slecting the input via the remote, I'll have to continually swap cables. I don't fancy this at all, it'll wear down the plug/socket contacts and introduce dust which'll ulimately contaminate the contacts.

    I'm also not sure if the DVI->VGA converter plug I used to connect the DVI on my graphics card to the VGA on the Panny will work the other way round, ie. plugging the converter into the pj rather than the card ... are these things two-way, ie. there isn't an 'input' and 'output' on it, simply two different connector types with 'thru' connections?

    Dammit .. need to figure a plan B. :(
     
  3. Alex Simon

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    Hi Kragorn
    Thanks for pointing out that the Xcard packaging needs a note saying the software and installation guides are on the SweetSpot CD. It is an oversight and one that we can easily rectify.
    Just for the record - everything you need to get started is on the CD within the SweetSpot box.

    Forgive me if I misunderstand you about the VGA/DVI lead but under normal SweetSpot + Xcard usage (via the PDI interface) you would not need to take an output from Xcard at all.
    Dscaler shows the contents of the media being decoded through Xcard and therefore outputs through your Radeon DVI in the usual way.
    Only if you wish to connect more than one display (one via Radeon and one via the S-Video output from Xcard for example) would you need to connect anything other than the supplied ribbon cable to Xcard.

    Does that help?
    Or were you trying to achieve something else?

    Thanks
    Alex
     
  4. KraGorn

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    Oh right ... it's ME who misunderstands. :blush:

    To be honest I only glanced at documentation so far .. for some reason I thought the VGA connector on the X-Card was an OUTPUT to a monitor, there seemed to be a large number of inputs already on it. :) Other video processing/display cards I've had had such outputs and I simply presumed this was the same.

    Okay, I'll RTFM more carefully this time. ;)

    As for the X-Card packaging, again I leapt to a conclusion that since it was separately packaged and packed it was un-related in installation terms to the Sweetspot, hence it didn't occur to me to look on the Sweetspot CD for anything concerned with the X-Card.
     
  5. Alex Simon

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    You are correct about it being an output. In fact everything on the back of Xcard is an output.

    Xcard is a strange beast ;)
    It's primarily designed to behave as if you've got a standalone DVD player. There isn't even normally a way of viewing the decoded DVD on your desktop. You would normally just plug Xcard into your TV!

    It's output is apparently better than the S-video out of Radeon although my Radeon doesn't have this to test.

    It does also scale and output VGA and HDTV (via component). Again - not through your PC but kind of piggybacking on it and using your DVD drive and serial socket (for the remote.)

    As I said - it's a strange beast:D

    NOW - where does SweetSpot come in you ask?
    Luckily for all of us, Xcard also outputs via the PDI interface. SweetSpot accepts this signal and because it uses the Fusion Bt878A chip can output it to DScaler.

    Why not just use TheaterTek, I hear you say.
    Well, it's a good question.
    Firstly, Xcard is an extremely good Mpeg decoder in it's own right.
    Secondly, some people report video-based DVD decoding to be superior to TT.
    Thirdly, it's controllable via it's own remote control which works out of the box. (not everyone wants to buy a pronto or use a keyboard) I'm guessing that a lot of people here already have this sorted with TT however.
    Fourthly, Xcard is less dependent on a clean system. It was designed to be used in a normal PC environment with all the dynamic updates, web browsing, media players and games, etc.
    Fifthly (I'm on a roll:D) you can use many of the Xcard outputs (not VGA) simultaneously with PDI, allowing output to a a second display.

    YMMV

    It's worth noting that to get any sound output from Xcard you have to use it's own SPDIF out. Audio is not carried along the PDI interface. It does have an internal SPDIF too (and a loopthrough) so there are workarounds.

    Those of you who are interested in Xcard (or have bought one) should also check out Joveplayer (http://www.8dim.com) as an interesting addition.

    WRT the Xcard packaging, you were absolutely correct Kragorn, we need to make this clearer.

    Thank you for your input.
    Regards
    Alex
     
  6. KraGorn

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    Hmmm .. much to contemplate. :)

    I'd forgotten much of that detail, but I do now remember what either you or David told me about the X-Card and the reason I went for it ... the ability to use an alternative to TheaterTek and for an alternative way to output DVDs.

    I'm hoping to try installing them tomorrow, bit late now ... off to read the manual I just printed out. :D

    BTW, I came across Jove off a Google link when I was researching the X-Card .. something else I intend to look into using.
     
  7. David PluggedIn

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    Hi KraGorn

    regarding the jumper issue, we dont see that it will be that much of a problem in everyday use, as we suspect that many users will be using RGB from consoles, DVD players, set top boxes etc in to a scart switcher, and then using their SweetSpot to process the output. The most common boxes with component outputs in Europe are DVD players, and again in Europe you often get RGB on those devices, and in any case with an HTPC you would expect to use the HTPC for DVD playback (either via a software DVD player or using an Xcard via PDI in to SweetSpot)

    Agreed that jumpers are an older technology, but remember this is a very low volume, highly specialised market, so to bring a high quality product to market at an affordable price certain decisions always have to be made. We truly believe that it was the right decision to focus entirely on performance at the expense of some minor convenience features.
    Also consider that even if it was software selectable without a jumper to change, you would still need some manual cable swapping/switching to alternate between component and RGB input.

    HOWEVER, if people do want to have multiple input types (RGB and Component) simultaneously, with no cable swapping and all under software control then there is always the option of running multiple SweetSpot cards :)

    Picture quality? nobody has mentioned this yet but the first customer feedback regarding this has been extremely positive - just waiting permission from the customer to quote them directly and/or get them to post their feedback on the forums.

    regards
     
  8. Mr.D

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    Well got mine fired up last night.
    Excellent picture quality. Best input I've had for Dscaler: better than the Xcapture card I was using before and prior to that the IDS Falcon.

    No visible noise. No chroma delay error ( you'd think not with it being RGB but its nice to confirm it).

    As discussed I had to roll back from Dscaler 4.18. ( slight pain but I'm sure the Dscaler guys will carry over the implimentation of the sweetspot as an option in the newer versions). The 4.17 version is a custom version I suspect??

    I've got quite a few odds and ends on my HTPC these days and initially going through the hardware set-up in Dscaler would lock the machine when I selected the sweetspot for the BT878 detected card. Much grinding of teeth later I had a brainwave.

    I have a nebula card in the PC which also has an analogue capture stage: maybe this first BT878 card wasn't the sweetspot??

    Yep! selected standard BT878 for the first detected card. Next card was another BT878. This one was the sweetspot and it installed into Dscaler fine. Followed by my trusty Xcapture card.

    The sweetspot calibrated fine using a THXoptimode pattern and the default settings on the overlay were close but needed the brightness dropped slightly.

    Overall thumbs up!
    I feel I need to investigate some of the advanced settings : with regard to the luminence range and crush settings but its hard to tell on a plasma screen anyway!
     
  9. KraGorn

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    What are you feeding it with Kieth?

    I'm stuck doing chores for a while, probably won't get to play till later or maybe even Friday. :(

    True, but at least it wouldn't involve opening the case and pulling the card .. if a software-controlled switch is a problem then a micro-switch on the back-plate would work without affecting signal quality.
     
  10. Mr.D

    Mr.D
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    Feeding it RGBS from a nokia ondigital box with a mark grant mains cable mod on it. This is being passed through a dvd player and a RGB to svideo convertor ( the RGB pass through on the convertor now going to the sweetspot: the svideo now feeds a plasma direct rather than going to the Xcapture). Cabling wise its a bit messy ( if you look behind the cabinet!) but it does mean I can switch between all my RGB sources ( Xbox , PS2, ondigital box, dvd player) and additionally the svideo output from the convertor allows the plasma to be used direct without the HTPC required ( handy for the wife and kids).

    ABing the Dscalered freeview box verses the nebula digitv card in the HTPC shows very few differences. ( deinterlacing with Dscaler is better but the digiTv is still a bit sharper and has a little more usable contrast: sort of expected from an analogue vs digital direct signal).

    This is great for recording with the digiTV and watching an alternative station via th ondigital box.

    For video based material ( music concerts mostly) its still a benefit to watch via Dscaler from my dvd player rather than use Theatertek as Dscaler makes a better job of deinterlacing messy stuff ( of course!).
     
  11. KraGorn

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    Sadly this is not working for me. :(

    I have an NTL STB which has a SCART delivering RGB, as far as I know though I'm hardly an expert, I have selected RGB in the STB's setup, it's connected to my Tosh 28WS and that's set for AV mode for the socket the STB's connected to.

    I have several problems with the Sweetspot using the supplied SCART->RGB cable.

    1. Windows XP asks to install drivers at every boot. This is because the instruction in step 2 of the instructions in Chapter 3 say "Click Cancel for all". This is WRONG. If you click Cancel at this point XP will only ignore this new hardware for this boot, re-boot and it complains again. You need to click "Next", then select "Do not go to the Internet" and click "Next". You now get to a dialog with a checkbox which tells it NOT to ask in future, getting to this page now stops future complaints.

    However, this causes another problem ...

    2. Whereas before doing step 1 DScaler found the Sweetspot it now complains it can't find it, even though I can select it in the File menu and it gets a signal because behind the large "Cannot detect hardware" dialog is a moving picture!


    I made one basic mistake in not selecting PAL .. silly me, even though Windows is configured for UK the programmers decided by default I'd have an NTSC signal. :(

    The picture still isn't usable, I now have a single 4:3 image vertically centred but scrolling slowling right to left, at the same time going from normal brightness to dark and back again as it moves. It's also offset vertically, ie. the bottom 40% of the picture is at the top and the top 60% at the bottom.

    I've run out of menu settings to fiddle with .. what next?
     
  12. KraGorn

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    Next problem the X-Card.

    Run DScaler, select PDI and get a blue screen .. of course I will, I've no signal yet. :)

    So, go to the CD and try to run SETUP.EXE from DISK1 of the X-Card 'Application' folder .. get a dialog saying it can't detect the card and will assume a "Hollywood Plus".

    Tried running the BTInstaller as told to, select RS BT, and the software seemed to be installed but still no joy.

    Now realise that the installation instructions for the Sweetspot in chapter 3 which told me to CANCEL out of the installation of course MUSTN'T be done when XP detects the X-Card, 'cos now I have no drivers for the X-Card installer to find, however the documentation for the Sweetspot says 'Cancel' out of ALL, not allowing for the fact that you may have added both cards at once.

    :rolleyes:

    Well installing drivers simply installed an MPEG decoder, running the application setup STILL says it can't find the board or driver. Brick-wall time, I see nowhere to go for info on this, nor any idea what's supposed to happen.


    But there's a complete show-stopper for me using this product: the remote control, one of the main reasons I bought it so I had remote control over my DVD playback separate from TheaterTek, uses a COM port.

    What?? :eek:

    COM was ditched ages ago on PCs, my HCPC has none, in my naivety I have expected it to use current-generation tech. like USB or even Firewire .. or else connect to the X-Card itself.

    So even if I manage to install the drivers (HOW is another matter of course) I can't use the software because there's no remote.

    This is turning into a very tedious and frustrating experience. It's my own fault I guess, I'm out of practice buy old-generation products. Right now it seems like I've poured £300 down the pan, what a way to waste a Boxing Day afternoon. :(
     
  13. KraGorn

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    Two hous later:

    Well I concede defeat, I've restored an image taken before I started this afternoon, it has to be one of the most frustrating installation attempts I can recall, and Lord knows there have been enough of those.

    I followed the instructions to the letter and the Sweetspot does NOT work with an NTL STB, I cannot rectify the scrolling picture nor get it so that the top is at the top.

    As far as the X-Card is concerned, I don't know how I'm supposed to install the drivers, I don't know which of the two devices is which when it comes to telling XP to install drivers for one and not for the other. I can't get the installer to do anything other than default to Hollywood Plus, which clearly doesn't work.


    Right now I have two useless cards and cable and a £300 hole in my bank balance to show for it. I take my hat off to any users who have made it work because it's damned-well defeated me. :mad:
     
  14. bccsl

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    KraGorn,
    I've got the sweetspot and the Xcard both working fine, glorious picture. The RGB is being fed from a v1 Pace Sky+. Concerning that connection do you have all four cables connected, the three RGB RCA plugs and the S-vid into S-vid1 if the S-vid is not connected I get the same effect as your taking about split unstable picture. It's the S-vid feed it gets the syncronization signal from.
    As for installing the Xcard drivers remove any reference to Holywood plus MPEG decoders and so-forth out of the Device manger and reboot when the system detects new hardware point it at the approriate folder on the sweetspot CD it should then auto-install the right ones, once finished it should be listed as a 'Sigma Designs Xcard MPEG Decoder'. Don't give up just yet the payoff is well worth it.
     
  15. gyre

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    Has anybody tried using it with any variety of capturing software? virtualVCR? virtualdub? etc?

    Or any of the PVR-like software?

    I know this isn't its primary focus... but it is the one I'm more interested in :)

    -- gyre --
     
  16. KraGorn

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    No I didn't have the S-video connetor connected to S-video 1, I presumed it was an alternative method of feeding the card instead of RGB out of the same SCART, I had no reason to think it should be .. did I miss some documentation somwhere?

    I'm not sure I got the same effect as you regarding the X-Card. After installing the MPEG 'drivers' I saw no mention of them in Device Manager .. I DID see some reference to the 'BT' drivers from BTINSTALL IIRC but nothing marked 'Sigma' something. Also I don't recall seeing 'Hollywood' anything in there. :confused: However, by the time I was battling with that I was already totally ****ed-off with the whole damned thing so I wasn't being too careful on checking things I guess.

    I've reverted my system back to the state it was in before I wasted Friday afternoon, when/IF I get in the mood for another battle I'll give it a go using the help you've given me.

    Appreciate the help .. God I hate PCs. :D
     
  17. JohnAd

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    Yes the code has been merged into the main version of Dscaler, but I've there are quite a few differences (hopefully all improvemenrts) in the code and so it will probaly need a fair amount of testing.

    John
     
  18. David PluggedIn

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    Hi Kragorn
    Sorry you are having installation difficulties. If you can email us the specification of your machine, and we will check the installation instructions for that environment on Monday.

    We werent checking the forums on Boxing Day so did not see the issues you were having - however we did have mobile email though so dropping a line at the usual address would have got a response and saved you a lot of time!

    As others have said though - stick with it, the picture is well worth it.

    regards
     
  19. Madders

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    Hi David,

    Just wondered when I can expect my card to be shipped?

    Cheers,

    Steve
     
  20. philipb

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    Took me a while to discover you had to have the s-video connected to get a stable picture - not intuitive guys! But here's the weird thing - I can't get a stable picture using the s-video on the supplied scart/RGB cable, I have to use a separate s-video connnected between the s-video out on the Sky+ box and s-video 1 on the Sweetspot.

    PQ is good - still need to experiment with the dscaler settings to se if I can get any improvement.
     
  21. Alex Simon

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    Hi Philipb
    The Mini-din plug on the SweetSpot cable doesn't carry an S-Video signal (nor can it).

    It is solely designed for RGBS signals. (your Sky box will be able to output this) The separate Sync (the S in RGBS) is taken from composite and is carried over 2 pins of the mini-din plug.

    This is also carrying a normal Composite signal and this can be accessed by selecting "Composite 1 over S-Video 1" in the DScaler inputs menu. (this is handy if you've got a VCR looped through your Sky box.)

    To take an S-Video signal into SweetSpot while the RGB cable is connected you would connect it to Mini-din 2 (the furthest from the RCA sockets).

    Hope that helps
    Regards
    Alex
     
  22. Madders

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    Hi, I received my Sweetspot card this morning, so thanks for that. I am confused as to how to connect up the cable for component input. I have a Chord Company scart to component cable (terminating with R,G,B and Sync, all RCA plugs.) How do I connect the sync to the s-video "sync" socket? Does the scart to component cable you sell on your website have an s-video plug on the sync cable? I couldn't tell from the picture on your website.

    Thanks,

    Steve
     
  23. David PluggedIn

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    Hi Steve
    For component you simply need 3 connections to the SweetSpot card, so it should work with just the R,G and B connections as standard. However the cable that you describe sounds like an RGBS, which is different.
    What is the source device that you are trying to connect?
     
  24. Madders

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    Hi David,

    It's for my version 1 sky+ box.

    Thanks,

    Steve
     
  25. David PluggedIn

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    Hi Steve
    Ok, in that case your choices are
    1] plug a standard SVideo cable in to the SVideo output of Sky+ and in to either SVideo 1 or Svideo 2 on SweetSpot, Sky+ can be in either RGB or PAL mode - it makes no difference as the dedicated SVideo output is always on.

    2] add an adaptor to the end of the Chord cable to deliver the sync component on to SVideo connector 1 on the SweetSpot, and then run the Sky+ in RGB mode. Also ensure that you select RGB in DScaler and that the jumper is set to seperated sync on the SweetSpot.

    I just re-read your post btw and the cable that we sell is specifically for what you are trying to do, it is not component (Sky dont have this on their STBs anyway), it is Scart to RGBS, so works with pretty much any UK/European device that outputs RGB via SCART.

    All the best
     
  26. Madders

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    Hi David,

    I got it working! Thanks for your help. Initial impressions are good, improved picture over pc tv-100 card I was using. I will have to tweak the dscaler settings and let you know my thoughts after using it for a few days.

    Many thanks,

    Steve
     
  27. Madders

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    One thing I have noticed, (running from HTPC via 15 pin VGA cable to Panny 6 plasma) is more digital artifacts/ more obvious colour banding. Can anyone suggest ways to improve this or dscaler filters to improve things?

    Thanks,

    Steve
     
  28. MattB

    MattB
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    Is the pinout of the PDI interface listed any where or will I have to buzz it out?

    I plan to get a Sweetspot card soon (how is availability?) and attempt a direct CCIR-656 connection from my DV-444. If this works I will make up an LVDS based driver-receiver to transmit CCIR-656 ~5m over shielded CAT5 (like SDI only very cheap).

    Has anyone already tried it? I read about a few similar experiments on AVS but it was obvious that most of them had no experience with high speed signals.
     
  29. Kramer

    Kramer
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    Very interesting stuff.

    I happen to have a DV-444 myself. Never knew you could do such. Any links/further info about this?

    :smoke:
     
  30. Alex Simon

    Alex Simon
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    I take it you mean that SweetSpot is revealing more of the SKY artifacts in which case a there is very little you can do.
    One thing that I have noticed since receiving SweetSpot is the huge variety in the quality of SKY broadcasts.

    We've been doing some experiments with the Netgem freeview box here at Pluggedin.tv and most of the time it is superior when fed a good signal. Even the internally generated menus look cleaner than the SKY ones.

    Only the very best of the main channels seem to get high bitrates on SKY and even then not all the time.

    BTW if I misunderstood you and you meant you thought there was a problem then please give further details about your setup.

    Cheers
    Alex
     

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