Urgent - MCE HTPC about to be launched out the window!

Discussion in 'Microsoft Windows' started by baldrick, Apr 23, 2007.

  1. baldrick

    baldrick
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    I've built an HTPC and I'm having problems with MCE. TV recordings often end up jumping and skipping and are completely unwatchable.

    Machine specs:

    Gigabyte GA-81945P Motherboard
    Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz CPU
    1GB (2 x 512MB) Crucial RAM
    Asus 7600GT 256MB GPU
    200GB Seagate Barracuda SATA HDD
    EDIT - 2 x Hauppauge WinTV-Nova-t PCI tuners

    What is the minimum RAM/HDD space required for trouble free MCE operation? The Giga-Byte mobo will support 4GB RAM so would an extra pair of 1GB DIMMs help the situation?

    Any suggestion will be hugely appreciated.....

    EDIT - Current RAM specs: DDR2 PC2-5300 • CL=5 • UNBUFFERED • NON-ECC • DDR2-667 • 1.8V • 64Meg x 64 - Should additional RAM be 5300 or can I use 6400?
     
  2. MacBurp

    MacBurp
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    Do you defrag the disk regularly? I've read this is a major cause of stuttering video (I've never had the problem myself). I use Diskkeeper to defrag files as they are created, works well.

    regards,
    Paul
     
  3. Stiggy

    Stiggy
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    I'd head over to the Hauppauge forums too.

    Does it skip on live TV, recorded, or both? Your spec looks fine. I'd be inclined to take one of the TV cards out temporarily; both to look at hardware conflicts, plus to make sure you are not diluting the TV signal by feeding it to both cards.
     
  4. baldrick

    baldrick
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    Each card has a direct feed from my distribution amp which in turn has a perfect feed from the aerial so there's no issue on the signal front!

    It tends to be recorded TV and I have a feeling it might be down to badly fragmented drives. I've cleared out 150GBs of static media files to external HDDs so I now have a freshly defragged 150GB for TV recordings. Lets see if that solves the problem?

    I might dump another GB or so of RAM in there for good measure....
     
  5. baldrick

    baldrick
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    I've also had Raxco PerfectDisk recommended to me?
     
  6. rcadey

    rcadey
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    baldrick - what MPEG2 decoder are you using and do you have any other codecs installed??

    rob
     
  7. baldrick

    baldrick
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    I'm sure it's nVidia's PureVideo? Other codecs I'm not sure, what's the easiest way to check?

    I must confess I'm half considering a fresh install with the absolute bare minimum: MCE, drivers, purevideo and possibly Transcode 360 to stream ripped DVDs to my 360...
     
  8. jon_c0

    jon_c0
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    You can look at your installed decoders, and set a preferred one for MCE, using the free Microsoft Decoder Checkup Utility.

    If you're using the PureVideo decoder with default settings, this also might be useful.
     
  9. baldrick

    baldrick
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    Thanks, I'll have a look this evening!

    I know it's jumping the gun a bit, but how does one improve the recording quality of MCE? I saw something online that said at 'best' quality MCE should use 3GB/hour, but I can't see anywhere in the MCE settings to change this?

    At the moment 136GB is showing as 100+ hours recording time....
     
  10. jon_c0

    jon_c0
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    As I understand it, DVB-T tuners don't apply any sort of compression at all - effectively what you get is entirely determined by the broadcast bit-rate so, in this respect, you're already getting the best quality picture you can in terms of what you're receiving; bit-rate can vary quite dramatically between channels e.g. "BBC One" typically high, "The Hits" typically low. I would guess that your problems relate more to one or more of MPEG decoder settings, reception and/or general graphics issues.
     
  11. MacBurp

    MacBurp
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    You need to tweak the registry for this - take a look at (in MCE2005) -

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Service\Recording

    this key defines video and audio encoding rates.

    You should get the Hauppauge Tweak tool as well, have a play with that.

    Last, there is a value in the registry called 'DefAvgBitRate'. Its set as default at 20000000. Tweaking this up to 40000000 or more will have a bigger impact on pq.

    regards,
    Paul
     
  12. jon_c0

    jon_c0
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    Interesting...didn't know that. Do you get real visible improvements when "upping" the defaults? I might be tempted to have a fiddle about... I vaguely remember having the Tweak Tool installed before, but came to the conclusion I couldn't see any change when using the BDA drivers under MCE.
     
  13. baldrick

    baldrick
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    I'll have a look for the link but I definately saw a Microsoft document that detailed picture quality v storage? The DVB cards may output a fixed stream but surely the recorder can take from that what it wants?
     
  14. jon_c0

    jon_c0
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    Judging by MacBurp's comments above, you're absolutely right.
     
  15. baldrick

    baldrick
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    FYI - I use the PureVideo decoder because it was recommended based on the premise that it will output and SP-DIF audio signal from my mobo...
     
  16. jon_c0

    jon_c0
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    I would say that the PureVideo decoder is the correct choice for you - seeing as you're using 7600GT you'll be correctly leveraging any NVidia based acceleration supplied, although I believe PowerDVD, WinDVD et al. make use of this GPU support too? I would say it's worth looking at the PureVideo detinterlacing settings whilst viewing stuff (as linked above) to see if that's where your problems lie... I know that it made a big difference for me, although I'm now using PowerDVD as it at least advertises acceleration support for my onboard Intel-based graphics.
     
  17. nigelbb

    nigelbb
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    You cannot change the recording quality of DVB. The tuner simply takes the MPEG2 transport stream & writes it to disk. Playback is thus identical to broadcast.

    Tweaking the deinterlace settings for the Nvidia decoder is just that. Tweaking. You shouldn't expect dramatic changes unless they have been set wrong in the first place. What you are describing is real problem. I would suspect either some Windows weirdness that will be fixed by a reinstall or a hardware problem such as an IRQ conflict.
     
  18. baldrick

    baldrick
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    Just because the DVB card is outputing X bits/second does not mean Windows records them all. Surely Windows could apply compression to increase storage capacity and decrease PQ?
     
  19. nigelbb

    nigelbb
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    That's simply not the way that it works. To take an MPEG2 file & recompress to a different bit rate on the fly just using software would require too much CPU power. The MCE supported analogue TV capture cards have a hardware encoder chip that offloads the CPU.

    It is possible to achieve what you want (smaller file sizes) but by processing the file after recording e.g. use 'Crunchie' to convert to DivX http://www.xpmediacentre.com.au/community/crunchie/
     
  20. baldrick

    baldrick
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    I don't want to compress the video, I just want to ensure that it's recording at the highest quality possible as the PQ through the HTPC doesn't appear to be 100%
     
  21. nigelbb

    nigelbb
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    Sorry I thought that's what you wanted to do as you said "Surely Windows could apply compression to increase storage capacity and decrease PQ?" & I replied that it can't. Your DVB-T programmes are being recorded at highest quality.

    "Jumping & skipping unwatchable video" is what you describe & that is caused by some severe fundamental error that a bit of tweaking like changing the DVD decoder will not fix. Your system is well specified & the problem won't be caused by disk fragmentation either. As I said earlier I would suspect either some Windows weirdness that will be fixed by a reinstall or a hardware problem such as an IRQ conflict.
     
  22. baldrick

    baldrick
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    Nigel, I've stupidly merged to topics!! The jerking/skipping is a problem I'm experiencing time to time during playback of TB programs recorded on the HTPC.

    I then threw the whole recording quality into the mix as I saw this:

    How many hours of TV can I store on my Media Center PC?
    Media Center offers four levels of recording quality—Fair, Good, Better, and Best. The quality level affects the amount of disk space needed: the higher the quality level, the larger the recorded TV file, and the more disk space needed.

    The approximate amount of disk space that each recording level will consume is:

    * Fair: 1 GB/hour
    * Good: 2 GB/hour
    * Better: 2.5 GB/hour
    * Best: 3 GB/hour


    http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/evaluation/faq.mspx

    I need to resolve the jumping issue first, then I want to ensure I'm getting the best PQ possible from the system....
     
  23. mannyo

    mannyo
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    These settings apply to analogue recording only, as already stated when you use DVB these settings are not available and whats written to the disk is bit identical to what the broadcaster sent.

    The stuttering problem could be caused by a number of things, I had a stutter problem that bugged me and in the end it was the performance of the hard drive (windows paging, and other o/s overheads). I added another drive that is used only for the recorder storage and stutter is gone.

    Spec wise your system is fine, indeed mine is less powerful and performs perfectly well.
     

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