playing HD content

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 & 12.2 Speakers

doors666

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2008
Messages
1,782
Points
113
Location
bangalore
I have some 720p h.264 movies on my hard disk that I would like to see on my home theatre. I want to find out what is the cheapest option to see these.

I have the following infrastructure:

Panny PV8 (has vga and hdmi inputs)
Yamaha rxv 596 receiver (no hdmi, has optical and coaxial inputs)
samsung dvd p172 dvd player (no hdmi)

PC with core 2 duo 1.86 GHz, 3 GB RAM. On board display card with only VGA output, on board sound card, supports 5 channel output, it uses just three output points to give 5 channel, so I guess I would have to use Y cables? I would really not like to move my PC near the HT.

lenovo T60 laptop. Dual core cpu, 1 gb ram, this also has display with only vga and 2 channel output sound card. I could go with a USB to SPDIF external sound card that will do the job. Any cheap but good ones out there. This will give the digital out, which my receiver (both optical and coaxial) can take.
Is there a way to add an external display card also to the laptop that will give me HDMI out.

Is there a picture quality advantage in going with HDMI as compared to VGA.

If I can convert the H.264 to divx, can a upscaling dvd/divx player play these files at 702p. My current dvd player cant go beyong 576p, it doesnt even load the 720p files.

Another question, is there any software that does the upscaling of DVDs to 720p resolution? This can avoid me the cost of upgrading the dvd player.

Are there any dvd players that can play H264 movies from a dvd.

On my TV, will I be able to make out a clear, significant difference in 1080p Vs 720p. The native resolution of the TV is 1024x768.
 

Teja

New Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2007
Messages
171
Points
0
Location
Visakhapatnam / Chicago
On board display card with only VGA output, on board sound card, supports 5 channel output, it uses just three output points to give 5 channel, so I guess I would have to use Y cables? I would really not like to move my PC near the HT.

I would suggest that you go for a dedicated HTPC setup. You can assemble one to play Full-HD content for under 15K, with HDMI and SPDIF outputs. If that is not an option, then at the least update your Video & Audio cards.

VGA is analog, where as your Panny will perform optimally with digital input. You can get a cheap 128MB video card that has DVI (or HDMI) and get a DVI to HDMI cable. HDMI has the same video points as DVI, only in a smaller form factor and some additional points for audio.

For audio, your Yamaha will do a much better job of decoding Dobly/DTS streams than any software, and also takes the load off your CPU. So get a card that provides SPDIF or Optical outputs (or both).

I could go with a USB to SPDIF external sound card that will do the job. Any cheap but good ones out there. This will give the digital out, which my receiver (both optical and coaxial) can take.
Is there a way to add an external display card also to the laptop that will give me HDMI out.

Yeah, you could probably get an external USB SPDIF card - but it would cost the same as upgrading your PC audio card, if not more.

No there is no way to add an external display card to your laptop or pc. However there are Analog to Digital convertors that can convert your VGA output to HDMI - very expensive, usually used by media industry for converting old analog content into digital.

Is there a picture quality advantage in going with HDMI as compared to VGA.
Yes, definitely. When you use VGA, you are converting digital content (H264) into analog and then the Panny display or whatever device you use in bewteen has to convert the analog VGA input into digital again. This is a waste of processing power, and also this double conversion means there are losses in PQ, though it is debatable whether our naked eyes can notice it.

If I can convert the H.264 to divx, can a upscaling dvd/divx player play these files at 702p. My current dvd player cant go beyong 576p, it doesnt even load the 720p files.
No. AFAIK, none of the standalone DIVX players on the market are capable of playing HD content.

Another question, is there any software that does the upscaling of DVDs to 720p resolution? This can avoid me the cost of upgrading the dvd player.
Yes, pretty much any software DVD player can upsize/upscale the DVD to whatever size you want, provided your video card can support the output resolution. I can recommend PowerDVD or WinDVD. If you want to try some freeware, check out VLC Player, it is quite versatile in what it can do.

However you should note that your Panny has a native resolution of 720p, which means whatever content is given to it is automatically upscaled to 720p. Usually this upscaling in your costly TV is much better than what a cheapo DVD player can do. However, there are some DVD player that use better hardware and intelligence in upscaling content to provide a better output than what the TV does by itself. Of course, these DVD players are not cheap. I can only suggest is to compare built-in TV upscaling to software upscaling in PC to hardware upscaling in DVD player and go with whatever looks best to your eyes.

Are there any dvd players that can play H264 movies from a dvd.
No. H264 is a relatively new technology and hardware chips are still not available for decoding H264. I read that some chinese models are experimenting with it, so maybe we will see some soon. I would definitely like to see a standalone media player that has 500GB harddisk and can play Full-HD H264/x264 content.

On my TV, will I be able to make out a clear, significant difference in 1080p Vs 720p. The native resolution of the TV is 1024x768.
Depends on the quality of the content. For 1080p, ideal viewing distance is 1.5x the diagonal screen size, any further and you will not notice the PQ difference. Anyway, it is debatable whether full-hd is discernable at normal viewing distances for screen size under 50". I guess it would safe to say that you will not notice a "clear & significant" difference between 1080p vs 720p on your TV.

Plus, I am not sure if your Panny can even display True Full HD, I think it can only support upto 720p - and may not support 1080p, or down-converts it to fit its native resolution. Hope some Panny guru chimes in and corrects me if I am wrong.

Cheers
Teja
 
Last edited:

doors666

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2008
Messages
1,782
Points
113
Location
bangalore
Thanx for your help.

HTPC is ruled out for the moment.

On my laptop, I dont have DVI, cant upgrade the video card also. Too bad, for the time being, VGA will have to do.

For sound, will have to use a usb based sound card with spdif/opt/coaxial outputs. The quality of the sound card should be irrelevant as the sound card will not do any processing and will just pass the data through, right? I can go for the cheapest one available.
Can a 2 channel card that has digital outputs pass through 5.1 channel digital output data?

Where in bangalore can I buy sound cards. I went to SP road and some other shops on CMH road etc, but could not find external sound cards. All are selling internal ones only, if et al.
I would prefer to not spend more than 2.5k on this.
Usage: digital out for movies, to be connected to the AVR. Some two channel music also, mp3s on my altec lansing ATP3 speakers.

Thanx
 

Teja

New Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2007
Messages
171
Points
0
Location
Visakhapatnam / Chicago
Thanx for your help.

HTPC is ruled out for the moment.

On my laptop, I dont have DVI, cant upgrade the video card also. Too bad, for the time being, VGA will have to do.

For sound, will have to use a usb based sound card with spdif/opt/coaxial outputs. The quality of the sound card should be irrelevant as the sound card will not do any processing and will just pass the data through, right? I can go for the cheapest one available.
Can a 2 channel card that has digital outputs pass through 5.1 channel digital output data?

Where in bangalore can I buy sound cards. I went to SP road and some other shops on CMH road etc, but could not find external sound cards. All are selling internal ones only, if et al.
I would prefer to not spend more than 2.5k on this.
Usage: digital out for movies, to be connected to the AVR. Some two channel music also, mp3s on my altec lansing ATP3 speakers.

Thanx

Keep using the VGA till you can get DVI or HDMI. I just got a Samsung LCD and frankly I couldn't notice any difference in feeding it thru VGA vs feeding it thru DVI. So enjoy what you have.

Number of channels has no direct significance as digital or optical out will only pass-thru raw feed. So if the movie has Dolby Surround you will get 2.0, if it is Dolby EX then you will get 7.1 etc. You are partially right that the sound card is only passing through the raw-feed, but if the build quality is poor then it can add interference or noise to the feed. So go for a good quality item.

I am not familiar with Bangalore, so I cannot suggest you where to look for an external sound card. But have a look at this on eBay India
Creative Labs USB Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 Sound Card
It is over your budget, but you should be able to find something similar with lesser features for around 3K.

Or look at these examples on eBay.com
USB 6 Channel 5.1 External Sound Card
External 5.1 USB Sound Audio Box Card Adapter + Optical
USB 2.0 External 7.1-Channel Audio Sound Card
International shipping is Free ~ $10, so total would be ~ $30-$35 plus any taxes & customs duties. I have never bought on eBay from India, so I cannot tell you if it is feasible or not - maybe someone more knowledgeable will chirp in. But if you could, then it is well within your budget.

Good luck.
 

cmsajith

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2008
Messages
1,592
Points
63
Location
Cochin - Bangalore
You can use PowerDVD / Zoom Player with FFDShow (for upscaling normal DVDs) to run your HD contents. A Dual core processor with 1 GB ram is more than enough to read HD movie from harddisk.
You can use VGA cable to connect to ur PJ provided that it should be near to the PC. Since VGA is analogue, there are chances to have some interference. If you can run the cable far away from any supply lines and other interference, a VGA cable is more than enough. The advantage of HDMI / DVI is that its digital and it will not be affected by any interferences (here also the distance cannot be more than 10mtrs). In DVI also, analog / Digital / Dual are there. To get the optimum u need to connect DVI-I to HDMI. Personally, I would say there wont be any difference b/n VGA and HDMI, if VGA cable is protected from interference.
For sound, its better use some internal soundcards with spdif out (its better reduce the number of interconnects). Creative, MAudio are having good sound cards. In your budget, i think Audigy Value is there (not as good as professional cards, but will be a good upgrade from the inbuilt sound card)
 

doors666

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2008
Messages
1,782
Points
113
Location
bangalore
Since there are no external display cards and I plan to use my laptop, VGA will have to do till I get a HTPC. Shifting the desktop PC CPU to watch a movie is not worth the effort, even though I can have a better/cheaper display/sound card with that.

I wanted a clarification if the following 2 scenarios are same (picture quality vise) or not.
1. Use avidemux/VirtualDub or some other software to process and upscale the video signal. This will save a new copy of the movie with higher resolution. Play this movie with the regular player (powerdvd/vlc etc).

2. Play the movie with a regular player like vlc etc in full screen mode which will also upscale I believe.

Which of the above 2 give better picture quality. If its opption 1, which is a better software to do the conversion.

As you can see, my goal is to get a better picture quality without spending more cash. Just now bought a plasma tv and dont want to piss off my wife by spending more cash apart from what I can probably "adjust" from the monthly expenses/pocket money...

The problem is that the laptop I am planning to use (lenovo t61) has a horrible sound card and it only gives me a stupid headphone out. So I cant use all the great sounds in the movie as I only get stereo out (and that too sucks, I tried to use it, but just saw one movie and gave up). I dont want to get an expensive card in which most of the money is gone to put a better DAC, which is practically useless for my purposes.

If I could get something like a USB to optical or USB to coaxial converter (that could passthru dolby digital and dts), that would be ideal. I did see people doing a DIY on that, but still havent seen a product for this on google.

so far I am leaning towards the options teja has shown from ebay US. Anyone has any experience in buying from ebay US. Are the custom guys so nasty so as to charge duty on 30-50$ items also or are they generally not bothered. I know people have bought movies from amazon and never paid duty, atleast on single movie purchases.


Thanx for all your help guys.
 

moserw

New Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2008
Messages
3,288
Points
0
Location
Depends...
Hi doors666,

HTPC seems to be the best option as of now. Of course a standalone DVD/DivX player also playing H.264 would solve a lot of my problems too. As things stand a PS3 seems to be the best option as of now since it does play H.264 and also Blu-Ray content and does a decent job at upscaling too. I am sure even when the H.264 format becomes playable in DVD players, the first generation will be expensive and it will take till generation 2 or 3 for the prices to come down.
 

cmsajith

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2008
Messages
1,592
Points
63
Location
Cochin - Bangalore
From your post I believe that ur PC is very far from the screen. If its within 10meter u can try using the VGA cable (avoid interference) and some coaxial interconnects for the sound (prob some diy reqd) since ur PC seems to have a better spec than the laptop.

Taking the SPDIF out (diy way) from a sound card is possible only if it has the SPDIF out pins inbuilt. Nowadays most of the laptops are coming with headphone out which also works as SPDIF out. Check your laptop manual.

Another option would be to go for the laptop docking station. (Lenovo Support & downloads - ThinkPad Advanced Dock - Overview). It has the one point solution for ur needs. It has both spdif out and DVI-D (digital). Donno the price. You can also try the Mini Docking station which will not have all the facilities of a docking station, however it will have all the above ports. Better go for a full dock, since it has lot of expansion capabilities like PCI-E card slots for display cards, memory card reader etc.

Just my thought (Please correct me if i am wrong) : If we install the creative usb external sound card control software (to route the sound data to usb), it will definitely be digital through two of the pins in usb port. Why cant we find out the pin and try feeding that data to an external receiver?:rolleyes: I think the same data is given out through the spdif pin in the external device without processing.

If it is not the case (neither the s/w nor the h/w that comes along with the external card routes the sound to the usb port), then, you need to have the usb port or headphone out enabled / routed with sound o/p by default.

@All : waiting for your comments..
 
For excellent sound that won't break the bank, the 5 Star Award Winning Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Bookshelf Speakers is the one to consider!
Top