Friday, March 02, 2007

MediaPortal v0.2.2.0

This is an image I took on my 'phone - a panorama of Alexandra Palace on what is first really bright day we've had this year.
Anyhow - pressure of work and having taken a couple of days to go and visit my Dad in hospital has meant I've been a bit low on blog posts recently. Last night I re-paved my PVR - running the mighty MediaPortal and I have to say I am very impressed with the current build. I took the chance to repave Windows as well. Here are a few thoughts;

  • Follow the recommendations on the requirements page to the letter - the MS HotFixes really do help! KB entry 896626 was en eye-opener! Apparently the DirectShow filter that extracts an MPEG2 transport stream from the 38meg Mux (as captured by the DVB-T card) has an issue if the PSI header is greater than 255 bytes. In the case of BBC2 and Channel Five (from the Crystal Palace transmitter) they are - something to do with the payload size of the interactive application. I'd got to the point were I'd lost count of the number of times I'd have to give up watching University Challenge because to a corrupt, stuttering file. I should have checked the updates pages more often!

  • Try and keep your media drive on a separate IDE/SATA bus to your system drive and DVD drive. You want the maximum uninterrupted data rate to that drive.

  • If (like me) you use a mouse-type remote then you need to find the right skin that supports both the extended OSD (on screen display) AND the top-bar. The best one I found was BlackTwo

  • nVidia 5600 graphics card - most of the reason for upgrading was that the old Riva128 card I had was DirectX 7 only and the recent builds require a DX9 card. However - although the 5600 has excellent video-rate output (720x576 at 50 interlaced fields) the analogue video signal (both SVideo & RGB) is noisy. Strangely it is fine when in NTSC mode. Since my TV is dual-standard it makes little difference, but worth knowing about.
So, if you want a PVR then save yourself some cash and home-brew one with an old machine and base it around MediaPortal. It is faster, more stable, more fully-featured than Windows MediaCenter edition and because it's open source it's free. I've been using my rig to watch the test HD transmissions from Crystal Palace and am very impressed. You could also look at MythTV.


Kevin King said...

you can always use the one that comes with Vista :-)

Graham said...

great Post. What capture card are you using Phil?

Phil Crawley said...

The Compro DVB-T200 - it's pretty good as it is a Freeview capture card (it grabs the multiplex and then uses a DirectShow filter to extract the tansport stream you're interested in) - So, you get the same MPEG2 quality that left the Beeb, ITV, five etc. In the case of most broadcasters (who transmit compliant transport streams) you can burn the DV-MRS file to a DVD without transcoding (you just need something that'll extract the MPEG2 data and re-format it into the VideoTS folder structure).
See my previous post from January 23rd for a bit more on IFrame only editing to allow fast transcode.

Because the card doesn't care what's in the transport stream it'll happily capture the H.264 or AVC streams of the current HD trials. You have to make sure your PVR machine is man enough to decode those things - mine isn't so I have to copy them onto another PC (or my MacBook) to watch them.

The other good feature of the card is that it has an analogue input for SD capture of VHS etc.

All in all it's the bext £35 I've spent - it's eighteen months old but still a current model. It has good support in MediaPortal, MythTV and even Windows MediaCentre.