Thursday, June 05, 2008

H.264 Decoders That Work

PDVD8Are you playing Blu-Ray DVDs on your HTPC?  Or maybe you just got your Hauppauge HD-PVR component recorder that outputs video in H.264 format (more on the HD-PVR here)?  Here’s a few good options for playback that can handle H.264 files:

  • CyberLink PowerDVD8 – CyberLink just put out an update for their PowerDVD8 software that enables hardware acceleration for H.264 encoding.  It also reduces memory consumption and give smoother playback as well.  If you already own PowerDVD8 you can get the update at the Cyberlink site..
  • CoreAVC – CoreAVC has a H.264 video codec that is pretty good as well.  You can read about how to install it at this link
  • ArcSoft Total Media Extreme – This software is included with the Hauppauge HD-PVR and the codec that is installed with this software seemed to work best with the h.264 files outputted by the HD-PVR.
  • Divx H.264 Decoder – This is in beta, but you can apply to participate and try out the new Divx h264 decoder. (Thanks Davis)


For HD-PVR and SageTV Users Only:

If you are a SageTV and HD-PVR user and wondering how to switch between the H.264 decoders for playback, here’s the process:

How to switch between h264 codecs in SageTV:

  • Download or install the proper decoder (Cyberlink is a purchase, CoreAVC is a purchase or download from here and ArcSoft gets installed when you install TMC from the HD-PVR disk)
  • Close SageTV and SageTVServices for server PC or SageTV Client on Client PC
  • Edit SageTV Properties and insert one of the following:
    1. If you want to use CyberLink PDVD8 Decoder add the following:

      videoframe/h264_video_decoder_filter=CyberLink H.264/AVC Decoder (PDVD8)

    2. If you want to use CoreAVC Decoder add the following:

      videoframe/h264_video_decoder_filter=CoreAVC Video Decoder

    3. If you want to use Arcsoft Decoder add the following:

      videoframe/h264_video_decoder_filter=ArcSoft Video Decoder

    4. If you want to use the Divx Decoder add the following:

      videoframe/h264_video_decoder_filter=DivX H264 Decoder Filter

  • Save SageTV Properties & Restart SageTV or SageTV Client
You have to do this on each machine. Best results for me are Arcsoft, then CoreAVC and worst was Cyberlink. I'm now getting very good performance from my client PC after doing this and choosing Arcsoft.
Thanks to those above who detailed the sagetv properties lines that needed to be added!
It would be nice if Sage added the ability to switch between h.264 codecs within the settings page instead of needing to go into the properties file.

I’ll soon have more tips on how to get the HD-PVR working.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Interview With Roku VP Consumer Products - Roku Netflix Player

If you're interested in the Roku Netflix Player and what makes it tick, check out this excellent interview with Tim Twerdahl - Roku VP of Consumer Products.  In the interview he goes into some good details of the Roku Netflix Player.

Tidbits from the interview:

  • Runs Linux (not an off-the-shelf version)
  • Uses NXP core processor
  • Uses flash memory - no hard drive
  • Roku might seek out other content providers (besides Netflix) for their Roku Box


I wonder how this type of service will survive when the ISP's turn on bill-by-the-byte for internet access?


For further details on the Rokuy Netflix Player, check out ZNF's Unboxing and Setup


found via HackingNetflix

Hauppauge HD-PVR Unboxing & First Look

My Hauppauge HD-PVR 1212 just arrived! 


With the high interest for this new component recording device I've dropped everything to share with you the unboxing and my first look at the device.  If you would like more background on this exciting device read the HD-PVR FAQ that I put together last week.

I was waiting at the door when Mr. UPS showed up with the box.  Ready to test away!

I have high hopes for this device, but am starting with the understanding that this will likely not be the easiest beast to get to know. I'm expecting some bumps in the road since this thing is really still in its infancy and software compatibility (SageTV, BeyondTV and GBPVR) is still in the early beta stages and even the HD-PVR firmware is still a work in progress - consider the no 5.1 audio at the moment for example.

So with that in mind let's get started.


Here's a shot of all the goods from the packaging:

I made a quick "unboxing" video of the HD-PVR's first moments at my house:


Photos of the unboxed HD-PVR:

The back-top view


While you can't see it in these photos, there is in fact a blue LED light that can be seen around the top when it's dark and the unit is running.












What's in the box?

  • HD PVR HD Recorder
  • Remote Control with batteries (not for use with the HD-PVR, but an extra remote for your HTPC) - not sure I totally understand the reasoning here, but it's included regardless
  • IR Blaster transmitter cable
  • Component video & Audio cable set - a fairly long, basic cable
  • USB cable
  • 5v power supply
  • Quickinstall guide


Setup as outlined by the quick install guide (see link above) was fairly easy.  I say this with the exception of the included IR blaster - I could not get that thing to work.  I have a request in to Hauppauge on that issue, but I've heard at least one other person having similar problems.  In the meantime I am using an extra USBUIRT I had sitting around (I know, who has an extra one of those that just happens to be in the house!?) and used the USBUIRT to control the cable box.


The official driver can be found on the Hauppauge HD-PVR support page

A newer, beta driver can be found at SHSPVR

SageTV and the HD-PVR:

I was able to set things up in SageTV (Note I'm using the latest SageTV Public Beta Version 6.4.3) just by adding a new tuning device in SageTV and telling SageTV that the USBUIRT would be controlling channel changes.  While my server PC isn't up to speed with the recommended playback specs, I was able to record and view HD-PVR recorded content on it albeit not perfect playback.  I recorded several different clips and then went down to try it on my SageTV HD100 extender.  The HD100 handled live TV and recorded playback without a hitch.  Picture quality was very good - at first glance at least it was as good as the video from my HDHR.

Now for the negatives.  I'm still unable to get my client PC to playback any of the video very smoothly so I probably need to work on the playback.  Also, twice during my testing I had to reboot the HD-PVR device (turn off and turn on again) as it seemed to lock-up.  Keep in mind this is very early testing and I could very well have done something to cause the lock-up, but these things along with my IR blaster experience are reminders of how this device is probably best left with the early adopters at the moment until the bugs (firmware, 3rd party software and otherwise) get worked out.  I'll provide more detail after I've used it for more than a few hours.

Read other users SageTV/HD-PVR Experiences

 BeyondTV and HD-PVR:

This wasn't entirely clear to me before this week, but it looks (based on a response from Snapstream) like the latest beta 4.8.2 of BeyondTV does not support the HD-PVR.  You can playback files recorded by the HD-PVR in BTV, but it doesn't recognize the HD-PVR as a tuner device.  Once they're further along in their beta testing, I'll give BTV a try with the HD-PVR

Read more BTV/HD-PVR experiences here


Some GB-PVR users have their HD-PVR up and running.  Several are experiencing issues where the unit stops working and then needs to be rebooted.  This seems to be mostly when using the included channel-changing software provided by Hauppauge.  Read more GB-PVR experiences here

Here's some Sample Clips you can try out on your hardware:

1080i Clip from drama TV show - I recorded this late last night

1080i Clip from Sports News show - I recorded this one late last night also

720p Clips provided by reader "stein"

Additional ESPN clips provided by reader "stein"

If you're wanting to test out your hardware with H.264 try out some of the h.264 samples found at this link.  Note that these are not from the HD-PVR, but will give you a good reference when testing the capabilities of your HTPC.


I'll be adding more clips to this page today and also trying it out with a beta version of BeyondTV so check back.


I’ll be reviewing the HD-PVR with SageTV after spending some more quality time with it.  My first impressions thus far are that setup looks pretty straightforward, but it's going to take some time and work to get it working with the various HTPC software programs.  SageTV will be selling even more of their HD extenders as they handle output from this device perfectly...