Advice for use Mac Mini for Home theater

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Comments

  • Reply 21 of 34
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by jpennington

    If he is considering over a thousand for a mini for his living room and has a big TV, I'm sure he has a relatively nice DVD player.



    Here, I will put it in the form of a question ...



    Will a mac-mini with a s-video output offer the same quality when playing a DVD as the same DVD on a standard (not high end, not low end) DVD player?




    If the DVD player is also outputting S-video, then I would suspect yes. I expect that the DVD hardware in the mini is middle-of-the-road, so would be comparable to a middle-of-the-road standalone DVD player. The video conversion hardware in the mini is quite good from what I've seen, with minimal artifacting or colorshift.



    Playing the files back from the drive bypasses the DVD reader, and, assuming that they were ripped cleanly and directly (not reencoded) in the first place, should offer the best playback possible on the mini. Since that's precisely what he was looking at doing, the limiting factor will be the connection to the display.



    For that, he can get no better than any other piece of his equipment in his setup, and the mini will not be performing any *less* than the other equipment, while offering new functionality.



    Upgrading the display in the future will offer greater quality, but the mini will adapt cleanly, assuming that they don't change the 'standards' *again*.
  • Reply 22 of 34
    pbpb Posts: 4,233member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Porkspeare

    Drag the handbrake compressed DVD's into iTunes then use Videos in Front Row to view the movies.



    Ideally you will have the iTunes library on the external drive, after you drag the movie into iTunes you will need to change the ID tag of the file to Movie.



    This method works a treat!




    Thanks, but I mean uncompressed DVDs. What about them? Am I right to assume that you cannot play them through Front Row?
  • Reply 23 of 34
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    For some reason I was thinking that was added recently to Front Row, the ability to play TS_VIDEO folders, but I could be smoking crack again.
  • Reply 24 of 34
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,700member
    O.K., I've got to the party late, but here goes:



    It's been touched on in the last few posts, but S-video is not exactly a "constant" that solely determines the picture quality that you will achieve:



    Let's take mythical "DVD Player A", and "TV Screen B", which we can refer to as "A" and "B" for short, respectively.



    Now, let's assume that "A" has the following outputs:



    1.) COAX carrying NTSC modulated RF (very, very, very rare on DVD players, much more common on video players, this connection goes to your TV's aerial input and requires you to "tune" your t.v. into the signal)



    2.) Composite



    3.) S-Video



    4.) RGB scart



    5.) Component (3 x phono connectors, to carry YPbPr signal), interlaced output



    6.) Component, progressive output



    7.) DVI or HDMI



    Now, let us assume that "B" has inputs for all of these connection types.



    We would expect, unless something very odd is happening, that each successive output as I've numbered them above would give an increase in picture quality. However, it is very important to note that device "A" and "B" are both the same, the only variable we are altering is the connection type.



    If I now come along with mystical "DVD Player C", which also has s-video output, will I get exactly the same picture with C->S-Video->B as with A->S-Video->B? Probably not.



    On to the specific question of using the Mini as your main video source:



    The Mini does have S-Video output capability, but you have to buy the adaptor separately.



    Now, it is my experience, contrary to Kickaha, that my old laptop's (a 500 MHz Titanium PowerBook) S-Video output is seriously, seriously awful for video. Even using OS X's display calibration and tweaking the tv's controls, contrast in particular was atrocious, and I'm really not exaggerating here.



    Also, the mini's video hardware (the Intel GMA950 integrated video processor) was tested, as part of a wider test, by an independent company on behalf of NVidia, and was found to be the worst (by quite some margin), including cheap "standalone" DVD players. See here (PDF) (yes, I know it says Intel 945G in the heading, but that is referring to the whole chipset, which incorporates the GMA950)



    Additionally, there may be a problem even with DVI. Apparently, PCs and "video devices" (such as TVs) use DVI slightly differently (see this XLR8yourmac page, and scroll down to the bit titled "Comments on HDTV loss of shadow detail/DVI Signal Levels (reply to G5 owner report)"). I don't know what the current state of play is, maybe newer screens have abandoned this rather odd 16 = Blackest black, 235 = Whitest white, perhaps they all include options to switch to "PC signalling mode", perhaps you can change the mini to "video device mode". Anyone know?



    My advice is to wait for the next mini revision, which will hopefully include Intel's newer integrated video, which is slated to have a slew of features aimed at improving the video quality. At the very least, I would see if there's any way for you to try out a mini driving your display before you part with any cash, as there is a strong chance that your DVD player provides a significantly better quality output.
  • Reply 25 of 34
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,700member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Kickaha

    For some reason I was thinking that was added recently to Front Row, the ability to play TS_VIDEO folders, but I could be smoking crack again.



    DVD player can play VIDEO_TS folders from your HDD.



    However, even if you launch DVD player and start playing a VIDEO_TS folder, then launch Front Row, and select "DVD", it says "please insert a DVD".
  • Reply 26 of 34
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Crack it was then. Stupid crack.



    Er wait. Put the VIDEO_TS (duh) folder in the Movies folder. *Now* can Front Row play it? That would be my expectation for how it would work.



    Edit: Apparently not. You still have to reencode it using something like Handbrake. Kinda lame, since DVD Player plays them just fine.
  • Reply 27 of 34
    chuckerchucker Posts: 5,089member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Kickaha

    Er wait. Put the VIDEO_TS (duh) folder in the Movies folder. *Now* can Front Row play it? That would be my expectation for how it would work.



    That would:

    1) require the QT MPEG-2 component (not free)

    2) require the AC3 / A-52 component (buggy, tends not to work)

    3) not have any interlacing.
  • Reply 28 of 34
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Ah, so DVD Player is a one-app license for MPEG-2 then. Got it.



    Nevermind, nothing to see here...
  • Reply 29 of 34
    chuckerchucker Posts: 5,089member
    /System/Library/DVDPlayback.framework handles all this, presumably. Which I dare say has some very odd strings (why does "DVDPLDRV.CPP" sound like something ported from Windows?), and doesn't seem to use QuickTime in any fashion at all.



    It's not a private framework, to my surprise; Apple has sample code here and a programming guide here.



    Since Front Row is a Cocoa app, it might be possible to write an InputManager/SIMBL bundle to re-add VIDEO_TS functionality, but exactly how you want to implement this is rather unclear to me: I mean, how would you choose the folder?
  • Reply 30 of 34
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Mr. H

    O.K., I've got to the party late, but here goes:



    It's been touched on in the last few posts, but S-video is not exactly a "constant" that solely determines the picture quality that you will achieve:



    Let's take mythical "DVD Player A", and "TV Screen B", which we can refer to as "A" and "B" for short, respectively.



    Now, let's assume that "A" has the following outputs:



    1.) COAX carrying NTSC modulated RF (very, very, very rare on DVD players, much more common on video players, this connection goes to your TV's aerial input and requires you to "tune" your t.v. into the signal)



    2.) Composite



    3.) S-Video



    4.) RGB scart



    5.) Component (3 x phono connectors, to carry YPbPr signal), interlaced output



    6.) Component, progressive output



    7.) DVI or HDMI



    Now, let us assume that "B" has inputs for all of these connection types.



    We would expect, unless something very odd is happening, that each successive output as I've numbered them above would give an increase in picture quality. However, it is very important to note that device "A" and "B" are both the same, the only variable we are altering is the connection type.



    If I now come along with mystical "DVD Player C", which also has s-video output, will I get exactly the same picture with C->S-Video->B as with A->S-Video->B? Probably not.



    On to the specific question of using the Mini as your main video source:



    The Mini does have S-Video output capability, but you have to buy the adaptor separately.



    Now, it is my experience, contrary to Kickaha, that my old laptop's (a 500 MHz Titanium PowerBook) S-Video output is seriously, seriously awful for video. Even using OS X's display calibration and tweaking the tv's controls, contrast in particular was atrocious, and I'm really not exaggerating here.



    Also, the mini's video hardware (the Intel GMA950 integrated video processor) was tested, as part of a wider test, by an independent company on behalf of NVidia, and was found to be the worst (by quite some margin), including cheap "standalone" DVD players. See here (PDF) (yes, I know it says Intel 945G in the heading, but that is referring to the whole chipset, which incorporates the GMA950)



    Additionally, there may be a problem even with DVI. Apparently, PCs and "video devices" (such as TVs) use DVI slightly differently (see this XLR8yourmac page, and scroll down to the bit titled "Comments on HDTV loss of shadow detail/DVI Signal Levels (reply to G5 owner report)"). I don't know what the current state of play is, maybe newer screens have abandoned this rather odd 16 = Blackest black, 235 = Whitest white, perhaps they all include options to switch to "PC signalling mode", perhaps you can change the mini to "video device mode". Anyone know?



    My advice is to wait for the next mini revision, which will hopefully include Intel's newer integrated video, which is slated to have a slew of features aimed at improving the video quality. At the very least, I would see if there's any way for you to try out a mini driving your display before you part with any cash, as there is a strong chance that your DVD player provides a significantly better quality output.




    Great post . My statement saying it won't work well and that current scan conversion (converting to a composite output) would not look great, thus a downgrade in reference to quality stands.
  • Reply 31 of 34
    gdconwaygdconway Posts: 71member
    thanks for the input. it sounds to me like the consensus is that i can use the mini for this purpose, though it probably won't be dvd quality. which means i'll probably wait.
  • Reply 32 of 34
    kickahakickaha Posts: 8,760member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Mr. H

    Now, it is my experience, contrary to Kickaha, that my old laptop's (a 500 MHz Titanium PowerBook) S-Video output is seriously, seriously awful for video. Even using OS X's display calibration and tweaking the tv's controls, contrast in particular was atrocious, and I'm really not exaggerating here.



    Seriously? I expected my old TV wouldn't have shown any real differences, being the limiting factor, but my newer Sony definitely has the PowerBook looking better than the dedicated DVD player. Odd you should mention contrast though - the blacks aren't quite as deep from the PB, but the Sony tube compensates for that nicely, to the point that I don't notice it. Colors, however, seem much more vivid from the PB. Of course, I could just have a sucky DVD player.



    Quote:

    Also, the mini's video hardware (the Intel GMA950 integrated video processor) was tested, as part of a wider test, by an independent company on behalf of NVidia, and was found to be the worst (by quite some margin), including cheap "standalone" DVD players. See here (PDF) (yes, I know it says Intel 945G in the heading, but that is referring to the whole chipset, which incorporates the GMA950)



    Interesting link, thanks.



    Quote:

    Additionally, there may be a problem even with DVI. Apparently, PCs and "video devices" (such as TVs) use DVI slightly differently (see this XLR8yourmac page, and scroll down to the bit titled "Comments on HDTV loss of shadow detail/DVI Signal Levels (reply to G5 owner report)"). I don't know what the current state of play is, maybe newer screens have abandoned this rather odd 16 = Blackest black, 235 = Whitest white, perhaps they all include options to switch to "PC signalling mode", perhaps you can change the mini to "video device mode". Anyone know?



    Gotta love 'standards'.



    Quote:

    My advice is to wait for the next mini revision, which will hopefully include Intel's newer integrated video, which is slated to have a slew of features aimed at improving the video quality. At the very least, I would see if there's any way for you to try out a mini driving your display before you part with any cash, as there is a strong chance that your DVD player provides a significantly better quality output.



    Obviously, there is such a wide difference in what is acceptable on various equipment for various people, that it comes down to personal preference. *shrug* I wasn't aware of the limitations of the 950, having only seen other people's setups that, to me (and them) looked fine. Might be worth the wait if the mini is going to get the 965 soon.
  • Reply 33 of 34
    dcqdcq Posts: 349member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by gdconway

    I'm thinking about buying a Mini and an external hard drive to add to my home theater setup. My plan is to use Handbrake to store DVDs on my Mini and its external drive in addition to music. Then run my Mini through my rear projection 42 inch tv. Anyone have any thoughts on potential problems? I just like the idea of storing my DVDs on a hard drive and accessing my movies and music on my tv with front row. I'd consider buying a bluetooth keyboard, but I suspect computing on a rear projection tv would be less than desirable. Thoughts and suggestions?



    I am going to do this as well. But after doing quite a bit of research this spring, I decided to put it off for a year or so. Mostly, this has to do with the fact that the industry is in so much flux right now (the transition from SD to HD, and from DVD to BR/HDDVD, not including the PPC to Intel transition for Apple). At the very least, wait until the minis are updated in August (the broadwater motherboards will have much better integrated graphics and be capable of better HD playback). I'm waiting until next year because (some of) the dust of the format wars will be settled and prices for BR and HDDVD drives will be low(er), and maybe some combo drives.



    As for computerizinating on a TV, that's why I'm waiting for 1080p to be more common. Of course, even a 720p TV has more resolution than the very old 15" desktop lcd I'm currently using.



    I'm also waiting/hoping for a few other things:

    - Front Row 2.0 (more customizable...able to incorporate DVR videos easily)

    - a decent FR-compatible remote (Apple's is too minimalist for me)

    - a separate iLife program for videos (the video hack in iTunes is too clumsy)...that takes advantage of the MMC features of BR and HDDVD disks.

    - an updated iDVD that can burn "playlists" of videos to DVDs (and use BR or HDDVD burners...so maybe iDVD is an obsolete name), and do it without obvious artifacts (from the decompresion and recompression).
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