This BLOG details the finer points of building your own HTPC with NERO SHOWTIME.
This PC Project takes into consideration HD content in the near future.
BASIC PC HARDWARE LIST:
Pentium D 3.0Ghz or higher PC (Core Duo 2 Preferred)
1 GB of RAM Recommended
LAN Card with 100 or 1000 bps or 802.11-N Wireless (for video streaming over network)
Video card (min: 128/ recommended: 256MB) with outputs that match your display.
SOUND CARD with S/PDIF-OUT (aka DIGITAL-OUT)
Dolby Digital / DTS Receiver with Coax or Optical Input (matching your Audio card)
Selecting the critical Components:
There are 2 big players: Nvidia & ATI. Both work well and have advantages but I prefer ATI cards for Home Theater.
Other will say Nvidia is the better choice due to its PureVideo feature.
ATI video cards with catalyst driver work great for HTPC.
The Catalyst driver-pack offers great features for HTPC users such as image-position and stretch-to-fit which fixes underscanning issues on Projectors or fixes overscanning issues on Big screen TV's. it also has tools to reduce moiré patterns on interlaced TV's via S-video is you need to go Low-tech for some reason. The Catalyst
driver also includes a complete set of deinterlacer modes built-in.
Suggested Choices are X-1300, X-1600 or the new HD2600. The catalyst-driver pack also offers Forced 720P and Forced-1080i (forced 1080p should be available very soon) If you have an HDCP compliant display, you will want to use the new ATI HD2400, HD2600, HD2900 which are all HDCP Compliant. The HD2400/2600/2900 cards offer many features for tomorrow such as, H.264/VC-1 decoding for Blu-ray and HD DVD movies and built-in 5.1 surround audio designed for an easy HDMI connection to big-screen TVs.
Sound Blaster Live Cards are great and Creative updates drivers often.
BEWARE: the legacy SB-LIVE value wont be supporting in VISTA. If you plan to use VISTA, Check the driver page 1st to be sure your card will support Vista. All SBLive's from 2006 and 2007 should be fine for Vista. Also: Beta Drivers often drop the Digital-out and in this project we need the Digital out so be sure you get a full featured driver/card set.
There are some no-name cards with digital-out but the driver updates are spotty at best and frankly not worth the headaches. If you already own such a card, Go ahead and look for Vista drivers. If your running XP, this is less of
an issue. Also consider: Turtle Beach Riviera Sound Card. The most important thing is to be sure you have a Digital-out connection. This could be Optical, Co-ax or a 1/8 pin jack which needs a simple adapter to connect the Digital Coax cable.
Most times you can use your current big screen or Projector but if you plan to get a new display, here are some tips.
The top choices are a front projector or a large screen LCD,DLP, or LCOS Display. If you have the room for it and
can control the light, a Front projector offers the best experience for the best price.
Look at these models:
Native 1080p Projectors
1. Panasonic PT-AE1000U (1920x1080 3LCD)
2. Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 (1920x1080 3LCD)
3. Mitsubishi HC5000BL (1920x1080 3LCD)
4. JVC DLA-RS1U (1920x1080 )
5. Sony VPL-VW50 (1920x1080 )
6. Optoma HD81 (1920x1080 DLP)
Native 720p Projectors
1. Panasonic PT-AX100U (1280x720 3LCD)
2. Mitsubishi HD1000U (1280x720 DLP)
3. Sanyo PLV-Z5 (1280x720 3LCD)
4. Optoma HD70 (1280x720 DLP)
5. Optoma HD72 (1280x768 DLP)
6. Sony VPL-HS60 (1280x720 3LCD)
If you're looking at projectors, be sure to buy 720P or 1080P (nothing less)
This will set you up nice for long term as Bluray and HDDVD come into the mainstream.
Best: DVI or HDMI with HDCP
Better: VGA or DVI-I-to-VGA
Good: Component (3 cables RED/GREEN/BLUE)
FAIR: S-Video (4-pin black plug)
Poor: Composite (Yellow RCA Plug)
Component or S-video-only Display is not recommended due to the loss of quality. You can not run 720P/1080i through S-video. You will be stuck with a vertical resolution of 480i.
Ok So we built our PC to the above specs for running High resolution, Digital audio and filters (color/hue/bright/contrast/sharp) within our Showtime. The PC also has enough power to run HD Movie trailers found on the QuickTime/trailers website and future HD Optical Discs.
If this is a pre existing machine, consider formatting and starting with a fresh install of Windows.
Install the most recent drivers for your Video card and Sound card and ONLY the softeware you need.
Avoid programs that are not needed due to the fact that many programs run processes in memory such as Itunes.
BE SURE YOU INSTALL THE FULL DRIVER SET CALLED CATALYST FOR YOUR ATI VIDEO CARD.
We will be configuring its features.
Install NERO ShowTime3
For this Article, we will assume you selected an ATI Video card with CATALYST Driver package.
CONFIGURATION AND SETUP
With everything turned "OFF "...
Connect the HTPC’s Digital Out to the proper input on your DD/DTS Receiver.
Connect The Video card’s DVI/VGA/HDMI Connector to your Widescreen Display
Turn on the display and then the HTPC and wait.... Get to the desktop.
If the desktop looks too big or too small on your screen, do not worry or panic... We have to setup Catalyst.
#1. Setup Catalyst for your display:
Right click your open desktop: Pick Settings.
Set the resolution to match your display.
If you have a 720P LCD or Plasma, please select the resolution 1280x720
LCD,DLP,LCOS: If you set the resolution too high the image might be bigger than the screen.
FIRE UP CATALYST
Click the Catalyst icon your desktop and wait for it to open. (it takes a few seconds)
Click through the left menu until you see the screen that allows you to FORCE 720P (if your TV supports it)
You can also select "force 1080P or 1080i " if your TV and card support it.
If you have the option do more than one of these, try each one and pick the best result for your display.
For some displays, 1080i will look better than 720P, for others 720P will look better.
CORRECT OVER-SCAN UNDER-SCAN
Click Ok and follow the prompts.
Click through the left menu again until you see the screen that controls size and position. Its very obvious.
It has a CGI-image that depicts a Gal and brute. There is a box with arrows all around it to control POSITION. You
will also see 4 important icons. They look like < > and > <.
<> Expands the image
>< Contacts the image.
This will help deal with over/underscan issues.
Click Setup > Video > ... Aspect ratio is easily selected.
#2. Pass DD5.1 and DTS to our S/PDIF (Digital-out) on the sound card.
Open Showtime > setup > Audio. Click the speaker option and change it from 2-speaker to S/PDIF.
#3. Click on the video option and you will find COLOR/HUE/BRIGHT/CONTRAST/SHARPNESS
NOTE: Some of this stuff is disabled if you are using DVI or HDMI.
NOTE: some SHOWTIME Adjustments can only be made while the DVD is not playing.
NOTE: The catalyst software duplicates some of Showtime adjustments. its up to which you prefer.
The Catalyst adjustments can be made while video is playing which is very helpful. Plus the Catalyst driver’s setting will stay constant even after closing and reopening Nero ShowTime.
OK that's it! Enjoy!
You should now be able to play a DVD and make picture adjustments to suit your preference.