How to stream video from a PC to a TV?
January 25, 2007 1:52 PM   Subscribe

What is the simplest and least expensive way to stream MP3s and video in various formats to a standard TV? Considerably

I have a standard Windows XP Pro box with a pair of 320GB HDDs that I use for video editing and basic digital recording, specifically NFL games. I am a hardcore Lions' fan. Pity me.

Until now, this is the process I have for getting these games replayed on my TV:

I have been manually editing the 4hr+ long video sessions that I record with my Hauppage PVR-250 card. This gives me a really nice quality MPEG-2 video, but they often run 8 to 10 GBs or more. Using an inline MPEG editor, I cut out halftime and the commercials and get them down to about 5GBs or so. Then I run them through a DVD creation package to convert the MPGs to VOBs and throw on a menu. Then I run the whole DVD through DVD Shrink to get them down to 4.7GB to be burned on DVD-R.

This is a rather long process and it ties up my system while all the conversion and shrinking happens. In order to cut back on the time, I've purchased a DivX capable DVD player, but the conversion to DivX is less-than optimal quality and very time consuming. I also purchased a Dual Layer burner, but I still find I end up editing out the commercials if I want to keep the quality high, so it doesn't save much time.

So, I'd like advice on building or buying a simple media centre that I can throw on my stereo shelf and stream video and music from my PC in various formats. Most software packages like MythTV, BeyondTV and SageTV seem to be more interested in the PVR functionality, and most simple hardware solutions, like the D-Link DSM-320 have software or compatability problems.

Can this be done inexpensively or should I just bite the bullet, move the PVR-250 to a new box and build a full PVR system?
posted by WinnipegDragon to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Uh, sorry about the long-ness...
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:57 PM on January 25, 2007

TiVo or Xbox (with XBMC, or a 360).
posted by wierdo at 1:57 PM on January 25, 2007

Before I hit the 'post comment' button, I should have mentioned that the Xbox is the easiest method. XBMC will play almost anything, even HD encoded in some formats.
posted by wierdo at 1:59 PM on January 25, 2007

I have a 360, but it only works with Media Centre Edition on your PC, and it only plays things encoded in Microsoft's format. It doesn't really solve the issue...

I will have to look into Xbox Media Centre...
posted by WinnipegDragon at 2:02 PM on January 25, 2007

It sounds like you have a really nice archival system there that allows you to lend high-quality DVDs of previous games to your friends or watch them at any time, without halftime breaks, commercials, &c. If that's what you want, I'd imagine that will always be a bit of an undertaking.

If, instead, you just want to watch the game, couldn't you change the output settings of your PVR card to record in a much lower-quality format?

At that point, it's just a question of plugging your video card into you TV. Many (extremely cheap) video cards have an s-video port, and many (modern) TVs have one, too. This is the setup that I have, and it works tolerably well. Well, I also got a super-cheap wireless keyboard to use as a remote.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 2:15 PM on January 25, 2007

I've had great success with the xbmc solution.
posted by pompomtom at 2:23 PM on January 25, 2007

Seconding XBMC. It is, quite simply, the best thing since sliced bread. Not only will it play ANY video you throw at it. But it will act as a jukebox. And alow you to play all those forgotten arcade gems of your youth. Of course you have to install MAME to do that.

You do need to mod the xbox. But sofmoding is pretty trivial nowadays. You could buy one and have it up and running within a couple of hours. It also displays in HD too, and is aparently better than a lot of upacaling DVD players.

Go for it, you wont look back.
posted by gergtreble at 2:25 PM on January 25, 2007

(Don't know how it would work under Windows; perhaps all you would need is a video card with S-VHS output as Squid Voltaire suggests.)

From my G5 Mac, I have connected an S-VHS cable and stereo audio, running the cables out to the TV in another room. (Requires adapter from the ADC port to S-VHS).

I set the display to "mirror" and run VLC full-screen. No remote capability, and it's not HD, but it is cheap and it works.
posted by omnidrew at 2:40 PM on January 25, 2007

I know this question has been asked a lot, because I've answered it several times. There are probably at least 3-4 questions that are similar (this is not an admonition, simply noting that if you search you might find some more help)

Personally I use a cheap crappy old computer, a 400 mhz celeron which is stuffed full of hard drives, a high quality sound card (basically, one which can output digitally, so I can do dolby surround), a video card, and little else. It's old and it's linux so instead of trying to fudge with video out, I run it through a box which converts VGA to TV. It's controlled with some custom software I wrote a bajillion years ago.

These days I'd probably do windows and use one of the packages that exist for that. Or Mac. The xbox thing sounds neat but I've never tried it. They're now probably cheap enough that if this system I have ever breaks I might give it a shot.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:40 PM on January 25, 2007

Thirding (fourthing?) XBMC. It's a snap.
posted by doublesix at 2:41 PM on January 25, 2007

the conversion to DivX is less-than optimal quality and very time consuming.

Lots of incredibly high quality DivX out there.. So, you know, probably something you could fix with enough effort..

building or buying a simple media centre that I can throw on my stereo shelf and stream video and music from my PC in various formats.

Does your PC have TV out? You can very easily modulate the TV out signal, mix it with your antenna/cable, and then every TV in the household can tune in to the TV out signal at will.

I do this with a VCR, which modulates onto channel 3, but if you have cable, or if there is a station broadcasting on channel 3, you will need a more complicated modulator that will place your TV out signal onto an unused channel. Here is a site that describes the notion, but with a much more complicated installation: Whole House Video Distribution.

The modulator you would need can sometimes be bought for ~$20 in the US, although I suspect that is pretty rare. They are very rare in Canada.
posted by Chuckles at 3:05 PM on January 25, 2007

I have MythTV running on my main computer, it also has all my MP3s and non-Myth videos, I then have (as eeeeeveryone has already mentioned) XBMC running on my Xbox which is used for all my playback needs.

The only warning I would add is that I have heard that XBMC won't cope with some HD content due to the limitations of the Xbox processor. This might only be highly compressed HD, I don't know, and it's not something I've experienced, but worth checking out if it might be a problem for you.
posted by markr at 4:41 PM on January 25, 2007


And, you know, if you want to cut out the hours of encoding time, I'd suggest just downloading someone else's via torrent or USENET. Life's just too short to tie your computer up all day. Most release groups do all the troublesome parts like removing commercials and encoding to high bitrate XViD that doesn't look like dogshit on the big screen.

Also, no one has mentioned this, but you can get a HD pack for the XBOX to watch your videos at 720p with optical out to a 5.1 receiver for like $20.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:42 PM on January 25, 2007

You might consider the I-O DATA AVEL LINKPLAYER2.

Basically it is an upconverting DVD player that is netwrok aware and can play video from most formats off another computer.

So, in theory, the Linkplayer can play your MPEG2 or Divx directly off of your computer over your home network to your television directly. No conversion or burning necessary.

At ~$250, it's a pretty good deal that doesn't require any hacking or strange stuff. In addition, you get upconverted DVD playback.
posted by Argyle at 8:05 PM on January 25, 2007

We run an s-video cable from my roommate's computer to the tv , his computer and mine are wirelessly networked so we can view/listen to stuff on either system. It just treats the television as a second monitor to his computer.
If we had a newer receiver on the entertainment system we could just get an adapter that would add it to the network and go wireless. But, we don't. So we have cables.

Took, hm, less than half an hour to set up.

There's also DVD players out there that can play data files, in avi or wmv format or whatever you prefer. A friend of mine has one, it wasn't too expensive, and he got it from Target, so it wasn't tough to find, either.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:43 PM on January 25, 2007

Really - adjust your recording profile so that you don't have to shrink the recording afterwards. You'll actually wind up with better quality because you won't be re-encoding - other than the commercial break cutting, which can be done nearly lossless with the right tools (at least in Linux)

But to answer the original question, have a look at the MediaMVP Much cheaper and easier than an Xbox/XBMC
posted by Nodecam at 5:59 AM on January 26, 2007

Yet another vote for XBMC. You'll need a modded original old school XBOX, but they can be had for reasonable cost off of your local Craigslist or eBay, probably.

Big plus about Xbox/XBMC: If you care, you can buy a breakout box that attaches to an Xbox giving it S-video and higher quality audio outputs instead of crappy stereo. That way if you've got movies in Dolby Surround, etc, they still play in surround via your stereo. I use it, it rocks.
posted by twiggy at 8:50 AM on January 26, 2007

Thanks for all the answers. I'll be looking into all of this.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:12 AM on January 26, 2007

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