LAST UPDATED: Sat Sept 19, 2005 - I have started to mix new info with the old since very little has changed.
NEW RELEASE ROLLUP2 FINALLY OUT.
Q: How do I get the rollup2 update?
A: It will be available for public download via windows update by the end of october. OEM and System integraters have access to this update now so they may test their products with it. Under their agreement with Microsoft they are allowed to distribute the update to their customers. If you purchased a media center machine, you may want to contact the vendor to see if they can provide the update to you. If you purchased the OEM copy of media center from a vendor with the required hardware for them to offically sell it, you may want to contact them since they are technically under the oem agreement and are your vendor/system integrater and the company that is suppose to be supporting your needs. If your a developer that is testing using the msdn copy, there is no information when this will be available on the msdn site. If you recieved your MCE copy using any other method, you will have to wait for the public update unless the support was transfered (if available) to you. In that case you need to contact the company that is supporting you. OEM Vendors can buy an updated mce2005 and you may have the option of buying a new copy before its released publically.
Q: What is the correct way to install this?
A: Unoffical. I have no issues with rollup2. This is how I installed it, please keep in mind, I was running mce2005 with rollup1 and patches. If you attempted the emerald beta you might need to reinstall. First, check all of the drivers your running for hardware and decoder for updates and install them. Second run windows update using the CUSTOM option. Install all critical and optional patches. After that finishes and reboots, run it again. Keep repeating until there is nothing left to install. Then install rollup2, it will reboot. You should be good to go. One problem you may run into is a patch for the remote control, if your remote control doesn't work after reboot, hold down the DVD MENU+1 until the backlight flashes. If it still doesn't work or stops working in a few hours or after a couple standby's, just grab the mouse and give mce a reboot. It should be stable after that.
Q: What will the update cost? Are there new cds/dvds?
A: The update is free and will be available from windows update sometime in october. OEMs can purchase new copies of media center which includes a new 3rd cd right now. You may find some vendors selling MCE machines with rollup2 and prepackaged hardware with mce that includes rollup2.
Q: What changed with HDTV support?
A: The only change I know about at this moment is that Over the Air HD in the US offically supports 2 ATSC Digital Tuners.
Q: What about cablecard and unencrypted QAM support?
A: It was offically said in an OEM Chat session on sept 14 with microsoft that Cablecard did not make it into this rollup and there is no QAM support still.
Q: What about the new HD DVD formats? Any support for those?
A: It was offically said in the OEM Chat session on sept 14 that there is no new decoder/codec support in rollup2. Sorry no H.264 (however, I happen to know via a leaked source that H.264 support is coming to purevideo and the purevideo decoder. Supposively to be added when nvidia drivers hit the 80.xx versions. I have no details above this and no knownledge if it will work with MCE).
Q: My channel listing is still wrong, I have no way to record several or all of my hdtv channels because I need to use the channel change workaround. How do I fix this?
A: I asked this question in the OEM Chat. I was told to submit an EPG guide error. Everyone should complain about all the HDTV guide problems. The least they can do is get the OTA working correctly for us. You can submit your errors at: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/mce/reporting/epg.aspx
Q: Is this the full list of what has changed?
A: No, OEMs are suppose to have a listing of what is new available to them within the week. It is unknown if they can make this information public as their agreements do have a "gag order" as part of them. Also I do not personally have rollup2 yet so I cannot play and discover more about that. I'm hoping to have a couple shortly though.
Q: Can I save HDTV Programming to DVD?
A: Some people have reported that the built in burn dvd will burn hdtv programs in dvd quality with 2 channel audio. According to the microsoft chat on sept 14, there is an update to the sonic encoder that will support digital tv saving to dvd. This includes DVB-T content from the UK fitting more than 1 hour of programming onto a dvd. From an unoffical source, ATSC programming will also be transcoded and savable to dvd but not in HDTV quality. From the chat, this feature is not included in rollup2 and will be a seperate install. I have no details on how to get it but perhaps sonic will be selling it sepertely or your oem vendor will make it available for you. No word on if this is a free update.
Q: What are the EPG (guide) changes for HDTV?
A: HD logos will appear in parts of the guide. When your in the grid of multiple chanels over a couple hours, when you have a show highlighted, you will be able to see the logo at the bottom of the screen next to the short description. When you in the recorded shows section, same thing it will be at the bottom. When you in the details of a show (either from the guide or prerecorded) it will show near the channel number.
Q: My EPG doesn't Show HD logos.
A: If you just installed rollup2, the downloaded guide data doesn't re-download when you update. If you leave everything alone, within 14 days you will start to see HD logos and new guide data is downloaded. If you wish to speed this process up, under setup->tv you can setup the guide or setup tv over again. If your tv is working otherwise, I recommend only doing the setup guide option.
Q: I have rollup2 installed and my atsc tuners and I get a no tuner found error when I got to setup tv.
A: An analog tuner installed is still a requirement with rollup2.
Q: I have rollup2 installed and I cannot see the analog input from it or I get no tuner found error.
A: Hybrids are still not supported in MCE, you can find more details on this in the rollup1 Q&A below.
Q: TWEAKMCE STOPPED WORKING!
A: Matt Goyer mentioned on a media center show podcast a few weeks ago that a new version would be needed. Rollup2 is not a public release yet and your just going to have to wait for it to be updated.
OLD GUIDE WARNING: Everything below this spot is frozen and relates only to the US/Canadian version of MCE 2005 with ROLLUP1 and ROLLUP2. For ROLLUP2 specific information, please see above.
LAST EDITED/UPDATED: Tuesday Aug 16, 2005.
Just updated to reflect the new dual tuner avermedia a180 drivers.
This guide assumes that you are adding digital tv/hdtv to the US version. Most of the items in this guide do not apply and are incorrect for overseas versions of MCE. Canadians running MCE will find the same issues and there is some information directly for their problems.
This is not an offical guide and will mention items you can do even though microsoft and your mce manufacturer will not support them. These will be clearly indicated to know your going away from the normal designed usage of MCE.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT HDTV
Q: What is the HDTV Support in Media Center 2005.
A: Offically: The HDTV support in the US version of MCE 2005 is ATSC Digital TV. Sometimes refered to as ATSC OTA (over the air). This means digital TV that may or may not be in HDTV formats transmitted over the air and recieved by an antenna. There is also work in the large August update that there will be better digital tv support. However, there is no details on exactly what this means. It might just be clearqam via atsc tunner but we will see in August!
Unoffically: There is a firewire project for cable set top boxes with firewire that will also work with modified Satellite set top boxes. More details on this later in the guide.
Q: Can I record HDTV from my cable or sat provider?
A: If the unofficial firewire project isn't something you can handle, or you want to stay away from hacks/mods or your provider doesn't offer firewire output stbs, your only option is to record hdtv programing in analog/standard def format. It will not look or sound like hdtv, but the programming will record. Just use a HDTV Set Top box, connect it to your analog tuners and resetup analog for the extra channels.
Q: Do I need an HDTV to watch HDTV?
A: No. Media center will scale the image to fit your screen and quality. It may not look as good as the original, but it will work. Most Computer screens are excellent at displaying hdtv resolutions even if they aren't widescreens. Common US HD resolutions are 720p, 1080i/p. These are the line ratings. In full widescreen, these mean 1280x720 and 1920x1080. If your screen can do near 720p, it should look gorgious and prompt you to run out and spend many many dollars on a new hdtv to connect up (thats exactly what happened to me). If you have a 4:3 standard ratio screen, mce will add bars above and below. you can zoom/stretch the image using standard mce zoom options if you desire.
Q: Let me get this straight, I can watch HDTV on my old TV?
A: Yes and No.
HDTV support in MCE is actually Digital TV support. Some shows are in HD format, some are just digital versions of analog stations. Either way, you will see an increase in quality and 5.1 audio (when available) for your shows. HDTV will be scaled down to TV screen sizes and be letterbox versions of your favorite shows. You will notice an improvement over analog tv.
They will not be in HDTV quality, but this is a good way to move up to HDTV without running out and buying all new hardware. Start with better quality normal tv with better sound. You can use the zoom modes in mce to bring the letterboxed version back to showing the center that you are used to with 4:3 tv.
Q: I heard there is not much HDTV Programmings.
A: Its very costly for tv studios to upgrade. Lately it seems most new shows are HDTV. Many old shows are upgrading also (especially talk shows and popular shows). This is the year of HD. pretty soon it will be a disadvantage to not have hd (my opinion). Lately most evening movies are also broadcasted in hdtv. (kudos to the companies converting old film to hdtv. keep them coming!). Most sports are in hdtv already. Even the Macy fireworks this year were in HDTV. Its definately a lot more common.
Q: I heard I cannot watch HDTV on an extender.
A: Correct, currently the extenders available cannot show any digital tv. This includes digital versions of analog channels that are not high def. Your options are limited to running another mce machine but you will not be able to schedule recordings or watch live tv unless you put in tuners in that machine also.
The XBOX360 (rumored to be shipping by Thanksgiving 2005) will have hdtv and digital tv extender options built into it. While you might not be able to do it today, you will be able to before the year is out.
Q: What frequencies are HDTV transmitted on?
A: They use the same frequencies as your normal tv antenna. They are just digital encoded and compressed to offer a far superior picture. These frequencies are commonly known as VHF (channel 1-13) and UHF (14-69). While the US is starting to transition, most digital tv stations are using UHF channel, usually 30-50. These are known as the physical channel.
For your convience, these have a common number also and MCE knows that mapping. If your new to HDTV. Channels are listed like this: 2.1, 5.1, 11.1. there can also be subchannels (2.2, 2.3, 2.4). These are seperate channels and may not be HDTV quality. PBS is really good at using these usually offering 4 or 5 different programs at the same time but only 1 with HDTV. So for example, if you have a local CBS station known as channel 2. The Digital version of this station (usually the HDTV version) will be channel 2.1 but it might have a different physical channel 30. You dont need to know or worry about this for MCE. For antenna arrays, you may need to know this in order to use channel traps or frequency shifters. For the average user, this is just informative.
Q: All of this is going to change in the next version when cablecard is released, why does it matter?
A: Recently it has been announced the next version of MCE will be available August 12th. In the list of changes is "Native Digital Cable Support". However this is not defined and may not mean cablecard or HDTV channels. But there is some hope that its going to change.
I have heard no offical word on anything in the next version except for better navigation controls while watching video/tv. Recently Microsoft joined the group that makes the standards for cablecard so its looking good. However its hard to guess, Microsoft has several projects that deal with TV. One of them is IPTV and a cable company product. The other is Media Center. Its hard to say which will get better support when. To support this claim, shuttle recently announced they have a cablecard mce reference machine ready but will not be releasing it this year but things change.
Q: What are subchannels?
A: Digital TV has a certain amount of bandwidth, in that bandwidth a tv station may decide to divide it up and offer multiple channels. These are called subchannels. PBS is a good example of this usually offering and HDTV subchannel, Financial Show subchannel, Kids Subchannel and alternate programming subchannel (pbs shows just with a different guide). Lately the networks are also using this usually offering a digital/hdtv feed and a news feed. Locally in the NYC area, there has abeen a regional traffic and weather station that nbc has been doing. For almost 6 months it was only available on antenna and for some reason really mesmerizing. PAX likes to transmit audio only radio stations on some of its subchannels.
Q: Why are some actors/actresses ugly in hdtv?
A: Ahh the HDTV syndrome. There are a lot of gorgious people on tv that are going to be out of work soon. HDTV is so clear you cannot hide your imperfections.
HARDWARE AND MCE PC REQUIREMENTS FOR HDTV
Q: What HDTV card should I get?
A: This is complicated to answer. I recommend staying with hardware on the MCE compatible hardware list. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/partners/dfw/partnerlisting.mspx These cards are tested to work well with media center. Other cards do exist that work in media center with different levels of success, these may not be as reliable as you want in your machine.
The ATI HDTV Wonder and Avermedia A180 are the 2 most common cards used for HDTV in media center that are on the approved list. Dvico Fusion HDTV3 (replaced by the HDTV5) are also common but not on the list. The fusion cards have come a long way in the last year. There new offical drivers not in beta anymore work great and I can see this card being added to the mce list next revision. The HDTV5 also uses the best tuner out there and perfect for indoor antenna and urban/apartment living. I personally use the HDTV5s now.
There are other cards on the list of hardware that are supported. I do not have first hand experience to comment on how those work. Search the forum and post if nothing is found if you want some information before you buy. Most of the cards use similar chipsets and tuners and depending on the stability of their drivers should operate just fine.
Q: I found this card with analog inputs, do I still need an analog card?
A: Offically: Yes. an ATSC and NTSC tuner chipset are identical. The difference in a digital card is its missing some of the analog require parts and used the tuner to pass the modulated signal to a driver to be demodulated. You do not have 2 tuners, its 1 tuner with multiple methods of operating. This is known as a Hybrid. MCE does not support hybrid tuners and will only detect them as digital tv tuners if you have rollup 1 installed. Without rollup 1, you can use it only as an analog tuner.
Unoffically: Depending on that card, there might be hacked drivers that will allow it. See the hybrid section lower in this document for details. I do not recommend going this route, usually these drivers are very out of date.
Q: Do I need other hardware for HDTV over antenna?
A: You might.
You will need an antenna. The success of many channels, strong signals and uninterupted programming all depend on your antenna, its location in/on your home/office and what direction its pointed. There are antennas that can recieve signals from 90 miles away. ChannelMaster and Terk are both excellent manufacturers of antennas.
This is not your grandmothers rabbit ears. Digital TV either works or doesn't. you just need a strong enough signal for it to work and you will get a perfectly clear image. You may need to add an inline amplifier to the mix to bring the signal up high for some channels, especially in bad weather. You will probably need one if your antenna is indoors or you split the signal to multiple tuners. If your unaware, in the VHF/UHF range is FM radio. You can also use this antenna as your fm antenna.
You may also find out your computer works perfectly with Standard Def Television but cannot handle High Def Television. Or it can handle high def but having analog recording at the same time may cause it not to work. If your not ready to upgrade your computer. Make sure your computer is up to the task before diving into Digital TV. Sometimes all it takes is a video card and decoder change to handle the upgrade.
Q: I have 2 tuners, how do I add in HDTV? do I have to remove one of my tuners?
A: Offically, you can have 2 Analog tuners and 1 Digital Tuner in your machine.
Unoffically, There are make/model combinations that when installed together, MCE will just use both to give you up to 2 analog and 2 Digital Tuners. These require no additional changes to mce, just installing the correct hardware. Keep reading for details on what cards will work like this.
Very unoffically, There is a reg hack to get more than 2 digital tuners installed. There is also a reg hack to get more than 2 analog tuners installed. So far nobody has had reliable support of more than 2 digital tuners. For more analog tuners, see the hacks forum.
Q: Will my computer handle HDTV.
A: This is hard to generically answer. There are a lot of factors, cpu speed, hard drive speed, video card.
I am going to concentrate on CPU needs, that seems to the be place most people are lacking. For 2 analog and 1 digital tuner, I strongly suggestion a cpu that is the equivilant of a Pentium4 3G (amd equivilant would be XP3000+ or Athlon64 3000+). I do not suggest using mobile or low cost versions of cpus (celerons, durons, semprons). These are not very fast at math and will not provide a happy experience if they even work for you. If yor planning for 2 digital tuners and possibly more in the future (sd or hd). I would look at a cpu in the P4 4G or higher range (amd64 4000+ or even dual core cpus).
You can get away with lower end hardware if you use a video card that supports mpeg2 decoding and all the proper software for that to work. At the moment, that would be Nvidia 6xxx series cards that support purevideo. You also need to install drivers that support purevideo and you MUST use the Nvidia DVD Player/MCE Decoders. All 3 of these items are required for hardware decoding with media center and purevideo. With all three combined, your cpu requirements for playback will be reduced more than 50%. So if a 3G cpu needs 65% to play HDTV. It should be able to do it around 30%.
Be prepared to possibly need to upgrade your computer. I see a lot of posts on this forum from people installing HDTV and they are convinced their computers are good enough. I am not making these numbers up, HD recording is about the same as SD. HD Playback is a power hog. If you use your computer for other things besides media center, maxing the cpu will cause dataloss and missing chunks in recordings.
Q: How much cpu do I need for this setup?
A: I use the following numbers when I build out a system. These are derived from my primary mce setup using a AMD 3500+ with and without purevideo enabled. Overhead/error: 10% (350mhz) Wihout purevieo: HD Playback 60% (2ghz), with purevideo 20% (700 mhz). Recording per tuner installed: 7% each (245mhz). Per extender 10% (350mhz). These numbers may vary, slower hardware like cpus and hard drives may not produce the same results. these should be used only as a rough guideline.
Basically add them up: 3 tuners + purevideo hdtv playback + 1 extender + overhead/error = 2.6G roughly. near 3G so you have a little room to have background things happening that might need a little cpu power to do.
If you do a lot of video compressing/converting and dvd burning, I would get the best money can buy to make sure everything else runs smooth while it happens. Remember this is not just about having it work, but to have you and your family happy with how it works. All you need to do is tap 100% cpu for a nanosecond and shows skip, extenders playback bad, and things go wrong.
Q: Is this a good video card?
A: HDTV is a little tricky. you need to make sure your video card is set to the native resolution of your screen. Even crts have native resolutions, however they call it optimal resolution. Before you jump out to buy a new video card, make sure the manufacuter has your exact native resolution as an option. Buy right or buy twice I say. Once again I highly recommend purevideo, it will greatly increase your satisfaction of all tv, sd, hdtv, dvds and even web content. its just amazing.
Generally, onboard video cards are spuratic in their ability to show hdtv programming. Most likely if your video is built onto your motherboard, it will not work right. There are some newer chipsets that are designed for onboard video and media center and I haven't heard too much about how they work. Be prepared to need a video card upgrade if the rest of your computer is up to par to play with it.
The 6600 series from Nvidia is an excellent choice, availble with and without fans. Recently the new ati drivers support DxVA support to also offload decoding to the video card. Be carefuly, there is a known issue with Nvidia Decoders and ATI Video cards. You will need to pick a different decoder or leave DxVA support disabled until ATI can fix the driver issue or offer their own decoder. Dvico ships a pretty decent MCE mpeg2 decoder if you do not have an nvidia card with purevideo. It works really well and uses minimal cpu.
Q: What type of video card do you recommend if I need to upgrade?
A: A funny thing is happening to the industry that I haven't seen since gaming took off around 2000. All manufacturers are getting into the dvr/mce movement. This means theres a lot of low cost hardware that is specifically designed for DVR usage. You no longer need a $400 video card to run HD resolutions. I even use a $60 card in my machine. A lot of manufacturers are also making units with passive cooling and no fans to reduce the extra noise in your living/tv viewing rooms. The more gaming you plan to do on your mce machine, the better the video card you need. There is no such thing as a fast enough video card for the latest 3d gaming titles.
My personal preference on cards is reference models. A quick history. ATI and Nvidia used to be manufacturers. If you wanted card from them, you baught their brand. Now both of these companies offer chipsets to other manufacturers to make their versions of these cards. You can still buy ati and nvidia brand cards, they are called reference boards and have all options in them (and tend to cost more and harder to find after the chipset has been out awhile). I always go reference board if its available. My second manufacturer choice is ASUS. I have never had a stability problem with ASUS hardware in over 10 years of using their products. I only look for another vendor out of desperation and tend to take whats available and hope for the best (this has never worked out for me and I tend to replace the hardware within 6 months).
See the above question for model numbers I like.
Q: How should I hook up my HDTV to my computer?
A: This comes down to what ports do you have on both sides. For HD quailty, you want HDMI, DVI or VGA. Component will also work and some video cards have adapters for this but some of those cards will block copy protected content from being outputted (commercial dvd movies for example). You may be able to use a generic svga to component cable and bypass this problem, please post if you try this out and let us know what you discovered.
You should avoid svideo and composite at all costs, these cannot do HD resolutions. You should also try to avoid component as a last resort, while it can do HD, Media Center follows the rules for copy protection and will not send copy protected content out component. (example of copy protected content: Commercial DVDs).
Be careful with dvi to hdmi adapters. These are normally fine. On my tv, I have no seperate input for sound. If you use your tv speakers for sound, this may not be an option for you.
Check your TV manual for how to best hook up a computer to your screen. This can save a lot of headaches. Also nvidia and ati drivers in the most recent versions have hdtv wizards to assist you with setting up your card to a tv. Some cards, the tv doesn't even know its a computer connected, it looks like any normal video device to it and may unlock additional features of the tv that are lost with computer connections.
If your in the market for a tv to use with mce. I highly recommend you look for models with DVI connections and the manual lists how to connect to a computer. If you cannot find the manual online, I would avoid that tv. A lot of posts around this forum is a new tv that isn't displaying correctly because they didn't pay attention to input options when they baught it.
Q: How much drive space do I need?
A: This goes back to the quality question. You cannot pick the quality so you are at the mercy of whatever the tv station encodes at. On average, you can fit about 30 hours on a 250g hard drive. Expect about 9gigs per hour average, give or take a little. Chances are stations with a lot of subchannels will need less space but not that much.
Q: I've heard about RAID, is that something i should use on my drives?
A: Raid is a very complicated subject that is far beyond the scope of this guide. There are many forms of raid. The one thing to watch out for with HDTV programming is software raid. Recently, but not confirmed, someone was using software raid on a high end computer and had a lot of playback issues. Software raid is the only thing different in their setup that stuck out as possibly the problem. This is just an FYI to watch out for. Software raid happens in cpu. Hardware raid happens in the drive controller.
My experience is you probably will not need a raid unless your computer is really old. In that case, you will be able to use faster hard drives when you upgrade for raid anyhow and will not need it anymore.
COMMON HELP NEEDED
Q: I only want HDTV in my MCE Setup. (I installed an HDTV card and media center says no tuner found).
A: Offically, You are required to have at least 1 analog tuner in your computer.
Unoffically, there is a version of a HDTV Wonder drivers know as the KRAM drivers. These are a driver and hack combination. I do not know the "offical" site for up to date versions and instructions. Search the net you should be able to find them. I've heard mixed results from these drivers.
Q: My HDTV Tuner has analog inputs, why can't media center use these?
A: Your card is known as a hybrid, meaning it can be SD or HD. While it has 2 inputs, its only 1 tuner. It has the ability to operate as analog or digital. Your tuners software most likely can take advantage of this but media center cannot. In media center each tuner must be available at all times to be used. A Hybrid cannot have both inputs working at the same time. The analog part of this tuner also has no mpeg2 hardware encoder which is also a requirement of a tuner in mce 2005.
Q: I have a dual tuner and an ATSC tuner, and I installed a new atsc tuner. This is only 3 cards, why is it not working?
A: The number of cards in the computer has no baring on the number of tuners. Cards can have more than 1 tuner on it. In this example, you just installed your 4th tuner. If your interested in running this type of setup, keep reading this guide and there will be information on how to make it work.
Q: Where do I point the antenna?
A: Go to a website like http://Antennaweb.org. Put in your address, or at least zipcode, filter out everything but the digital tv channels. It will tell you the direction from your home, how far it is and an antenna rating that you will need to get it. There is also an option to bring up a map that will have a drawing showing the directions and what channels are in that direction to help you if you are unable to use/read a compass.
These are very accurate charts and you should pay attention to the rating description. Some of these include inline amplifiers and some antennas have them built into them for you. All Antenna Manufacturers follow the same color code so you know if your antenna is compatible.
Having an outdoor, non-obstructive line of sight shot to your antenna will work best. If obstructions are a problem, a larger antenna then rated may compesate for the interference. A larger inline amp may also help.
Q: I have an old antenna on the roof, will that work.
A: It should, ATSC uses the same frequencies as analog NTSC tv with an antenna. Depending on the age, you may need an adapter to convert it from 2 wires to the F-Type connector on the tuner card. This is a good start, try using this antenna and see what happens. You may need to move it around to point at the ATSC towers but this is fairly low cost and most stations are using the same towers for digital.
As a home safety item, you may want to look into safety guides for antennas. To protect your home and computer, it would be wise to look into this and make sure its installed with todays safety standards.
Q: Antennaweb shows stations all over the place and the rating says I need a directional antenna for some. Can I combine multiple antennas?
A: Yes, but you may need additional hardware.
When it comes to picking up many channels. Being further from all the towers has an advantage because they are usually in the same direction. I have channels in every direction possible around my house and I needed to build a small antenna array to get everything (truth be told, I did it just for the damn I can get hdtv from there factor?).
Directional antennas have the longest range possible since they are primarily a vertical antenna with no horizontal coverage perpendictular to the recieving element. The usually look similar to something you would put on the grill to cook with. Some of them look like a pole sideways.
Some antennas look like traditional TV antennas. Some of these have multiple antennas combined that you can point different directions to combine signals. After all was said and done, I should have used one of these and I rushed instead of planning it out.
You can also use seperate directional antennas and combine them together using a splitter. Sometimes just moving your antenna a hair will pickup some signals off axis. You need to figure out if the channels you can recieve are the ones you want. You may not need the channels you cannot pickup.
There is a lot of information if you need to get into channel traps and frequency shifting to get all the channels to come in. I will work up a seperate thread on how to do this when I have time and post the url here. (haven't forgotten, I will get this in)
Reports have started coming in that the new LG 5th Gen Tuner (available in Fusion HDTV5 tuner cards) are excellent at picking up weak signals and off axis/reflected. This might be a good option if your in that type of situation where the signals come from everywhere. I am in that situation personally and will update this guide when i have more personal details about this.
Q: My signal goes in and out, help. (May look like a stutter, decide if its a stutter with a delay or a quick loss of signal)
A: I define stutter as a delay in the video that pauses a moment then continues where it stopped. A quick loss of signal might look like a pause but the program picks up where it would be with some show information lost.
Go into digital tv setup and check the signal strength for that channel. You want at least 1 bar in the yellow to get the image, 2 bars minimum for it to be stay solid with no drop out. This rule of thumb may vary based on tuner and you might find your tuner needs green to show anything.
An indoor antenna or an antenna not above your home, something as simple as a person walking between the tower and your antenna can cause it to drop in strength and not get a signal. A lot of people have had success with the Terk HDTVi antenna, its a combination rabbit ears (for vhf frequencies) and UHF element similar to the antenna that comes with an HDTV wonder. You can find this for around $25-$55 depending on sales and store discounts.
If your close to the minimum power or bad weather drops it lower, you can purchase an inline amplifier for VHF and UHF to help boost the signal. I recommend if your close to only use a 5 to 10 db rating at max. You can overpower your tuner card and damage your computer if you use too high. Make sure the inline amplifier has a good UHF rating. If you have a lot of channel in the red, a good inline amp might make them all come in. Just be careful and check your tuner cards signal rating to make sure your not going to blow the card. Just remember when you amply the signal, you also amplify the noise. It is possible to have channels not come in after you put in an amp that worked before you had the amp.
Q: The Volume on my HDTV card is really low, it sounds like I'm going to blow out the speakers or wake the family when I change to an analog station.
This is common. The AC3 5.1 audio encoding is technically different from the 2 speaker encoding that happens on analog stations. There are a couple fixes for this. Which ones you can use depends on your brand/model of analog tuner. Since MCE just saves what comes over, it doesn't change the audio that arrives and you cannot easily boost it.
Some people have had success using external programs or sound card options to normalize the audio. http://www.thegreenbutton.com/community/shwmessage.aspx?ForumID=57&MessageID=107198
Some decoders have the ability to change volume levels when it decodes it for playback. (no link found for this, but I have run into the option. Please post something if you know how to do it this way)
You can also registry change your analog tuner settings to reduce the volume when it records shows. The registry method will not help previously recorded programs but new records will have a different volume. Your tuners may not support this option. http://www.thegreenbutton.com/community/shwmessage.aspx?ForumID=57&MessageID=112022 You will note this is a simple post by me, I will start a new thread asap with more details on how to do this since I reference items that have no information on how to find it. (haven't forgotten)
Q: How do I tune an HDTV channel?
A: Media center adds them to the guide with channel numbers in the 1000s. If your local channel is 2.1, media center calls it 1021 . All you have to do is change to the correct channel and MCE will take care of what tuner to use. For subchannels, its the same. channel 2.4 is 1024. If your analog provider uses 1000s, Media center may use a higher number.
Q: I can get channels from the software that came with my tuner card, but some are missing in mce with no signal strength!
A: MCE doesn't have a real channel scan. It takes a list from microsoft for what channels might be in your area and uses those. Sometimes this list, and the real frequency do not match. Sometimes the tv station has hired whoever they could find with a license for transmittors that has no clue how to setup digital tv and their signal is incorrect. (I will post a possible solution for this but it may not allow recording the channel).
Q: Media center didn't install any subchannels? Its missing channels that I can see in the listing on antenna web.
A: This is normal. You will also find out there is no tv guide information for these channel also. Big pain in the neck. You can manually add them in media cetner in the setup->tv->guide->add missing channel->add DTV channel. If you are adding a new completely missing channel, you will need the physical channel number. You can get this information from antennaweb.org. There is no scan for channels tool for atsc so you will need to guess. A trick you can use, if you have a tv, or a neighbor with a tv that has an atsc tuner in it, you can use that to scan your area. I wouldn't go much further than 1/4 mile away from your antenna. A general rule of thumb. Most channels have at least 1 subchannel. PBS will have 4 or 5. PAX may have more since they rebroadcast audio only radio stations from their network on channels. You may luck out and be able to associate other guide information from you analog provider to these channels. Some PBS channels are also repeated/better coverage additional transmittors. FCC requires these to have different call letters but watching them, you will see what channel they really are.
Q: How do I install this card I just got?
A: Follow the instructions for the card. Make sure you have media center rollup 1 installed before you do anything else. Run windows update to make sure you have it.
The rest of the install will look something like this: You will install the card, then the MCE drivers. At this point you run MCE, go into setup->TV then select setup digital tv. follow the instructions. its pretty simple and fast and painless (not like the analog setup you did). Don't forget to setup and connect your antenna.
Q: I get no signal, and/or the channel scan does nothing during install.
A: No Signal is probably the antenna, wheres it located or how its pointed. Second most common item is you used the wrong NON-MCE Drivers. Channel scan does nothing or comes up with Unknown, your probably using a fusion card and you need to upgrade your drivers. Download the latest from their website and this will fix it. Several people have reported going from 1 working channel to many with a fusion driver upgrade.
Q: How do I tell what programs are HDTV. I can't find that information in the Guide.
A: This is one place that MCE is really lacking.
You can always record it in hd and see, then adjust your series if its not hd. You can look up the official website for the to see if its in hd. You can also use titantv plugin. You will find it in online spotlight. Its an alternate guide you can get from more programs when used from mce and they have indications for which shows are in hd. This is not a guide replacement, you will not have 1 button access to bring up titantv. www.titantv.com.
One of the more annoying things are network programs interupted by local sports. The original time tends to be in HDTV but the local affiliate channel tends to not have the abililty to record hdtv so they rebroadcast the show at a later date in SD.
Q: My HDTV channels suddenly changed to 2000 range and every night they keep going higher! Help!
A: There is something with the removal of missing dtv channels that triggers this. To get this back under control, you want to go into the folder found at c:\documents and settings\all users\application data\microsoft\ehome\epg and delete the xml files you find there. They should be named perf.xml and up to 2 more files that start with ATSC. After you delete them, go into mce and setup TV and Digital TV again. You will need to edit channels to uncheck the channels you cannot get since perfs.xml holds the listing of what channels you do not get. There is no reliable way to just edit out the DTV channels that are messing this up, its best to delete them. If you cannot find the files, you will need to change folder options to show hidden and protected/system files as some of those folders are hidden. To avoid this in the future, be cautious when adding/removing missing DTV channels. I personally would reboot after deleting the files but people have said it wasn't required.
Q: My video stutters, help!
A: This goes back to cpu, video card, decoders, hard drive. It might be any one of them. If you really want individual help, post a new thread and people will attempt to assist you. Most people in this forum will try to exhaust all free options to make it work before they recommend buying something.
One interesting option is for people with AGP video cards. Someone has discovered that disabling fast writes on slower machiens can sometimes fix all your problems. Nobody has a good guide on how to do this and I no longer have agp computers to write one myself. If someone wouldn't mind posting how to disable fast writes, it would be appreciated.
Another interesting item. Some people have found virus scanners and Microsoft Anti-Spyware to cause this also. Basically its not those programs that are the root cause. They inspect everything going on in the computer, especially files to/from the drive. your sending massive amounts of data from the drives when you watch HDTV (live or recorded). Depending on your computers ability to process this information, it may not be able to keep up (cpu, drive speed, etc). Generally disabling this software will help you figure out if thats the cause. I never recommend running without a virus scanner so you might be able to turn off certain features and have this work well for you.
There is also reports that hdtv wonder drivers are not multithreading. This means 2 cpus and 2 virtual cpu (hyperthreading) may cause issues. If you have an ati hdtv wonder and an intel computer that has hyperthreading, try disabling the hyperthreading in bios to see if that fixes your problem. (*NOTE: since I last heard about this fix, I haven't seen it come up again. In the beginning of may 2005, ati released new hdtv wonder drivers. Its possible these drivers are multithreading and will work fine.)
Q: My computer can handle hdtv, why is it still stuttering!!
A: Time to time some people find new issues that cause playback problems. Please post as much details and let someone help you out with some pointers on what to try. Lately the most common item for bad HDTV playback on a good computer setup is NERO. Nero may have installed new mpeg2 decoders and you don't even know your not using your prefered setup. Use the decoder checkup utility (get link put in here) to make sure your using the mpeg2 decoder you think you are. Another option is to uninstall nero quickly and see if that improves playback.
Q: I have no signal found after standby
A: Just like standby, this problem is sometimes hard to find.
If you have a Dvico Fusion HDTV card, make sure you download and install the latest drivers. Make sure you uninstall the old ones first. The newest drivers are very stable and reliable!
Another possible problem is if you use ORB. Orb thinks that the digital tuners are webcams. When you come out of standby, orb tries to initalize them for orb use. Sometimes it messes up the MCE support of these tuners since MCE doesn't like other programs stealing its hardware. Only a reboot usually fixes this problem. It will be a reoccuring problem and I personally ended up uninstalling ORB to stop it from happening. I have emailed into orb support asking them to please make an option to disable webcams. I have not been following orb progress to know if its there.
Q: I setup a series to record an HD show. It keeps recording it from the analog tuner, why and how do I stop that?
A: When MCE picks which tuner to use for recordings, if you have it set to any channel it goes in channel number order. Since your local stations are low numbers, it only reaches the 1000+ hdtv channel numbers if the analog tuners are busy and the shows have a higher series priority.
How to fix:
1: Check your series recording and see if its set to only record on the Analog channel number. If thats the case, you will need to delete the series and recreate it using the Digital TV Channel number. Make sure you leave it set to record only on that channel. Setting it to any may cause it to not record in HD. Don't forget to check your priority order to make sure its back in its original location.
2: Check your series recording and see if its set to any channel. Change it to the digital channel only. If it only lets you select the analog channel, you will need to delete the series and recreate it as described above under number 1.
Q: I changed what channel to record from and it didn't record at all this time!
A: A side effect of setting it to only record on the digital channel is recording conflicts.
If you have a show with higher priority recording something else on the atsc tuner, it wasn't available to record your show. Since its locked to a channel, it didn't use the analog card. One possible fix is to create a second series setting using the analog channel. A lot of times mce is smart enough to know its the same program and will only record it from 1 tuner. This is also a good reason to have more than 1 atsc tuner. If the show is more important than the HD quality, set the series to any channel. It may never record in HD again but the show will not be lost.
Q: I purchased a WMV-HD dvd and it doesn't play right. Everything works fine with HDTV, why doesn't this?
A: HDTV is recorded in MPEG2 format with AC3 audio. WMV-HD uses WMV Codec 9 with WMA 9 professional audio. If your mpeg2/tv decoder is using hardware acceleration, chances are the WMV-HD is not.
If your video card supports DirectX Video Acceleration (DXVA) of Windows Media Video, you may be able to activate it using the hotfix found at http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;888656 Pay attention to required hotfixes. Hot fixes do not come over windows update until they are heavily tested and you will need to make sure they are all installed manually.
You may also need to change the rendering mode in windows media player (yes MCE uses wmp to play everything). Close out MCE (ehshell) Go into WMP, Tools->Options, Select performance tab, then select the advanced button at the bottom. On the upper left, change the video mixer from overlay to high quality.
I believe the minimum version of ATI drivers for this patch to have an effect is Catalyst version 5.6. Nvidia I am not sure about but I know this is part of purevideo for the newer cards so it might require a driver with purevideo support if you have a card that supports it. This may work with older cards not supporting purevideo but I do not have any of those cards to test with so please report back if you find this to be a true statement.
Just a warning: There is a known bug if you use this patch with ATI video cards if your using Nvidia Decoders. When in Accelerated mode, non wmv-hd content tends to not display correctly. A simple fix is to not enable the acceleration unless you plan to watch a wmv-hd file. Another fix is to change to another decoder instead of the nvidia offering. Or just wait for ATI to release a new video driver version that this is fixed. There is an option in the drivers section for ati cards to enable/disable DxVA Hardware Acceleration.
Q: How do I burn an HDTV Movie to DVD?
A: I do not know if anyone has a simple easy method to do this. This topic always comes up in the forums. As soon as I see a definative answer to this I will post it. So far they have been talking about converting them to dvd format for a dvd player. My personal interest is converting them to a wmv-hd dvd or set of dvds.
Quick Update on this: I have been working with a couple people on possible ways to do this. We have had a lot of success using the Moonlight M71 Mux in graphedit to make a mpeg2 program stream, then put it into nero to make a dvd out of it. Excellent quality but I haven't tried it myself. I will reach out and see if someone can post details on how to do this since its not a simple process to learn.
Q: How do I schedule HD programs from Remote Record.
A: As of this post, you can't. For some unknown reason tv.msn.com and remote record doesn't support the digital tuners. You will have to schedule your shows at the MCE machine or use an alternative method like remote administration directly to the box.
Q: How do I set the quality of the show I'm recording in hdtv?
A: You don't, and why would you. The point of HDTV is better quality. If all you want is the programming, hook up an hdtv stb to analog cards and enjoy, you will need much less power in your computer.
The techincal reason: The show your watching is transmitted by the tv station in MPEG2 with AC3 audio format. (dvd format just a lot more data). MCE just saves that information to the drive. It takes massive amounts of computer power to change that in real time and your mce machine just cannot handle it. The hardware tv stations use have 5 figure price tags. This is also the reason you cannot record HDTV from a set top box unless you get the signal from firewire in already compressed form.
I do have an interest in converting the mpeg2 files to wmv-hd to save room without a quality loss. Just like the above dvd question, there is no definitive answer for how to do this and I will post it when discovered.
Q: I have this killer setup, widescreen tv, but my games don't fill the screen.
A: Just like MCE, there are a lot of issues with games and support for non-standard screens. Some games have hacks, there are tricks and even graphic alternatives if you need to stretch the screen. There are so many issues and options with widescreen high resolution gaming that the best advice I can give is head over to a forum/site dedicated to this topic. http://widescreengamingforum.com is a great place to start and a lot of good helpful people that visit the forum.
I am looking for help with 5.1 audio issues and information. I do not run 5.1 at the moment and I know there are many methods of this so if you are knowledgable on this subject, please type up some information and post it to the thread and I will be more than happy to add this with credit to you.
Q: How do I record HDTV from my cable company or Satelite provider in HD Quality?
A: Offically, digital tv support in MCE is limited to ATSC over Antenna only and you cannot.
Unoffically, There is a project using set top box firewire outputs to record digital cable including HDTV. If your interested in this unoffical project, check out http://www.thegreenbutton.com/community/shwmessage.aspx?ForumID=26&MessageID=104152
Q: How do I get more ATSC tuners installed in the same computer?
A: Its all in the hardware!! We know the Avermedia A180 tuner when combined with an HDTV Wonder will give you 2 ATSC tuners that work great together. The Dvico fusion cards also work with the A180. The dvico fusion cards also work with more than 1 installed. On Aug 16 avermedia updated their a180 drivers so you can run 2 of them in 1 machine. 2 HDTV Wonders and Media center will only use 1 of them. (unknown if this has changed, there have been several hdtv wonder driver updates but nobody has posted if they are running 2).
To install, just add the second card, install the drivers and re-run the digital tv setup. There will be no indication that you have 2 tuners installed. To test them, start recording 2 shows on HDTV channels. if it lets you record 2 at the same time, its working perfect. Remember you need to split your antenna to 2 cards. This may drop the signal strength. If you suddenly find yourself with poor signal you may need an inline amp to bring the power back up and compensate for the split.
To add even more, it will require an unoffical reg hack. http://www.thegreenbutton.com/community/shwmessage.aspx?ForumID=57&MessageID=110988
Warning. HDTV is a lot of data, your PCI bus is only so fast, your computer may not be able to handle too many of these cards. Same goes with cpu and hard drive speeds.
Q: Canada has ATSC eh! Where the guide and the US stations I can reach from where I live?
A: Theres a reg hack to help this situation. http://www.thegreenbutton.com/community/shwmessage.aspx?ForumID=57&MessageID=119624
3+ ATSC tuners thread:
Hope you don't mind.
Just did a quick update to clarify hdtv on normal tvs and warn about possible unconfirmed playback issues when using software raid.
a few have asked why I keep color coding the document. Its long. if your interested in hdtv, its easier for you to find whatI have changed by solor so you dont have to re-read the whole thing. after its been up for about a week with no major changes, I will make it all black again.
My side comment about watching HD on an older non-HD tv.
I strongly believe that if you have an SD TV greater then 20ish" that can take S-Video or Component input, it would be stupid to not watch HD content. Not only do you get different shows, but the picture quality is far superior then analog broadcasts. I have been watching HD broadcasts on my Sony 36" Wega (first generation) for 3 years now and when people come over to watch it, they are amazed at the quality. I have to explain to them that the picture could be even better, if I had an HD display as well. Then I show them my HD display and they understand.
So in addition to the additional content, I would recommend indicating that the picture quality is much much better then analog. Also, the ability to get 5.1 surround sound if you have a receiver is a great reason to switch to HD, even if you don't have an HD TV.
This is where it get confusing to me. I never figured out the differences and theres very little reference, but when wmp10 was released, windows media format 9.5 came out. The new codecs were Windows Media® Video 9 Advanced Profile codec, WMA Professional 9.1 and a new image codec but I can't think of its exact name. On my encoders, 9APC comes up as WMV 9.5. The only way to get the codec is with wmp10.
I will update the guide to reflect the correct encoders.
Interesting notes on the quality of digital tv on analog sets. I personally never used it this way but I will update that also.
I just have some re-organzing to start grouping q&a into more logical areas left. Other wise I cleaned it up, fixed some wording, expanded some areas and added a bunch more questions. I put it back to 1 color, it was getting hard to read
I'm getting ready to start a guide to stbs and irblasters and figured that guide would need more information like images on where irblasters are attached and what the setup looks like.
I started to think, this guide may benefit from stuff like this also. Anyone want to take screen shots of HD content? I would love to show the difference of analog vs digital tv 480i vs 1080i programming displayed on an SDTV vs 1080i displayed on a 720p vs 1080i displayed on 1080i/p. Also if someone has pretty cheap or free webhosting, if you could make a quick 5 second test clip that people can play to see if their computer can handle hdtv, that would be great. I think 5 seconds is long enough to see a stutter.
I'm also thinking of adding pics for what each type of connector looks like or at least references to websites with pics. could help.
It was asked in the Guide about how to determine in MCE TV Guide what is and isn't broadcast in HD. I recommend to those who do not use it already to use www.titantv.com just punch in your zip and you are good to go.