Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Early Adopter

Hmmm, for the first time I find myself with a technological dilemma!

Blu-ray or HD-DVD?

OK, neither technology is really up and running yet here in the UK, but then again I am not ready to buy.

Come next spring I will be ready to buy and both formats should be up and shouting.

I don't remember the Betamax v VHS war as my parent's aren't early adopters where technology is concerned (they only just got a PC - one of our hand me downs), and the DVDR format war never really surfaced as dual-format players / recorders came out within months.

We bought an HD-TV back in February, as we needed a new telly, so future proofing seemed sensible. Having sold our Hi-Fi / Surround Sound system (too bulky), we are back to watching DVDs via a Scart lead with dodgy stereo sound. I reckon that the reduced quality and a lack of contiguous time (Lauren) has killed our passion for watching films.

My spring purchases were going to be along the following lines...

  • HD Disk player.
  • HDMI Switching Amp + 5.1 / 7.1 Speaker setup.
  • SFF PC (to act as Media Centre).

Early reports on the Warner Bros HD releases (WB is the only studio atm who is releasing on both formats) is clearly pointing to HD-DVD being the better format.

I am not convinced that HD-DVD will win in the long run though. I think Sony will steal the market with the PS3 / Blu-ray combo.
PS3 will be the must have Christmas present this year, and I can see parents justifying the spend as the console will also act as a HD compatible film player.

Obviously Dual-format players will emerge eventually, but can I wait?

Actually do I care? Now that I have typed most of this article I am starting to think again.
Getting the Amp and the Media Centre PC is a sound investment. It will be cheaper to upgrade the PC with an HD player and I can by-pass the need for HDMI switching in the Amp, as I can hook the PC up via DVI and Optical (which is good enough for HD). That will leave the HDMI on the TV free for the Sky+ HD box (when they drop in price).

Serena and I also talked about adding a Wireless Network File server (which we can hide in a cupboard). It can be ugly and hidden and we can stick big Raid HDDs in it to free up space on the Media Centre / Laptops. Streaming of Video over a 54g Wireless LAN works perfectly well (I have proven that already between my desktop and laptop PCs). I reckon that building the file server will be a piece of piss, as all I need to do it recycle our current desktop machine "as is", but stick bigger hard disks in it. Once the system is built I can use windows networking tools to remotely administer it from a laptop, so we can get away without it needing a keyboard / mouse / monitor most of the time.

Anyway, I seem to be rambling again! But then this is my blog!

NB I don't see us buying a PS3 (before someone suggests it).


GF said...

Oh this is a GOLDMINE of opportunity and gets my creative technology juices absolutely flowing!!! I'm coming to London to help you when this baby gets off the ground.... :)

A few kwestions to start with -

1) Why do you want SKY+HD when you have a Media Center PC to do the HD recording part?

2) By putting an HD Optical Drive in the MC PC won't that suffice your needs for a player?

3) What sort of HDD space are you looking at here - will you put all your music on it too?

Building a NAS and shoving it in a cupboard is a great idea - one that I am wanting to do also but I only have one cupboard in my house - so it may be relegated to The Hive.

Also, I've proven that Wireless speeds are perfect even for MS-DVR files which are large in size, so that's little worry for those things you record on the Media Center - though still confused as to what you'll record if you've talked yourself into a SKY+HD (useless for us techies if you ask me - and you kinda did ask by blogging this).

I have to say, I LOVE my Media Center, it is by far the best techie thing I ever did in the house.

GF said...

Obviously when asking about Sky +HD part, I mean the Sky+ part, not the HD part!!

HD and HDD are far too similar acronyms, especially when connected in this way...

Jase said...

Answers (in a random order):

1/ The MCPC would replace the need for an High Def Disk player as I would include a High Def drive in the build. Hence why I wouldn't need HDMI switching in the amp, since I wouldn't have a 2nd HDMI source (High Def player).
2/ I would not hook the MCPC up to the sky box, as I would not be looking to use it for live recording - in fact it won't have a tuner in it. The MCPC will have Video In, but I won't be using it that often, except for long term backups if something special comes along.
3/ File Server will hold all our photos, music and over time will contain rips of all our DVDs. My estimate at the moment is that we need 1.5 Terrabytes of disk space. Adding a mirroring RAID setup will double that. Hence atm I can't afford it!
4/ Sky+HD box is needed to receive the HD programmes. The fact that it is Sky+ is irrelevant, however as previously stated, I would use the Sky+ functionality in place of a VCR (as I do now). Again the cost is probitive, so I am happy to live with my modded Sky+ box for at least a year.

GF said...

I'll be suprised if you don't use the MC for recording TV or time-shift, but then again if you have SKY+ then I'd understand why not. Can you move SKY+ recordings to the box or do you have to physically play them and then record them in real-time using the Video In?

I have a tuner in mine, but don't use it in preference to the Freeview box I also have - somehow mine isn't DVB Tuner or I couldn't get it to work - which is also quite likely!! - but I do have the VI connected to it and record things. It's actually made me start watching television since my ongoing niggle with TV is having to watch it according to their schedule or use a VHS Recorder.

It sounds like 1.5Tb is a good shout - I'd have recommended at least 1 - I'm sitting at 700Gb at the moment, though have enough HDDs kicking around in other boxes that I could use in a NAS if the time comes.

I like the idea of ripping all the DVDs to the box, but then you start thinking what's the point in owning them and if you rip as an ISO it still takes up 2-4Gb of space and that gets busy. Of course if you can get the AC-3 filter to work in a DIVx rip then you're laughing - something I've not managed to do yet! Or if I have, my AMP doesn't auto recognise it and plays it as 2.0 :(

Jase said...

Hmm, didn't think of that... I would want my ripped files (DivX not ISO) to have at least 5.1 audio.
You tried with CloneDVDMobile?

Owning the disks makes your digital copy legal... Just in case you were under any illusions! Plus it is quicker to rip than to download your favourites! Especially when we are talking Terrabytes! I reckon I would be breaching my ISPs fair usage policy then! Plus I get to control the quality! Favourite films get HQ rips, less favourites can get higher compression and stereo soundtracks to cut down filesize.

Jase said...

Oh and no you can't just copy files from Sky+ to a PC and play them back. It's a very nifty bit of encryption that no-one has cracked yet! So normal speed playback is your only choice for backing up.
Current TV capture cards are not geered up for encoding HD signals "on the fly", so are no use for recording Live HD TV. Hence I will await the next-gen cards to come on the market before spending a lot on a video capture card.

GF said...

I have tried with CloneDVDMobile, and I've chosen the DIVx AC-3 options etc. and I've installed the AC-3 Filter software, but my amp doesn't 'jump' to 5.1 when I play the file - unlike DVDs - though on thinking about it now that's because I used the SPDIF output for DVDs!! Argh, it suddenly makes sense!!! :)

I know to make the rips legal you need to own the DVD, but someone did own the DVD I have the rip of Jase.....*cough*!!

PS - Have you noticed no-one else is commenting on this one?

Rena said...

LOL, I've just read Jase's furtive attempt to spend my future hard earned consultant cash...

Quite optimistic since I haven't even passed my exam or applied for a new job yet yet.

Already he's thinking of ways to spend my future income!!

What toys am I allowed to buy with my future money?



GF said...

Maybe he's secretly plotting to earn major extra cash by Spring 2007 and hasn't yet shared it with you!?!? You NEVER know... :)

Jase said...

Personally I am prespending my redundancy!