Considering building htpc

jslater25

Limp Gawd
Joined
Dec 8, 2006
Messages
474
Hey peeps - I've been considering taking on a new project to build a home theater pc. I'm a bit worried that my requirements for the HTPC are too stringent, and wanted to ask others how they solved the problems.

I currently have four televisions in the house: main, master, two upstairs bedrooms. I'd prefer if I could get one server to feed media to each of those locations.
I have a plethora of DVDs/BluRays, which means I'll need adequate storage. I figured I could use an external NAS to assist. I'll have to rip all of the movies (time consuming, but worthwhile if its a one time thing).

I don't need to worry about Netflix, as I have smart TVs that already have that capability.
I am not yet ready to cut the cable cord, so there's no need for TV tuners. And I don't see a need for DVR capability.
I have a patch panel in one of the upstairs closets, so all rooms have wired connectivity.

Is this possible? What kind of hardware would I need to do this?

Many people tend to recommend Mac Minis, which works well for my household (currently have several MacBooks and iPhones, so no aversion to Apple). I could probably find a decent NAS from Newegg or Amazon. What else is needed? Apple TVs? Rokus?
 

Schro

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Mar 15, 2002
Messages
7,892
Based on your requirements, I would deploy Roku's to each TV, and setup the NAS machine with Plex to handle distributing your rips (would need to put them into mkv's).

My primary entertainment source in the house is from Roku's right now - Netflix, Amazon and Plex
 

skiddy

2[H]4U
Joined
May 31, 2003
Messages
2,688
A few notes if you happen to use Rokus at each TV:

Roku's only officially support playback of H264 video, meaning you will need to do one of the following assuming you are using Plex:
  • Re-encode all of your non-H264 rips into H264. (most blu-rays are already H264, but many blu-rays are in MPEG2 or VC-1, and DVD's are natively in MPEG2). If you run Plex directly from a NAS with a weak processor, you'll run into issues with videos not using H264 codecs (see below).
  • Run Plex media server on a powerful computer so it can transcode. An i3 or better is recommended. Your typical consumer NAS boxes do not have powerful enough processors to transcode HD video on the fly. You can run Plex server on a powerful PC, and store your video on an external NAS - this is what I do.

If you have an AVR at one of your TV's and want HD audio passthrough, you will need to use a Windows/Linux HTPC for that TV. Roku's cannot passthrough HD audio, and MacMini's cannot either. (MacMini's running Plex Home Theater make great endpoints as well if you do not require HD audio).

In my opinion, the Plex application kinda sucks for the Roku compared to Plex Home Theater or other interfaces. It can get a bit messy, especially if you have a ton of movies/TV shows like I do. As I said, just my opinion; many people love it.

The cheapest option would most likely be building a Plex server with plenty of storage and placing Roku's at each one of your TV's. This is how I started off on the server side, but I eventually moved my storage to a NAS since it scales easier and gives me more peace of mind. I have always used HTPC's at my TV's since I use cablecard tuners to watch TV.
 

jslater25

Limp Gawd
Joined
Dec 8, 2006
Messages
474
Thanks for the responses.
What I've learned so far: if I'm wanting HD audio*, I need a different solution than Rokus.

* I haven't checked out what HD audio means. I do play all audio through a receiver and speakers in one of the rooms (all bedroom TVs use the TV speakers only). The setup is for 5.1 surround.

Aside from that, it sounds like I can use a server/htpc for serving movies to the various TVs around the house.
Thanks!
 

Schro

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Mar 15, 2002
Messages
7,892
Thanks for the responses.
What I've learned so far: if I'm wanting HD audio*, I need a different solution than Rokus.

* I haven't checked out what HD audio means. I do play all audio through a receiver and speakers in one of the rooms (all bedroom TVs use the TV speakers only). The setup is for 5.1 surround.

Aside from that, it sounds like I can use a server/htpc for serving movies to the various TVs around the house.
Thanks!

For the Roku 3 and 2-XS, DTS passthrough will work out of an MKV container. The only thing not supported right now is DTS-HD (which isn't even ubiquitous on blurays at this point).
 

skiddy

2[H]4U
Joined
May 31, 2003
Messages
2,688
Thanks for the responses.
What I've learned so far: if I'm wanting HD audio*, I need a different solution than Rokus.

* I haven't checked out what HD audio means. I do play all audio through a receiver and speakers in one of the rooms (all bedroom TVs use the TV speakers only). The setup is for 5.1 surround.

Really I meant lossless audio which is commonly DTS-MA, TrueHD or LPCM. It's the audio you will most likely find on blu rays (along with lossy audio tracks as well). With DTS-MA and TrueHD tracks, they have a primary track in standard DTS or AC3 that can work with passthrough via Roku with .mkv's as David mentioned. However, these don't sound nearly as good as their lossless counterparts (assuming you have a receiver that can decode them).

The only thing not supported right now is DTS-HD (which isn't even ubiquitous on blurays at this point).

I would estimate that 90-95% of main production blu rays use DTS-MA, TrueHD or multi-channel LPCM; which to my knowledge, are not compatible with Roku's. A very small percentage that I've run across use AC3 or DTS only.
 
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