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View Full Version : Making a Media Center with a Mac Mini or AppleTV?




ryanflucas
Mar 11, 2007, 09:16 PM
My uncle wants to have a media center (not sure if this is the correct term) connected to his TV to store movies on. For example he has a 32" analog TV & surround sound setup he would like to connect to a computer system. He wants to take his DVD movies and store them in the system so he can access the movies from an on-screen interface without needing to swap DVD's constantly.

This machine would not be used for anything else other then storing & playing movies on the TV. I've asked around and people have mentioned that it could be done with Windows Vista Premium or Media Center 2005 and a midrange system, but I'm wondering if this could be done with a Mac Mini? Storage space would be an issue but I'm assuming connecting an external hard disk (200-300GB) would handle this. He's trying to keep the price down if possible, but I can see Vista or Windows in general constantly wanting updates (he's on dialup), crashing often, and in some cases just not working as smoothly as a Mac would.

He already owns a PC (AMD Athlon 3800+, 1GB Ram, 160GB HD, Windows XP Home) and wants to make this as easy as possible to use. Could he rip his DVD movies to his current computer and sync it with AppleTV somehow?

Anyone created something similar to this or have any suggestions? Thanks!



steamboat26
Mar 11, 2007, 09:32 PM
I'm working towards an ultimate goal of a mac mini media center (but i still need an eyetv hybrid to record tv). I have ripped a couple of my dvds to my external HD and it works pretty well, but when i connect my mini to my 32" LCD via DVI to HDMI cable, i get pixels cut off (i think this happens on all macs, and is usually 12 pixels on all sides).
I am not sure about your apple tv plan, it might work, but i would assume that apple tv would work much more seemlessly with a mac. If you wanted to use a mini, you could rip dvds using mac the ripper. It takes a while (about 45 minutes to an hour) to actually rip the dvd and an extra 45 mins if you want to compress it, but it works.

Cave Man
Mar 12, 2007, 12:39 AM
Playing ripped DVDs through Apple TV is a bit of an unknown at the moment. However, playing them on a Mac Mini is a piece of cake.

Here's my setup (http://www.phototone.org/).

The nice thing about the Mini is that it has optical output for Dolby 5.1 surround. He'd almost certainly need an external USB2 or firewire drive to get the cost-effective 3.5" drives. A MiniStack with a 500 gig drive is about $240. I have my iTunes library on the Mini's interal 2.5" drive and almost all my movies ripped as MPEG4 files using Handbrake (2-channel stereo). These file are encoded at 1000 bit-rate in H.264, such that a 2 hour movie is about 900 mb in size.

I have a few movies that I wanted to keep the 5.1 surround with, so they were ripped from the original DVDs using MacTheRipper. You need a small app, "DVD Assist" installed and running on the Mini and you need to create an alias for the ripped DVD's VIDEO_TS folder, with the alias named for the movie.

Once this is set up, you can play everything through Front Row. I'm very happy with my setup.

Aniej
Mar 12, 2007, 12:53 AM
Wait, maybe I am confused, but are you saying he just wants to load the PC with movies and then use :apple: tv to stream? I don't see any problem with that as long as he has iTunes. The windows system should be just fine, though you might eventually need to get an external hard drive. I take that back, not eventually, pretty darn soon.

MacBass
Apr 15, 2007, 10:03 AM
My uncle wants to have a media center (not sure if this is the correct term) connected to his TV to store movies on. For example he has a 32" analog TV & surround sound setup he would like to connect to a computer system. He wants to take his DVD movies and store them in the system so he can access the movies from an on-screen interface without needing to swap DVD's constantly.

This machine would not be used for anything else other then storing & playing movies on the TV. I've asked around and people have mentioned that it could be done with Windows Vista Premium or Media Center 2005 and a midrange system, but I'm wondering if this could be done with a Mac Mini? Storage space would be an issue but I'm assuming connecting an external hard disk (200-300GB) would handle this. He's trying to keep the price down if possible, but I can see Vista or Windows in general constantly wanting updates (he's on dialup), crashing often, and in some cases just not working as smoothly as a Mac would.

He already owns a PC (AMD Athlon 3800+, 1GB Ram, 160GB HD, Windows XP Home) and wants to make this as easy as possible to use. Could he rip his DVD movies to his current computer and sync it with AppleTV somehow?

Anyone created something similar to this or have any suggestions? Thanks!

Is his TV a widescreen or 4:3 ratio TV? Does he have component video inputs? There's been some threads about the :apple: TV not displaying well with 4:3, and if he doesn't have component video (I'm sure his TV doesn't have HDMI) then the :apple: TV will not work for him. I think the mini would be his best bet, especially with a DVI to Video adapter. Also, if he gets XP or Vista Media center, the Apple remote works for that. I know of a professor here at school that demonstrated the Apple remote with Vista on his CD MBP.