Playback help on G5, MKV, FrontRow and VLC

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by ekimseekem, Oct 6, 2009.

  1. ekimseekem macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2009
    Location:
    Downtown Canada
    #1
    Hey everyone,

    I’ve been trying to brew this set up for awhile. What I have is this:

    LG 240Hz HDTV 47”
    Audio Receiver + speakers
    Power Mac G5 dual 2.0 Ghz
    - 4 GB Ram
    - 2x 1TB SATA drives
    - ATI x850 graphics card
    HDMI -> DVI cable and an Optical Audio cable to the receiver
    Remote system compatible with FrontRow

    The first issue I’ve got is to get various movie formats to work on my G5, I have mostly .mp4 and .mkv videos with mixed quality, 720p seems to play fine no matter the format or player, but 1080p seems to be very hit or miss, especially if the file is over 5 GB and is MKV, video is choppy. Obviously FrontRow uses QT (I’ll get to that later), so I used VLC to play my high quality stuff, but 1080p MKV files play horribly, I’ve tried to convert these to mp4, but the quality seems to go down (with handbreak or MKVTools), I’ve resorted to converting them to AVI but I’ve heard this destroys audio quality.

    I guess my question with that is; is my hardware too underpowered to handle MKV or is the file container/codec/encoder just that buggy?

    My second question is with FrontRow, I’ve heard about some app that allows it to use VLC as a media player instead of Quicktime, but any search that I’ve done hasn’t turned up anything. I like the interface UI of FrontRow, just I’d rather use VLC then QuickTime to view videos.

    If this can’t work, it’ll mean I’ll have to better equip Quicktime to play videos, would you guys recommend Perian or find and install codecs separately?
     
  2. BlueRevolution macrumors 603

    BlueRevolution

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2004
    Location:
    Montreal, QC
    #2
    VLC isn't terribly well-optimized. It even has trouble with 1080p playback on my C2D iMac. Plex works perfectly on the same video, with no dropped frames. Unfortunately, it's Intel-only.

    I'd stick with Perian. I don't know if you can add MKV support to QuickTime, though.
     
  3. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #3
    You need to tell us the bit rates and codecs used for the videos, along with their respective sizes (geometry and framerate). I'd say the G5 you have is at the bottom end for high bit rate 1080p h.264 video.
     
  4. Makosuke macrumors 603

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    #4
    Perian adds full MKV support to Quicktime, including soft subtitles.

    That said, in my experience with such files the performance is worse under QT/Perian than VLC. Can't hurt to try, though.

    I agree, in general, that the problem is more than likely that your computer just can't handle the very high bitrate files. At >5GB for, I assume, a 2-hour movie, you must be dealing with huge bitrates, and since it gets worse with the bigger ones, that points pretty clearly to the CPU being the issue.
     
  5. BlueRevolution macrumors 603

    BlueRevolution

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    #5
    Not all decoders are created equal. If CPU is an issue with one, that doesn't necessarily mean that another won't work.
     
  6. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #6
    OP needs to dl XBMC. If that doesn't fix it, nothing short of transcoding down will.
     
  7. Makosuke macrumors 603

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    #7
    Ooh, I didn't realize XMBC was available for PPC--the last time I looked they hadn't added any PPC support. I'll definitely be filing that bit of info mentally for future use.

    Given that as an option I agree--the decoding engine that Plex and XMBC use seems to be particularly efficient (though as BlueRevolution says, there are situations where that's not the case), so it would be your best bet.

    They're all free, of course, so downloading all of the above won't hurt, either.
     
  8. ekimseekem thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #8
    I hadn't thought about XBMC, isn't it called Plex now?

    I do think the problem is coming down into 2 catagories, firstly the MKV container isn't very good, from what I've read... simply spending the time to convert/mux/transcode it to either avi or mp4 improves playback performance.

    Secondly my G5 is aging, I'm basically looking for things to use it for since I'm not using it for gaming anymore, I was hoping it could be a good Media Center.

    What I might do is load it up with server, get a Mac Mini and use that as a Media Center and use the G5 to hold media and provide network services... how are Mac Minis doing as Media Centers?
     
  9. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #9
    Plex is descendent of XBMC, but they are maintained by two separate groups. XBMC is both Intel and PPC, while Plex is Intel only.

    I don't know of any issues with MKV, but I only used Plex for those and they play fine. All my videos are either straight Blu-ray rips (m2ts container), MKVs from Blu-ray rips (1080p or 720p h.264 with DTS or AC3 audio using Handbrake and no more than 10 mbps video), or M4V for DVDs (using the Apple TV Preset in Handbrake). I have no problems with those files on my 1.66 gHz Core Duo Mini.

    The current Mini is pretty good from what I hear, so long as you don't multitask them.
     
  10. ekimseekem thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #10
    I'm basically using it for media playback, before we were just using the XBox 360 and its glorious media browsing and playback (often times requiring a codec that you already downloaded and having to be signed in to XBox live just to play back certain formats). The Mac was in an office sharing a folder/itunes via Connect 360.

    The Mini would be a bonus too... would fit right in with the rest of the concoles and recievers next to the TV... all I'm worried about is performance... not a fan of laggy frames!

    I'd give you guys more figures for files, but I'm currently at work, away from my media collection.

    Thx for the replies so far tho.
     
  11. Makosuke macrumors 603

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    #11
    I'm using current-gen mini (lower-end model but with maxed RAM) and an external FW800 hard drive as a combo media center/file server, and it works fantastically well.

    That said, I've never tried to play anything higher def than about 720p on it, so I can't say for certain that it'll play extreme-bitrate files smoothly. No issues upscaling smaller content smoothly for my 1080p TV, at least.

    (Relevant warning, if you end up with one: Plex doesn't currently run well under Snow Leopard; it works, but the video suffers from tearing. I mostly use VLC, but were I reliant on Plex I wouldn't yet upgrade to 10.6.)

    Another advantage of using a mini as a server over a G5 tower is that the noise level and power consumption are WAY lower.
     
  12. ekimseekem thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #12
    I don't think I was planning on using Plex anyways... but that sorta brings me back to one of my other questions; if I use Frontrow as a Media Center 'program', can I use VLC as the default player instead of Quicktime?

    I think u mean using the Mini as a Media box right and have the G5 as a server in a closet somewhere?

    I don't actually hear too much fan noise from the G5... Apple was right, its pretty quiet with 9-10 fans.

    Another question I have is how would you connect the Mini to the sound reciever?
     
  13. dr. shdw macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2008
    #13
    G5s are really slow for h264. Try Mplayer Extended multithreaded on and see if that helps. Otherwise, it's probably too slow for the 1080p mkvs.
     
  14. BlueRevolution macrumors 603

    BlueRevolution

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    #14
    'fraid not. Front Row = QuickTime.
     
  15. Makosuke macrumors 603

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    #15
    Well, in my case, there's a closet relatively close to the TV, so the mini is indeed both--I just run a 20' DVI-HDMI cable and optical audio cable out of the closet and over to the home theater receiver.

    And actually, the mini is so darned quiet it wouldn't be an issue even if it wasn't in the closet--I frequently don't bother to close the door. Makes way, WAY less noise than my PS3 even when that isn't cranking the fans up to ridiculous.

    Depending on your needs a 2009 mini plus a 1-2TB FW800 external drive (hardware mirrored, if you like) can serve quite sufficiently as a server/mediacenter combo. The FW800 drive is fast enough to functionally saturate a gigabit ethernet link, which is as fast as anything is going to be capable of pulling data off a server anyway.

    The only limitation in my mind is if you have other computers wired to your router (as opposed to pure wireless), then you're going to want an ethernet cable between the mini and the router, whereas with a separate setup you can have the router and server be somewhere entirely separate from the TV. Then again, ethernet cable is cheap, so I'd probably still go with this setup even if I didn't have a tiny house where everything is pretty close together. And compared to going pure-wireless on the media center you're going to get significantly more responsive playback when scrubbing or opening files that need to be pre-processed a bit (like MKVs with a subtitle track or WMVs with Flip4Mac).
     
  16. ekimseekem thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #16
    I went to my mothers this past weekend, she has a 1.83 Ghz Mini with 1GB of RAM, after some modifications in VLC a 1080p MKV sample file played fine where as it wouldn't have on the G5.

    The problem I have with the Mini is the storage... I'm stuck between having an external drive on the Mini (which is limited to Firewire/USB2) or having a server (the G5, which already has all the media). The network is already all Gigabit ethernet. I'm leaning more towards making the G5 a server because I also need to have a web server going on the network at the same time and giving the mini too much to do would bog it down maybe.

    The rough network layout would be a OpenBSD firewall with 3 interfaces (one for LAN, another for WAN and the last one for open wireless), a Windows 7 desktop, the G5 server, a Mac Mini media center and a couple notebooks of mixed OSs. I have 1 CentOS server currently for storage... but I'm thinking of retiring that. All the switches (2 of them, to provide connections to 2 parts of the residence) are gigabit switches.
     
  17. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #17
    I wouldn't worry about FW. It has plenty of bandwidth for media distribution. I wouldn't go with USB, though.
     
  18. ekimseekem thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #18
    Yea I know, tends to do the burst thing and doesn't provide constant bandwidth. FW would be the way to go... but I'll go with the G5 server route, see how that goes, if not I'll go to the external HD.
     
  19. BlueRevolution macrumors 603

    BlueRevolution

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    #19
    Don't forget you can upgrade the drive inside the Mini too. You can get 2.5" hard drives up to 750 GB now.

    The G5 will draw much much (much much much) more power than an external hard drive, and pump out proportionately more heat. Don't forget that there was never a PowerBook G5 because the processor was too hot and too power-hungry to even fit into a laptop.

    There is absolutely no reason that a Mini couldn't run a web server at the same time. I assume you're just planning to run an intranet? The processor use by running a home intranet will be negligible, even if you're running big MySQL queries and all sorts of other things.
     
  20. ekimseekem thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #20

    Yea, its a good point... i might opt for a 2 TB external drive connected via firewire and sell the G5... as nice as it is to have.

    And by the time I get it, i might not need a web server (i'm building a company website in my spare time, nothing huge, but they have access to it thu the OpenBSD firewall)
     
  21. BlueRevolution macrumors 603

    BlueRevolution

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    #21
    So you're using it as a testing server? Whatever, your Mini can probably handle a pretty respectable amount of traffic without interrupting video playback. Based on my experience with running web servers, a dedicated server with the specs of the current revision Mac Mini would be able to handle ~15 hits per second with no trouble. A testing server might average a couple of hits per hour, and of course you're unlikely to be using your own web server while watching video.

    Don't sweat it.
     
  22. ekimseekem thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #22
    I've decided that I'm going to sell my G5 and get the new Mac Mini. I plan to buy an external RAID device to hold storage... i noticed i'm limited to firewire 800 as the Mini no longer has Firewire 400 and I don't want to use USB,
    looking at this

    Only 1 real thing I need to look at with this is; connecting the Mini to the sound reciever. I guess I need to go from a mini jack to optical audio (or some other input that would be in the reciever that supports 5.1 audio). Any suggestions on bringing audio from the Mac Mini to the reciever?

    I guess I have to get a Mini-DVI --> DVI cable to connect to my existing DVI --> HDMI adapter I have already.
     
  23. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #23
    FW800 is back-compatible with FW400.

    You need a Toslink cable with a miniplug on one end and an conventional plug on the other. You can find them for about $7 at the usual suspects.
     
  24. ekimseekem thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #24
    I just had a better idea; can I take the Minis' optical drive out (and the 2.5" SATA hard drive) and plug in a 3.5" drive (obviously with a large capacity) instead?

    I'm semi-sure this can be done, just wanted to ask here.
     
  25. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #25
    No, the 3.5" drive won't work. However, you could remove the optical drive and install an iSATA-eSATA cable to it. Probably need to come up with some creative way of securing it. That way you could connect an eSATA drive to the Mini.
     

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