some expert advice regarding system set up please

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by sparkie1984, Feb 12, 2010.

  1. sparkie1984 macrumors 68000

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    #1
    evening everyone!!

    im after some advice form the pros on here if you dont mind??

    to set the scene, i have a macpro with a 2tb hard disk in it. on this hard disk i intend on having my film collection (dvd's and bluray) ive started copying them over using RipIt and then using handbrake to encode them to apple tv settings, and then importing them to itunes.

    so how am i best off going about being able to scroll through my movies and watching them on my tv? am i best going down the apple tv route, and having it stream the films off of the macpro? i have the ability to connect the apple tv via ethernet to my network if that would help?

    so here comes the questions:

    1. is apple tv the best solution for being able to view my films off my macpro?

    2. will the apple tv setting on handbrake give me the dolby digital so i can get surround sound on the films?

    3. can i connect the apple tv to my network, or would it have to plug directly into my computer? (which i think it can due to having 2 ethernet ports)

    4. are there any other considerations i need to take?

    i havent started on the blu rays yet as i need to find a blu ray drive for the macpro that works and im not sure on how to encode them, but thats another thread if necessary and ive spotted a useful thread on blu-rays further down i believe!!!!


    any help will be gratefully received as im still quite new to the mac world (although its rapidly taking over my house hold) :D :apple:
     
  2. JKColo22 macrumors regular

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    #2
    While I can't say if it is necessarily "the best" way, I am happy with my AppleTV, in terms of reliability and ease of use...

    Yes, I believe so... My ripped dvds seems to all play in surround, but can't say for sure.

    No, you do not need to directly connect it, it connects via WiFi or ethernet and can stream from your computer in either manner. The 2nd ethernet port on your mac pro could be set up as load balancing... But, basically: the answer is NO, it is not necessary, you will just connect it to your home network as usual.

    Obviously having both your MacPro and ATV connected over ethernet will free up your WiFi network for other uses, otherwise you will notice a slowdown when using the internet on other devices because even though the ATV is not accessing the internet, you are sucking up your internal network's bandwidth. This is not as noticeable if you are using a Wireless N router as opposed to g/b, but you will be happier if you can hardwire both over ethernet... Just connect them into your router as you would anything else.

    Check out Apple TV Flash Adds a lot of capability to the AppleTV, such as being apple to add an external hard drive or stream directly from a network attached storage device, either option would eliminate the need to have your MacPro powered on with iTunes running to use your files.

    Additionally: There are other "network multimedia player" devices out there for streaming video from a computer to your TV. The nice thing about the apple tv is the ability to buy shows/movies/music directly on your TV from iTunes, play your DRM protected iTunes files that you have already purchased. However, if you are really just looking for something to play ripped DVDs you might want to consider other options and decide based on pricing, and how much networking experience you have. Apple TV is definitely the most user friendly route.

    That said, I really like my Apple TV and with ATV Flash, the capabilities are even further expanded.
    Hope this helps.
     
  3. sparkie1984 thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #3

    that is superb!!

    thanks a lot, well i do have a time machine which i believe is an n router but you raise a valid point about sucking the bandwidth out of it and i have the facility to cable it so i may as well i guess!

    i guess the reason im thinking apple tv is due to the ease of interaction with the computer, im unsure if any other media players would play well with pulling ripped files off of my mac?

    regarding the atv flash i believe a friend of mine uses that and raves about it! so ill speak to him about it too

    thanks again for the info, this is all a bit of a learning curve!
     
  4. HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 603

    HobeSoundDarryl

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    #4
    :apple:TV core functionality is much like an iPod. So yes, you scroll down through your movie collection list (of movies). This works very well on :apple:TV.

    Since you already have a Mac, the :apple:TV is very good for your needs. Recognize its limitations (such as how it can't playback 1080i or 1080p video), but if you are happy with the outputs from Handbrake :apple:TV setting, you should be very happy with an :apple:TV.

    Yes, stream the movies from the Mac Pro. :apple:TV's hard drives are very small (for storing many movies), so streaming is pretty much the way to go. If you hack the :apple:TV, you can attach and use a big hard drive via USB (which could then make syncing all your movies work), but the experience- sync or stream- is pretty much the same with a wired network.

    Yes, if you can use a wired network, use it. Wired is pretty much always superior to wireless.

    1. That's going to be "eye of the beholder". If "best" is about picture quality, there are lots of newer hardware in set-top boxes capable of playing back full 1080p. If "best" is about ease-of-use, I haven't seen anything easier to use than :apple:TV. Since you already own a Mac and are using iTunes, :apple:TV is pretty much THE device to make the most of that combo.

    2. Yes. If the source file is in DD5.1, and you don't explicitly disable AC3 Passthrough on the audio pane, the resulting file will have a DD5.1 audio track embedded, which will work just fine with DD5.1 receivers (use digital audio connections of course between the :apple:TV and the DD5.1 receiver).

    3. :apple:TV is a network device. No need to connect it directly to the computer. Think of it much like any other computer in your house.

    4. I'd try it "as is" before I hack it. It is quite great out of the box. A few considerations that I might add:
    • Get something like Meta-X for thoroughly tagging your movies. It's much better than using just iTunes for tagging.
    • Do searches for "<movie title> movie poster" via google or yahoo images. Then, download pretty good size movie posters (I suggest >499 pixels tall) for your movie poster art. These will look great in your movie list in :apple:TV.
    • Take advantage of the "Show" tag for grouping films. For example, all of the animations for the kiddies are "Show" tagged "Animations", which groups them all in ONE folder. Sequel films like Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, etc are all "Show" tagged as "Star Wars", "Star Trek", etc grouping all of their movie sequels into ONE folder each. So, for example, in the main movie list in :apple:TV, it will show ONE entry for Star Wars (a folder), which, when selected then shows the 6 movies from that series.
    • A program like DVD2OneX is a great extra tool for merging long movies spread over more than one DVD into a single file for Handbrake. For example, Return of the King Extended edition can be ONE, uninterrupted movie file (well over 3 hours) in your :apple:TV list.

    The hacks do add a lot of functionality. So read up on them to see if you want any of that.

    One other tip: Even your 2Tb drive might feel small if you have enough movies to rip over time. So, you might want to temporarily uncheck the preferences, advanced, "Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library" option in iTunes when you are adding movies to iTunes. What this basically does is leave the movies wherever you have them stored- even on multiple hard drives- yet still indexes them into iTunes as if they were copied into your main iTunes library. If you go this way, you might consider dedicating a separate drive for your media (or just your movies) attached to your network or directly your Mac (iTunes won't care). When that drive fills, you can add another drive. Key is NOT moving movies around if you go this way, as iTunes will not automatically know where you've moved them (creating broken links). The main benefit with this is the flexibility to potentially have many hard drives holding your media, without filling up your 2Tb drive in your Mac.

    With a Mac Pro, you might want to consider just buying an extra internal 2Tb and dedicating it as your Media drive.
     
  5. sparkie1984 thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #5
    darryl....... thanks you so much for this post!! :)

    the 2tb drive i have is actually a seperate drive in my mac pro...... with space for another if needed! :D

    im using the batch ripper that is posted on here...... excellent bit of kit!

    does this take care of the artwork acceptably?

    ill uncheck that itunes thing now as id prefer not to hog up unneeded space if possible!!

    im dreading doing the blu ray ripping though!! although i have bootcamp at least to do it!!
     
  6. getbigg21 Guest

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    #6
    I personally like the Mac Mini HTPC setup more myself. I use Plex with it. I have been really impressed. It's easy to use for both me and my wife. It plays any content including all 1080p stuff.
     
  7. sparkie1984 thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #7
    ooohh, tell me more :)

    is it regarded as better than an atv? but how much does it cost?? dont really fancy having to spend out £600 to be able to play my movies
     
  8. getbigg21 Guest

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    #8
    I like it better b/c it will play anything you throw at it. The way Plex is set up you can point it to where your content is. From there it will download the cover art, description, etc for you. Once you get it set up you don't need a keyboard or mouse. You can just get an Apple Remote and it will work just fine.

    I just got a low end Mac Mini 2.26ghz and a few cords to hook it up and I was good to go. It is more expensive than just getting an Apple TV, but it doesn't have limitations like the Apple TV does.
     
  9. MacsRgr8 macrumors 604

    MacsRgr8

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    #9
    I use both: TV and Mac mini with Plex.

    Don't forget the Mac mini does not have HDMI output. So, to get surround sound you must use the optical audio output alongside the video output. Can be done of course, but it does depend on your setup how easily this can be achieved.

    The TV does use HDMI and yes, Handbrake will encode using dolby 5.1. :)

    In my setup, I use the TV almost all the time: TV shows, comedies, music, internet radio... everything up to 720p I watch on the TV.
    I use the Mac mini with Plex for playing 1080p (or 1080i) HD movies usually found somewhere on dah web....

    TBO, I can't live without both ;)
     
  10. sparkie1984 thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #10
    thanks for that!

    im torn......... i thought mac minis had an optical and hdmi?

    im genuinely torn.... would be good to have the option of 1080p

    are there any other options? any other machines i could buy? i guess they wouldnt integrate very well anyway into a mac environment. along with the fact im encoding everything in an apple tv format. havent started on the blu-rays yet though!

    i obviously want to spend as little as possible but to get the best setup possible.
     
  11. MacsRgr8 macrumors 604

    MacsRgr8

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    #11
    The (newest) Mac mini has one Mini-DVI and one Mini DisplayPort.
    So, to setup your Mac mini to an HD TV, usually means getting a Mini-DVI to HDMI cable, and some way of getting the optical audio to a surround speaker set.

    Encoding media to TV means that the maximum resolution for a movie file will be 1280 x 720, i.e. 720p.
    All Intel Mac mini's can cope with those files easily.... especially the Core 2 Duo ones.
    In my experience almost all 1080p files (mkv, ts, mov, etc) can be played flawlessly on Mac mini's with a 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo with 2 GB of RAM using Plex.

    Let's put it this way: a Core 2 Duo Mac mini with Plex can play anything an TV can play, and far, far more including 1080p/i content.

    The TV has the easiest setup (one HDMI cable for up to 720p movies and dolby surround sound), and the easiest interface to use.
    But, the TV *needs* another iTunes "host" computer to share its data, and that iTunes library must be filled some way or another. Using HandBrake is brilliant, and works perfectly. But it does use your time....
     
  12. sparkie1984 thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #12
    hmmmm so many options.......

    i may bide my time a bit, see if i can pick up a cheap-ish mac mini or wonder if they'll upgrade the apple tv at all?

    apparently their still using an ide hard disk??? just seems a bit behind the times!

    im almost tempted to hit ebay up, but im scared what i may end up with!

    do minis have an optical port? as i am investing in an av receiver soon so could just whack the optical into that couldn't i?

    so the minimum spec for 1080p files would be a core2duo 2.0ghz and 2gb ram?

    thanks for your help so far!
     
  13. MacsRgr8 macrumors 604

    MacsRgr8

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    #13
    The Intel Mac mini uses S-ATA (same HD's as MacBooks).

    If you get an AV receiver with optical audio input, then that should work.
    I have the Sony STR-DG820 AV receiver. My Mac mini is hooked to that AV receiver via optical audio, but the video has gone straight to the HD TV (via Mini-DVI to HDMI).
    If I connected the Mac mini's video to the same receiver (via the DHMI input), it wouldn't let me use audio over the optical audio input.... This receiver "expects" both audio AND video to be channeled through the HDMI only.

    That's why Mac mini's video is straight to TV, and audio to AV receiver.
    But, it works brilliantly!

    Not really minimum.... more recommended. I had a Core Duo 1.66 GHz Mac mini with 1 GB RAM before, and it played most 1080p files fine as well. But, some higher bitrate 1080p content could stutter here and there.
     
  14. sparkie1984 thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #14

    your a legend thanks!!

    i think im almost set on a mac mini now then...... seems a shame to rip a blu ray and lose some quality to knock it down to 720 doesnt it?

    sorry i meant apple tv uses an ide drive i think! maybe thats why they wont allow 1080p the hardware seems a bit ancient really. the other thing which concerns me is apparently they run pretty hot, similar to my time capsule which appears to not have a single hole in it for ventilation!


    hmm, if only mac minis were a wee bit cheaper.......
     
  15. MacsRgr8 macrumors 604

    MacsRgr8

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    #15
    The TV does run hotter than a Mac mini.

    The specs can be found here

    If you want Blu-Ray quality, then.. yeah... you want a Mac mini with Plex running. If your TV can handle 1080p Full HD, and you have such content the  TV cannot display it.
    Why not look for a 2nd hand Core 2 Duo Mac mini running @ 2.0 GHz (2007 model)?
    The GeForce 9400M grfx inside the newer Mac minis is not necessary. Plex does not use its power.
    :)
     
  16. sparkie1984 thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #16

    right, mac mini for me!! thanks for your help, im going to look for a 2007 mac mini!!

    got my heart set on it now i think! :)

    thanks so much for your help
     
  17. MacsRgr8 macrumors 604

    MacsRgr8

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  18. getbigg21 Guest

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    #18
    Yeah you can get the cords you need to run the sound and video through monoprice.com . I just got mine yesterday and it was like $15 shipped overnight total. I have the newest Mac Mini so it runs perfect.

    I also like most of my content in 1080p so the Mini was a must. Plus you don't have to worry about converting it a special way for it to run. I used to have an Apple TV and I just hated having to convert everything to play on it.
     
  19. TuckBodi macrumors 6502

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    #19
    You guys know the AppleTV can do 1080p now, right? There's still some bugs/issues to be worked out but the XBMC nightlies show continued improvement. All it takes is a ~$25 dollar Broadcom CrystallHD card. And now with DDS fanart, the experience is even better!

    ATVFlash, etc....boggles my mind people pay for something which is free.

    Mac mini...also have one of those and is a great choice with either XBMC or its sibling Plex. Some older mini's could struggle with higher end content, but can also use the Broadcom card (bought one for my mini too :D). Newer mini's can play the stuff out of the box.

    WDTV...have one of those too, but even though it can play a lot of stuff, it has quirks/bugs and the interface and remote suck.

    Good luck and welcome to the world of HTPC!
    Some XBMC skin videos and screenies:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/HitcherUK#p/u/0/LTT6uNaff5o
    http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?t=68946
     
  20. sparkie1984 thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #20
    thanks tuckbodi!

    i appreciate the time taken to post those links!

    what format would be best to convert them to then?

    so whats a broadcom card? can i get it in the uk??

    so maybe atv is the best way to go........ my mind is blown a bit with all this to be honest!

    so to recap..... atv can play 1080p? so it could play my blu-rays too? and if so what format would i need to rip my content to? (i want to have a bulk encoding day today, to start getting through my collection or ill be retired and blu-ray will be old news by the time im finished :) )
     
  21. dekinseattle macrumors newbie

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    Dec 24, 2009
    #21
    monoprice.com for the cable to allow for the mini to attach via HDMI works great - I run mine through my Sony Receiver - I got the 6331 item - took seconds to plug in

    http://www.monoprice.com/products/p...=10428&cs_id=1042802&p_id=6331&seq=1&format=2

    I have both a new Mini (purchased in DEC) and an :apple:TV (purchased about 2 years ago now) - I like the flexibility of having both - but if the :apple:TV wasn't already in the house not really sure I would have bought it as well as the Mini - PLEX is really sweet and works well once you get it set up

    for PLEX set up see the videos in the Help section as well as the one posted on screencastsonline.com's website - I found all of this helpful

    http://www.screencastsonline.com/index_files/SCO0201-plex.php

    if your external storage option is FW800 then you can attach that direct to the Mini - I bought a Drobo and am really happy so for with this option
     
  22. Shuttleworth macrumors regular

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    UK
    #22
    Mac Mini's have been making more frequent appearances in the UK refurb store recently, as have AppleTV's. The store seems to get updated just after half past midnight, so check it then or first thing in the morning.
     
  23. sparkie1984 thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #23
    thanks for that shuttleworth!

    il keep checking, a friend of my mums works for or does something for apple and seems to think he may be able to get me a discount so im waiting to hear from him too!


    one thing that was worrying me last night.......

    can i get the mini to retrieve the films form my mac pro, if i was using the plex app on the mini? im sure i can as the apple tv does but i just want peace of mind really!!!
     
  24. sparkie1984 thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #24
    hold the phone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    my macpro has the ati 4870 card in it.......... cant i just get a dvi - hdmi adapter for that???? and watch it on my tv??

    i have a 15m hdmi lead here and my mac is within that range to my tv.

    therefore saving me £500 on a mac mini??

    only question is though, can the graphics card output from the mini display port and the dvi at the same time?
     

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