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How to build a Home media system

Posted on 2009-07-15
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-11-06
What I want to do is be able to burn all my movies, including blue-ray, store them on a drive, so that I can watch them on my tv. I would like to know what kind of software, hardware, etc. I will need and a general price of the project. I know this is kind of vague but thats because I'm not really sure where to start but I can provide more details if/when needed.
Question by:bknoll22
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Accepted Solution

bullmonkey earned 2000 total points
ID: 24867087
im assuming you have built a pc before?

a shuttle box, is a fairly good option since it is small and tidy, but you can look for any SFF (small form factor) box to house you system in

as for software xbmx is not a bad option at all, it is free, which is a bonus. it is open source and was originally design for the cracked xboxs' but is now available for all platforms, althoguht the linux distro is a nuisance to instal it instals and runs well on windows.
 the user interface, although a bit dodgy to navigate until you get used to it, is lovely. it also ships with some other features such as a localized weather channel and a movie trailer channel that enables you to watch movie trailers providing you have a wifi card or dongle installed.
i am including 2 screenshots, 1 of a shuttle box and the other of one of the xbmx user interface screens

the cost will depend on the depth of your pockets as with quality comes a price. the box i have in the bedroom is probably worth no more than $200 since i skimped on many quality parts, it  is "the eastenders" machine ( i just download eastenders on it and watch iplayer)

the living room machine is probably worth in excess of $1200 as it has a very good graphic card, sound card, large hard drive and 4 gig of ram.

ps.as it will be running on windows, there are many many media players you can use,  i have mentioned xbmc though as it is user friendly


Expert Comment

ID: 24867134
i have neglacted to mention that if your tv will need vga or hdmi inputs. and the graphic card should have dvi out, (dvi to hdmi adapter cost next to nothing)
s-video will not suffice really, althought it is ok for watching a film, if you want to use the media centre for internet use as well the text and will be fairly crappy

LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 24868196
This is really quite simple if your not heading into high definition with 7.1 surround sound.
New systems these days have covered this very topic since it's become very popular to watch internet video on a big screen ie TV.
Any good desktop even Laptops will do so long as you have a good Video card with TV out. And supported software hardware for blueray.
LaptopsI would consider the heat problems there
I can recomend DEL computers and you build your own

media centers which can be installed onto a desktop

My system is getting old but to give you some ideas
I use my homebuilt PC ( now 4 years old) and plan on upgrading to windows 7 with a new system since I am testing it now on my other PC,
 so many people remark they have crappy videoi playback using composite or s_video where as mine is as good as DVD so I dont what they do wrong, I do know that gold cables is significant for quality.
 So this desktop computer, with a 300 gig external hard drive to store my videos
has 2 gig of ram
XP prosp2
2 GHz processor
470 watts PSU
video card  nvidia GForce 6600GT with TV out ( no fan so it does not get hot)
I still use the s-video out via composit cable ( gold)  with audio mono to a connector to stereo left and right connected to the
AVS 2 in on the front of  68 CM TV
audio out cable from the rear of the TV to a small switch box which is connected to the stereo AMP
5 Sansui speakers.
MPC or VLC free media players ( any media player will do like power DVD ) to play my videos as they play full screen on the secondary screen
So far it has played good quality divx video/ avi/mpeg flash/ internet pages/youtube/ DVD etc and am very happy with it
here's a future idea
What i am looking into doing now is to play my Videos from my new PC to a projector screen TV room  so we can watch DVD in full wall screen
Here's a couple of guides how to connect the PC to the TV
The projector ideas very simple too
I'm a bit of an oldie on this stuff now but still I believe keep it simple / read and ask away get all the facts up front cause you buy stuff and it gets outdated fast

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Author Comment

ID: 24868874
Thank you for everyone's help. I think I have a good idea of what I will need now. I definitely am going to need a new graphics card. Any suggestions?

Author Comment

ID: 24868970
and yes I have built my own PC before

Expert Comment

ID: 24869688
well again it depends on the depth of your pocket, i have a nvidea 6200 256 mb in the bedroom box which works absolutly fine for its purpose and is easy enough to read text on web pages as the resolution is only set at 1025x768 ...  6200 can be picked up for as little as $25-30 new. but from there the sky is the limit in regards to cost and quality
as i mentioned before though, it is really advisable to be going for dvi out as s-video is not great for reading and considering the cost difference it aint eally worth it

the sound card is the same issue, any old sound card will suffice really but again it is just down to a blance of quality versus cost

one thing to consider as well is a decent set of fans, although it is unlikely to be creaating to much heat, as in game play, theis heat does need to be diapated, but noise will always be an issue and can only bne experimented with

Expert Comment

ID: 24869734
*one thing to consider as well is a decent set of fans, although it is unlikely to be creaating to much heat, as in game play, this heat does need to be dissipated, but noise will always be an issue and can only be experimented with

a comfortable keyboard and mouse for your media centre is a god idea too since not typing at a desk can create its own problems: see above unintended example '-)


Expert Comment

ID: 24869918
merete i did notice that you said the video card, which is a reasonably good card for the prupose,
 "nvidia GForce 6600GT with TV out ( no fan so it does not get hot) "
 did you mean 'no fan so it does get ho't or 'a fan so it does not get hot'?

"audio out cable from the rear of the TV to a small switch box which is connected to the stereo AMP
5 Sansui speakers."

also, how have you managed to connect 5 speakers to the stereo amp, do you mean that there is a passive subwoofer along the way coming from the amp splitting into 2 "satelite type speakers"?


Author Comment

ID: 24873467
A remote would be nice to have so I dont have to have a keyboard and mouse sitting around all the time. Is there any brands to avoid or ones to consider over others? and as far as how much I'm willing to pay...I would rather have a quality system that will work well/a long time.

Expert Comment

ID: 24874132
lol, i have a mce remote that i brought for about 25 pounds( about $35 i think) and it works fine. the problem is i never use it, i am happier with a mouse in my hand and my keyboard on my lap.

for a while i used a WIImote from my WII with a bluetooth dongle.that was very useful but when the novelty wore off so did my desire touse it.

i then experimented with a pda running windows mobile 5, i loaded a remote control application called vito. this lasted a little longer as i could control my hifi (which the media centre is conected to), the pc, and the tv. all with the same device. that was incredibly easy to use and again had novelty appeal, but again i it was relegated to the 'odds ans sods' box in favour of the trusty keyboard and mouse

Expert Comment

ID: 24874149
ps although the above pda remote is illustrated in the learn mode 'head to tail' with the original remote, there are also many many generic presets which mean you do not need to have the patience of a saint.

LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 24874745
The video card nvidia 6600 has no fan, that's on my desktop which runs two cables to the TV
I have Pioneer Stereo AMP with the 5 Sensui Speakers  ( not satelite speakers  )
Using rca audio cable from the TV to switchbox to AMP Audio in so I can have surround sound.
Works great

Expert Comment

ID: 24874864
@merete ahh ok, so it is passive heatsink, i didnt know if that is what you meant.

as for the 5 speakers i am still unsure how the ohms are spread across the 2 channels?

i also have 5 speakers coming from my setup in the bedroom but 2 of them are routed through a subwoofer, which accepts the 2 channels from the stereo amp, making them satelites, the other 2 are routed through the other 2 channels on the amp

i am just interested as to others' methods of setting up sytsems, since my method is obviously not the only method, albeit, i made it myself so it must be the best method ;-p
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 24875511
yeah no worries,  
on the amp I can select  different functions like Pro logic / surround mode, stereo 4 channel and then adjust the center level  volume and front and rear speakers. The audio cable from my PC is stereo
The Pioneer Amp  supports delay time S.bass per channel as well
I like the idea you gave with the shuttle box since I am in the process of building a new system and wondering how I can over come the amount of cables I have.
I also capture from the digital TV to my PC by using the switch box to reverse the cables.
I have to go work now catch you later :)


Expert Comment

ID: 24876432
Ahhhhh, so it is not just a 2 channel stereo amp, lol, it is totally clear now.
thats where the confusion came in, i understood your amp to be a stereo amp
i have the same kind of amp you speak of in the other room.

 the amp i have in here is a 'stereo' amp, it is a 4 output dual channel, hence the reason why to run 5 speakers, 2 of them have to be satelites coming from the sub

all clear. thanks

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