What is a PVR:
A PVR is a fully featured Personal Video Recorder (PVR), similar to that of a TiVo. It allows you to use a PC to schedule TV recordings and view/pause live TV. In additional to this functionality, it also acts as a media center allowing you to watch movies, listen to music, view pictures, listen to FM radio and streaming Internet radio stations, among other things.
Using a PC, hardware encoding TV tuner cards & PVR software, you can easily create your own PVR, which supports multiple tuners, allowing you to record more multiple channels at one time & stream the video across your home network.
These are only the beginnings of how to build/use your own custom PVR. With the use of plug-ins and extra hardware, the sky's the limit.
In my example PVR, it was built with the following hardware:
|Hardware Type||Name/Model||Cost||Reason Selected|
|Motherboard||Via Epia SP13000 (w/1.3Ghz CPU)||$210.00 USD||
|Memory||1 Gig Transcend DDR400 RAM||$123.00 USD||
|Storage||100 Gig Maxtor Ultra 7200RPM IDE Hard Drive||$99.00 USD||
|Storage||500 Gig Hitachi DeskStar 7200RPM IDE Hard Drive||$380.00 USD||
|TV Tuner||Hauppauge WinTV PVR-500MCE PCI Card||$170.00 USD||
|CD/DVD||Samsung 16X DVD +/- RW IDE Drive||$40.00 USD||
|Remote||SoundGraph iMon Inside Remote||$75.00 USD||
|PC Case||Morex 668 Mini-ITX case||$95.00 USD||
|Misc/Other||PCI Riser w/ribbon cable||$15.00 USD||
|Misc/Other||Longer Round IDE Cable||$13.00 USD||
|Misc/Other||USB 1.44 Meg Floppy Drive||$39.99 USD||
* Hardware Cost Notes/Disclaimer:
And using the following software/drivers:
|Software Type||Name/Version||Obtained From||Reason Used|
|Motherboard BIOS||Via Epia Bios v1.06 BETA1||www.viaarena.com||
|Operating System||Windows XP Pro w/SP2||Retail Store||
|PVR Software||GBPVR v0.96.12||www.gbpvr.com||
|TV Tuner Driver||Hauppauge PVR500 drivers v184.108.40.20625||www.shspvr.com||
|Video Card Driver||Epia SP Video Card Driver v220.127.116.11||www.via.com.tw||
|MPEG Decoder Codec||Cyberlink 5 MPEG2 Decoder||www.free-codecs.com
ACE Mega CodecS Pack 6.03 - Professional Edition
|Remote Control Driver/App||iMON/iMEDIAN v4.51.0202||www.soundgraph.com||
Building The PC:
Minimum PVR Recommendations:
Related Useful Site Links:
Frequently Asked Questions (Q & A):
Q: Can this play standard DVDs?
A: Yes, if you use a DVD drive, instead of a CD drive, you can play DVDs in GBPVR
Q: How much storage does a show take?
A: This will vary based on the length of the show being recorded and at what quality you are recording it at. However basic MPEG2 recording use:
Q: What issues have you had with building this PVR?
A: There were a number of issues I had, but solved though research, process of elimination & a little trial/error. They are as follows:
These are the things I had issues with, but since I've already addressed them - it should make your build that much easier...
Q: Can you can record 2 shows at the same time?
A: Yes, this build is able to record 2 shows at once, even while watching another previously recoded show.
Q: I want to use different or more compact PC case, do you have any advice on this?
A: Yes. Should you go with a different mini-itx case, you may have some space issues to deal with when using the PVR500 card. You also may not need to order that special PCI riser. I only point this out, due to the problems I had with my build, why I selected that case in the first place & because I've read a decent number of posts online about the PVR500 not fitting many of the smaller, more compact mini-itx cases. With some of the more compact/low profile mini-itx cases, you may only be able to fit the low profile version of the PVR150 card &/or use USB based TV tuners.
A: Playback is jerky and CPU utilization is stuck on 100%. How do I try to fix this?
A: In my PVR, the CPU sits between 32% and about 54%, when using the Cyberlink SP decoder.
Q: Did you install ALL of the drivers from the ACE package on free-codecs?
A: Yes, I current have all codecs installed from the ACE package (but not all that other apps/tools). However I needed to disable one codec group in the AVS dashboard, which does DirectX VOB & DirectX VOB streaming, because it caused an annoying error prompt each time I watched a recording show.
Q: Did you start by just installing the Cyberlink SP MPEG2 decoder?
A: Originally I installed just the Cyberlink SP codec and it worked correctly. You may want to limit it to that and then add other codecs as needed. Then I enabled hardware acceleration on it under the playback menu of the GBPVR config utility, after selecting Cyberlink SP. I also installed all the drivers in the codec pack. Make make sure you use all the newest VIA Epia SP drivers for best results as well.
Q: Did you install the Hauppauge base CD for the PVR500 and then update the drivers on shspvr.com?
A: I only used the drivers from shspvr.com site. I did not use the CD which came with the PVR500 card.
Q: Do you have any insight for me? There is no other software currently installed.
A: To prevent lockups, due to DMA issues, you will need to flash your BIOS.
You will need to flash it to the BETA1 BIOS (which is actually v1.06 with a small DMA fix)
You can download it from here
Q: When I installed the ACE codec pack with ONLY the Cyberlink SP codec, now CPU utilization sits between 25%-50% for live TV. Shouldn't it be lower?
No, however that that is good range for playback. I was surprised as well to on how much work the CPU needs to do. In the end, it appears VIA's marketing for the SP13000 provided end users the wrong idea on exactly how much work is offloaded to the on-board MPEG2 decoder. In reality, only about 10-12% of the MPEG2 decoding is offloaded to the on-board MPEG2 decoder, when using hardware acceleration with the Cyberlink SP decoder (verse using the same decoder software with the hardware acceleration option disabled).
You should find that recording with the PVR500 will only use about 3-5% of the CPU per tuner. As such, even when you are recoding 2 things at medium quality & playing a previously recorded show, you should still have CPU cycles to spare. However your hard drives will be pretty busy - with the hard drive light on about 2/3 of the time.
Q: I can no longer use VMR, I have to use Overlay Manager to get any kind of channel information.
A: Try reinstalling DirectX9 - this may fix your VMR issues.
At the given time, I use VMR7 for playback. I will work on getting the OSD to appear again once I get the chance to sit down & closely look into the issue. I have a feeling it may be a simple/stupid settings hidden way somewhere, but I won't know that until I look at this issue much more closely & do some research on it. From research thus far, it appears 2 settings must be made to the registry to activate this feature.
Q: Using overlay manager, every time i change channels or something it jerks a little bit.
A: I resolved this by extending the delay time for the Live TV time shifting in the GBPVR config. If memory servers me, this was set to a 1 second delay.
Q: Right now it seems like every time the hard drive reads it jerks, so i cant imagine it would work recording one show and watching another?
A: This is due to either the DMA issue with the BIOS &/or your IDE hard driver controller is set to PIO instead of DMA.
Q: I haven't updated a BIOS in some time... how do you do it without a Floppy Drive? I don't know how to boot to a command prompt in order to flash it.
A: Well I've read that some have created bootable CDs with all the necessary files - however I found this to be too much work to create. When I flashed the BIOS on my Epia SP13000, I went with a more tried and true method. I used a USB based floppy drive and an old Win98SE PC to create my floppy & then used that to flash the BIOS on my PVR. I did however have a few problems along the way, and luckily for me, I didn't trash the Epia SP motherboard.
To turn my bad situation into something useful, I was able to use that experience to prepare an foolproof method to flash the BIOS without hitting any problems - should I need to do this again at some point.
Q: When i try to reinstall directx9 it seems to detect that I already have it, and does nothing. Is there a way to uninstall it first?
A: Try to download the most current version of DirectX9 from Microsoft's web site (www.microsoft.com/directx). The one I downloaded was the full version of DirectX9 (which does not need to download anything when run, so you can install it on PC which are not Internet ready/connected). The download was about 50 megs, before I unzipped it. Anyway, whenever I used it, it overwrote the existing DirectX9 files on my PVR - and as such I did not receive that DirectX prompt you noted about.
Q: How can I flash the BIOS without a floppy drive, and using NTFS?
A: This is how others did it.
* WARNING: I accept no responsibility for any damage caused to your computer by following this procedure. This worked for others, but your mileage may vary!
Q: Can you give me a fast rundown on how you did your software/os installation:
A: here is what to do (I'm doing this from memory, so you may need to tweak as necessary):
Q: With this motherboard, shouldn't there be some sort of support for this MPEG decoder if they did go through the trouble of adding it to the board?
A: Well kind of.. From what I got from the VIA & EPIA specific forums, it appears VIA only added the hardware to the board. It still requires each software company to actually write codecs/software to make use of it. For example, Nero 6 has hardware acceleration features for MPEG2 playback, but appears to never have added support for the Epia on-board MPEG2 decoders - as such the hardware acceleration option does nothing on this board. However it appears that Cyberlink 5 has added support for this board. I've also read (but never tried/verified it) that certain versions of Intervideo support this board as well.
Q: Why are we working around this with the Cyberlink software decoder?
A: As noted above, the on-board MPEG2 decoder still requires software to make it work. Unfortunately it is not like the Hauppauge PVR350 cards, where Hauppauge actually created all the drivers & support to use that card's on-board MPEG2 decoder. So as you can see, it will still require a MPEG2 codec which can access/use the on-board decoder.
Q: Is Via just taking advantage of users which purchase this motherboard for the on-board MPEG2 decoder ability?
A: Well kind of.... The VIA CN400 chipset/solution is more of a marketing ploy then anything else. However I am happy with the results of my PVR build and with the work arounds noted, you should have a nice stable PVR. It think it's only a matter of time before better Windows & more Linux ready solutions become available which fully support this chipset. From what I've read, great strides are being made on the EpiOS and other Linux specific distros for support this CN400 chipset and it's on-board hardware. Since this chipset is still fairly new, it will be a while before more user friendly solutions become available. For now its simply a wait an see game....
Q: What is the CPU usage with different MPEG2 decoders with/without Hardware Acceleration?
A: As to the CPU load during playback with hardware acceleration, it was about 10+% lower then the specs I posted when I had Win2k installed on my PVR. You can read more about this within the GBPVR Forum. This has also been summerized below to save time.
At the time, I was running the following hardware:
Via Epia SP13000
1 Gig DDR400 RAM
100 Gig Maxor IDE Hard Drive (for OS)
500 Gig Hitachi IDE Hard Drive (for PVR data)
Samsung 16X DVD +/- RW IDE Drive
Via Epia Bios v1.07
Windows 2000 w/SP4 (fully patched)
Hauppauge PVR500 drivers v18.104.22.16825 (from shspvr.com site)
Nero Video Decoder (from Nero 6 Ultra Edition - with the v6.6 upgrade)
Via Epia Video Driver v22.214.171.124 (from via.com.tw site)
In effort to enable the CN400 onboard hardware MPEG2 decoder (found on this Epia motherboards), while outputting the picture to Svideo,
I used the hardware & drivers noted above, in addition to the settings/codecs below, to get the following results:
Nero Video Decoder (from Nero 6 - see previous post):
-- will not use hardware MPEG2 acceleration, even though the option is enabled.
-- hardware acceleration option set via Nero Showtime.
-- Overlay Manager option (CPU usage 62 to 74%) - playback ok, but choppy at times
-- VMR7 option (CPU usage 100%) - renders very slowly, not acceptable for playback
-- VMR9 option (CPU usage 100%) - renders very slowly, not acceptable for playback
Elecard MPEG2 Video Decoder (from the ACE Mega CodecS Pack 6.03 - Professional Edition):
-- could not figure how to enable hardware MPEG2 acceleration
-- Overlay Manager option (CPU usage 85 to 100%) - playback choppy, not acceptable for playback
-- VMR7 option (CPU usage 100%) - renders very slowly, not acceptable for playback
-- VMR9 option (CPU usage 100%) - renders very slowly, not acceptable for playback
CyberLink Video/SP Decoder (from the ACE Mega CodecS Pack 6.03 - Professional Edition) [aka - Cyberlink 5]:
-- will use the hardware MPEG2 acceleration, which appears to reduce the CPU usage by about 10 to 12%.
-- hardware acceleration option set via Playback tab of GBPVR's config program
-- will allow usage of VMR9, VMR7 & Overlay Manager
-- Overlay Manager option (CPU usage w/acceleration 42 to 65%) - playback good, but a little grainy (could just be my PC)
-- VMR7 option (CPU usage w/acceleration 50 to 72%) - playback very well, very little shuttering (if any)
-- VMR9 option (CPU usage w/acceleration 65 to 83%) - playback well, some shuttering
Cyberlink MPEG2 decoder (from PowerDVD6 Trial) [aka - Cyberlink 6]:
-- hardware acceleration option can be set via Playback tab of GBPVR's config program
-- did not render with VMR9, VMR7 or Overlay Manager (blank or scrambled screens - could just be my PC)
The CPU usages are approximate, and may be slightly different on your box. These were typed from memory, so expect them to be a few % points off (+ or -), but should be pretty close to what got when I ram my tests.
Overall, using Cyberlink's video decoder (from the ACE Mega CodecS Pack 6.03 - Professional Edition), with the VMR7 option selected & with the hardware acceleration feature enabled, seams to provide the best balance of CPU usage & picture quality. With these noted settings & drivers, the picture quality is very clear, with little to no shuttering during playback, even while recording 2 shows in the background at the same time.
-- tested Cyberlink 5 with WinXP => VMR9, VMR7 & Overlay Manager all worked (VMR7 gave me the best results)
-- tested Cyberlink 6 with WinXP => VMR9 & VMR7 could not display video (but OSD worked). Overlay Manager was acceptaible, but not perfect.
Q: How do i boost the brightness when using the SP decoder? The sliders are grayed out.
A: I only used the properties of the Cyberlink codec to enable the Hardware Acceleration. All the color balance and brightness adjustments were done via the advanced properties of the Windows display settings. With that, you can separately adjust the color balance and brightness for each video port (aka - VGA, SVIDEO, etc..). Under the Svideo settings, I was also able to adjust other things like the Svideo screen size/position, the adaptive filter settings and other such things.
Q: Knowing what you know now & if given the option to do this again, what you would change in your design?
A: I'm very happy with this setup & the hardware selected. However given the chance to change things, I would replace the 500 Gig IDE hard drive with 2 - 500 Gig SATA drives (setup in RAID 0). This would have multiple benifits. First this would double the storage capacity of this PVR. Secondly, using 2 drives would reduce the load placed on any specific hard drive during reading and writing. Lastly, with each recorded show spanning across 2 drives, the PVR should be able to support more concurrent connections to the PVR data from other devices on my network (such as from my desktop PC & my laptop), without introducing lag or load issues when PVR is doing it's normal thing (recording 2 new shows, while playing back a previously recorded show).
Q: Can I access my PVR's recordings from another PC/device on my network?
A: Yes, I have done this via my wired and wireless networks.
Q: What speed does my wireless LAN need to support to stream my vidoes correctly to my wireless device?
A: Through trial and error, I have found that a "B" wireless router was not fast enough. It used 100% of the bandwidth to stream a medium quality video to my laptop. After about 5 minutes the video got very choppy, but the audio was ok. When I graded my wireless LAN with an "G" wireless router, playback is perfect, with bandwidth left over.
Q: What speed does my wired LAN need to be to stream my videos correctly to my wired device?
A: I have only tested this with a 100 Megabit connection, which streams perfectly. With the results I had with my 11 Megabit wireless LAN tests, I would supect a 10 Megabit wired connection may not be fast enought.
Q: How did you test your wireless connection to the PVR data & what was the results?
A: Here is what I did thus far: When testing streaming ability from my PVR to Acer 3002LCi laptop with my new Linksys wireless â€œGâ€ router, I was very happy with the results. My laptop runs Fedora Core 5 and uses the Xine player. All I needed to do was mount the 'recordings' folder that I share on my PVR to an empty folder on my laptop (aka - a SMB mount point). Then from within Xine, simply open any MPEG2 file I wanted to watch within the mount point's folder on my laptop's hard drive. Playback was flawless. Pausing, Stopping/Resuming, Fast Forwarding and Rewinding also was perfect. There appeared to be no load on the PVR, except for the hard drive I/O, which appeared to be the same load seen while recording a single show normally. I was able to easily watch several previously recorded shows/movies without an issue, even while the PVR recorded 2 other shows. There were no lockups & no errors appeared within the shows that I recorded at that time. CPU usage on my on laptop sat at 12%, wireless bandwidth usage sat between 75% & 80% during playback. I'll need to see how much CPU load was actually placed on the PVR when this was happening, however it would appear to be nominal, since the GBPVR menus and navigation was very responsive. I'll also need to see what happens when recording 2 shows, watching one via my laptop and one via the PVR. If what I've seen thus far is any indication, it should work well.
Q: How can I connect a TV in another room to my PVR to watch the recorded shows.
A: There are several ways this can be done. GBPVR supports the Hauppauge MediaMVP natively. This is most likely your easiest & best solition. However I have read in several PVR forums that Dlink and other companies have products which are simular to the MediaMVP, which work as well. Of course these products are not integrated directly into the GBPVR application like the MediaMVP is. And of course, you can always share the recordings folder on your PVR & use another PC or laptop to access that data across your network (just like I do with my laptop and desktop PCs). Other solutions would also exist, but you would need to do the research for those solutions...
Screenshots: GBPVR Application
Screenshots: GBPVR Config Settings:
Screenshots: Windows XP Display Properties:
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