Posts for Tag: front row

Part 2 of the Mac Mini home theatre - Video playback

I've been tweaking the home theatre settings the past week or so (see hardware specs in my previous post on this topic). Through a bit of trial and error I think I've perfected my configuration. Here's my journey to that ultimate destination...
Quicktime is an excellent overall media player. That coupled with Front Row was my initial choice for navigating the media center. However, out of the box, it doesn't handle all types of video files well, especially 1080P. I had to download Perian (awesome product) to get the right components for Quicktime to play the video smoothly. Even still, Front Row seemed to stutter and choke on large video files. I could play the files in Quicktime from the desktop but the experience just wasn't ideal. I didn't want to have to initiate video playback from my desktop as it wasn't a clean media center experience.
Upon a little more research, I found a great alternative - Plex. A free and open system based on the XBMC code base, Plex has a nice user interface and was able to play all the video files I threw at it flawlessly. No stuttering, dropped frames, or hiccups. Another bonus was that Plex reads the video files in your library and then pulls content like movie posters, background images, and cast info from sources like IMDB to enhance the media center experience. Below are some sample screens of some popular movies in my library. The third picture in the below gallery is a DVD rip of Triumph of the Nerds (one of the best tech documentaries ever). It even handles DVD menus (Picture 4) though the navigation of said menus is a little clunky with the Apple remote.

Below is a quick video of me navigating through the Plex menu and playing back a 1080P video file. Pardon the poor lighting of the video, which does not do justice to how beautifully Plex plays HD video. Wife gets credit for her camera work on this video.

For my next task, ripping Blu-ray discs so I can avoid having a disc player completely. Stay tuned...

The great Mac Mini home theatre experiment

Over the past couple of weeks, the components for my ultimate Mac Mini home theatre have slowly arrived. The main component - the Mac Mini - came first. It's the latest model (released March 2009) with the following specs:
2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4GB of RAM
120GB Hard Drive
NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor
Got a great deal on eBay. About $600 for a barely used one plus the guy threw in a Western Digital 320GB external hard drive he used for Time Machine back ups. This exact same configuration through the Apple Store would have been $749 plus tax and that's without the external hard drive.
Since storage was going to be an issue, I also picked up a brand new Drobo for $335 (retails for $429). I had a spare 1TB hard drive lying around so I popped that in. I'll be adding more drives over the next few months - probably the eco-friendly Western Digital Caviar Green SATA drives. They come in 2TB, 1.5TB, and 1TB models and I'll pick whichever one I can get the best deal on. Great thing about the Drobo is that the drives don't have to all be the same size or model.
I first hooked up the Mac Mini to my 42" Panasonic Plasma (TH-C42FD18) via a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter. Then connected the audio via a 3.5mm to RCA cable (will do TOSLink when I have a better sound system). Flipped over to the second HDMI input on my TV and BAM! Got the Mac OS desktop. I'll do another post later on video quality, codecs, and the pros/cons of Front Row.