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Decoding and Rendering

Before you start using SageTV you should at least take a look at the multimedia decoding and rendering settings. If you have programs like ffdshow or AC3Filter installed on your computer you can get even better results in SageTV using them.

Detailed Setup

Decoding and Rendering

SageTV allows you to select between available rendering and decoding options for video and audio. Although most formats are supported through SageTV itself, you may find that you get better performance using a DirectShow filter like ffdshow or AC3Filter, especially for newer formats like MPEG-4 AVC. From the Main Menu, select Setup and then Detailed Setup. We'll be looking specifically at the Video/Audio and DVD settings.

Video Renderer

Rendering is the process of taking uncompressed (decoded) video frames and producing a signal for your display (TV) from them. SageTV can use either DirectX 9 (VMR 9) or the older Overlay mode for rendering video. VMR 9 (DirectX) is generally considered superior due to less processing, but may require a lot of troubleshooting to get working smoothly on older computers. Overlay should work on all computers.

MPEG-2 Video

Since MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video are well established, most decoders will perform equally well. If you prefer, you can use your software DVD player's decoder or ffdshow, or any installed MPEG-2 decoder.

MPEG-4 Video

It's best to install your own DirectShow MPEG-4 decoder(s) since SageTV doesn't include the latest updates to AVC decoding used by filters like ffdshow, which is a much better solution. If the only MPEG-4 video you need to play is MPEG-4 ASP, such as DivX or XviD, you're probably safe using SageTV's built-in decoder. With AVC becoming the dominant video compression standard you should probably think about a decoder like ffdshow or CoreAVC for future use.

MPEG-2 Audio

Like MPEG-2 video, MPEG-2 audio is common enough that pretty much all encoding solutions are equal.

DVD Settings

The DVD settings are similar to the general Multimedia options, but of course specific to DVD playback. For playing standard commercial (CSS/Macrovision protected) DVDs you'll need to make sure to select a decoder with CSS support, such as WinDVD. You can play DVDs that have been copied to your hard drive with the SageTV MPEG Decoder.

Start Using SageTV

Now that your basic settings are configured you should be ready to start using SageTV. You'll probably need some time to get adjusted to the interface. SageTV's biggest asset is an abundance of options for working with your media files. In future guides we'll discuss some customizations including changing the entire SageTV interface (making it closer to Windows Media Center actually) and installing a plugin to play files protected with Microsoft's DRM, such as the free songs from SpiralFrog.

Continued On Next Page

On the final page we'll look at SageTV's choices for reading and displaying video and audio files, including DVD playback.

Page 4 - Decoding and Rendering

Running SageTV on Windows XP Media Center EditionYou are viewing Page 3 of 4 -- Go to page 1 , 2 , 3 , 4

Where to go from here

If you have a HTPC or Media Center PC of some type you may want to consider some of the free and open source tools available for encoding and playing various formats. We have guides instroducing you to several.

ffdshow Installation and Configuration

  • As new video and audio formats continue to be developed it's becoming harder and harder to make sure that your computer has the required software to playback the latest multimedia files. If you suddenly have a need to playback a format you've never seen before the last thing you want to do is spend hours figuring out why it won't play, only to discover you need to buy a new decoder of some kind. If you don't want to keep installing "just one more" codec, or worse yet an assortment of codec packs, you should consider using ffdshow instead.... (Read More)

AC3Filter Installation and Configuration

  • AC3Filter is a free Surround Sound processor for Windows which includes the ability to not only decode digital surround formats such as Dolby Digital and DTS, but also perform realtime processing to adjust the output level (volume) and digital range compression (DRC) of surround sound streams during playback. AC3Filter is comparable, and generally superior to commercial alternatives included with various media and DVD player software titles.... (Read More)

Introduction to Haali Media Splitter

  • Just a few years ago the only multimedia containers most Windows users had to worry about were AVI and MPEG-2 Program Streams. Although a number of other proprietary, and even open source containers have been used, for MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 (ASP) video AVI and MPEG-2 PS (.MPEG / .MPG) files have traditionally been the standard. With the development of MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) video the MP4 and MKV containers have been slowly replacing both for a variety of applications.... (Read More)

Removing Commercials from MPEG-2 captures with Cuttermaran

  • The introduction of the DVB and ATSC digital television (DTV) broadcast standards amounted to a major step forward for television capture. While analog captures vary by hardware, software, and even the person doing the capturing, DTV captures amount to an exact (lossless) copy of the original digital signal (streams). In fact there's generally no difference between captures made by experts or near complete novices.... (Read More)

Convert MPEG-2 Captures to AVC with Super

  • In recent years the video capture landscape has changed significantly. With the availability of high quality hardware based MPEG-2 encoding and digital TV (DTV) capture cards its become possible for even a complete novice to get high quality captures. At the same time, MPEG-4 AVC (Advanced Video Coding) is slowly taking over as the new standard for consumer video. AVC has also become a popular format for storage and computer-based playback.... (Read More)

Creating MKV files with mkvtoolnix

  • Matroska (MKV) files have become a popular container for storing various types of video and audio, but perhaps most commonly AVC video with Dolby Digital (AC-3) audio. The primary reasons for this are the need for a standard container more adavanced (with better cross-platform support) than AVI which can handle streams from different sources equally well. Although currently consumer electronics support in devices like standalone DVD players is lacking, for HTPCs, and even some mobile devices it's becoming more common.... (Read More)

Version History
v1.0 - 2007.03.24 Original version by Rich "vurbal" Fiscus

Table of Contents

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Turning Off Windows Media Center
  3. 3. Installing SageTV
  4. 4. Decoding and Rendering
Written by: Rich Fiscus