Tag Archives: Media Center

SonicEncoders for Media Center Edition 2005

I’ve been using MCE 2005 for a little while now, and I am smitten.
What’s more, my wife loves it too, and our MCE box has become one of
the most used pieces of electronic equipment in the house. 
However, since I installed MCE, last April, I have never been able to
figure out how to dump recorded TV onto DVD – that is until now.

Until recently, I only saw the “Data DVD” option

For those of you unaware, MCE likes to record TV in a bastardized form
of MPEG2, called DVR-MS.  Microsoft never do anything just for the
fun of it, and I am certain that their decision for using a
non-standard media format has a lot to do with preventing users from
saving recorded TV to DVD, as well as to provide DRM ability.  A native install of MCE will let you record the
DVR-MS files directly to a data DVD, to be played on another MCE unit, but not
as a DVD to be played on a standalone player.

Fortunately, there is a third party encoder, called Sonic Encoder,
which will stream DVR-MS direct to DVD in MPEG2 format, for playing
externally.  A few OEM releases of MCE come shipped with this
encoder, but the rest of us using retail or developer versions have to
obtain the encoder via some other means.  After doing some digging
on the web, I found the following link to a site that has sonicencoder.msi for download:


I am doubtful that this link will remain active for long, in which case
drop me a friendly email, and I could be persuaded to send you a copy
(please try downloading from the link first, before contacting me).

As I write this post, I am in the process of writing an 1h25 minute
show to DVD.  So far the process has been running for about 40
minutes and is about a quarter of the way through – a little slow, but
comparable to other media transcoder packages. The show is an XVID
file, stored on a network drive, which will cause a detrimental affect
on performance. I’ll see if regular DVR-MS to DVD is any faster later.

Windows Media Center Edition 2005 is Cool!

Anyone out there thinking about setting up a DVR or some sort of digital recording system for their home entertainment, I would strongly suggest taking a look at Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.

For less than $300 I managed to turn my 2.8GHz Pentium 4 into a media center PC and can now watch/record live TV, listen to my MP3 music collection, watch home movies from my camcorder and watch downloaded video from the Internet – all from the comfort of my living room with a TV and remote.

The first purchase was a capture card. I am using the WinTV-PVR 150 from Hauppage. This card is supported by MCE 2005 and provides a single tuner input using S-Video or Coaxial connection. I intend to replace this card at a later date by the PVR-500, which boasts dual tuner so I can watch live TV while recording.

The PVR-150 comes shipped with a remote control, unless you purchase the MCE version, which does not. I went for the remote option, hoping I could shortcut the need for a dedicated MCE controller, only getting it to work correctly is proving to be troublesome. I would advice a purchase of the MCE card and dedicated remote from Microsoft.

The expensive bit was the purchase of a new 4x AGP card – the NVidia GeForce FX 5700. My PC was only installed with an integrated graphics card and I needed S-Video out and some power to handle real-time decoding of MPEG2. The FX 5700 provided me with exactly what I needed.

What they don’t tell you when you install MCE 2005 (unless you know where to look) is that you need a decoder driver so that MCE knows how to decode live TV from the capture card. Without it you’ll receive a “decoder error“ when attempting to watch live TV. My NVidia did not come with decoder software, so I had to purchase NVidia’s decoder for an additional $20. My understanding is that any MPEG2 decoder should work with whichever card you’re using (can someone confirm this?), however, when I used the decoder from WinDVD I could not skip forward and backward through live TV without the picture hanging. After installing the NVidia decoder everything worked great.

Setting up MCE 2005 was a breeze, it detected my card (make sure you install the MCE 2005 driver first), downloaded the channel guide for my area, and adjusted the resolution for my TV. I managed to show MCE all my MP3 files that were setting on a server in my basement as well as my downloaded TV. Best of all, I can now play home movies of my 13 month old for the in-laws, when they come over, without having to put them on DVD first.

I’ve not had too much time to play with MCE 2005 (I installed it last night), but from what I’ve seen I’m real excited about it. I’m planning on playing some more 🙂

Addendum: I found a new decoder driver on Hauppage’s web site. I have no idea if it’s as good as the NVidia decoder but it appears to be free.