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HTPC Questions(Picture Quality, analog connection, Internet TV)

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August 20, 2009 3:25:04 AM

Hey well first of all I'd like to say thanks again for helping me pick out parts to create my HTPC. The TV tuner card is a Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1800 ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... ) and I'm running vista. So right now I have it connected to my comcast cable box though the coax out and then the HTPC connected to the tv through HDMI. Currently the picture is really fuzzy even on HD channels when I play DVDs and go through the media center menu it looks great. Is there any way to improve the picture quality or is that something that I cannot fix?
I would also like to be able to use the 2nd tuner on my card to record shows. I can just go out get a cable splitter (like this http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2... ) and connect it to my HTPC. Would I get a loss of quality or anything?
My final question is about the internet TV stuff. Is there any way that I can add stuff like Hulu, South Park studios, ect. to windows media center? I have Hulus desktop program which is ok but I'd like something that is contained within WMC.
So any help? Thanks
a b B Homebuilt system
August 20, 2009 6:31:55 PM

Your WinTV card has two TV tuners and two TV signal inputs, but that does not mean that one input goes only to one tuner. On the back plate the top F-type cable input is for the FM radio tuner. If you plan to use that, the input could be from any FM antenna. IF your Comcast cable service includes FM signals, a 2-way splitter will allow you to connect it to both the FM and TV inputs.

The second one down is TV In. It is where you connect a cable TV input, like from your Comcast box. This source may have two types of TV signals: older analog TV, or digital TV coded in the ClearQAM format.

The third one down is ANT In and it is for your own external off-air antenna if you have one - NOT for a cable TV input. This signal may have two signal types also - older analog TV if there is still any around your area (no longer likely) or digital TV encoded in the ATSC format.

This from the Hauppauge Installation Guide:

Plug your cable TV into TV Connector. Plug your ATSC digital TV antenna into the ATSC Digital TV input.

Note that there are two digital formats here - one called ClearQAM on cable, and another called ATSC from an over-the-air broadcasting station picked up on your own antenna. The come in on different input connectors.

In your card there are two tuners, and each has access to both input connectors and uses the most appropriate one. One tuner is spec'd as a "125-channel cable-ready tuner", which mainly will deal with non-digital channels from the "TV In" cable input. I would suppose, however, that the WinTV application and probably WMC have a way to let it look at the "ANT In" source for non-digital channels, too. The other tuner is specifically for digital TV signals, and it can deal with both the ClearQAM ones on the "TV In" connector from cable and the ATSC ones on the "ANT In" connector from your external antenna. So unless you have your own external antenna to plug into the "ANT In" connector, don't use it. Do NOT connect a second branch of your Comcast cable to this port.

First thing I'd suggest as a test: take the cable from your Comcast "Coax Out" port that is now connected to the back of your computer and connect it directly to the cable input of your TV. Take a look at all the channels that seem poor when run though the computer. Are they still poor direct to TV? If they are, the signal strength on the cable is poor and you may need advice from Comcast. For example, were you using your Comcast service and box this exact same way - direct to the TV input - before you got the computer? Was it bad then? Or was it OK then, and bad now? If it changed, what did you change that might contribute?

If the TV gets a good signal direct but it's poor from the computer, make sure the Comcast cable is connected to the "TV In" connector on the back of the computer (2nd one from top). Within your software, check that it is using that input port when you try to get either analog or digital channels.

Next thing to check is this hint from that Installation Guide's Troubleshooting section:

Problem: Poor Reception or Not detecting all channels:
Poor TV reception is generally the result of an weak TV signal. When using a 'roof-top' antenna, an aerial booster may be required if there is poor TV reception. Also, in some areas using cable TV, a format called Cable HRC is used. If so, try rescanning but use CABLE (HRC) instead of cable in the Broadcast/Cable box.

I don't know if Comcast uses this system, but try it anyway to see if it helps.

Regarding recording shows, there are a few variations. I'm certain there is a way to record any channel when you are not watching something else. But suppose you want to record one channel while watching another. With two tuners I would expect that is OK with a slight restriction, but CHECK YOUR DOCUMENTATION FOR THIS. I expect that you can do this only if one is digital and one is not, since the two tuners each are dedicated to one signal type only. Similarly, you might be able to record two channels at once with this same restriction. Then there's a third possibility - watching some stored program (file) as playback while recording new program(s) from one (or two?) channels. I don't know if the card and computer can do this.

Let us all know what you find out. Many of us are in the same boat and dealing with the same problems.
August 20, 2009 7:34:30 PM

Alright well thank you and I will try that and get back to you with the results when I can. Some people on the other thread where they helped me pick out stuff ( http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/268924-31-htpc-idea-p... ) said that I might be able to go from the wall to a splitter to the coax input on my card then from the splitter to the cable box to the S-Video input on my tuner card. They said that they didn't know for sure how well this would work but unless you say for sure it won't I'd like to try it since I have some extra cables and a splitter doesn't cost way to much.
EDIT:My TV doesn't have a coax input so I tried it on a different smaller TV I think that it was still fuzzy but I couldn't really tell. I also couldn't find an option for Cable (HRC) within windows vista media center. My Cable box has a S-Video output and my card has a S-Video input so i may see if i can get a cable and connect it that way.
EDIT2:Actually was able to find a S-Video Cable (4-pin) so I tried it and now the fuzziness is gone but I currently cannot get HD stuff. I can get the channel and it looks a bit better but not as good as just from the cable box.
EDIT3:I've been looking more into my cable box (Motorola DCH3200) and it has 3 HD outputs YPbPr, Firewire, and HDMI. I've also seen some stuff about connecting my stuff through the firewire port but they've said its a pain and it will not work as a tuner. Is there anyway that I would be able to use one of those outputs to connect to my tuner card or be able to use the firewire out as an input through Vista's media center?
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a b B Homebuilt system
August 21, 2009 2:35:58 PM

Your friends' suggestions should work - splitter right out of the wall, one line direct to the WinTV's TV In port, one to the Motorola box, then S-Video out of there to your WinTV card. This gives you two card inputs. I don't know how Comcast sets up their signals. If they scramble everything so you have to have their decoder box (Motorola) to view, the direct feed won't work. If only some are scrambled, those won't work via direct line, but will on the S-video feed. This IS one way you could end up capturing TWO digital TV channel signals at once. One capture uses the WinTV's digital tuner getting its signal from the direct feed (as long as it's not scrambled by Comcast), and the other capture by WinTV is from its S-Video input port, which happens to be a different digital channel tuned by the Motorola box. Similarly you could capture simultaneously two non-digital TV signals. All this depends, of course, on whether your system with WinTV can actually capture two simultaneous video streams.

I just realized something important. I was going on the assumption that the "Coax Out" connector on the "Comcast box" was a simple pass-through output that has all the cable channels on it, just as if you had installed your own splitter ahead of the box. But now I realize this is a Motorola tuner / descrambler or some such, and ALL its outputs will contain only the specific channel you've tuned on that box. For the Coax Out connector, this will be a standard TV signal usually on Channel 3 or 4. So on the WinTV card you would have to set it to tune in Channel 3 (or4) to see whatever the Motorola box is sending. Have you been doing that? Any other channel selection on the WinTV will give you lousy or no signal.

Your WinTV card has no real HDTV signal input. The highest-quality non-TV signal it can accept is S-Video, so that is the best you can get from the Motorola box. I would fully expect that an S-video signal routed from the Motorola box through your computer and ultimately back to the TV via HDMI will NOT look as good as an HDMI signal directly from Motorola to TV.

Firewire is a poor way to connect. It is a general-purpose fast data transfer system not dedicated to video and audio. To transfer the information, some circuit has to convert from a high-def video/audio format into a general data stream at one end, then another has to re-convert at the other. Within your computer, what software would you use to grab an incoming data stream on a Firewire port and convert it to a digital video / audio stream for use by WMC? And yes, the Firewire feed relies on the Motorola box to be your tuner - the WinTV unit is out of this picture entirely on that connection option.
August 21, 2009 6:43:26 PM

Alright well I'll see if I can get a splitter soon and try that out.
With the coax out for Windows Media Center I just had an IR blaster and it worked fine. I'm pretty sure that WMC had settings for that and would detect that I'm using a set top box.
Alright I guess that I'll stick with the S-video signal since it looks pretty good but it's not HD.
Thanks for the help
!