Home Multimedia Network Examples
I just have a Laptop and a Wireless Network and I want to watch movies and YouTube on my TV in the living room.
This should be a very quick and straight forward solution to get up and running. You will also need the following to make it user friendly:-
- DVD Ripping/Conversion Software
- Video Codecs
- Enough Hard Disk storage to hold your Movie collection
- Home Theatre PC software
- HDMI Cable
- HDMI Port on your laptop or external adapter.
DVD Ripping/Conversion Software
In order to copy your Movie DVDs onto your laptop, you will need to rip them to your Laptop's Disk (or an External Hard drive). Ripping them, however, only removes the Copy and Region protection and this ripped movie will occupy a large amount of space on your Hard Disk. Using DVD Conversion tools, you can compress these DVD's by as much as 90% and still offer a good picture but the compression amount is down to your personal preferences. There are all in one rip and conversion tools also available in order simplfy this whole process.
A codec is a device or computer program capable of encoding and/or decoding a digital data stream or signal, the term codec coming from combination of the words coder-decoder. DVD's use an MPEG-2 Codec for its video compression as does most television signals but in order to highly compress your ripped DVD's, you should look to install and use one of the 3 main standards for this. These are DivX, Xvid and H.264.
Home Theatre PC Software
If you have now ripped and converted your Movie collection to your Hard Drive, you can access those Movies just by clicking on them via the File Manager. This will just give you the list of the filenames, sizes, etc. In order to make this into a nicer interface, install a Home Theatre PC (HTPC) software package. These are designed to be plugged into your large TV's and viewed from 10 foot or more away. They can automatically catalog your video files, download the DVD box covers and show the Movie description, cast list, rating, etc. If you already have Windows Vista (Home Premium or Ultimate), you will already have Windows Media Centre installed on your machine and this is a good starting point. There are, however, a number of commercial and free alternatives (XBMC, Media Portal etc)available.
HDMI Port on your laptop
Most mid range and above laptops come with a HDMI port. Using a standard HDMI cable, you can then connect your laptop to your HDMI port on your TV. If you have purchased a flat screen TV within the last 3 years or so, you will probably have at least one of these HDMI ports.
If you don't have a HDMI port on your laptop, you could consider buying an external device which takes the audio and video.
This particular device (shown left) is the Atlona AT-HD500 PC / Laptop to HDMI Converter with built-in Scaler. It takes the VGA output from PC/Laptop and upscales the image to 1080p. It can also take a mini jack input for audio and combine that with the video stream. This is then sent down the HDMI cable to your TV for a complete solution.
This may not be an ideal solution but it will give you a way of watching your Movies on your TV to a decent standard. The user reviews on this particular hardware shown above are very positive.
Another possible solution is to use a USB to HDMI convertor which will do the same as above but through a single USB connection.