Cinema At Home

Published Date
01 - Jun - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Jun - 2006
 
Cinema At Home
Windows XP Media Center PCs are already gracing the shelves of PC stores all over India. It is finally being realised that the Windows XP Media Center PC, which comprises the OS along with the compatible hardware, is the ultimate convergence of personal computing and entertainment. The ability to capture live TV or to be able to view TV the at your own pace, so to speak, makes it an attractive replacement for the TV as well as the regular PC.

Windows XP Media Center PCs use a new format known as DVR-MS (which derives its name from Digital Video Recorder). Video of this type is encoded in the MPEG-2 format. DVR-MS files can also be copy-protected by the author, thus allowing them to be run only on the Media Center PC that was used to record the content.

The DVR-MS file format captures live telecasts at excellent quality levels, but there is a drawback. The size of the captured file is huge. A two-hour capture at the best quality settings would take up a whopping 5.5 GB of hard disk space! And DVR-MS files cannot be easily edited. This is why you might want to convert files from this format into a format such as WMV, which not only occupies only a fraction of the space for almost the same quality, but can also be edited.

Thankfully, there is software known as Digital Media Converter from www.deskshare.com which does this job for you. Not only is it capable of converting unprotected DVR-MS files to the WMV format, it can also convert them to the VCD, DVD, AVI (DivX, MS MPEG4, uncompressed, etc), MPEG-1, MPEG-2 (PAL, NTSC), MOV, WMA, and WAV formats, and also batch-convert them.

Before you proceed, you must make sure your system meets the minimum system requirements. For a Windows XP Media Center PC, you need to download and install an MPEG-2 encoder such as the freeware from www.deskshare.com/download/mpeg2decoder.exe. For Windows XP Home and Professional, you require Service Pack 2, Windows Media Player 9, DirectX 9c and the above MPEG-2 decoder. Let's get started!

1. Launch the program. Go to File > Add Files, or click on the toolbar button labelled Add Files.

2. Browse to the folder where the files you want to convert are stored. Select one or more files you'd like to convert.

3. Select the "Convert to" format and click Open.

At this point, the Digital Media Converter will start adding the files one by one, and will display an error message if it is not able to add any of the files, and will also display the reason for it not being able to add the file. This converter is intelligent: instead of just displaying the error, it will also instruct you about what you may need to install in order to be able to convert the file.

4. If you need to remove a file from the list, just select that file and click Delete in the Edit menu.


Add video files to Digital Media Converter

5. You may wish to change the conversion settings before you convert the files to your preferred format. To choose the format of the converted file, go to Tools > Settings. Select a format from the "Convert To" box. Click on the Properties tab to change the settings of the selected "Convert To" format. Click OK.

6. To configure an automatic shutdown after batch conversion, go to Tools > Settings, and check the "Shut down the computer after conversion" option. Click OK.


Disable Hardware Acceleration during conversion

7. You can disable hardware acceleration-this will result in smoother conversion, as fewer system resources are used. To disable hardware acceleration, click on Tools > Settings, check the box next to 'Disable Hardware Acceleration during conversion' and click on OK.
 
8. If you selected AVI as the conversion format, you can select from amongst the Best Quality, Best Compression or Most Compatible presets. In addition, you can also choose the video dimension, frame rate, video and audio compression codecs.

9. In a similar way, if you selected MPEG as the format, you can configure the properties. You can choose from amongst a myriad of MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 formats here such as VCD, SVCD, DVD, etc.


Select the AVI file codec as required

You can also choose the aspect ratio, bitrate and frame rate. There are options such as these for each format that you can choose, such as QuickTime.

10. To convert to the WMV format, point to the Tools menu and click on Settings. From the "Convert To" box, select WMV-For Desktop Viewing for Video, or WMA-For Desktop Viewing for audio. Select the Properties tab. From the Profile box, select a profile you feel is appropriate. From the list of available bitrates, select the ones you want to include in the conversion. When more than one bitrate is selected, the converted video is an MBR (Multiple bit rate) video. Click OK.

11. You can apply effects to the videos you convert. Select the file to which you wish to apply a video effect. On the Tools menu, click Video Effects. Specify the effects that you want to apply in the Effect Settings window. Click OK.


Change the Effects Settings

12. The Brightness can be used to change the brightness level of the video. Up to a 200 per cent adjustment in brightness is available.

13. The Contrast allows you to adjust the contrast of the video to up to 200 per cent, allowing you to define the difference between the dark and light areas in case they do not appear in the video as they should.
14. The Gamma slider lets you adjust the gamma of the video by up to 200 per cent.

15. Videos can also be manipulated before they are converted. The Gray Scale effect transforms all the colours in the image into shades of grey, in effect converting colour videos to black and white.

India's First-Ever EPG 
EPG, or Electronic Programming Guide, has just been launched by Microsoft in India. This will allow users of Windows XP Media Center Edition PCs easy access to program schedules for over 80 cable TV channels available in India.

An EPG is an on-screen interactive guide to TV programs that lets the user navigate, select, search for and record TV shows. Until now, this was only available in areas such as Europe and the US.

The EPG has a list of all the programs on your cable channels, and it will be integrated into all Windows XP Media Center PCs from now on. Due to its interactive nature, you can look for your favourite shows just by typing in keywords such as the name of the program or movie, actor, time, day and date. You can also view the program start time, duration, censorship classification and genre. The EPG combined with the DVR (Digital Video Recording) capabilities of Windows XP Media Center transforms your PC into a PVR (Personal Video Recorder), allowing you to schedule recordings. The great thing is that this does not need a subscription-it's free! 

16. "Flip Horizontally" turns the image ~upside down~. This can be useful in cases such as when the videos have been converted from the YUV colour space to the RGB colour space, which can sometimes result in the converted video turning upside down.

17. "Mirror Image" produces a mirror image of the video. This is also called the "Flip Vertically" effect, because it flips it about the vertical axis.

18.    "Invert Colors" transforms the colours in the video to their negatives.

Digital Media Converter v2.65 is available from www.deskshare.com, and the download is about 9.4 MB. It is shareware and can be converted to the full version for $39.95 (Rs 1,900). It can be picked up easily even if you are a novice. Start emptying out your hard drive!
 




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