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Windows 7 : Windows Media Center - Some Tricks of the Trade (part 1) - Viewing TV Shows on Your HDTV or Projector

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2/14/2014 12:37:49 AM

Playing DVDs and Other Video Files

After setting Windows Media Center as the default DVD player, simply inserting a DVD into a DVD-ROM drive should result in Media Center playing the DVD. To go to the DVD menu (where you can change scene selections, change languages, or choose your DVD’s special features), press the DVD Menu button on the remote.

You can change the language, closed captioning, and remote control option defaults for all DVD playback in the main settings screen in WMC. (Go to the Start screen and select Tasks, Settings, DVD.)

Viewing TV Shows on Your HDTV or Projector

If you want to watch your recorded or live TV on something other than your computer screen, your computer must, obviously, have an output your TV can accept. Most HDTVs and many projectors have DVI or VGA connectors. These are the preferred methods to use to connect the display output of your WMC computer to your HDTV or projector.

The key to obtaining the best picture is to choose an output resolution that corresponds to your HDTV or projector display resolution. HDTV supports 480i/480p at 720×480, 720p at 1280×768, and 1080i/1080p at 1920×1024. If your projector is not an HDTV projector, you need to refer to your documentation to determine the best output resolution (usually 640×480, 800×600, or 1024×768) to use for your VGA connection.

The truly nice feature about using your HDTV, or projector, as the output of your WMC computer is that your HDTV becomes the primary display of your computer. If you use a wireless media center keyboard with built-in trackpad (mouse), you can operate your entire computer from your couch. This opens up many possibilities for family entertainment—from using your WMC computer as a DVR, to playing music from your CD collection, watching DVD movies, playing video games, or even browsing the Internet.

If your WMC computer is in one room and your HDTV or projector is in another room, one easy method to connect them is to use a Microsoft Xbox 360. To connect your WMC computer and Xbox 360, you need the following:

  • WMC computer with a wired or wireless network connection

  • Microsoft Xbox 360 with a wired connection, or the optional wireless network adapter

  • A network hub for a wired connection, or a wireless access point, router, or hub for a wireless network connection

  • Optional Xbox 360 Universal remote control

  • An SDTV with composite inputs or an HDTV with YPbPr inputs

After you have assembled the required hardware, the next step is to set it up, connect the various cables, and then configure the software. The basic process for a wireless network is as follows:

1.
Install the wireless network adapter to the Xbox 360.

2.
Connect the Xbox 360 AV HD adapter cable to the Xbox 360, set the Xbox 360 switch to HDTV, and connect the other end of the cable with three RCA male connectors color-coded green, red, and blue to your HDTV YPbPr inputs—green to green, red to red, and blue to blue. Then connect the audio inputs using the other set of color-coded connectors, yellow, red, and white, to your HDTV audio inputs—red to red and white to white. Leave the yellow connector unused.

Tip

If you have a problem connecting your Xbox 360 to your SDTV/HDTV, check out the Xbox 360 support page at support.xbox.com/support/en/us/xbox360/hardware/console/setup/ConnectToTVList.aspx.

3.
For an SDTV with composite inputs, set the Xbox 360 switch to TV and connect the other end of the cable to your TV’s composite inputs. Connect yellow to yellow (video), red to red (right audio), and white to white (left input). If your TV has one audio input, use the red one.

4.
Set your HDTV to use the YPbPr (component video) inputs. If you use an SDTV, set it to use the composite or monitor input.

Note

Optional Xbox AV cables are available with S-Video and VGA connectors.

5.
Boot the Xbox 360 and configure the wireless network card to match the settings in your wireless access point, router, or hub.

6.
Open WMC and go to Start, Tasks, Add Extender, and step through the Extender Setup Wizard.

At this point, your Xbox 360 should be live and capable of accessing all the content on your WMC PC. You can use the Xbox 360 universal remote, or your WMC remote, to control the displayed Media Center Extender menus.

Broadcasting TV Shows to Your TV or Projector

Getting your TV signal to your TV can be a problem if your WMC computer is not in the same room as your TV or if you do not have a Microsoft Xbox 360. Your cleanest and clearest signal is over a DVI cable, but these are expensive—especially in any significant length. No matter which kind of cable you use (S-Video, composite, component, VGA, or DVI), you’ll likely end up drilling holes into your house or apartment, or at least snaking the cable around the room and possibly tacking it around your baseboards. What a hassle.

Tip

Some short-range TV transmitters have an IR relay built in to them, so check that option first. The RCA job I bought did not.


If you’re like me, you’ll want a quick-and-dirty solution, at least as proof of concept, until you have that free Saturday to venture into the depths of your crawl space under the house and install the more permanent wiring. So trek down to your local electronics store (for example, RadioShack) and purchase a short-range A/V transmitter/receiver combo designed for this purpose. I bought a set (RCA brand) for about $100. These transmit and receive composite video and accompanying stereo audio. You connect the small transmitter box to the computer’s video and audio outputs, and connect the other (receiver) module to the TV or projector. The results, in my case, didn’t look too bad, either. I was surprised. Check the specs on the package to see how far it can broadcast, and be sure you can return it if your walls turn out to be too thick; there is metal or some other signal blockage; too much video or audio noise is introduced by your microwave oven; or the TV and computer are too far away from each other for the product to work properly.

Tip

Don’t confuse the IR blaster that comes with the WMC computer with the IR receiver that’s typically built in to a little box that has a USB connector on it. Your little WMC remote control receiver box has two mini jacks on the back that you can plug IR blasters into. (A blaster typically has a long, skinny wire and a little IR module on the end.) You can use blasters to change the channel on external devices, such as set-top cable boxes or your VCR. Consult your computer’s manual for how to position the blaster on your set-top box or VCR so that your remote control keypresses are passed through to those devices.

I originally made the mistake of thinking these little IR pods were receivers. They are not. Point your remote at them, and they do nothing. All they do is repeat IR signals received by your IR receiver module along to another device. For tips about using the set-top box IR pods, read this URL (despite referencing XP MCE 2005, the setup information still applies): www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/using/setup/settop.mspx.


That leaves one additional issue: the remote control signal. I have my projector upstairs and my computer downstairs. I wanted to use the WMC remote. So, how was I going to get the IR signal to the IR receiver on my WMC computer? Again, the solution was found at the local electronics store—an IR extender that uses radio frequencies to transmit the IR signal between rooms.

So, I purchased an IR remote control extender. Similar to the A/V transmitter, this gadget has two parts: a transmitter and a receiver. Set up the transmitter near your TV or projection screen. Put the receiver near your WMC machine with its IR blaster pointed toward the WMC IR receiver (what you’d normally point the remote control at). Now, you can use your remote from the comfort of your recliner. It will relay the signal back to the computer.

After you get the IR remote control working and the image coming through to your TV or projector, you might also have to reduce the size of the WMC window on your computer screen if you want to see the entire image on your TV or projector. This can take a little trial and error. The WMC window is completely sizable, just as any window is, and as you resize the window, the video image resizes accordingly.

On my system, I position the WMC window all the way into the upper-left corner of my computer monitor and then drag the window’s lower-right corner diagonally until the window fills the projector’s (or TV’s) image. Because I have my projector in another room, I save myself the hassle of running back and forth between rooms by temporarily connecting a small TV monitor that sits beside my computer. I use that to make this adjustment. Then, I switch the output back to feed the projector.

Tip


If you don’t like the WMC video player, the files the WMC DVR creates (they have the extension .dvr-ms and you can find them in the Recorded TV directory on the drive specified in the WMC Recorder settings) can also be played by WMP or other, more feature-rich players, such as BS.player.

 
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