I love computers and I’m especially interested in their role in home entertainment. Almost everything is computerized these days. If your system uses a remote control or has a display, you can be sure there’s a computer chip in there someplace.
But the real deal is the HTPC, which can do so much as to become the centre piece of a good system. In the series on Software Defined Home Theatre I laid out a way to connect modern computers directly to high end displays and sound systems without a lot of added complexity. My client defines it as “The best damned set of computer speakers in the world” and that is basically what it is. But I didn’t do a lot to explain what an HTPC can actually do for you or how it can radically simplify and improve a system. So, here goes…
What An HTPC Does For You
The biggest advantage of a Home Theatre PC is the way it simplifies a system…
- With a BluRay drive it can replace your BlueRay, DVD and CD player.
- With a high capacity hard disk it can easily replace all your media storage.
- With a TV Tuner card it can replace your Over The Air receiver.
- With the right software it can replace your Digital Video Recorder.
- With a game nexus such as Steam it can replace your gaming boxes.
- With a magnetic phono preamp it can incorporate a Turntable.
- With the right software it will replace your Streaming Devices.
- With file sharing it can work as a Media Server for your whole home.
- With the right software it can download movies and music.
- Again with the right software it can save copies of streamed content.
- It can organize your entire music and movie collection with ease.
- A wireless keyboard will replace about half a dozen remote controls.
- And … it will still be able to do all the usual things a computer does.
A Typical Scenario
On an average day an HTPC can easily be playing a BlueRay movie in your home theatre room, streaming music to one of the kids rooms, downloading a new movie to watch, and streaming a work related video to the den, all at the same time.
In fact there are no end of scenarios like this… And it’s mostly a matter of finding and installing the right software.
One of the strong pluses of the HTPC setup is that if a new file format comes out or there is a better video format there’s no need to buy a new DAC or AV Receiver, you can simply update your software to incorporate it. So your system can always stay on top of technology as it progresses.
Sound and Video Management
A key feature of an HTPC system is it’s ability to manage sound and video for you. Even beyond decoding and reproducing multiple file formats, it can also be a multi-channel volume control, a playback control and it can manage the brightness and contrast of your video display.
In fact, it’s a bit hard to find a multimedia related task an HTPC can’t handle. Which leaves me to wonder why this isn’t a far more popular option than it is.
In the next section … Setting up your Files Collection.