Watching TV – How hard can it be?

I have been trying to work out the best way to get the TVs set up at home.  New standards have come along, such as DLNA, but I still have an existing DVD library of kids DVDs that I would love to be able to get onto a hard disk so the kids cannot scratch them further.  Here are my personal findings to date.


DLNA looks useful, but not perfect (for my needs).  It seems ideal for throwing your photos, home videos, etc up on to a hard disk on the network.  But DVDs are not supported.  You can rip the video of the main movie off a DVD, or all the episodes of a TV series (one file per episode), but you lose the DVD menu structure.  For some this may be fine – for kids DVDs you lose any games, or kid friendly navigation systems.  So its not ideal for me.

Why doesn’t DLNA support DVD menus?  I am pretty sure its political – copying DVDs on to a hard disk is generally against the license of the DVD.  (Using bit-torrent etc to distribution copyright material is definitely considered a no-no.)  So no mainline manufacturer (such as Sony or Panasonic) will produce a product that may be seen to supporting illegal copying of movies.

The lack of DVD menu structure support has made me come to the opinion that the only way I will get full DVD menus from something hosted on a NAS is using a HTPC (Home Theatre PC).


I am planning one day to buy a QNAP NAS (because a knowledgeable friend at work recommended QNAP).  I plan to set it up with RAID-5 which gives good capacity without losing data if a disk dies.  I was then thinking it would be nice to throw all the DVDs onto the NAS.  The QNAP NAS supports DLNA natively.  It also has an auto power-off after inactivity (with auto power-on if accessed). 


A home theatre PC is a PC dedicated for use in a home theatre environment.  Windows 7 Media Center is meant to be pretty good.  I personally am leaning towards the idea of getting a Mac Mini and running Plex on it.  I like the idea of a (cheaper) appliance (e.g. a WD TV Live media player), but the only viable options for viewing DVDs with menus hosted across a network connection seemed to be using products such as Plex, XBMC, or Windows Media Center.  I am hoping to see better products come out, but I think it would require a change in direction of the movie makers – something that might take a while to sort out.


I have a Foxtel IQ box, and love it.  Now Foxtel has all the local channels, there is no need to have a digital set top box any more.  I can do it all through the Foxtel.

But how to watch the Foxtel in more than one room?

  • Can get a “multi-room” solution where a second IQ box can be installed and used.  You attach TVs to bother units.  The two units can be tuned independently, but more importantly if you record something on one unit, you cannot watch it on the other unit without copying it.
  • I prefer a single IQ solution where the output is sent to two rooms.  I can then start a record at one TV, then go over to the other TV and view the recording.
  • Currently I used a AV RF transmitter / receiver.  It works, but the picture quality is not great.
  • Using HDMI, there are switches (chose one input from many), splitters (send done input to multiple destinations), and matrices where a matrix may have 4 HDMI inputs and 4 outputs and the user can select which of the videos sources to continue with.  The Foxtel IQ has a HDMI output, so can plug in to each of these solutions as required.
  • My current plan is to run a HDMI extender over a pair of cat-5 or cat-6 cables from the Foxtel unit to the master bedroom.  I believe this will deliver the best picture quality, while returning IR controls back to the main unit, making it easy to control the Foxtel from the bedroom.
  • If I need to run the HDMI to more destinations, a HDMI matrix seems the best way to go.  I do not yet understand with a matrix whether each viewing site can control which input to select.


When considering upgrading my current set up, simplicity is a very important aspect.  Currently my screen, amplifier, and DVD in the main living area must be turned on/off independently.  I have a learning remote which spits out a list of IR-signals to operate the various devices (e.g. power on/off).  It works, but things go wrong at times.  Simplicity to me is very important so that all family members can enjoy the results.

Looking at the Panasonic site I noticed Viera Link.  If I understand correctly, you can turn your TV on, then if you select the DVD input, the DVD player will automatically be turned on.  When you turn the TV off, all the devices that were turned on are turned off.  What a sensible idea!  Other vendors may have similar technology, but this is the sort of functionality that would make me consider becoming a purely Panasonic customer.  Having multiple components (players, screens etc) may be necessary, but its not how I see the technology as a user – I just want to watch TV / DVD / Foxtel.

So if I was to start again, I would probably go with a Blu-ray/DLNA media player sitting next to each TV, with Viera Link (or equivalent) support in all devices.  I would send Foxtel over a HDMI extender to the master bedroom.

Final Thoughts

  • DLNA looks useful to a point.  But DLNA is no solution to Foxtel.  Hopefully the IQ3(???) will be able to act as a DLNA source.  That would be heaven!  Or hopefully someone will release a HDMI to DLNA converter device.
  • Home A/V is a rapidly expanding area.  So many technologies!  But I think things are improving.
  • I think a HDMI extender looks like a potentially viable solution to watching the Foxtel in two rooms.  The HDMI matrix sounds a bit complex to control, so I am a little hesitant about it – although it appears to be the only solution if 3 or more rooms need to be able to review Foxtel.
  • Its important to know whether you want to keep the menu structures etc of a normal DVD.  If you want to keep the DVD menus, a HTPC is likely to be needed; otherwise there are cheaper appliances that can play DLNA content.
  • I really like Viera Link which makes it easier to turn on/off all relevant components.  Completely sensible sounding idea
  • I am still hunting to see if there are alternatives to HDMI extender.  Its the best Foxtel soluiton I have found to date; with a HDMI matrix being the backup if the signal has to be sent to more locations than expected.

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