The X-Box is still dead so the only way I can watch DVD movies is via the MMS. I had already experienced issues with the new sound card and some programs. It’s caused by the Dolby/PCM options. If I have Dolby enabled in the configuration utility and attempt to watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica in iTunes then the audio and video do not sync and there’s also some audio stutter. To correct this I have to change the config to use PCM. Other applications seem to be affected by this setting and I’m disappointed that the sound card doesn’t switch modes automatically, but it’s tolerable as I usually only watch DVDs using the system and audio files such as MP3s play properly even with the Dolby mode enabled.
Since last weekend I’ve had to try different DVD playback software to find one that would play a DVD with 5.1 surround sound through SPDIF at full-screen. VLC seems to have problems with the surround sound. Nero Showtime worked properly until I tried to full-screen the video, which resulted in nothing appearing. Lately, I’ve been using Windows Media Player 10, which works great in full-screen and outputs the audio properly. It even appears to play DVDs from the hard drive. However, I’m not fond of Microsoft software and I was in a situation in which I had to use it; not because I wanted to.
I recently tried Media Portal but there were issues immediately apparent with DVD playback and it’s still a bear to configure and have it work properly. To make matters worse Windows Media Player 10 stopped recognizing the DVD decoder until I uninstalled Media Portal.
Today I may have found a solution that is similar to Media Portal. It’s Snapstream’s Beyond Media. Like Media Portal, its interface is designed to be viewed from a television. It supports photos, audio files, DVD playback, and a few other features. It costs $49.99 to $59.99 depending on the package one chooses. While I would have preferred for Media Portal to work I’m considering purchasing Beyond Media. The software is currently in a trial period that lasts 21 days. Snapstream also maintains Beyond TV, an application that adds Tivo-like capabilities to computers with TV tuner cards. I’ve experimented with Beyond TV in the past but unfortunately ATI All-in-Wonder cards aren’t very good TV tuner cards, which caused enough problems to convince me to give up before purchasing the software.
Though the trial version does not support surround sound I found a simple tweak for an XML file that seems to enable it to use third-party decoders and thus it sounds like it is working, though not perfectly. I may indeed end up purchasing this package if the trial goes well.
VLC – http://www.videolan.org/vlc/</a>
Media Portal – http://mediaportal.sourceforge.net/
Snapstream – http://www.snapstream.com/ (Beyond Media and Beyond TV)