Old setup

My old home cinema setup (Windows + ZoomPlayer)

Introduction

The main goal of my HomeTheater was to fully automate it in such a way that it completely mimmics the experience in a true cinema, including the lights, pre-show trailers, pause slides, background music etc etc. And all this just at the flick of a button. It had to support both DVD as well as media files from oher sources such as CD or HDD.

Key features:
* Single button control. No need to manually switch hardware, switch of lights etc etc.
* Playlist is randomly generated from a large library of movie trailes
* The lights, pause slide show and background music are synchronized with the playlist
* Basic control by remote control. Play button will start pre-show and main movie, pause will pause the show and stop will stop the show

Hardware

HTPC (HomeTheater PC)

Hardware: Pentium IV 3.0GHz, 512MB RAM, Nvidia Geforce FX 5700, Creative Audigy
OS: Windows XP (not MCE)

Marantz SR5600 (surround receiver/amplifier)

The main audio amplifier in my home theater. It is connected to my PC with a coaxial S/PDIF connection for normal (stereo) operation AND analog stereo mini-jack for. It is automatically controlled by my PC through its serial port.

Sharp LCD beamer

Old beamer that has a native resolution of 640x480. However, color reproduction is quite good and screendoor effect is not that noticable.


Additional hardware

300W Class D Subwoofer Amplifier

True 300W class D subwoofer amplifier, based on a Hypex UCD400 class D amplifier module. I'm very pleased with these amplifier modules, since they deliver rock steady output, almost no distortion, are very quite and stay cool (even under heavy load).

Serial IR receiver

Homebrew. Currently only supports RC5 remove signals (Philips). Works in combination with a special plugin for EventGhost (see software).

Serial Controlled Dimmer

Homebrew. Used to control the lights in my room. Works in commbination with a special plugin for EventGhost (see software).


Software

ZoomPlayer

The 'core' of my HomeTheater. I have chosen this player, since it is highly configurable and because it can be controlled by other applications. However, sometimes the options are a bit too much.

EventGhost

EventGhost is a open source automation tool for Windows. Before I used Girder, but since the Girder group switched it to a commercial tool and plugin specification was not open anymore, I switched to EventGhost. EventGhost has a more consistent structure and it can easily be extended by writing custom plugins (in Python).
Package plugins: Winamp, Keyboard
Custom plugins: Marantz SR receiver, Zoom Player (modified), Sound Mixer Ex, Serial Dimmer, USIR (modified)

AnyDVD

Used to skip those VERY ANNOYING copyright announcements and menus when playing DVD and just go to the main movie directly. Great tool anyway!

ZoomAssist

Generates random automatic playlists to a user settable pattern. Also a check is performed to see whether all playlist files are available BEFORE starting the player.
ZoomAssist was previously also used as an automation tool BESIDES Girder. However, the original planned event-based scripting engine turned out to be already implemented (way more flexible and extendable) in the EventGhost platform. Therefore, all the control the logic is now ported to EventGhost and a few custom plugins.

MarantzControl

Homebrew application to control my Marantz receiver through its serial port. It allows me to control the volume, input selection, mute etc etc directly from my keyboard. Actually not used for my HomeTheater, but all commands are passed through this application from EventGhost.

WinMask

Yet another homebrew application to 'permanently' blank the upper and lower part on the secondary screen (beamer) to make sure the projected image stays within the 1.85 masking


Codecs

ffdshow

Used for ALL formats, except MPEG2

WinDVD

Not used for playing. Only the DirectShow MPEG2 codecs are used

Haali Media Splitter

A way better madia splitter than the standard microsoft media splitter. It is also one of the very few splitters that allow DTS tracks in VOB files

AC3Filter

Used for DD/DTS pass-through. It is also used to ENCODE stereo AVI sources to make sure stereo movies are correctly Dolby ProLogic II decoded by my receiver.


Additional setup

Playlist

The presented playlist has to mimic the playlist presented at the dutch movie theaters. This playlist is automatically generated and synchronized to ZoomPlayer by ZoomAssist.

MediaMusicLights
Blank (black) screen or home cinema logoOnOn
Dolby Digital / DTS / THX trailerOffDimmed
Home cinema welcome teaserOffDimmed
Random 1.85 trailer (2x)OffDimmed
Home cinema no-smoking / phone-off teaserOffDimmed
Random 2.35 trailer (1x)OffOff
Movie part 1 (or complete movie)OffOff
Pause picture (star wars background with pause text)OnOn
Movie part 2 (if applicable)OffOff