So i've decided to share some info on my Media Centre / PseudoTV Setup i've built the last couple of weeks.
It's basically a Media Centre, but with something different....a Plugin that takes all your media, and creates TV Channels for you, which you can flip through like Regular TV.
I've taken it a few steps further though, to make it something really special. I'll share how to do it now.
Here's a Video:
Buy yourself a cheap PC, or preferably an HTPC.
I've personally went for the HP ProLiant MicroServer, which is basically a NAS. it's very quiet, has low power consumption, and is quite cheap. (+- R1300 at other online stores)
The HP has everything you need included - Chassis, PSU, Mobo, Dual Core CPU, RAM and a free 250GB Hard Drive.
Add some cheapo 3D Card to handle HD Media.
If you have a big LCD/Plasma and intend on playing 720p/1080p content, you will need it to help process the Video.
Here I went for the MSI 520GT, because the HP's 100 watt PSU will be able to run it, and its cheap too. (+- R500)
You can also go for a 210GT - just make sure its a Low Profile card, that supports and comes with a Low Profile Bracket to fit in the HP if you are going that route.
I've heard ATI's will work, but might need some fiddling in OpenELEC (Step 4).
if you are using Windows, an ATI Card is Fine. I don't like fiddling though, so I got the nVidia.
XBMC also prefers nVidia Cards.
Make sure you have a HDMI Cable, as this is also where your TV will get sound from.
(If you only have VGA input on your TV, install a cheap sound card in the HP, and feed it from there.)
Get a Remote.
I found a cheapo one on the Web for like R60, as I just want the Infra-Red receiver. It works fine though, but isn't very fancy.
The Best Remotes are the Logitch Harmony Range, which range from cheap to very expensive.
I found that the Logitech Harmony 650 offers great features, and isn't too expensive either (+-R400 online)
If you buy a Harmony, you will still need the IR Receiver, as its not included in the package. (that's why I bought the cheapo one, as its included)
You can program these fancy things to even control your TV, XBMC, Dolby Receiver, Hi-Fi and DVD Player.
If you have an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch/Android, you can control XBMC with that as well.
Install OpenELEC. It's a good idea to start with the Generic Build as it has most drivers.
This is an OS, Like Windows - except it comes with XBMC installed, which you will need. its VERY lightweight (uses only 40mb or so) and starts up in 30 seconds flat from a cold boot.
If you prefer using windows, thats fine - just install XBMC and set it to start up automaticall when you switch the HTPC on.
(XBMC's GUI will be faster with openELEC as its designed for HTPC use, and uses very little resources, unlike a Full blown OS like Windows.)
I've customized mine to fade in and out of different backgrounds, which should make it look something like this:
Buy Hard Drives.
It's a little tough now with the price increases, but yeah - hard drives are still pretty cheap for the amount of data it can pack these days.
The HP can fit 4 Hard drives, giving you 8TB. instead of adding a DVD Drive, you can add a 5th Drive.
You can also use the eSATA port on the back, for a 6th Drive, bringing it up to 12TB. a LOT of data for such a compact little box
(use an eSATA-to-SATA converter, and route it from the external port, through the gap just above the PCI Slots, into the area between the 4 drives and the DVD Drive bay)
Add your Media to the drives.
If you connect a network cable from the HP/HTPC to your PC, you should be able to type in \\openelec to access the HP's Files through the network.
(Samba Shares and everything should all be set up automatically for you.)
Install PseudoTV by going to Settings > Add-Ons.
Either install using XBMC's Built-In Repository (easiest) or get the latest version here and install from Zip)
you can read this man's PseudoTV Blog here
Get the Channel Pack that contains all the Station Logo's. I think this pack has over 2000 of them.
(click on download on the top right, in the Google docs Page. it's 15mb)
Set up your channels - How many you want, what you want, on which channel you want, with the Name/Logo you want.
It's quite easy - if you have a few shows that was aired on the ABC Channel, you can create an ABC channel by enabling it on, say, channel 1.
All ABC shows will be shown on this channel.
Keep creating channels as you wish.
You can also create channels from media that isn't scraped, like folders. I've used my IMAX Videos Folder, and created my own IMAX Channel.
Create an Anime Channel, Movie channels, Music Channels (using a music videos folder), and also genre channels like sci-fi, romance, horror movies, action, war movies, comedy, etc.
(its very easy - just select what type of channel you want, and add it to a number)
You can also use XBMC's "smart playlist editor" to have more options (like making a channel that only plays New, Sci-Fi, movies, that are newer than 2009, and are of 720p or better quality)
If you need help on Smart Playlists, just ask me.
I would recommend sorting your channels into bouquets, so they are easier to remember/find.
On my setup I have the following:
01-09 : Movie Channels
10-19 : Popular Networks
20-29 : Comedy
30-39 : Lifestyle & Entertainment (Womens channels)
40-49 : Knowledge
50-60 : Action / Sci-Fi / Gaming (Mens Channels)
60-69 : Music
70-79 : Kids
This is actually a "Guide Channel" I created on channel 99, by simply adding the Station Logos onto an blue background in Photoshop, and adding music.
(This is not really needed - only if you have some graphical experience, are trying to be fancy, or not smart enough to remember the channel numbers, like me)
The first time you start up, it will build all your TV Stations and playlists, and EPG, which looks like this:
you can skip forward as far as you want into the future, pause at any time, rewind, skip shows, whatever.
It's also a nice way of seeing "what's on"
The times are in Realtime. that means, if you see a show come up at 5pm, and switch off the HTPC....when you switch it back on at 5:30, it will start mid-way into the show!
(Not a problem though, as you can ALWAYS rewind)
Download "Channel Bumpers"
These are the Channel Identity Logo's, you see during add breaks. for example in between shows on the "Premium Cinema" Channel, you will see it's Bumper/Ident.
These can be downloaded straight off of Youtube.
This is why it's a good idea to rename your movie channel to "Cinemax" or "Premium Cinema" or "Star Movies", as you will:
(a) Have the channel logo in the Logo Pack / able to find it on google Images
(b) Have the Channel Bumper/Ident/Logo Video
You will find all the popular ones like Comedy Central, HBO, Showtime, SyFy, Cartoon Network, MTV, etc fairly easily.
If you get this far and want to know how to add Bumpers to a Channel, just ask.
Download Adverts (Optional)
Now I know not everyone will agree on this, but I kinda like it to Fully re-create the TV experience.
Except....I don't watch boring OMO or Outsurance Adverts, I get to see WhiteCastle, BurgerKing, Budweiser and BestBuy Adverts.
It's kinda hard to watch those Burger King adverts and know I can't get one, but most of them are Great, very funny, and makes my TV setup like something no one else in SA has.
The Adverts are quite small - an average commercial in 720p is about 10mb to download from youtube. (Use Firefox's Download helper Plugin to download them easily)
If you get this far and want to know how to add Adverts to a Channel, just ask.
(You can specify exactly which channels have them ,and how many between shows. adverts can always be skipped too while watching TV.)
All Done. Enjoy your Magic HP Box running a beautiful GUI thats slick and fast.
If you want to watch a specific movie, show or listen to an Album, you can always still do that through regular XBMC menu's.