ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 5

Nov 16 2010

Introduction

It is not that often that we get a chance to take an early look at the next generation of Blu-ray (BD) playback software for the home theater PC (HTPC) so when ArcSoft offered us the chance to review TotalMedia Theatre 5 (TMT5) we could not say no, even though the timeline was very aggressive.  To help account for that, and the general difficultly of adequately testing all the different platforms, we are doing this review as a collaboration between the editors at MissingRemote.  What makes this approach especially interesting is that we all have a different mix of software and hardware in our home theaters and they are split evenly when it comes to the players of choice between the earlier version of TMT and Cyberlink’s PowerDVD 10 (PDVD).

TMT5

Breaking it down, the home theater environments tested included two HDMI 1.4 3D-capable plasma displays, two HDMI 1.3 LCD/plasma displays, two HDMI 1.3 enabled audio video receiver (AVR), a discrete 5.1 analog enabled AVR and stereo output via the display’s built in speakers.  Additionally, we tested as many graphics processing units (GPU) as we could to ensure that we would covered the majority of the user community.

Tested GPUs

  • ATI 3650
  • ATI 4650
  • Intel GMA4500HD
  • Intel GMA4500MHD
  • Intel Clarkdale i3-530/540
  • Intel Clarkdale i5-670
  • NVIDIA GT 220
  • NVIDIA GT 240
  • NVIDIA GT 430
  • NVIDIA GTS 450

Experience

Compared to TMT3 and PDVD10 the overall user experience found in TMT5 is a welcome improvement both in the standalone player and even more notably in the Windows 7 Media Center integrated version.  Before taking a more detailed look at the different experiences I would like to highlight one thing that [unlike some other BD players - <cough> PDVD] ArcSoft does correctly from the end-user’s perspective.

I know it is a small thing, but after going through the effort of setting my AutoPlay handlers it is really nice that after installing TMT5 it does not need to be done again.

Standalone:

The standalone user interface is much improved; providing a slick menu system with subtle animations that utilize a translucent overlay on the main screen and a reasonably functional “media manager” interface.  The media manager is still pretty rough though as it does not support adding folders (each media item must be added individually) or advanced metadata like fanart.  Of course none of that matters if the BD experience is sub-par.

Fortunately we can report that BD playback is excellent (including frame sequential 3D with a supported NVIDIA GPU), and the frameless video surface TMT5 uses for video playback looks great and gives the application a slight edge in picture quality versus the competition.  Unfortunately, it does not reach feature parity with the ease of use a dedicated hardware player can provide, missing two critical features -- automatic refresh rate and channel configuration matching.

Media Center:

When it comes to BD playback in a Windows 7 Media Center (7MC) environment, the platform requires a third-party player such as TMT5. While the BD players have improved over the years in their attempts at providing a more integrated playback experience, none have ever provided what could be considered a native experience. TMT5 has attempted to rectify the situation and has largely succeeded.

We found it difficult to describe the level of 7MC integration provided with TMT5 in words, so the video below was created to let you experience it with us.

The experience could still use some work however, most notably for those who use analog audio output (see the table below) with PDVD providing wider protected audio path (PAP) coverage, and also because settings for both applications are not shared and need to be toggled in each player respectively.

PAP Audio Support TMT5 PDVD10
Intel i3/i5/i7 x x
NVIDIA 4xx x x
AMD 5xxx x x
Auzentech X-Fi HomeTheater HD   x *Exclusive
Asus Xonar HDAV 1.3 x *Exclusive  
Realtek ALC889   x
Realtek ALC885   x
Realtek ALC892   x
Realtek ALC670   x
Realtek ALC669   x
VIA EnvyHD Vinyl VT1818S   x
VIA EnvyHD Vinyl VT1828S   x
VIA EnvyHD Vinyl VT2020   x

File/Format Support

We generally only use TMT5 for BD playback, but it does support a wide variety of file containers besides BD and DVD, find the full list below.

File Type

Extension

MPEG-4 AVC 264, H264, 26L, JVT, JSV, AVC, MOV, MVC, M4V
3GP 3GP, 3G2
Windows Media ASF, WM, WMA, WMV
Video for Windows AVI
Video CD DAT
DV Recorded DV
Windows Media Center Recorded DVR-MS, WTV
Flash Video FLV
MPEG-1 Video M1V
MPEG-2 Transport Stream M2TS, M2T, MTS
MPEG-2 Video M2V, M2P
MPEG-4 Audio M4A
JVC MPEG-2 TOD, MOD
Quicktime Movie MOV, QT
MPEG-1 Audio Layer-2 MP2
MPEG-1 Audio Layer-3 MP3
MPEG-4 Video MP4, DIV, DIVX
MPEG Video MPG, MPEG, MPE, MPA, MPV
VC1 Elementary Stream VC1
DVD Video Object VOB
Video Recordable VRO
Microsoft Waveform Audio WAV
MPEG-2 Recorded TV TS, TP, TRP, TTS
AAC Audio AAC
OGG OGG
FLAC Audio FLAC, FLA
APE Audio APE
3D Image JPG, BMP, PNG, GIF, PSD, TIF, MPO, JPS,
Shorten Audio SHN
TTA Audio TTA
Wavepack Audio WV
AMR Audio AM

Unfortunately, the list doesn’t tell the whole story so it is important to note that there are some feature gaps between the different file types so we have listed some of the more noteworthy items:

  • DVR-MS plays, but can’t navigate at all
  • WTV plays but no audio is decoded.
  • HD DVD will play but HD audio does not bitstream, it is decoded and sent as PCM
  • BDMV playback works by choosing “index.bdmv” from the rip, it will not play if the BDMV folder is selected
  • External SRT subtitles are supported
  • Internal SRT subtitles are not supported
  • Doesn’t decode FLAC (tested from MKV)
  • No internal PGS (BD subtitles) support for M2TS or MKV file playback
  • M2TS will only play the first audio track by decoding to PCM; even lossy audio tracks
  • Seems to only decode core from MKV with DTS-HD

Ignoring any legal issues (which are quite possible), it is disturbing that feature support - most notably PGS and HD bit streaming - from non-BD containers demonstrate such a large difference especially because ArcSoft nailed the BD experience so well.  If they are serious about owning the HTPC media aggregation and playback space TMT5 needs to do a better job of providing at least parity with what the FOSS (free open source software) is providing with projects like MPC-HC.

Conclusion

Unfortunately we did not have the time to thoroughly test all of the features in great depth (we hope to fix that shortly :)), so we focused primarly on the BD playback experience and quality.  Based on what we have seen, ArcSoft’s TMT5 has not only provided a worthy successor to TMT3, but also taken the lead in HTPC Blu-ray playback.  That said, while analog PAP support lags other solutions and PC players do not have feature parity with dedicated hardware devices there is still work to do to improve the experience.

Pro:

  • Excellent BD picture quality
  • Class leading 7MC integration
  • HDMI 1.4 - 3D BD fully supported
  • Refined and functional UI
  • HD DVD and BDMV support

Con

  • No automatic resolution matching
  • Analog PAP coverage
  • As with any pre-release software, Arcsoft is still working on some stability issues with certain hardware configurations

Thanks to Aaron Ledger, Michael Welter and Mike Garcen for all the help.

You can purchase TotalMedia Theatre 5 directly from ArcSoft.

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Comments

Hi Andy,

Excellent writeup as always. I was hoping you could give a little more color on this:

BDMV playback works by choosing “index.bdmv” from the rip, it will not play if the BDMV folder is selected

So if you have BR Folder Rips TMT5 will not automatically play them as if it was playing a disc (which it does currently with TMT3), you instead need to select index.bdmv?

Yes. If you try to select a BDMV like a VIDEO_TS it will gray out the "OK" button. To play a BDMV you need to "Open File..." the .bdmv file instead.

How about if you are using a plugin like Media Browser + W7MC which is set to launch TMT for BR Folders, will it launch just as with TMT3 or will you still have to go through the "Open File..." scenario?

You will need to update your config file regardless, there is a new name for the exe. Most 3rd party applications use {0} for the BDMV folder. You can append the \index.bdmv to that, i.e. "{0}\index.bdmv".

If there doesn't work, I'll write you a quick application with the old name that appends the proper file path =)

Thanks, I will give that a try when I get home and report back.

Note: It still works fine through the MC7 interface.

Also, Note that I did not experience this issue.

For those interested, TMT5 is now available to purchase via http://www.arcsoft.com/estore/software_title.asp?ProductCode=TMT5P

Any word on if TMT5 supports a zoom function, like 7MC does natively? I have some older DVD titles that are letterboxed and pilliar boxed (black all the way around the picture), and a simple zoom will fill the screen. For whatever reason the Arcsoft folks really resisted the idea in TMT3, because it "altered the native movie." That was my only real complaint from TMT3

80 bucks for an upgrade, no flippin way. I've paid twice already. And companies wonder why people look to torrents.
When you try to sell one application for almost as much as the O.S. costs, you are going to lose customers.
I remember the day I brought Win7 home and got it installed and found out TMT2 would not play BluRay but I was in too deep so I coughed up the 80 bucks then. Not this time.

I don't even have an older version of TMT to upgrade from so it'd cost me $100! I left feedback with them and told them that their prices are way too high (in a very polite way).

-Jonathan

Keep an eye on buying from 3rd party sites. I purchased TMT3 from Newegg for $59, much cheaper then buying directly from Arcsoft

If you have a registered copy of the full retail version of TMT3 the upgrade price should appear as $50 for you within your ArcSoft account. If it's not, contact customer service. They'll verify your purchase and resolve the pricing problem.

Yes, it zooms with either CH+/- or Pg Up/Dn on remote.

Appologies for possible thread jack .....

 

I thought I read somewhere that Arcsoft released there Video Codecs for use with 3rd party applications (i.e. the video codec could be purchased seperately for the Arcsoft aplication)

  Is this true?

I believe 3rd party SW applications can license ArcSoft's codecs, but I'm not aware of a way for end users to buy them directly.

Andy - I am trying to get folder playback using mymovies3 and I am not having any success.  I have modified the external players file and now have TMT5 as an option but when I attempt to launch I get the splash screen showing 2 empty drives.  All of my BD movies (300 +) are in BD folder structure and are currently pointed at the volume id.  I have however attempted to change to pointing at the bdmv.index file using online files instead of online folders but this doesn't work.  Perhaps I need to add some parameters to the external players file?

"Is this true?" No.

Hey guys,

 

What exe file should I use to launch TMT5 from Media Browser. I tried every exe file (I just downloaded the TMT5 trial) and all exe files just take me to the TMT5 Information Center screen.

uMCEPlayer5.exe I believe is the correct one.

uMCEPlayer5.exe I believe is the correct one.

Yeah, that is what I am using but all I get is the TMT5 info screen. I don't know if this is because I am testing out the trial version?

Same thing is happening to me (or actually nothing is happening) with the paid version.  I knew I should have waited.

There is a hotfix to get TMT5 to launch from WMC:

http://www.arcsoft.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=7164&title=mce-hotfix-f...

The current issues (as posted by Alex):

THE BAD:
1. the MCE player (uMCEPlayer5.exe) is launched but always opens in window instead of full-screen (so miss a windows maximize command when opened as .exe, while it works ok when opened as internal MCE add-in)
2. the MCE player ignore "back" remote button, so it never closes with remote (need to press ctrl-x or use mouse to close the window)
3. sometimes the player stucks in the first page (where you can see the drive icons), need to kill the process

TMT 5 really is looking to be even better than I could have ever hoped.

PowerDVD 10 tried to emulate the Media Center interface, but it has a few bugs that the developers just ignore time and time again. This seems like it has those elements, as well as newer updates like 3D support and such. I just hope the audio tracks get labeled with the format, alongside the language.

Can I install TMT 5 and still have TMT 3 installed? I'd like to try it out without removing my working TMT 3 install.

Yes, they can run side-by-side.  In my part of the evaluation I had both running.

Just to be clear, when you talk about the PAP issues, you're only referring to analog output, correct? That wouldn't include HDMI or TosLink right? 

joshpollard wrote:

Just to be clear, when you talk about the PAP issues, you're only referring to analog output, correct? That wouldn't include HDMI or TosLink right? 

Yes, mostly.  In addtion to the more limited analog audio support, TMT also doesn't support PAP with the Realtek HDMI audio driver for ATI cards.

Also, TosLink has no support for PAP so you're limited to DTS core or AC3(Dolby Digital). It also doesn't support better than 2-channel PCM. This doesn't have anything to do with TMT5 though.

Hi guys,

I've seen here http://www.reviewmaze.com/2011/01/windows-blu-ray-player-software-arcsoft.html that TMT integrates seemlessly with WMC. Could somebody share some impressions on how this feature works and is it better than PowerDVD's one?

If you check out the video Andrew posted in the review above and this video from VINYLFREAK4, you'll get a good idea of the integration.

Thanks mate! I am usually just reading and pretty often overlook videos. Thanks again for the hint.

  • M2TS will only play the first audio track by decoding to PCM; even lossy audio tracks
  • So if I use DVDFab Blu-Ray Ripper and convert it to a single .m2ts, I won't be able to bitstream HD audio?

    Yes.  File playback in commercial BD SW is pretty awful compared to what you get with MPC-HC or SageTV (w/ ffdshow installed).

    So makryger over at tgb asked about the licensing for TMT5 for use on multiple systems.  I knew TMT3 was licensed for two systems that you are the primary user of but was ensure of TMT5 so I checked with our Arcsoft contact.

    I received confirmation that TMT5 has the same licensing model as TMT3.  You have two installs assuming you are the primary user.  Just thought I'd share.

    While we're on the subject of TMT5, I noticed this morning ArcSoft is running a 35% off promo until April 18th for the interested. Use coupon code APRIL11.

    Man, I really wish TMT was a lot cheaper. I'm not comfortable paying more then $50 just for Blu ray playback....

    It's hard to find decent standalone player for less than $100.  Add in the cost of a drive $50-60 and you get a single solution that does a lot more.

    I've already got a PS3 which already does more and the only interest I have is getting Blu ray discs playable inside of WMC. That makes TMT a (terrific) one trick pony (maybe two tricks if you count the WMC plug in ability) but nowhere near worth it's $100 asking price.

    That's $50 for a drive and then twice that for the playback software? If I was a first time buyer I'd rather just get a good standalone player instead since that's a much better value (after you add in the total cost of the entire HTPC plus the drive and then the software).

     

    So yeah, I really wish TMT was cheaper. At $35 I'd buy a copy even if I was unsure if I would use it, at $50 I would have to think about it but it's hard to swallow at $100. To me at least.

    I agree that if you already have a BD solution adding another option isn't that compelling.  TMT (and other BD SW) is really only a decent value if you already have the majority of hardware required (i.e. a HTPC acting as a DVR in the stack with decent GPU). 

    $100 is the SRP, ArcSoft is almost always running a promotion where you pay $50-60 for TMT.  While that still can't compete w/ the bottom end of standalone players, its feature set is more in-line with mid/high range decks (3D, profile 2.0, etc).

    I have a problem with Total Media Theater. When I play anything with TMT, my screen goes black. If I unplug the cable and plug it back in, the picture will show up. I do not believe it is TMT's fault as much as it is my TV. But I find it strange that PowerDVD does not exhibit this problem, and satellite works fine as well.

    I feel like I should know what video card you have but I don't remember.  And what version of your drivers and TMT?

    I have had a 2600xt with various Catalyst drivers. I got the 430GT and hoped that would solve the problem being newer and HDMI (instead of DVI to HDMI with the 2600xt). But that does the same thing. That was with the latest nvidia drivers. It has happened the same with TMT 3 and TMT 5.

    If you don't have TotalMedia Theatre 5 yet because you've been holding out for a deal, here's a chance to get it for 30% off for $69.99.

    Enter coupon code MEMORIALDAY11 at checkout to receive 30% off
    Offer valid through 5/31/2011

    ArcSoft

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