Hi guys, I'm new to this and am a bit overwhelmed after trying to research and understand all of the new "media player" devices listed online. I don't quite understand what they do, although most seem to involve streaming.
Right now, I have a huge collection of homemade DVDs (theater productions mostly, as I grew up working on stage) and I have backed them all up to an external drive as ISOs. Just direct uncompressed transfers of the DVD images to the drive.
Right now, the only way that I can view the ISO files on my TV is to connect my laptop to the TV via HDMI and them play the ISOs with VLC player. However, while VLC player is good at many things, it cannot match the quality of playing the DVD itself on a DVD player. The ISO played by VLC is not quite the same quality, even after I've spent ages trying to tweak the settings.
What I would love is a device that I can plug into my TV, and then plug an external drive into that device, and play the ISO files directly on the TV without having to stream them or convert them, and have them look the same as the DVD itself does. Basically, an ISO version of a DVD player.
Is there any device out there that can do this? If so, which ones? Or is there at the very least a media player for PC that would do a better job of playing ISOs without degrading the quality?
Any advice would be hugely appreciated. Thanks so much!
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I watch DVD ISOs on my TV using Kodi - so, I suppose my short answer is, "Any device that can run Kodi." I'm sure others will have their own suggestions, which may be even better.
In the meantime, though, VLC shouldn't degrade ISOs, so something's wrong there. As a wild guess, try this:
1) Open an ISO in VLC and play the main video.
2) Go to Video -> Deinterlace, and set it to "On".
3) Go to Video -> Deinterlace mode, and set it to "Yadif (2x)".
Does that improve matters? My money's on either that being the issue, or a refresh rate mismatch.
Thanks, my TV is a large LG smart TV but quite a few years old. I don't know what system it operates on but I'm sure it's not one of the options listed on the Kodi page, unfortunately. I don't know if I can just install standalone software on it like that (haven't tried but it doesn't seem like that type of TV, although clearly I don't know much about it). That's why I wanted an actual device to plug in, like a DVD or other type of physical player.
As far as playing ISOs through VLC, I'm afraid your suggested settings were what I had already tried before posting. It did improve things a lot when I used those settings, and is watchable, but still isn't the same quality as playing the DVD in the DVD player
Try using MPC-BE or Potplayer (be sure to opt-out on the the adware on installation and updates) on your laptop. Also change your HDMI cable (You are connecting via HDMI and not VGA or DVI, correct?) since as Mr. Chris stated, there seems to be something odd with your setup or possibly your DVD player was outputting an incorrect picture. By chance, you don't have your laptop set to 16 or 24bit color do you? Try resetting VLC to it's defaults. Also, I don't know if VLC has a setting for this, but in Potplayer you have to set the ColorSpace to Full (0-255) as it defaults to PC Colorspace (16-235) which looks poor when playing back on a TV.
The following from this thread: https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/389775-Please-help-me-find-a-media-player-box summarizes your options. All are standalone devices (forget the built-media player on your TV) and will play both .ISO (with the possible exception of some Blu-Ray players as noted:
"$50 - $100 - Android Box or Raspberry Pi (as Jagabo suggested). Stick with the 4 star+ boxes on Amazon and the build quality is generally solid with higher cost giving you additional streaming features that you may not need.
$100 - $150 - Blu-Ray player. Be sure the player will play DVD .ISOs (if you have them) and .MKVs. Newer players may not support all types of video files.
$150+ - KDLinks, Nvidia Shield, laptop, HTPC. Note that the newer KDLinks models (e.g. A400) run Android and IMHO, doesn't warrant the premium over a $100 Android Box. While the Nvidia Shield is highly praised, most of the praise is for it's gaming capabilities, not the video capabilities.
After using an old laptop (actually a 2-in-1 tablet) for my second TV, I'm seriously thinking about replacing or supplementing my beloved WDTV with another laptop or small PC. The main advantage being that I can play video files other than .ISOs or .MKVs."
Ah okay, so all (or most) of those will plug and play without requiring internet? My concern was the streaming aspect because I want to have everything plugged directly in with no need for internet. I'll look at the different options then.
As for the quality issues - I should explain, it's not a color issue as far as I can tell. It's more that when I play it through the computer onto the TV with VLC, it doesn't look quite as smooth or clear. It's like it's giving a more film-like look to what should be more of an analog video look. I wish I had a better way of describing it. But basically, the DVD player just seems to have a slightly smoother, sharper look. Maybe there's something going on with the frame rate or deinterlacing in VLC, but I've tried every possible setting combination.
I'm sure it's not the HDMI cable because it's relatively new and has no other problems. I've been using it for a second monitor hookup here and there and never had any issues with quality. I'm sure that it's related to VLC in this case.
I can also try out MPC-BE and Potplayer and see if that makes a difference!
And yes, any media player that supports Kodi (preinstalled, or user installed) will work. All the Android TV boxes, Raspberry Pi, etc. Some players without Kodi can play DVD ISOs but you'll have to check to be sure. Picture quality may vary.
Last edited by jagabo; 14th Sep 2019 at 23:09.
KODI and the other apps on the Android Box may prompt you for updates, but otherwise will work fine with internet access.
I prefer MX Player on Android (the free version has ads) which I believe can play .ISO as I don't care for the KODI interface.
I'll leave it to others to diagnose your playback issue as I watch videos from multiple sources with varying quality on my PC and laptop (swapped out my Android Box a while back).
So....I've had another look and to better describe the problem, it's like the video is slightly jerkier when played through my laptop as opposed to when playing the DVD. It's very minimal, actually, but I notice it because I've seen these DVDs so much and it stands out to me even though it's pretty minor. But to try and describe it, it's maybe as if frames are being skipped? Not enough to really make it a huge problem, but enough to make the movement of the video look a little different and not as smooth. Like I said, it's as if you converted a soap opera to mimic film...instead of the standard video look, it's now compensating with a more filmy frame rate look, and therefore it no longer looks completely smooth. I wish I could explain it better but I can't think of how.
I guess it's possible, as suggested, that it could be an issue with my laptop or the connection....like perhaps the laptop - even though it's a high level machine - is not smoothly displaying the image on the TV for some reason, and something is getting lost in the transfer to the TV as an external monitor. I have one other idea that I'll test in the morning but either way, it seems like a separate media box might be worth trying.
When you say that picture quality may vary, what is that based on? What would be the most reliable option for image quality to play an ISO via direct plug/connection?
Another possibility: Are your videos PAL (25 or 50 fps) or NTSC (29.97 or 59.94 fps)? And your TV? A frame rate mismatch will cause slight jerkiness. Like, for example, when playing 60 Hz videos on a a 50 Hz TV (or vice versa), or when the laptop is putting out a 60 Hz signal (regardless of the source video's frame rate) to a 50 Hz TV.
Hi, yes it's definitely yadif (2x). Setting it to that helped A LOT from what it looked like before but it still isn't the same as playing it from the DVD player.
Probably about half of my videos are PAL and half NTSC. Some don't work on my main blu-ray player and I have to use my secondary region-free player. However, as I said this DVD works and looks perfectly fine when played through the main player so it can't be an issue of fps mismatch with the TV. It's really hard to tell if the problem is occurring when simply viewing it on my laptop with VLC because the screen is obviously much smaller. I don't notice the problem quite as much but I don't think it looks quite as smooth as when playing the DVD on the TV. I could be overanalyzing it though, and the issue is just related to the HDMI projection and my laptop or TV not being able to do it at top quality.
Either way, I think it's worth trying out a standalone media player for the TV. You said in a previous post that "quality may vary" - can you recommend a particular player that will plug into my TV, allow me to plug in an external drive and play ISO files at the same quality as a DVD/blu-ray player would play the original discs? You listed a bunch earlier but then made the quality comment so I want to make sure that I'm trying a device that will play at the best possible quality.
Another possibility with NTSC and soft telecined films is that the player can bypass the pulldown and send 23.976 fps progressive frames directly to the TV. Or with hard pulldown the player can inverse telecine before sending the video to the TV. Try VLC's Film NTSC (IVTC) deinterlacer for that.
Hmm...well, I definitely don't have a PAL TV but there is certainly something going on with the frame rate when playing from the computer to the TV. Whether it's the video itself, the way VLC is handling it, the way my laptop is handling it or the way the HDMI is handling it, I don't know. I did try the NTSC deinterlacer before and it unfortunately looked much worse. Yadif 2x is the only one that gets close to the DVD quality. And like I said, it's useable, just not perfect and I was really hoping for an option that allowed me to view the ISO files directly and have them look the same as the DVD player.
What specific product would you recommend for a standalone media/ISO player in this case? I looked up a ton of products on Amazon but they primarily seem to be identical boxes of questionable quality from China and the like. This was the most viable option I could find, and I have no idea what the quality would be like: NinkBox
More "official" products like the Firestick and Nvidia Shield either don't have an option to connect an external drive or don't seem to be able to play ISO files.
Looking again, this KD Links one is the only product I could find on Amazon that doesn't look like some questionable knockoff and has both USB connections and the option to play ISOs. It is a bit more expensive than I was hoping for though, so I'm not sure what a good legitimate but slightly cheaper product would be (i.e. don't need all of the fancy streaming capabilities, just a good quality plug and play ISO option).
"Internal storage" must be used for games and apps while "external storage" can be used for media files. Be aware that personal computers won't recognize an HDD that is set up as "internal storage" but should recognize an NTFS formatted hard drive set up as external storage.
[Edit] Kodi is an official app for the Shield TV. It can play ISOs, but menu support is poor for BD ISOs. Note that there are very few hardware or software media players which are not licensed by the BDA (Blue-ray Disc Association) that have full support for Blu-ray menus.
The Popcorn Hour A500 is another option with a compartment to install an HDD for storage. Looking at the product page again, it is indeed discontinued as mentioned below.
Last edited by usually_quiet; 15th Sep 2019 at 14:09.Ignore list: hello_hello, tried, TechLord
The majority of Android Boxes in the $50-100 range are functionally and qualitatively the same, differing primarily in CPU and Android version (currently at 9.0 Pie). They all have the ability to connect an external drive as long as they have a USB port and ability to play .ISO via KODI, which may not be preinstalled, but can be installed. Since the ability to accept an external hard drive and preinstalled/ability to install KODI is virtually universal, they my not be listed as features. The box you linked to is in the middle of the $50-100 range and has good hardware, software specs and very good reviews. Likely a good safe purchase.
Build quality may be an issue on <$50 devices, where cost cutting (lower spec CPU and older OS) may be the primary goal, which is why I started the price range at $50. IMO, $70 is a small risk for something that will likely last for years, by which time a replacement will be even cheaper, more powerful and feature filled.
Though running a custom version of Android, the Nvidia Shield does support external hard drives, but as I stated above, IMO, this and the KDLinks you linked to are overpriced, especially for your use.
If you're worried about build quality, you can go with a Raspberry PI 4, either separate components or as a kit. I believe you still have to purchase the Mpeg Codec (I think it's less than $10) to play Mpeg.
There are a few highly reviewed non-Android boxes like the the Popcorn Hour, Dune and WDTV (in it's various configurations) that are discontinued and now priced beyond their value, especially compared to the current Android Boxes.
Ignore list: hello_hello, tried, TechLord
Thanks for all of the suggestions! I'll try out the one that I linked to and see how that works, and hopefully can just return it if it's a bust. As you pointed out, I'm only looking for DVD quality when playing ISO files directly from an external drive plugged into the device. I don't have any need for streaming functions or additional apps or anything like that. So I'll try out the android one mentioned and see if it does the trick. If the quality of the ISOs is still problematic then I just give up and will stick to watching the DVDs themselves lol. I really appreciate all of the advice!
VLC shouldn't be as capable of playing NTSC DVD ISO smoothly on an NTSC TV if set up correctly. Is your laptop's graphics card set up for 59.94 Hz or 60 Hz display? Maybe the graphics card is having problems driving the laptop's screen as well as the external screen simultaneously? Have you tried other players?
Kodi (for DVD ISO playback) you should be OK with pretty much any of them (Kodi itself is optimized for a remote control). But again, you may run into the same non-smooth playback problem. I don't really use DVD ISO (I usually convert DVDs to h.264 MKV and store them on a NAS, largly to get rid of menus, ads, studio/distributor logos, etc.) so my knowledge regarding playing them is limited.
Thanks, I've tried ordering that NinkBox one and we'll see how it goes. If it doesn't work, I'll just return it and accept defeat because I've tried everything for laptop-to-TV at this point. I'm not sure how to find out my graphics card display numbers but I guess it could be an issue with projecting it or with how the graphics card is handling the ISOs, although it shouldn't be a problem since it's a higher end laptop for 3D illustration, games and intensive video editing. But we'll see how the media player goes and if it handles the files any better.
Yeah, I have internet of course, so the setup isn't a problem. I just don't want to be regularly streaming things that I can be playing directly through the hardware. I watch enough Netflix and Amazon....don't need to be relying on internet just to watch my own ISO files! Anyway, we'll see how it goes. The order should arrive on Tuesday so I'll test it out Tuesday night and see if it works or if I should just give up and continue using the actual DVDs.
Hopefully solve your issue and looking forward to reading about your results.
Back to the laptop and your DVD player. Since your DVD player is region free, I wonder if it's native PAL and that's why it's smoother to your eyes with PAL discs. Don't know if this is a thing, since I'm not sensitive to PAL flicker or have the eyes for video like some regulars here do.
One other outside possibility. Is your drive defragged and USB 3.0? Is it a portable drive or a desktop with it's own power supply? I have a couple of older portable drives that cause the video to stutter, though not just drop frames.
Hi, the player in question isn't PAL. It is a standard US Blu-Ray/DVD player. I have a secondary region-free player that I hook up to the TV via RGB when needed for PAL recordings but this DVD isn't one of them. It works perfectly fine on the normal player.
As far as the gear goes, my laptop is a good quality one in good condition, defragged and with USB 3. The external drive is a reliable one (just a portable slim drive that powers itself through the USB connection to the laptop. And it plays plenty of videos in various formats without a problem when plugged directly into the TV or computer. It's definitely not the drive itself. It's just something to do with the way the ISO is either being played on the laptop or how it is being transferred to the TV via HDMI. I'll update on Tuesday to confirm if I'm able to get the box I ordered working and if the ISO looks any better when played through it. If not then I guess it's just an issue of the TV handling ISOs or a frame rate conflict or something that I probably won't manage to fix, and I'll just stick with playing the DVDs directly in that case!