[Guide] UHD BD Playback - Getting the best from an HTPC Setup

Here is my recommendations for getting a superb UHD BD playback on an HTPC, what you will need to get started:

  • Windows based HTPC with IR or BT receivers
  • Good GPU (think RTX1660ti or better)
  • JRiver Media Center
  • MCE Remote Control (IR or BT… the Logitech Hub works great with both but is expensive)

Once you have your HTPC built and connected to your AVR, there are some tips to get the most out of JRiver Media Center.

JRiver Media Center for UHD Playback: The basics for great UHD playback is part of MC (LAV Filters and madVR) and includes the following features:

  • UHD support from both UHD BD, UHD BD Folder Rips, MKV Rips etc
  • Atmos, DTS:X bitstreaming to AVR’s etc as well as decoding or bitstreaming of other formats
  • UHD BD Menu support (from Folder Rips or unencrypted discs)
  • Automatic Frame Rate changing (to prevent pull down artefacts)
  • Stream Selection support during playback (Playlist, Subtitle, Lang etc)
  • Adjustable A/V sync correction
  • HDR to SDR tone mapping (this is serious good but will need it’s own separate discussion and some additional config to get it “right”).

JRiver Media Center is not for the faint of heart. It’s not iTunes. It has heaps of Audio/Videophile options. It will take you some time to get it setup they way you want. While I’m not part of the JRiver crew, but I am an admin on their forum and have been using it for 10+ years. I use MC for both a “server” and admin that then feeds multiple HTPC, Laptops, DLNA Devices, Phones etc. UHD material is best when coming from a full HTPC with a good GPU, but you can also watch your library on Phones, Tablets, even Smart TV’s if you don’t mind the limitation these provide.

JRiver Media Center Basic Settings for UHD Playback: Once you have installed the Trial of MC, then here are a few options to will want to turn on under Tools–> Options–> Video–>

  • Video Mode: Red October HQ (will use madVR)
  • Quality Setting: Best (sets a better madVR prebuilt profile that you can tweak later)
  • Play Blu-ray discs using Menus: I use “Ask” and then at playback MC will ask if I want to use the Menu or just start playing back the Main Title on my BD Discs or BD Folder rips
  • Hardware accelerate video decoding when possible: On
  • Video Clock: On (this will only apply if not bitstreaming the audio and works to keep the audio and video in sync - similar to ReClock)
  • Display Settings Automatic Change Mode: On

Next is some few options to will want to turn on under Tools–> Options–> Audio–>

  • Sound System: Pick your WASAPI audio device
  • Bitstreaming: If you have more than a 7.1 setup and want ATMOS/DTS:X then select “Yes (HDMI)”. If you have a traditional 5.1 or 7.1 type system then leave it at “None (recommended)”. By not bitstreaming, the audio can be processed by MC’s DSP including Video Clock to prevent dropped/repeated frames. If you bitstream, then the audio will be passed untouched to your AVR but you then may have to fine tune the refresh rate of your GPU to get rid of dropped/repeated frames (a whole another topic).
  • DSP & Output Format: For now just select the Main (non Atmos/DTS:X) Channel Layout you have, eg 5.1 or 7.1 in most cases under Output Format --> Channels.

Now you can import a File (or Folder Rip), play/mount an (unencrupted) UHD BD and see how it plays!

I have found the best package for playback of video is to use is a K-Lite Codec pack with Media Player Classic HC and use the included MadVR as the filter. This software is free and saves $60-$80 over using JRiver Media Play or other fee based software. A high end video card is a waste of money for use in a HTPC. About any GPU with HDMI 2.0 and HEVC codecs in the hardware can play UHD content easily. AMD GPUs are better than NVIDIA as they will allow content to be played in 8, 10 or 12 bit. NVIDIA only allows 8 and 12 bit. Most HDR panels will go as high as 10 bit (some even go to 12 bit) so with NVIDIA you are stuck with 8 bit playback unless you have a 12 bit panel. I have found the Logitech K830 is the best touchpad/keyboard combo to use as it has backlit keys for easy use in low light conditions and is of very good quality. Plus, it allows the use of the HTPC as a production PC to easily access/send emails etc.

Lastly, I have found Plex to be a very powerful way to share media across a network. It even integrates over the air broadcast tuners and makes this content available on all networked PCs. It also allows dual and quad HD tuners to service 2/4 PCs simultaneously while letting them each watch their own broadcast independently. It is free but also offers a fee to allow access of your network content anywhere you have a good Internet connection. This includes access to your local broadcast channels if you have a tuner hooked up. Also, Plex has Roku/Smart TV apps which makes it more powerful.

I just wanted to mention some free options and how these options might give more capability than the JRiver software

Thanks @jmone1 for starting this thread. Hopefully people will find it useful.

FYI - Balthazar2k4 asked about how to config JRiver Media Center for UHD Playback, so hence this thread.

Each of us will have our own concept of value for money that balances what we get, for what we pay. A new JRiver user will pay US$60 for a Windows Lic and then upgrades (about 1 per year) is another $25-30. For me that is unbelievable value for money vs the $$$ I’ve spend on Media, AVR, PJ, Screens, Speakers etc etc. I’ve not bothered to go through all the non-UHD BD Features as it is OT regarding UHD playback.

FWIW, there is a wealth of in depth madVR discussions in the Doom thread for those that are keen on it, but I should point out a couple of things since they were raised:

  • madshi (madVR dev) currently favours nVidia GPU’s over AMD and is using them with his upcoming $10K “Envy” video processor. Let the battle between nVidia / AMD / Intel continue! madshi has also hinted about using the Ray Tracing engine in the RTX GPUs but I’m sticking with cheaper 1660ti’s for now.
  • there is also plenty of discussion on the pros and cons of 8-bit with dithering vs 10-bit, vs 12-bit. Suffice to say, I use 8-Bit RGB with madVR doing HDR Tone mapping for UHD at 23.976 - 60fps.
  • I’ve tested and reviewed many HTPC setups and iGPU can be used… but only with the lowest settings and HDR --> SDR tone mapping has to be set in “Dumb Mode”, end even then you are out of luck with HFR UHD material. If you want to best out of your HTPC, you absolutely need a good GPU. Here is a link to my latest review of a NUC8 as a UHD HTPC if you want more details. - https://yabb.jriver.com/interact/index.php/topic,118012.0.html

Anyway, happy to take any questions regarding UHD Playback in JRiver either in this thread or the JRiver forum. I’ll be next to useless on other progs however!

As far as the annual upgrade, I just look at the proposed new features and decide if they interest me, if yes I upgrade, if not I don’t
So it isn’t that much for upgrades, you do every other version it is only half price.
My last 3 versions are 22, 24, 25

… plus there is normally a coupon when the new version is announced for upgrades.

Thanks jmone1. Very useful thread!