Here's the shot of the system fully up and operational after a WinXP install.
The audio and video output connection to our home theatre may be the same for your setup or it may not. For our HTPC, here's how the connections will be made.
1) HTPC S-Video out will go to the back of the TV, which has a S-Video in. The S-vid cable can be purchased at Radio Shack for about 15 bucks for a 6' cable. Just switch your TVs input to the one corresponding to the S-video input. For our Matrox to fully output on the secondary S-video connection, we needed to enable it in the Matrox display properties. Your video card may be different, refer to your documentation for the video card if needed.
2) For the audio connection, we will be outputting everything through the Digital Coax plug, which is the connector all the way on the left here:
Since the output is already a digital coaxial, you just need to buy a digi coax cable, which is also available at Radio Shack. Other sounds cards may have S/Pdif output, but in mini-jack plugs. These are fine, you just need to purchase a mini-jack converter for your specific input application.
Our receiver already has a digital coax input, so we will use that for our audio. No Dolby Digital/DTS will be decoded on our HTPC, we will use the receiver to do that. For all our other sound outputs, which will be in PCM 44.1 or 48, it will also be carried over by the digital coax cable. Once the cable has been connected, just head into the sound card properties for the the M-audio Revolution, or whatever sound card you are using, and set it to digital, which will enable all sound to pass through the S/Pdif output.
Start up your HTPC!
If you can see your desktop, then you connected the video output correctly. Let's test it out a bit more. Initially, we tested with DivX:
Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels
Reign of Fire
Notice the full screen for the first movie and widescreen for the second. Depending on what program you use to play your media, you may be able to set the aspect ratio. It can either be whatever the media was encoded in, or you can define your own. Totally up to you which one you prefer. Personally, the widescreen shown in Reign of Fire is more to our liking.
For DVD usage, the Revolution comes with WinDVD, which has built in support to output DD and DTS audio. The DVD 'Behind Enemy Lines' was chosen because it had a great number of scenes that utilize awesome 5.1 audio. As soon as DD audio was outputted to the receiver, the blue LED lit up. Depending on your receiver, it may be different to indicate DD decoding.
Our next attempt will be playing MP3s. To fully play audio digitally through Winamp to your HT, you will need to install a plugin. Make sure you are using Winamp 2 (currently, 2.81), and use the Kernel Streaming plugin which allows for bit by bit playback. You can also use Foobar2000, which is also a great MP3 player.
A lot of times, people will talk about 'jitter' which is pretty much the distortion of some bits from time of output to where it is going. Re-sampling can cause jitter, which is why we want to shy away from it. Sound quality may be distorted if this happens. I am by no means an expert in this field of audio, so if that sounds wrong, someone please correct me.
Overall, this has been a fun experience to put together for the past week. There is a lot more this can do that has not even been attempted yet on this system. This guide was meant more as our first step into the HTPC world, which we hoped will bring some readers into also.
Thanks to all the sponsors for their donations as well as i7dude and f1int7 for helping out in diagnosing some problems. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the forum link below.