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(Other related articles: How to be a Digital Pirate in Vietnam, My Torrent Guide for You, The Escapist : Sony Invades Vietnam with PlayStations)
Today, I want to share about the world of network media tanks, getting HD-quality movies on the cheap, and how to make this all happen. I won’t talk too much about the situation of piracy, having discussed those in detail in other articles. I also won’t get too technical about the discussion, just what 99% of the people reading this need to know to get things done.
The lowdown: getting HD movies in Vietnam can be quite affordable. Will these movies be the exact same quality as buying a Blu-Ray disc in the US? No. But pretty close for most concerning eyes (if you’re reading this article here of all places, you probably cannot tell the difference. I don’t even know if I can, for that matter, and I have a HD Player and Movies for my Xbox 360)
Getting movies basically gets down to getting a player for them (media tank), the movies (movie copy service), and of course, the TV.
- Buy a Media Tank
- Buy a Hard Drive to Attach to Media Tank
- Buy Movies
Step 1, Buy a Media Tank:
A media tank is like a DVD Player or VCR. You connect it to your TV and it has the ability to play media. I have a WD TV hooked up to a Seagate 1.5 TB Drive. If you want to know more scroll to the bottom of post.
For a full list of Media Tanks available at Halo Shop in Saigon, see here: Media Tank List, Halo Shop. I generally recommend them for any purchases. They can speak English and they’re not so full of BS so you can take their advice for an easier process.
If you’re from Hanoi, sorry, I don’t know of any places in Hanoi, though I’m sure they exist- ask a local Home Theater shop, and they should be able to point you in the right direction.
A few more notes: Don’t bother getting HD movies unless you have an HDTV. There will be no benefit. Also, use an HDMI cable to connect the Media Tank to the HD TV. HDMI Cables should cost less than $10 USD- don’t be tricked into paying more. Lastly, if you’re not going to hook up a 5.1 (or 7.1/8.1/etc.) sound system to your TV, you should make sure the audio will be ok if you connect the Media Tank to your TV. Just ask “Can I use this Media Tank with my TV speakers?” With the WD TV, this isn’t a problem unless you are playing DTS movies, but scroll to the end of this post for more on that.
Step 2, Buy a Hard Drive to Attach to Media Tank:
You can buy these anywhere. I would suggest getting a package deal when you get your Media Tank, minimum 1TB Hard Drive, get 2TB if you can afford it. Remember, movies are 5-10 GB each, so a 1TB Hard Drive will store only 200 movies. Tank + Hard Drive may cost $400 to $500 depending on what you buy. Sounds expensive, but the movies themselves are extremely cheap.
Step 3, Buy Movies:
There are basically 3 types of content: 480P (DVD quality), 720P (Hi Def), and 1080P (Bad ass Hi Def). You, for practical purposes, want 720P content. If you really think you need 1080P, read the section about buying a TV below. I do have a 32” 1080P TV, but I also sit less than 3 feet away from it.
One other thing to consider is that not that many movies are available in 1080P here, so not necessarily worth the extra cash.
There are two places that I consider:
- ChepPhim.Net: 199/19 Duong (Street) 3/2 F11 District 10, TPHCM. Movie List, ChepPhim.Net
- Halo Shop: 82 Pasteur, District 1, TPHCM. Movie List, Halo Shop
ChepPhim.net is cheap, fast, and has much more content available compared to Halo Shop. You can get 1TB copied for about $10 USD in less than two days. They update their movie list about twice a month and even have TV sets like Lost and Prison Break.
Buying a TV and Home Audio:
I’ll make this simple- get a 720P TV. If you really think you may want a 1080P, read this article first: 1080p Does Matter – Here’s When (Screen Size vs. Viewing Distance vs. Resolution). If you have a family or plan to share the TV with someone else, unless you are just rich, get a 720P. A bonus about having a 1080P TV, though, is that you can use it as a 1920 x 1080 PC monitor.
For the record, I have a 32” 1080P from LG, and like I said before, I have to sit less than 3 feet away from it to take full advantage of 1080p movies, of which there are few. Most video games also max out at 720P.
This one’s a bit tougher. I can’t really help here in terms of where to buy in Vietnam or what to buy. Try HD Vietnam if you can read Vietnamese. Otherwise, stick with the stereo TV speakers.
About the Western Digital WD TV: [Quick Review and Tips]
I have the WD TV, the original version.
- It’s cheap. I expect the original can be had for about $100 USD now in Vietnam. I don’t think the WD TV is sold at Halo Shop anymore.
- Supports most video formats, but surprisingly, not .FLV or .WMV. I don’t use it for audio or pictures.
- Overall, it’s okay. Not great. But a solid value for $100. The HDMI connection on mine is a bit loose, so sometimes there’s no signal, and the remote can be frustratingly spotty. Sometimes, for whatever reason, the machine won’t turn on or off, even when the remove is right next to the sensor. Once the machine starts recognizing the remote that particular day, everything is great.
- Getting the new version (Western Digital WD TV Live Network-ready HD Media Player) or the original (WD TV Live) is fine for most purposes. The 2 main additions in the WD TV Live are 1) DTS support and 2) Networking support. Networking support means you can hook it up to another computer and stream stuff rather than have to connect a Hard Drive to it. The DTS support, for me, is a bit more important, because many movies that I’ve purchased here are DTS-only and therefore result in no audio when using the original WD TV. There is a fix – you’ll need this to convert those movies with the PopCorn MKV AudioConverter (along with Tutorial for converting audio tracks with HeartWare MKV Audio Converter).
- There’s an issue with some 1080P movies on the WD TV with movies that have too many Reference (Ref) frames. This is where we get a bit technical. If you run into this issue, you’ll have to re-encode the entire movie, which is a two day process. If you get a 1080P movie that seems to stutter, try to find a 720P version. Or get a different media tank. If you really need help with this, you can find the solution on forums online. My hint: I used a combination of MediaInfo and RipBot264 to fix The Dark Knight. I haven’t fixed any other movies yet.
- Official Firmware: WD TV Product Update – you can probably ask whomever you buy this from to install it for you if you are non-technical, but it also isn’t so difficult.
- Unofficial Firmware: B-RAD (Don’t worry about using this unless you want to spend a lot of time on techie stuff. A note about the unofficial firmware is that I still can’t it to work right with all the extra functionality people have developed for it)
- More talk about Firmware and Stuff: WDTV Forum Homebrew / Custom Firmware