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We're looking to replace our current in-store video distribution model, which involves the production of a DVD ISO and several people burning discs and shipping them out.

Cost-benefit analysis shows that utilizing the existing WAN connections at each store to update a playlist weekly with new videos instead of shipping a DVD to each location once a month would be more cost-effective.

However, I'm having some trouble locating a device that does or can be reprogrammed to do what we want.

We need something that can be remotely managed over Ethernet, can sync a folder of videos with a remote server, and play those according to a playlist file that will also be provided. It shouldn't really need end-user interaction, nor would we want that. We prefer that it have component or HDMI output, but will settle for S-Video/Composite if that is what is available.

We don't want a full box running this at each location, something embedded that just plays videos/music will do, but it must have the functionality, or the openness that we can add the functionality, that we need.

Our current budget for this project allows up to about $400 per device. Any ideas?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

you can use XBMC with an ION nettop, which costs about $200-300 and has HDMI output. It can be managed locally or through a web interface remotely.

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Yeah nice answer. Didn't think about XBMC. You could even use the bit torrent rss idea I had to distribute the weekly content to the devices. – 3dinfluence Jan 14 '10 at 18:33

Last year at my church we ended up with this solution to display weekly announcements and schedules in the lobby on a TV. I think it will do everything you need except stay in budget :/. It's about 3x your budget and is standard def only. You didn't say if you required HD but I'm guessing by reading between the lines of using HDMI that it's probably desirable. The HD units we found were 2-3x the cost of the standard def units. But basically this is an embedded Linux box running samba and apache serving a web application for remote control, putting together playlists of images, audio, and videos as well as allow for scheduling.

The cheapest way and possibly only option with your budget constraints is to go the DIY route and build a small computer with a hdmi video card. Then use standard file shares with rdesktop or vnc to connect to the box and make your playlists and get them playing. Then if you're running Windows on it you may be able to write some vbs or wmi scripts with the scheduler to stop/start the media player playing a certain playlist. If you choose Linux then you should be able to use some cron scripts to do the scheduling bit. Rsync or any number of file sync solutions should be able to distribute your files....even a private bittorrent would probably work well.

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I should also add if you go the Linux route you may want to look at the mythtv project. It has a video plugin which may help. – 3dinfluence Jan 14 '10 at 17:56

I just had another thought. Although probably not as ideal but if your real underlying goal is for a cheaper distribution model this may work.

Make your DVD as normal and then create an iso of it. Then setup a private bittorrent server to distribute the image to all the stores using an rss feed. A computer with a burner is probably already present in most stores...if not these are relatively cheap.

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