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Very Low Audio on Vudu using Mac OSX

Martin Focazio
asked this on Nov-28 2010 07:28 pm

We've been using Boxee on a Mac Book (older model) running 10.4.X with no problems, until we recently attempted to use the new VUDU service. 

The sound levels were so low as to be unusable. 

We don't have a fancy setup, just using the headphone output jack to an ordinary stereo and the video is connected via VGA to a 32" screen. 

I made sure that the audio was set to downmix 5.1 to stereo, that the audio output was set to "Default Device" and was also set to analog. 

I ran the Boxee software in Debug mode, but there were no errors thrown about the audio. 

Checked other sources, such as a Quicktime movie, via the native Quicktime player, no problems there, and only Vudu seems to be affected by the audio problem. I tested this by running the Netflix app and other apps, which worked fine. Only the Vudu application suffered from the low audio levels. 

I do have Perian installed on the computer, I'm not sure if that could affect things. Any help would be appreciated, especially debugging steps to take. 

 

 
Barry Alexander
Boxee

Glenn, I agree.  This is decoding problem at either Boxee or Vudu.  If you are boosting sound, your are just picking up residual voice out of the left and right speakers.  Walk up to your center channel.   There is nothing coming out.   The center channel is where 90% of the dialogue is and many key special effects.

It is hard to determine exactly who is to blame here.   I did receive an e-mail from Boxee indicating that the "issue" will be addressed in the next revision. I concur regarding using itunes or Amazon.     I quickly rented an Amazon movie just to check---absolutely no problem with the center channel using this service.  Of course, Amazon has a primitive interface.....   At a certain level, it's kind of hard to believe that someone at Boxee and Vudu (with Walmart's dollars behind Boxee) didn't conduct a simple test to see if the sound worked.  Maybe they test sound with ear buds.

Jan-16 2011 08:20 am.
Glenn Hughes
Boxee

jackson bee: the problem actually isn't volume at all. It is that Boxee isn't decoding the Dolby Digital Plus signal that is used for the surround audio of the Vudu titles. What you are hearing is everything except the center channel. The center channel is where most of the dialog is mixed, but by boosting the volume you can hear whatever dialog was present in the other channels. Until they fix this, don't waste your money on Vudu. Use iTunes or Amazon for movie rentals.

Jan-16 2011 02:10 am.
jackson bee
Boxee

Edit:  I managed to fix the volume problem just enough so that it's usable.  I started boxee, played a local file, and jacked the volume control inside boxee to full.  then I went back to vudu, and started my movie, and it was at least watchable.  even with boxee set at full volume it wasn't great, but i could definitely hear it (thanks to the downmix setting).

The vudu app needs volume control.  If it has it, then I wasn't able to find it.  

Hopefully it will stop crashing.  If it does, this could become a very exciting edition to boxee on my mac.  

Here's to hoping boxee can get their butts in gear to get netflix, hulu, etc running on their boxee box before popular opinion of boxee goes to hell

Jan-16 2011 01:16 am.
jackson bee
Boxee

I'm having the same problem.  I'm a fulltime boxee user on the mac, and I"m "this" close to getting a boxee box (but I'm frustrated at the lack of streaming options on it, and am waiting until they sort it out)

Testing out Vudu on my Mac has been a complete waste.  It was so exciting to see brand new movies available to rent.  I just paid for a new movie, and when I tried to watch it, I could hardly hear the audio.  I already had boxee set to downmix to stereo because I'm just using a standard 2 speaker setup on my mac.

Even with that option set, I can barely hear the movie I paid for.  It's so faint, that I've had to turn up my system volume to 100% and there's no volume control inside boxee when playing back vudu that I can find.

What's more, the app has crashed on me three times, taking boxee down with it in the process.  I'm not even ten minutes into the movie.  I'm running the latest boxee software for os x, but I'm still having the problem.  

This sucks.  I was so excited to start renting content through vudu

Jan-16 2011 12:35 am.
Glenn Hughes
Boxee

Yes, I know OS X has issues with surround, but the reason I think this is still probably a Boxee issue:

1) There's a digital connection from the Mac to amplifier. CoreAudio is acting as a 'pass-through' in this case, i.e. it's just passing the digital bits on to the amplifier. Boxee could feed anything it wants out the port.

2) Boxee can decode the DD+ enough to down-mix to stereo.

3) Other surround video formats work.

So, my guess is, that there is probably some way that Boxee could do the right thing here, but there might be licensing issues that they don't want to deal with. Windows might have DD+ code built-in, so they don't have to provide it. The weird thing is that surround definitely works out of Boxee for other video formats, and this leads me to believe that if Vudu and Boxee cared enough they could definitely support the Mac properly.

Jan-13 2011 05:58 pm.
Martin Focazio
Boxee

OK, so here's some more information I found: 

It seems that OS X and DD don't quite get along for anyone, not just Boxee. 

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/archive/index.php/t-1167343.html

Jan-13 2011 03:45 pm.
Glenn Hughes
Boxee

OK, I entered this issue as a Boxee bug through jira. They closed it immediately with the comment:

"boxee for MAC does not support DD+ audio decoding.
this is only available on boxee Windows version."

Short answer, its broken and they're not going to fix it. Obviously if there was an easy fix, they probably would, which makes me think this is a limitation of OS X itself. Whatever the technical issue is though, Vudu and Boxee should collaborate to bring surround support to the Mac platform. Otherwise, Vudu is pretty much useless for us Mac users. It has been said that Boxee makes money every time someone pays for premium content. If that's true, then you would think they'd be interested in making premium content outlets like Vudu work correctly on all supported platforms. Their dismissive attitude both puzzles and infuriates me.

Jan-13 2011 03:18 pm.
Martin Focazio
Boxee
Things that don't work: 1. Calling VUDU. They tell me to "contact Boxee support" 2. Contacting Boxee support. As you can see in this forum, they don't reply 3. Setting the audio to 5.1 downmix - that was mentioned imy OP. Further diagnostics show: - previews work fine - only after the content is purchased does the audio problem kick in - there is no error logging anywhere in Boxee when the audio fails Given that there is obviously DRM software in the VUDU platform, and the problem only happens when playing purchased/licensed content, I am convinced that the problem is in the DRM stack. Dolby decoding may be the issue. In general, I am finding Vudu, of all the "over the top" VOD vendors, to be the least mature and market ready, and as others have mentioned the circular finger pointing for support is maddening. This is a BOXEE problem, plain and simple. Vudu support is lacking, but the software on Boxee is for Boxee to solve.
Jan-10 2011 06:32 am.
Glenn Hughes
Boxee

I'm having the same problem. I'm sure it has something to do with the Dolby Digital Plus audio encoding used by Vudu.What you are hearing is everything EXCEPT the center channel, which is where all the dialog is mixed. Great fun.

Current workaround:

Go into the audio settings page (Settings -> System -> Audio hardware) and check "downmix multichannel audio to stereo" You won't get 5.1 audio, but you will get a listenable stereo mix with all the dialog. Clearly I'm not going to be renting many Vudu movies until there's a better fix.

This really illustrates a weakness with the Boxee model. The Boxee people dump the problem in the plug-in author's lap. The plug-in author dumps the problem in Boxee's lap. Users are caught in the middle with no solution. Nevermind the fact that Boxee I'm sure is completely maxed out trying to fix Boxee Box bugs. I Can't blame them, since those are paying customers. Still, anyone running on a Mac or PC is on their own at this point.

Jan-10 2011 01:30 am.
Glenn Hughes
Boxee

I'm having the same problem. I'm sure it has something to do with the Dolby Digital Plus audio encoding used by Vudu.What you are hearing is everything EXCEPT the center channel, which is where all the dialog is mixed. Great fun.

Current workaround:

Go into the audio settings page (Settings -> System -> Audio hardware) and check "downmix multichannel audio to stereo" You won't get 5.1 audio, but you will get a listenable stereo mix with all the dialog. Clearly I'm not going to be renting many Vudu movies until there's a better fix.

This really illustrates a weakness with the Boxee model. The Boxee people dump the problem in the plug-in author's lap. The plug-in author dumps the problem in Boxee's lap. Users are caught in the middle with no solution. Nevermind the fact that Boxee I'm sure is completely maxed out trying to fix Boxee Box bugs. I Can't blame them, since those are paying customers. Still, anyone running on a Mac or PC is on their own at this point.

Jan-10 2011 01:28 am.
Daniel Green
Boxee

Hi Guys,

 

If anybody is having a problem with VUDU with BOXEE please feel free to contact VUDU support.

 

Toll free phone support

 

7 a.m. to 8 p.m. PST
7 days a week
Closed Holidays

 

1-888-554-VUDU (8838)
Jan-09 2011 06:18 pm.
Barry Alexander
Boxee

To all---I have a VUDU playing thru a MacMini into a state-of-the-art Pioneer Elite SC-05 Receiver.  The MacMini is feeding the receiver with HDMI.  Whenever I watch a Vudu trailer, no problem.  As soon as I switch to renting or purchasing a movie, there is NO VOICE track.   The only work around is to go into Audio Settings in Boxee and select the option which tells the system to convert Multichannel audio to Analog.   So...there has to be a problem with Vudu or Boxee's ability to decode Dolby muiti-channel.   

I tried to call Boxee the other night.  I waited 20 minutes on hold and then gave up.   Sent a message to Vudu earlier in the week via e-mail, again, no response.

I am not thrilled with the new Apple TV (have one of those to--don't ask)--but, at least Apple answers the phone when you call.

Hello Boxee--you have an audio problem with Vudu....  Vudu is the only reason I am testing Boxee as a replacement to itunes/Apple TV.   Is there anyone home?

(PS--Just to make certain it was not my receiver or cables, I plugged the Apple TV in.  No problem with sound on rented movies....   I guess I am going back to Apple TV until Boxee and Vudu can make this marriage work)

 

 

Dec-24 2010 12:19 am.
Xev Ver
Boxee
I'm having the same issue. Only affects the vudu app. Weird.
Dec-11 2010 11:56 pm.
Martin Focazio
Boxee

@Ken: It's not some sounds, it's ALL sound. It's in there - just a levels so low that the gain on the amplifier needs to be jacked up to an absurd level, and even then the audio is buried in the incidental noise of the system. I agree that there's a decoding issue, but it's hard for me to debug the Vudu issue alone, as I have no idea what codecs it is using to deal with the audio. Is it trying to use it's own? Is it using OSX system libraries? Should I turn something off or on via the command line?  There's at least ONE other person with this issue, so yeah, I get that it's a limited case, but I'd sure love to debug it. 

Dec-05 2010 07:40 pm.
Ken Hayber
Boxee

It sounds to me like the problem is related to Dolby or similar decoding.  Some sounds are louder than others.  (e.g. a door closing in one movie should have been a background sound, but clearly was lounder than people talking in the foreground)

Dec-05 2010 07:11 pm.
Mann Nolan
Boxee

I'm having the exact same problem. Would love to use Vudu, but it is not usable with the volume issue.

Dec-04 2010 08:45 am.