Evolve Your Living Room with a DLNA HDTV and Windows Media Player

It’s a fact: Gone are the days that homes are built with computer rooms and family/living rooms in their floor plans.  The future of sit-down family entertainment is here, and dear lord its about time.  This month, my family decided to purchase a nice, new Samsung Series 6 6300 LED TV and a brand new Samsung Blu-Ray player.  Now this purchase is not something new to the modern home, but in this case something new was hiding behind that TV that made the situation different.  Something exciting.  It was…a LAN connection.

Yes, you heard me right.  A LAN connection on a HDTV.  And let’s be honest, it made perfect sense.  As the realm of internet connectivity and availability expands in our lives, the lines between specific devices doing specific things are getting blurred.  If phones can tweet, web surf, and even become a router via tethering, why can’t televisions connect to your home internet network?  A web-enabled TV in the living room is just plain, simple natural evolution.

Okay so maybe all this is old news to most techies out there.  But regardless, if Microsoft has been advertising this innovation for years or not, I just had to try it out for myself.

Getting Started

For my computing test bed, I used an Asus 1005HA netbook running Windows 7 Home Premium and connected to the local family network.  On the TV end, Samsung has a built-in program called AllShare that lets the TV connect and play media from the local area network.  This type of TV connectivity is in part thanks to the Digital Living Network Alliance (hence the acronym DLNA), a coordinated effort of major companies to allow inter-accessibility between devices and products. Since the main point of DLNA  (and Samsung’s AllShare) is to connect media, of course Windows 7 and Windows Media Player fits the bill quite well.

Setting Up Windows Media Player

Using homegroups and Windows Media Player in Windows 7 is easy.  First, make sure all your photos, videos, and music are in the right libraries and that you are allowing them to be shared in your homegroup.  Then, load Windows Media Player and hit the nice big “Stream” button in the middle to begin the TV/computer sharing fun.

Windows Media Player allows two methods of sharing your files with your home network: allowing devices to play your media, and allowing full remote access to your media.  But before these can be explored, let’s set up Windows Media Player by allowing internet access to your home media. To ensure that your media is not being accessed by hooligans and ruffians on the internet, Windows 7 does this by linking your media access to your Windows Live account.  Sounds safe enough, right?

Once this is done, Windows Media Player is ready to allow media to be allowed on DLNA TV.

Sending Media to Your TV

Like I mentioned before, there are two ways to show your media on your TV through Windows Media Player (weren’t you listening?).  Here is method one: pushing media to the TV while using your computer.  First, we need to allow devices to play any media.

As you can see by the nice screenshot above, the Samsung TV is not only on the network but has been allowed to see my shared media.  Next, let’s find a file to push to the TV.  This is done by right clicking on the file and picking the “Play To” option in Windows Media Player.

If all goes well, your TV should ask if you want to play the video (just in case you changed your mind).  After a tough choice of clicking either “Allow” or “Deny,” your video should start streaming to your TV.

As seen on your TV
As seen on your computer screen

Now that is all fine and dandy, but what if you want your TV to find the files AND play media?

Getting Your TV to Find and Play Media

Now this is where DLNA gets cool.  Not only can you stream files from your computer to your TV, but you can also access them from the comfort of your couch via the TV’s remote.  This process, called remote access, is done by clicking the “Allow Remote Control of My Player” option under the “Stream” menu in Windows Media Player.

The specific TV you purchased will determine how it accesses files.  For the Samsung Series 6, one must first hit the “Media P” button on the remote and enter the Media Play program to start playing files.

Found you.

If all goes well, your computer should show up as the default device to connect to.  Otherwise, it should not be too hard to make it the selected device.  From here, it is just as simple as flicking those fingers on that remote to begin browsing media files!

Hey look! Those are my pictures!
And those are my videos! THIS PLACE HAS EVERYTHING.

So there you have it.  Thanks to the cooperation of companies, computers, HDTV’s, and a local area network, one can turn their living room into a connected media/living/computer room.  Gone are the days of gathering the media around the TV.  It’s time to gather the TV around the media.

Evolution Image Courtesy: edyson’s Flickr

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  • Kirbydoc

    I have an LG Bluerayplayer with wireless internet and DLNA. I have been able to acces my compputer folders and play video, but is does not seem to recognize the Off Air TV shows recorded by WIndows VISTA Media Center. ANy ideas or recommendations.
    Thanks
    Kirbydoc

    • Anonymous

      To be honest, I have not dabbled in using the recording option in Windows Media Center, but my thoughts would be to check in your LG manual as to what formats they support for videos. Depending on the format of the recorded shows, LG may not support pushing the videos to the Bluray player.

  • Gkaplanis

    Hello and a Happy new year …

    I have a Sony KDL-NX-710 TV which has a WiFi installed and running and a Laptop Sony VPC-F12Z1E …

    I have a wireless broadband connection and I have made a Home Network …

    Both devices can see each other and also my modem/router does so …

    I am trying to send media (video, pictures, music, etc) following your way but it seems that there is a problem and I cannot …

    My TV cannot connect to my laptop although it finds it …

    Although I have shared my media folders when I am opening Windows Media Player and I choose a file to stream, I cannot find the “Play to” button …

    Is there something I am doing wrong?

    Thank you in advance for your help and your ideas …

    George

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  • msheikh25

    I just got a samsung PN50C7000 which has DLNA capabilities. I was aware that I would be able to stream videos over my home network from a media PC directly from the TV, but I stumbled upon the feature within Windows Media Player recently which allows me to “Play To” my network connected TV. Pretty neat feature because it may not always be easy to browse through all your media files using your TV remote. This way you can sit on your couch with your laptop, browse through your files as you are used to easily on your computer, and just play to TV wirelessly. One thing I wanted to point out is that I didn’t need to set up Internet Access to Home Media from within Windows Media Player to do this. If you are just planning on using this within your home network, you dont have to set that up. But if you want to access your media files from outside your home network, you can set up that access. But that doesn’t really have anything to do with playing to your TV though since you wouldn’t be playing anything to your TV from outside your home. Just another cool feature to be able to access your media from elsewhere.

  • Huy Ngo

    Thanks much, I can do it using LG HDB Home Theather and streaming with Window 7. It works nice :)

    Thanks much,
    Huy

  • Ron Johnson

    A little Iomega ScreenPlay TV Link DX HD Media Player (whew, the name is larger than the unit feeds video, music & pics to a TV via DLNA or CIFS and is cheaper than a Netbook.

  • http://www.facebook.com/GeeCee007 Gift Chapoto

    Thank Kev worked like magic. Easy to follow

  • Nicky Nicky

    Hi. Is there any other media player that can do this?