Is it possible I could play back DVDs on a 240MHZ G3 6100/AV? If not, how about VCDs? Record and play back some form of compressed video from hard disk? Write VCDs? I'm assuming I won't be able to write DVDs. And I realise I'll have to find a SCSI DVD drive.
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VCDs will play.
A 6100 with a CD drive you can play VCDs using quicktime. You can find other programs that'll do it better at version tracker. You can produce your own VCDs with Toast and a CD burner.
I personally think quicktime pro is the best.
playback on the 6100 is impossible unless you use an external DVD player and route the video through your Video-In port.
DVD drives should work fine. I see no reason why you can't write to a DVD+/-R/W if it's a SCSI drive, but don't expect to be encoding MPEG2. That requires much more horsepower than a 6100/G3 can provide.
As others have already said, VCDs will play. You might find that the 6100's video is still pretty slow, and MPEG1 playback suffers even with a G3. My 6100/G3 isn't my choice machine for MPEG1 playback. VCDs also like faster CD-ROMS (at least 4x), so if you still have a 300i, upgrade it.
Would a 6400/180 be a better bet with the MPEG video addons?
The base machine itself is a better choice having a faster bus and two PCI slots. Take a look at http://www.zone6400.com/index.html There's a couple of articles on bringing video into a 6400 as well as using a DVD drive
My 6500/300 "Sparky" is featured TWICE on the 6400 Zone.
Once for being the most heavily overclocked 6500 anyone's ever reported as working perfectly.
Again for its awesome paint job.
Sorry, just whenever someone mentions that web site it just gets me started...:D
The 6400 doesn't have any MPEG addons, by the way. The MPEG decoder card from Apple for the Performa Series is an LC PDS card and it only decodes MPEG1 in hardware, not a DVD's MPEG2 data stream. Additionally, it can only be used in the 630/640 series, LC/Peforma 5x0 series, 52xx and 53xx all-in-one series, and the 62xx/63xx (minus the 6360) series.
Any PCI Mac (like the 6400) can use the Wired 4 DVD PCI DVD hardware decoder card. Those cards are very hard to find now. An easier solution is a fast(ish) G3 L2 upgrade and an ATI video card. And a SCSI DVD drive (or IDE if you've got an empty IDE spot). That combo can use a patched version of Apple's DVD Player to use the video card/CPU combo to decode the MPEG2 data stream.
A stock 6400 (especially if it has any L2 cache) will be ok for MPEG1 (VCD) playback. PCI PowerPCs are good at that, but the faster they are the better (of course). Cache will help tremendously, no doubt. 256k of L2 can be picked up for ~$10 on eBay.
I don't think just "any" ATI video card will do, if you want hardware accelleration with the old versions of the Apple DVD player:
Whether those DVD-decoder equipped cards are usable in anything but B&W G3s/Yikes G4s is an open question.
As for CPU upgrades and DVD decoding, I doubt even the fastest upgrades available for a 64/500 would really do it. Just for cheap thrills a while back I hooked a DVD drive up to a Bondi iMac motherboard and tried a few software players. The results weren't encouraging. Admittedly the CPU clock of most G3 upgrades are higher then a Rev. B iMac, but the bus, memory and disk controller speeds of the 6400 are substantially lower.
You neatly forgot the part where I said a PATCHED version of Apple's DVD player. It will offload DVD decoding to the video card if the video card can handle it (NOT the same thing as hardware decoding, by the way).
There's no problem with using a higher-end Rage/Radeon card (say the Radeon 7000, not the Rage 128 w/ hardware decoder of B&W fame) and a faster G3. The G3 handles the audio, the video card handles the video. There are plenty of examples of folks with PCI Macs and CPU upgrades doing DVD playback without the assistance of a hardware decoder card. The trick is patching Apple's DVD player to work with the setup. Version 2.7 reportedly works quite well...