A Media Director (also known as a Media Station) is a PC which channels the audio and video content managed by the LinuxMCE system to the audiovisual devices which are connected to it.
There can be a separate Media Director in each room or entertainment area. For example, each connected directly to the TV, stereo or other AV devices in that area. Content is output to those local AV devices through the graphics and sound card of the local Media Director PC to which they are connected.
Each Media Director is connected to the LinuxMCE Core server through the home automation/multimedia LAN.
While a dedicated core can be hidden in a closet or somewhere, each Media Director is generally attached to a TV or entertainment center. As such, it has requirements similar to a Home Theater PC (stylish case, good graphics and sound cards, low noise, low heat production).
Unlike a Home Theater PC, however, the Media Director does not require a large storage capacity. Storage functions are provided by the Core (or hybrid), not the Media Director. You can, however, add storage to a Media Director, but it is not necessary. It is important to note, however, that video decoding takes place locally on the Media Director. With that being said, it would be prudent to ensure the processing power of the Media Director is sufficient for your media, be it standard definition or high definition content.
A Media Director, for example, does not need a large hard drive. The Core does the PVR functions, and all network media storage functions, for the entire system. Only the Core needs a large hard drive storage capacity. The Core also generally has the TV tuner card for the entire system. A Media Director does not typically need one. Also, because Media Directors can netboot from the Core (and therefore essentially act as thin clients), they do not even require an OS.
A Media Director does need a good (nVidia) graphics card and a good sound card (e.g. with 5.1 or 7.1 outputs). Outputs to TV and stereo are directly from a Media Director, so quality output cards are needed.
A Media Director also provides the interface for input devices. Remote controls (USB-UIRTs, bluetooth devices, etc), in general, are connected to a Media Director.
Therefore, choosing or building a PC that will be used as a Media Director must be done carefully with respect to the input and output capabilities of that PC.
A Media Director usually sits next to your TV. Therefore, it might have a stylish case, should be whisper-quiet (either with very quiet fans or a fanless heat sink), have low heat emission (which usually implies low power consumption) and be small and unobtrusive.
These demands are more easily met with a Media Director than with a Home Theater PC, since many of the functions of a standalone HTPC have been moved to the Core in a LinuxMCE system, reducing the hardware requirements of each Media Director. A typical Media Director is much less expensive than is a typical Home Theater PC.
Thin client nature of a Media Director PC
Although the AV devices are connected to the Media Director(s), they are nevertheless administered by the Core. In the LinuxMCE Admin panel, A/V devices settings are specified separately from the settings of the Media Directors to which they are connected. This is done because the Core keeps track of the controls and settings of every device on the system. Because it is possible to netboot Media Directors from the Core, all settings for all Media Directors and all devices are centrally stored in the Core.