MPC Playback Tutorial.

Well, due to the eventual advent of the new H.264/AVC codec standard, everybody is all afuss about jumping on the bandwagon to use it in their containers (most popular being AVI, MKV, and MP4). As a result (and a challenge) I’ve decided to do some research and compile a guide that will ensure you can watch these new formats while still being able to maintain the older, but more prominent DivX/XviD codecs. Note: this guide is geared towards Media Player Classic as a player. I’ll also assume that you know how to install/uninstall programs, and know how to enter commands in the Command Prompt.

First things first – clean and prepare. If you’ve been running a certain codec setup for a while, chances are that adding the H.264/AVC codec will most likely mess up your playback. Some MKV files may or may not play. I have to admit that everything seems to center around the playback of both MKV and MP4, since the AVI container is the most easiest to run. So, take all your codecs and filters, and uninstall every single one. You can go ahead and clean out the 3rd party players. Why jump to different players and associate your videos to separate players? It’s easier to manage things around a single player, in my opinion.

Once everything has been uninstalled, reboot the machine (even if some uninstalls made you reboot already). This will ensure that all the changes made to the system are updated. Heck, power cycle if you have the time. The first thing you want to install is the latest version of Media Player Classic – which is at the time of writing. You can set MPC as the default player for all your videos, if you wish.

The first codec to install will be XviD. I usually use Koepi’s Build. You can leave all the options at default, but ensure that it decodes all the 4CC’s listed during installation. This is the most basic codec for video – it will decode most DivX compatible streams. You may also want WM9 VCM support.

Audio codecs are the most complicated, because different people like to use different audio compression algorithms. I highly recommend installing codecs for MP3, AC3, and AAC. CoreAAC needs to be installed manually, however. Just copy the file to the System32 directory in your Windows directory, if it’s not in the default location. Once that’s completed, open a Command Prompt from the Accessories folder in the Start Menu and type in this command – “regsvr32” (without the quotes). Windows should pop up a dialog box that notifies of a successful registration. If not, double check that you placed the file in the correct directory, and that you didn’t rename the file.

If you want OGM support, you can install the OGG DirectShow codec, which will enable support for both video and audio.

This completes installing codecs that many popular AVI containers will use. Optionally, an Indeo codec will round out the deal, but it’s not as common. Some AVI containers will use the 3ivx codec – under no circumstances should you use this codec. There have been many problems associated with it, and the latest version is only a trial codec.

If you want to view RM, RMV, and RMVB videos from in MPC, you’ll need to install the free RealPlayer. Don’t worry, you’ll never use it – you can go ahead and delete the shortcuts it creates. After that, install Real Alternative codecs. This will enable these videos to work in MPC.

The next codec to be installed will be the new H.264/AVC codec. Believe it or not, I highly recommend ffdshow. Yes – the buggy all-in-one ffdshow is the secret weapon here. What you need to do is set all your options during installation. When ffdshow asks what you want to decode, unselect all the codecs except for H.264. Do not select any other video codecs. De-select all the audio codecs as well. Another option to disable is post processing. This option has been known to cause video delays and stuttering, so remove it with extreme prejudice. All other options can be left at default. By optimizing ffdshow this way, you ensure that it doesn’t get in the way of the other codecs, and only loads when H.264 video streams are detected – even in containers other than MP4!!

If you plan to view videos with hard subtitles, you’ll need a subtitle filter. If not, you can safely skip this step. If you plan to encode videos with subtitles using VirtualDub, it would be best to install VirtualDubMod at this point. Acquire VSFilter and install it manually (just like the CoreAAC filter above, but with “VSFilter.dll” instead of “”). If you installed VirtualDub, install VobSub, but deselect “VobSub for DirectShow” during the installation. At this point, it would be advisable to reboot the system.

The icing on the cake is the tricky Matroska Splitter. There are two to choose from – Gabest’s and Haali’s builds. I’ve tested both extensively and I only use Gabest’s – it works better than Haali’s. That, and Haali sometimes disappears from the system. Initiate another reboot.

Presto – you’re done! All that’s left is some minor configuration. Open MPC and from the menu bar, go to View, Options, Filters. Ensure that all the video and audio types are selected. This will ensure that if MPC cannot use its built-in filters, it will use the codecs we installed.

Optionally, there are a couple of tools you can use to troubleshoot playback issues. I use GSpot (for AVI containers only) and MatroskaDiag (for MKV containers only). Both are very easy to use, but MatroskaDiag can be difficult to read at times – you’re basically looking to make sure that all the pins in the streams have been assigned to the appropriate codec and filter.

Keep checking back to this blog entry – I plan to revise it as more updates are available.


Additional Resources

The one with all the Lesson Reviews.

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with this blog ever since I started using Hummingbird last fall. So, I decided to try an idea of mine called Lesson Reviews. Essentially, it’s more of a “what I learned from X anime” than a review, but the thing is, there will be good and […]

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