Clearing Up The Codec Confusion

Windows7 Codecs Confusion

The sheer number of media formats and codecs available today is enough to make anyone just turn around and walk away from Media Center for good. Luckily there are a few guides on Hack7MC that can help steer you in the right direction.

Ripping Your DVD Collection

The first step is choosing how to rip your DVDs from those annoying plastic donuts that get scratched up, banged up and lost. The MKV file format is one of the most popular for HTPC users. One of the best programs around for ripping your DVDs to MKV is Handbrake. Handbrake is a free open-source program that will never cost you a dime but is priceless to those of us ripping large DVD collections. Check out the Hack7MC guide on Bringing Your DVDs To Media Center to get started.

The MKV format isn’t playable through extenders however and if you plan to use one you may want to look at another option. Although Handbrake can encode in a number of popular formats, BitRipper can encode your movies into any format you have a codec installed for. This can make it one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal, giving you the ability to encode in any number of formats while future-proofing itself as well. This guide to Ripping DVDs with BitRipper should get you going.

Playing Your Collection – What Codecs?

Once you’ve chosen your ripping method, however, you still need to get those files to play nice with your HTPC setup. Finding the right codecs can be even more difficult than finding the right ripping software. The sheer number of choices is unbelievable. Fortunately, there a few that stand out above the rest.

For people looking for the simplest solution, generally they are looking for a codec pack. Shark007’s Codec Pack has become one of the most popular solutions for HTPC users. The benefit of this solution is that it just works. There is little to configure after installation and it plays all the most popular codecs right out of the box. To get started read the article on Playing MKVs in Media Center and your setup will be running in no time.

Many enthusiasts are adverse to using codec packs however, due to the lack of control over what is being installed. Many less worthy codec packs are bloated and can severely impact performance. The most popular solution to the bloated packs is to use FFDShow Tryouts. These small packages can play nearly every format and you have precise control over what is used. Installing these compact codecs is covered in MKVs for Minimalists on Windows 7

Configuring Your Codecs

The next step can be just as daunting as the first two for beginners. Configuring your codecs to perform properly is just as important, if not more so, than choosing the correct codecs.

For those that chose the FFDShow route, there are a few guides here on Hack7MC to get you going. This guide on Simple FFDShow Audio Settings can get your audio playback up to par. After looking that over you can move on to video settings with this guide on Using FFDShow Video in Media Center.

But what if something goes wrong? Well you should Check Your Codecs Using GraphStudio and if that doesn’t work you can always post a comment on Hack7MC!

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