FFDShow Video in Media Center

logoThere are many choices in the world of codecs (used to play back video and audio on the pc). One of the most popular is FFDShow. While there is already a guide on using FFDShow Audio in Media Center there is the other half to consider as well: FFDShow Video. While we are able to get FFDShow audio to work in all parts of the Media Center including live TV, FFDShow Video isn’t quite as forgiving.

While you can’t use FFDShow Video in live or recorded TV on Media Center, it is possible to use it for just about anything else. The video side of FFDShow offers a wide range of compatibility for playing back the most popular video file formats. It also offers the ability to fine tune and adjust the video output to get the best quality picture.

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Getting FFDShow to play your movies in Media Center is relatively simple. Just download the latest FFDShow tryouts (and x64 SVN if you’re running Windows 7 x64) and install the package(s). If your movie collection includes MKV files, follow the directions in this guide for MKVs with FFDShow.

Once installed FFDShow should take over playing your media back in most situations. You can double check using this guide on checking codecs with Graphstudio. If for some reason FFDShow has not taken over playing your video files, increase the merit of the codec from the video decoder configuration in the start menu. Slide the control all the way to the right, apply the settings and recheck Graphstudio to confirm this worked.

FFDShow Video Merit

Once FFDShow Video is handling the video output it’s time to tweak the settings from inside the video decoder configuration. This can be found in the start menu under FFDShow and FFDShow64, choose the appropriate one for your system. Configuring both is a good practice to normalize playback all around for your system if you run an x64 version of Windows. Once inside you can see a slew of available options.

FFDShow Video Settings

Some of these options can use quite a bit of processing power (cpu) and currently FFDShow doesn’t support video hardware acceleration (and likely never will). If you have the horsepower to handle it, however, you can improve the quality of all your compressed videos to some extent.

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The settings in the video portion of FFDShow will, to some degree, be subjective. Each user will have to adjust settings to find what works best for their preferences and hardware. Typically, users will focus on post processing, picture properties and blur & noise reduction. These three settings pages can improve the sharpness and contrast of videos in many cases.

Post processing can be used to decrease the amount of blocking (the appearance of pixilated areas) by selecting the checkbox in the navigation pane or the top of the settings page. This filter will require a lot of processing power, however, with the amount of power required being dependant on the resolution of the video. Using post processing on high definition content is recommended only for the highest spec’d machines.

FFDShow Postprocessing

Picture properties can be used to do basic color correction. You can increase or decrease the gamma, brightness and contrast as well as correcting the colors of your output. Adjusting luminance gain and offset can refine the contrast and brightness respectively improving the output quality of videos that seem washed out or dull. Adjusting the gamma can improve the brightness of the video. There is also a full compliment of controls for adjusting the color output.

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Blur and noise reduction can help to clear up any unwanted noise or static in the picture from compression.  You can also find controls to soften the picture which can be helpful if the video has pixilation around the edges of objects. If the opposite is the problem and the video isn’t clear enough, enabling the settings under the sharpen option can clear it up.

Hopefully this short guide has gotten you on your way to using FFDShow Video for your movies and videos in Media Center. Much of the process will be fine tuning each setting to get the best picture from your hardware and also suited to your tastes. Look for more on FFDShow and other codecs in the future on Hack7MC.

Have any tips on FFDShow settings? Let us know in the comments below!


Zander said...

Increasing the merit of FFDShow does nothing. FFDShow is never the locus of decompression. Any thoughts, anybody??

Nice article, by the way. This site is fantastic.

MHealy said...

Try using GraphStudio to check what codecs are being used with this guide. If you run GraphStudio as administrator you can change the merit of ffdshow or lower the merit of other filters by going to "Filters > Manage Favorites > Add Filter". Then select the filter that needs to be changed and change the merit with the button on the right.

Paul said...

Is there no way to get MC to use other video codecs? :(

I'd really like to try Media Player Classic's Home Theatre's codec to decode live h264 HDTV..

MHealy said...

There would have to be a codec that can read the new WTV file format used for live and recorded tv. It may be possible but I'm not sure because the WTV format was developed specifically for DRM (Digital Rights Management). I'll keep looking into it as I'm interested in doing this as well but currently I haven't found any way to accomplish it.

Anonymous said...

On Windows 7 x64, even after elevating ffdshow filter merit to preferred+2, it is still not used in media center. Graph studio makes the change, the merit is increased but the graphs are still built wwith Microsoft's own built in codecs. Its furtrating because they have neither the degree of fine control settings that ffdshow has nor the efficiency of CoreAVC pro (which will hopefully soon be out on x64).

MHealy said...

I found the same thing on two recent installs of build 7057 that refursed to let FFDShow take over. I think I have figured it out and I'll post a guide as soon as my notes are in order.

Paul said...

I look forward to this with great interest!

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