Windows Media Foundation and Windows 7

Windows 7 Logo Windows 7 introduces some additional functionality to a feature that was added in Windows Vista, Windows Media Foundation. The goal of the Windows Media Foundation is to ease control of media playback for developers. The idea is to remove the need for individual codecs and instead rely on a single Windows package for media playback, much like DirectX does for game platforms.

In Windows 7, as noted on Microsoft MSDN, there have been some additional changes made to the Windows Media Foundation framework.

What's New in Windows 7

Microsoft Media Foundation was introduced in Windows Vista as the replacement for DirectShow. Of course, DirectShow is still supported in Windows 7, but developers are encouraged to use Media Foundation in their new digital media applications.

The improvements to Media Foundation can be summarized as follows:

  • Better format support, including MPEG-4
  • Support for capture devices and hardware codecs
  • A simplified programming model
  • Improvements to the platform

We are all fairly well aware that Windows 7 includes native support for certain formats, such as H.264, and it does this through the use of Windows Media Foundation. Media Center and Windows Media Player have both been updated to use this new framework in Windows 7. The benefit is added support for a number of codecs out of the box.

There is, however, a downside to this new implementation. The protected pipeline used in this new framework doesn’t allow outside access to user installed codecs for native formats by default. For instance, if you wanted to use FFDShow to decode avi files, which are natively supported by WMF. This means much like the (often indefinite) wait for x64 codecs and splitters users will once again be put to the sidelines to wait for updated decoders that use WMF.

Media Foundation Process Chart

Current work-arounds for this situation have led users to renaming system files and other chicanery in order to get their favorite codecs working through Media Center. In more recent versions of Windows 7’s beta, however, the ability to accomplish this hack has been crippled. The consensus seems to be that as of beta 7057, the rename hack no longer works.

It seems that once again users may be forced to wait on new solutions to the codec problem that have already been hard suffered for Windows Vista Media Center users. It seems we may once again be at the whim of those gracious programs who take it upon themselves to better Microsoft’s meager implementations and give us a little more control of our media.

Expect updates on Windows Media Foundation and Windows 7 Media Center in the near future. Keep up to date on the situation by subscribing to the Hack7MC RSS Feed or by following on Twitter.


dmce said...

Ive been running build 7057 and using the new native (and forced) filter for h.264 (mkv) i get stuttering video. I didint get this in build 7000 as i could use MPCVideoDecoder. Hopefully it will be sorted in newer builds.

It sucks that we cant change to what we want. Its good that more formats are supported natively, but why not give those who want to make changes that option.

Aaron Rodriguez said...

I think there should be a followup post about this from an extenders point of view. Because in 7048 h264 is not very well supported still. And if its not fixed by the time the RC hits it will be a very big flaw imo.

Anonymous said...

@dmce, I am not sure if the h.264 support in Windows also does support hardware acceleration. That is why I am still using external codecs.

Zyphrax said...

I noticed a really weird bug in Windows Media Center. When I play some of the divx/xvid in Media Center, I do get sound, but the screen stays black. This only happends in Fullscreen mode.

A bypass to enable the usage of ffdshow in 7057 would be awesome!

MHealy said...

I've had success using FFDShow video for some video files by renaming the files mentioned in this comment but renaming the H.264 filter breaks live TV playback. It works fairly well for MPG4 and AVI though.

Alex D. Campbell said...

I would be careful not to let it appear that you're putting the blame on Media Foundation. From what I've seen this is a great system. The problem in this case is that WMP and WMC do not expose the ability to override their preferred decoders for each media type to the user in WMP and WMC respectively.

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