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MBC and Codecs - Understanding the Media Foundation


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TOP TIP: Before messing with filters/decoders always create a system restore point and only do one change at a time and check the outcome before changing something else.


A MUST: ONLY EVER INSTALL ONE CODEC PACK, always uninstall all others before changing packs


There are many misconceptions that installing a codec pack will solve all your playback issues when it comes to Windows Media Center (WMC) and in turn MediaBrowser-Classic (MBC).  If you think this then you need to read on.


When MS released Win7 they incorporated a set of codecs and rules and these were neatly packaged under what they like to call the "Windows Media Foundation" (WMF)


So what does this all mean.  It means that they installed their own filters(codecs) under the System32 folder which don't allow you to alter the way that Windows 7 and 8 now decode various media containers. Bummer right? Yeah!!!


In order to over come these MS niggles we need to disable these WMF codecs to allow for your new ones to do their work.


How do we do this... Well lucky for you folks there is a tool available called Win7FilterTweaker (for both Win7 and 8)


The FilterTweaker Tool Explained - A very powerful and useful tool!!!


Did you know that this tool messes with your system files.... probably not. And that sometimes this tool fails to rename those files back to what it originally was... you probably didn't know that either.  So basically you've broken your video playback in WMC and don't know what to do.


What I want to do is let you understand what's going on, so you can make your own decisions as to what to enable/disable.  (The screen shots below are for my setup.  I install and register 2 filters direct into the sysWoW64 and System32 folder, then I use ffdshow to set up my codecs (this is advanced) and the FilterTweaker tools to set the merits of my codecs - that's beside the point, your setup will be different if you don't install the 2 filters). 


Firstly lets look at the Main Screen.




MS Codec Tweaks


I want to explain to you about this filter messing with your files.  The middle Button in the screenie above (MS Codec Tweaks) is the culprit. Now WMC on 64bit systems runs 64bit not 32bit as is often thought.  This still refers to the System32 folder on 64bit systems. So any file mishandling is going to occur in that folder even on 32bit system.


If we click on MS Codec Tweaks one we are presented with this screen.




I have disabled the Microsoft DTV-DTD Audio Decoder only.  Be warned that if you disable the DTV-DTD Video Decoder it can Break LiveTV in WMC.


So what has that little tick box done.  It's renamed one of my system files from msmpeg2adec.dll to msmpeg2adec.dll.bak in the System32 folder in turn disabling it. Be warned that this may not work for you if you have UAC turned on, you may also need to "Take Ownership" of the files too in order to allow for the tool to rename.  You can see I've highlighted the 2 files.  These refer to the DTV-DTD Decoders for both audio and video.




The rest of the options you can disable in the filtertweaker are also in the System32 folder and are highlighted below.




Preferred Decoders - (Also know as filter merits)


If you click this button you will be presented with something like this.




I can easily prove that my filter merits are working how I want by using a powerful tool called GraphStudio || Download GraphStudioNext 32Bit || Download GraphStudioNext 64Bit


All you need to do is download graphstudio, run the .exe file and drag and drop any media file into the big blank grey area under the icons.  It will query the file and then produce a graph like this




By right clicking on the In/Out nodes and selecting properties you can see everything that the filter is doing and what outputs you should expect. This is particularly useful when trying out new settings within your codec pack.


If i change the setting in the filtertweaker tool to LAV filter (effectively changing the merit of the LAV filter to highest, as shown below)




I can prove that the change has worked.




I AM IN CONTROL!!! see how this is working now.


MediaFoundation Button


So you need to go down the "preferred decoders" list and assign another filter other than Microsoft in order for the following disabled filters to work.  If you don't have another option in the decoder list then dont disable, in the Media Foundation or you will break that container.


This is basically useful for MP3's and particularly .mov files(trailers in Mediabrowser).  If you don't disable the .mov then trailers may have some issues playing. Also .avi's can prove troublesome with some codec packs.




IMPORTANT: If you are new to filters/codec packs DONT install Sharks007 Codec Pack!! Its far to complex for the basic user and is way over the top for any codec pack.  You need something with simplicity.  LAV Filters seems to be about as basic as you can get but give you maximum playback facilities with some basic options too.


Here are a couple of tutorials written by myself(FFDshow) and JonTheHTPC(LAV Filters)


Setting up LAV Filters


Setting up FFDShow


I certainly hope that this has opened up your eyes to Filters and decoders and how they can affect your system.

Edited by Cheesegeezer
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