Can Vista be configured so that playback of all common media types Just Works?
June 2, 2008 7:59 AM   Subscribe

In Windows Vista, is there a combination of software and settings that will let my Dad play all the media files he wants without further difficulty? I want to set up my Dad's new computer, which runs Vista Home Premium, so that it runs media embedded in web pages, runs standalone files too, and doesn't break Vista's Aero interface. He's not a computer expert, so I want media of all common types to Just WorkTM.

These seem to be my criteria:

1a. When there is media embedded in a web page, such as here, it works.

1b. The embedded media players make it possible to go full-screen, or at least to easily open separate media players that can.

2a. Standalone media files play when they are double-clicked.

2b. Clicking links like this one (in, say, Firefox) opens the relevant media player with as few clicks as possible, preferably zero.

3. None of the above break Vista's Aero interface, even when going full-screen.

Here's what I've found:

* A combination of RealPlayer and Quicktime solves 1a., except that embedded RealPlayer has poor performance and they both fail 3.

* Alternatively, a combination of Real Alternative and Quicktime Alternative with Media Player Classic solves 1a., except Media Player Classic fails 3. when going full-screen.

* VLC solves 2a.

* In Firefox, when clicking on the link in 2b., the "Do this automatically for files like this ..." checkbox is greyed out.

* Nothing I've tried except (built-in) Windows Media Player and VLC satisfies 3. in full-screen mode.

More info

I'm particularly interested to hear from anyone who has a Vista/Firefox configuration in which all these media tasks Just Work.

While trying to set this up for my Dad, I realised that I too had this problem (albeit to a lesser extent) in the XP/Firefox setup on my computer. I now realise I subconsciously open media that isn't Just Working in other media players or I view source -> dig for direct links, etc.
posted by hAndrew to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: To clarify, by "break Vista's Aero interface" I mean "stop [hopefully temporarily, otherwise until net stop/start uxsms] Vista's Aero interface".
posted by hAndrew at 8:05 AM on June 2, 2008

Best answer: ffdshow is a directshow codec collection for directshow media players, including windows media player - vlc shares many of the same underlying codecs (built in), so if it plays in vlc, you should be able to play it in windows media player with ffdshow, plus some others besides.

Combine that with the firefox windows media player plugin (along with flash and java of course) to allow playback of media in firefox via windows media player, including wmv and ffdshow supported codecs.

That leaves quicktime and realplayer. Quicktime alternative and realplayer alternative both have directshow filters for direct playback, but only for local files; for streaming files they only go through media player classic, which breaks 3 for you. HOWEVER - there is an updated media player classic that works in vista - media player classic homecinema.

There is also the vistacodecs multipack, which contains ffdshow plus other codecs (including real alternative and quicktime alternative I think) heavily tweaked. I personally prefer to use individual codecs, but I have installed this one for others and they were happy.

You don't specify whether you're using 32bit vista or 64bit; 64bit codec support is flaky as hell, there are 64bit versions of all of the above, but it's still a pain in the ass. Hopefully, it's 32bit vista.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:08 AM on June 2, 2008

Part of the solution is the Combined Community Codec Pack.
posted by Class Goat at 11:21 AM on June 2, 2008

My favorite is K-Lite Mega Codec Pack, which comes with Media Player Classic and seems to play whatever I throw at it just fine.

That's in XP. I can't say on Vista.
posted by SlyBevel at 1:36 PM on June 2, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks ArkhanJG. I followed your suggestions with quite good results.

* I couldn't figure out how I was meant to install Media Player Classic Home Cinema. It came just as the mplayerc.exe program. I used it to overwrite mplayerc.exe in an existing media player classic installation, hoping that all the various pointers to that would still work... What do you recommend?

* Media Player Classic Home Cinema still seems to break Aero when going fullscreen.
posted by hAndrew at 1:07 AM on June 6, 2008

That's a decent way to install mplayerc.exe. The 'official' way is to copy it somewhere easy to find, with an optional self-made shortcut to your desktop, go to
'view/options/player/formats' and click the 'video' button (or 'all' if you also want mpc to be the default music player too), and hit apply. The list of extensions in that screen should change, which controls which ones play in mpc by default - you can manually tweak em if desired.

I suspect you're using the old hack to get fullscreen playback;
'view/options/playback/output' with VMR9 renderless and 'direct3d fullscreen'. This won't work with aero. Same with overlay.

A better way to do fullscreen on vista is
1) in the same place, 'view/options/playback/output' change it to EVR (vista) - EVR is vista's new video playback method, and better than VMR7 or 9.
2) In 'view/options/player' tick 'launch files in fullscreen', and optionally tick 'exit fullscreen at the end of playback'

when starting playback, it should go to fullscreen without breaking aero - works for me.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:41 AM on June 6, 2008

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