Bypassing Windows Media Foundation in Windows 7 Media Center.

By | January 11, 2011

Media FoundationMicrosoft Media Foundation is the next generation multimedia platform for Windows that enables developers, consumers, and content providers to embrace the new wave of premium content with enhanced robustness, unparalleled quality, and seamless interoperability.

OK, whatever.  It was a decent step forward for Microsoft, but the rest of us were miles ahead in playing back our media.  All Windows 7 did for many of us was break what was tried-and-true in Vista.  How do we get back to that point?

Media Foundation brought some basic playback improvements to the table over XP and Vista, but it also lacked support in other areas.  Primarily in media that required a splitter to get proper playback…i.e. MKV containers.  Out-of-the-box, Windows 7 has no idea what an MKV file is.  I’m not going to get into whether this is actually a failure on Microsoft’s part, but MKV is probably one of the most popular formats available.

Another failure of Media Foundation was with subtitle generation while preserving hardware accelerated playback in media that it was available with.  Hardware accelerated h.264 and VC-1 content worked quite well on a default installation (with supported hardware present), but if you got subtitles to work, DXVA was history.

Anyway, this is not a codec guide, but a launching point so that you know there is hope out there.  For the absolute beginner, Shark007’s codec pack may be all you’re interested in trying.  Doing a quick install of the packs necessary for your OS platform (x86/x64) and then choosing the suggested settings option is all there is to it.  However, this still may not be optimal for your home theater setup.  Shark007’s pack does allow for customization, but I personally prefer it on a codec-by-codec basis.  Having said that, I install the codecs I know I want to use and then make use of the Win7DSFilterTweaker utility to enable individual codecs over their Media Foundation counterparts.  This allows me to use only those codecs I want and then use their included configuration utilities to tailor them specifically to my needs…and for each separate HTPC that I have.

Setup is quite simple:

  1. Install all external codecs you wish to use (CoreAVC, ffdshow, AC3Filter, etc.) for the Media Center platform you are on (x86, x64 or, perhaps, both).
  2. Download Win7DSFilterTweaker and execute the package (currently no install required).
  3. Win7DSFilterTweakerChoose the codecs you wish to enable over the Media Foundation codec per your platform and click Apply on each screen until finished.  32-bit Windows will show only 32-bit codecs.  64-bit Windows will show both 32-bit and 64-bit codecs (x64 Windows will use x64 codecs in Media Center).
  4. Upon exiting, you’re done!  Make sure you have your codecs configured the way you want, or begin testing with WMP or Media Center right away.

If you need help, just leave a comment and ask!

4 thoughts on “Bypassing Windows Media Foundation in Windows 7 Media Center.

  1. Alex

    Hi! I’m just wondering if this tool manages also AC3…looking at its description, AC3 is not reported…any idea?

    1. Jon Post author

      Well, AC-3 is an audio format and the utility is for enabling third-party codecs that can include AC-3. For example, if you install ffdshow, which can decode AC-3 if it is set to do so, and then enable ffdshow with the Win7DSFilterTweaker tool, then ffdshow will be the preferred decoder for media containing AC-3 audio.

      1. Alex

        Thanks Jon for the clarification!

        So, if I understood correctly, looking at in the image you reported in this article, this tweak permits to enabling the third-party codec for the video stream (only). No audio codec can be set. This is “set by default” according to the codec that has been choosen for the video (as you mentioned ffdshow for example). Right? :-)

        1. Jon Post author

          No. Don’t look at it as video and audio only. It’s full codec suites. AC-3, DTS, etc. are available for bitstreaming, so anything you enable that has support for these codecs will be used. Just because they aren’t explicitly listed in the utility does not mean that it’s not supported.


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