First of all, if you’re using an external player for watching your media, like Media Player Classic Home Cinema, then this guide isn’t going to do much for you. If your media files have embedded subtitle files, then this guide won’t be much of a revelation to you either. However, if you’re one of those few poor souls who insist on using the Media Center internal player, are dying to use LAV filters as your only codec, and continuously kick yourself because you have a few films that have external subtitle files (like .srt), then this guide is definitely for you.
I’ve wanted to use LAV filters for a long time now. I love ffdshow, but, even more, I love LAV’s simplicity and quality of playback. However, LAV leaves the media player to load external subtitle files and I just couldn’t get the internal player for Media Center to do that for me. Well, I finally figured it out. The information may have been out there already, but I sure never found it. Anyway, let’s move on to the good stuff.
What You Need
First of all, you need the right software for your platform – either x64 or x86. This guide assumes x64, but should go both ways easily. I also haven’t tried this on Windows 8 (I used Windows 7 Pro x64), but it should work about the same. Here’s what you need:
- Latest LAV filters – Unless you’re going absolute minimalist, just get the latest (Installer)
- Latest xy-vsfilter – Get the appropriate one for your platform. In my case, the 64-bit installer.
- Latest Win7DSFilterTweaker – It’s possible this isn’t needed, but my HTPCs have been running a while and it’s possible some of my merits changed or got messed up. I reset them, but still found I needed this. It’s a nice tool anyway.
Great. Once you have all this stuff in a place you can easily get to, let’s get on with the installation steps.
LAV Filters: Installation and Configuration
First, we’ll install the LAV filters. I’m assuming you have administrative rights, so just kick off the executable, click Next a time or two, and then you’ll eventually get to something of worth – components selection. I installed them all and you should too.
Awesome. Click Next another time or two and we come to some more important stuff – splitter formats! I left this at default settings and you should too unless you know more than me, and you just might. However, if you come to me complaining that your stuff’s broke, I’m going to call you stupid and assume you didn’t follow my directions. It’s a win/win for me.
Click Next some more and let it finish its install thing…
When the install is complete, you’ll get the option to open a configuration panel for each item – the splitter, video, and audio filters. Put a check in each of them and click Finish.
There should be three configuration panels pop up after clicking Finish. If not, go find the configuration links on your system and do it the hard way. The first we’ll take a look at is the LAV Splitter Properties panel. Locate Enable System Tray Icon in the bottom-left hand corner and put a check in it. Just one note here, if you have a mixture of media that includes internal and external subtitle files, then you might want to set Subtitle Selection Mode to No Subtitles. Doing that will prevent both LAV and xy-vsfilter from duplicating subs on your screen. Click OK.
Yep, that’s it. Pretty much, just so we can see that the splitter is working when we launch a video. We don’t really need anything else configured here unless you want to get into default language tracks for your audio (multiple track support). We can’t make use of the subtitles support as we’re the poor bastards with external subs – remember?
The second panel we’ll configure is the Video Settings Properties. We actually get to do something here. Depending on the video card you have, you’ll want to choose an appropriate mode of hardware acceleration. The options are fairly self-explanatory though. For me, I have an ATI Radeon HD5450, so I actually have two choices – DXVA2 (copy-back) or DXVA2 (native). I chose DXVA2 (native). When you select a supported option, it will be shown by the <Active> indicator. That’s pretty much it for this part, but tick box to enable the system tray icon here as well.
After applying video settings, we’re left with the last panel – Audio Settings Properties. We have a few possibilities here. If your audio goes straight out to a TV, you probably don’t need any of the bitstreaming options. However, if you go out to an A/V receiver that is capable of decoding digital formats, you’ll want to enable all of the supported formats of your receiver in the appropriate section. Mine supports all listed, so I checked them all off. Also, enable the system tray icon.
Once you’ve applied and hit OK on that panel, you’re done with LAV. Let’s move on to xy-vsfilter.
xy-vsfilter: Installation and Configuration
Locate your xy-vsfilter installation package and get started. For this particular installation, it’s mostly just clicking Next a bunch of times.
Since this installation is so boring, I figured I’d tell you a little bit about what xy-vsfilter is. Maybe you’ve heard of VSFilter. No? Hmmm…DirectVobSub? No? Fine. xy-vsfilter is a fork of the VSFilter.dll which is a subtitle filter, responsible for connecting to your video decoder during playback. In short, it’s a more better subtitle displayer thingy. Got it? Good.
Yep, a bunch of Next, Next, Next…anddddddddd we’re done! Woo! No further configuration is necessary for xy-vsfilter. It works right out of the box.
At this point, you may actually go to Media Center and try playing a known media file that has an external subtitle file with it. The subtitle file should be named exactly like the media file, except for the extension. You’ll want to run Media Center in a window so that you can see your task bar icons. If you can see subtitles in Media Center and can also confirm the LAV Splitter, LAV Audio, and LAV Video icons, along with the xy-vsfilter icon (it’s a green arrow) are all showing, then you don’t even need Win7DSFilterTweaker – you’re working! You’ll want to make sure for any AVI, MP4, etc. files that may have subs also. If any of those aren’t working, continue on with this guide.
Win7DSFilterTweaker: Installation and Configuration
Installing Win7DSFilterTweaker is easy because it doesn’t install. It’s a standalone application and you can run it from anywhere. It only needs administrative privileges to run as it modifies portions of the Windows Media Foundation. Anyway, go ahead and launch it and you should come to the initial box.
We’re only going to mess with Preferred decoders, so go ahead and click on that button. We’ll get a much larger configuration box open up. If you’re on x64 platform like me, you’ll get configuration options for both 32-bit and 64-bit systems. Otherwise, you’ll get 32-bit only. I only need to configure the 64-bit side since Media Center’s internal player utilizes the 64-bit version of Windows Media Player.
What we’re going to do is choose USE MERIT as the preferred decoder for all VIDEO formats, with the exception of WMV files (unless you just want to). For all AUDIO formats, select LAV Audio. Once complete, click the Apply & Close button, which returns us to the initial options box. Just click Exit when there to close the tweaker application.
We’re done with the software portion! Let’s go to Media Center and test it out!
Playback Support Confirmation and Conclusion
For the final portion, we’ll be checking playback within Windows Media Center. Before we confirm everything is working the way we want, let’s take a look at the sample file information in MediaInfo. My file is the movie Kon-Tiki, and is encoded to around 8Mbps AVC and has a 6-channel DTS track contained in an MKV. It has an external SubRip SRT subtitle file (not shown in MediaInfo).
Now, let’s take a look at how things appear in GraphStudioNext. GraphStudioNext is a continuation of a continuation of the original DirectShow filter graphing tool that was included in the Microsoft DirectShow SDK years ago. Basically, it just shows you how all this crap we installed carves up your media file and spits it out to your output devices. As you can see below, everything looks good
Well, all that’s left is to fire up Media Center, locate Kon-Tiki in Media Browser Classic, and see what happens. The first shot shows the video playing, with all expected icons in the task tray (LAV Splitter, Video Filter, Audio Filter, and xy-vsfilter).
This final shot is just the individual stream properties being handled by the LAV Splitter.
So, let’s recap. This guide provides you with:
- LAV Filters as your sole codec “pack”.
- xy-vsfilter for external subtitle support since LAV Filters doesn’t provide it (it does internal though!).
- Playback of all formats using the previous two filters within Windows Media Center.
- Hardware accelerated playback of all capable formats, with supported hardware.
- Relatively easy installation and configuration process to achieve all of the above.
I hope this guide helps some of you that just can’t let go of Windows Media Center and its internal player. LAV Filters are an excellent package for playback and that means something coming from a lifelong fanboy of ffdshow.