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Previously, getting MKV to work properly inside Windows 7 Media Center has required quite a bit of effort on the part of the end user. It was necessary to install a number of third party codecs, make modifications to the registry and tweak codec settings to get everything to play nicely. By default Windows 7 Media Center uses a new method for playing back audio video content known as Windows Media Foundation which replaces the older method known as DirectShow. Unfortunately, every codec package available to this point is programmed for DirectShow and doesn’t take advantage of the new WMP format meaning playing non-supported formats was a substantial hassle.
Luckily for us there is a small light at the end of the tunnel in the form of Divx Lab’s MKV project. The Divx Lab’s project aims to utilize the Windows Media Foundation to enable playback of the popular MKV format on both the main Media Center machine as well as extenders. Not only does this mean support for extenders but it could also very well mean the end to playing with various codec package settings to tweak the audio/video settings to match the output of the default Media Center playback.
Beyond enabling playback through your Windows Media Center Extenders, the picture quality of the Windows Media Foundation solution is incredible and contains complete DVXA hardware acceleration support. So not only is the quality fantastic but hardware acceleration will keep frame rates right where they should be without the drops that can sometimes occur with CPU intensive codecs such as FFDShow.
Using Divx Lab’s MKV preview video quality is amazing in full 1080p without so much as a hint of latency in the playback. There are still a few downsides to using the preview though. For instance, you’ll still be required to install a third party codec for audio playback depending on the audio encoding used for your movies. The newest version of AC3Filter is all you’ll need though and provides ACM wrapper allowing the playback to be passed through Windows Media Foundation as well.
To give this great new product a try just head on over to the Divx Labs MKV Tech Preview page and create an account. Then hit up the Project Rémoulade Apps group page for a list of downloads and grab the latest version of the tech preview. To get your MKV files to show up in the native movie library you’ll still need to install the registry fix for either x86 systems or x64 systems depending on the OS being used. Don’t forget to grab the latest version of AC3Filter Full as well if you need extra support for AC3 audio and install that as well.
That’s all you need to give this tech preview from Dixv Labs a try and get MKV videos playing through the new Windows Media Foundation system. Be sure to subscribe to Hack7MC to get the latest info and updates on this ongoing Divx Labs project and Windows Media Foundation.