Red October is JRiver's breakthrough invention for managing DirectShow filters on Windows. It takes the work out of downloading, installing, and configuring the DS filters that are used for high quality playback of video. It offers two levels. Red October Standard will work on all machines. Red October HQ uses the madVR Renderer and will work on high performance PC's.
DirectShow: The Problem
JRiver Media Center is one of several DirectShow capable video players.
Let's start with what DirectShow is. Then we will go on to what its weaknesses are, and eventually to our new solution.
Years ago, Microsoft launched DirectShow technology, a method of handling audio and video with what we could call "interchangeable parts". Any player that is DS compatible can theoretically load and use any DS filters. In theory it offers a way to standardize processing and playback of media.
For the less technical, a "filter" is a piece of software that can be strung together with others to create a "graph", something like a chain of beads. At the beginning there may be a reader (to read the file), then a spltter (to separate audio from video), various decoders (to decompress the audio and video), and a renderer (to paint the picture on the screen).
Microsoft also devised a "merit" system to allow competing filters to nominate themselves for insertion in the graph. This is one of the big problems with DirectShow, in my opinion. It allows bad filters to be chosen instead of good filters, so it causes a lot of problems at playback time.
We've wrestled with this problem for several years. Each machine usually has a number of filters installed, and they often don't work well when the graph is built. Our solution has been a little lame, I admit. When a user had a problem, we suggested installing CCCP, a well known filter "pack" that included "good" versions of ffdshow, haali, and other filters. This often worked.
We also pointed users to an excellent DirectShow Playback Guide, written by one of our expert users, glynor. You can see what a wall of text it was, though, and configuring these filters to be well behaved was a troublesome prospect at best for most mere mortals.
Usually one of these two remedies worked, but not always.
Red October: The Solution
As a result, JRiver Media Center now has a new DirectShow technology that we call Red October. It has these modes:
- Red October Standard: MC automatically downloads, installs, and configures known good versions of LAV and other filters as are needed. It uses the standard Microsoft Enhanced Video Renderer (EVR). We build the graph and don't allow anything else. This results in video playback that just works, and looks very good.
- Red October HQ: Same as above, but adding madVR as the renderer. This is more GPU intensive, so it only works well on fast, modern GPUs, but if your computer can handle it, playback can be even more pristine. Check out the System Requirements article for more detail on suggested system specs.
No Configuration Required
Everyone can set video playback to Red October (Standard or HQ) and let MC do the rest! For most users, this will not only be simple, but will result in highly optimized playback quality.
Configuration Still Possible
For those who like to tinker, we added three advanced modes:
- Red October Standard with additional filters -- Our base plus your additional filters.
- Red October HQ with additional filters -- Our base plus yours again.
- Windows Merit Based -- the same as the original Windows DirectShow selection.
In addition, Red October uses its own location and settings for all filters, and we "register" them ourselves, so there is no conflict with other players. Red October also ignores the Windows Merit system and it has a white list for additional good filters.
MC can now set a default that we know will work. Even a novice can now get the highest quality DirectShow playback without suffering the pain of DS configuration. And the dedicated tweaker will still find room to play.
We're very grateful to nevcairiel, madshi, jmone, glynor, SamuriHL, and many others who helped guide this and upon whom we depend for sage advice.
I am extremely grateful to John Thompson and Matt Ashland, who helped create this amazing new system. It's one of the best projects JRiver has ever done.
Jim Hillegass CEO