Customisable Video Playback
Once you can play video files using Direct Show Filters (see DirectShow Playback Guide) you can then customise how the Video is output to your screen or TV. Media Center lets you tag each video file with a customisable setting by simply right clicking while the video is playing.
You can select settings for aspect ratio, edge crop, zoom, and settings for display for each file. Media Center will then add these settings to the Library (under the field “Playback Info”) that you can then copy to other similar Video files. Media Center will use these settings when the file is played.
The ability to tag the output options for each file (or collection of files) is very useful because a collection of differently formatted Video files will look better with these custom playback settings.
The video clip above was recorded from TV, where it was broadcast as NTSC 4:3 square pixel with the original 16:9 image within it, creating the lighter black bars top and bottom (Letterbox). Worse still, it was then played on a Widescreen display which added the black bars left and right (Pillar Box) resulting in the video being in the centre, with a black matte around it. This is the image you would see with “Default” settings, but we can now tag this file with some customisable changes:
Aspect Ratio: If we select under Aspect Ratio the “Crop” option, the video would be expanded to fill the screen, as represented by the Red Box. There are several options to choose from that will best adapt the Video you are playing to that of your TV/Monitor.
Crop Edges: This is another useful feature because traditional TV's used "Overscan" where part of the picture was left behind the bezel. These days many newer TV's (and all Monitors) display the "Full" or "1:1 pixel" mapping, resulting in some rough edges (especially noticeable with older TV broadcasts). Crop Edges allows you to zoom the image out slightly, and remove these rough edges as indicated by the Blue Box.
Display Settings: MC12 can now change the output signal format from your default desktop settings (eg a PAL user may typically have their HTPC graphics setting on 1920x1080x32/50hz to a HDTV) to a specific setting for each video (eg in this video's case, it is 720x480x32/60hz). While customising the output resolution to match the native format of each video may produce the highest quality results for those that want to have the HTPC "pass-through" not "scale" the image, it will also solve an issue of "judder" from mismatched timings. Judder frequently occurs when the HTPC and the video file frequencies are different to each other. Video files can be recorded in a range of frequencies including 23.94, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50, and 60hz etc yet you typically have your HTPC output set at 50 (PAL), or 60hz (NTSC) if connected to a TV. For example, if you are in a PAL country, your video output and TV input may be set at 50Hz, but a music video clip recorded in NTSC (60hz) will “judder” badly because the PC is trying to remove 10 frames per second. A good outcome in this case may not be to “Change Display Settings” from the default 1920x1080x32/50hz to the video's native 720x480x32/60hz, but instead to 1920x1080x32/60hz which will remove the judder issue and keep the text overlays used by MC the same relative size that you are used to.
Conclusion: Because each system and personal preference is unique, just play your video file, make the changes until you have output that suits you and your equipment. Media Center will save these settings in its library for future playback.