Windows 8 media playback support explained

Windows 8 may not be able to play back DVDs via its native media player without paying extra for Windows Media Center. However, Microsoft says it is working to add better audio and video playback in both Windows 8 and Windows RT. In the latest post on the official Windows 8 blog, Microsoft goes into some details on how the OS will achieve better media support while also optimizing such support for the best battery life possible.

The blog post, written by Scott Manchester, group program manager for the Windows Media Platform and Technologies team, states:

With Windows 8 running on a Windows 8 certified PC, video decoding for common media formats will be offloaded to a dedicated hardware subsystem for media. This allows us to significantly lower CPU usage, resulting in smoother video playback and a longer battery life, as the dedicated media hardware is much more efficient than the CPU at media decoding.

You can see that CPU utilization for Windows 8 while running 720p VC1/H.264 video clips and webcam capture previews is far lower in Windows 8 than it is in Windows 7 in the chart above. In addition, audio playback has also been improved. Manchester states, "By batching up large chunks of audio data and doing all the processing for that chunk at one time, the CPU can stay asleep for over 100 times longer (over 1 second vs. 10ms), which can result in dramatically increased battery life during audio playback."

In addition to video and audio playback, Microsoft is working to make Windows 8 handle the kinds of real time video and audio features that have been enable in applications such as Skype. One such feature allows for Windows 8 to run such apps in low-latency mode. At the same time, Windows 8 also supports the use of HD cameras.

Window 8 Metro apps also support a wide variety of video and audio files. You can see the full list below:

The blog also talks about Windows 8 support for streaming paid video content from services such as Netflix. Microsoft said the OS will support adaptive bitrate streaming for such services along with the PlayReady feature that enables content protection for both downloaded and streamed videos.

The blog also talks about the improved version of Play To which was first launched in Windows 7. For Windows 8, the Play To feature will still allow Windows 8 devices to stream videos to other Play To supported video screens and monitors. Windows 8 will find any Play To supported video screens on your home network automatically. However, streaming video from Windows 8 Metro apps can only be done with Windows certified Play To receivers. An upcoming update for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console will enable Play To support.

The blog post also goes over 3D monitor support for Windows 8 along with a number of other new media playback additions.

Source: Microsoft | Images via Microsoft

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

E3 2012 brings in 45,700 people; no date or city yet for 2013

Next Story

38 Studios files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy

84 Comments

View more comments

Ambroos said,

VLC still sucks when it comes to playback quality. Their renderer usually ****s up contrast.

If you want to play video files, use Media Player Classic Home Cinema (with MadVR on a powerful PC, otherwise just with standard things). For audio files, use Foobar2k. VLC is horrible.

example:
http://wizardofwinds.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/96dqtf.jpg

Hey.. just wana point out. I agree. The contrast is messed up in VLC but there is a simple fix. Whenever you play a vid just open the effects and increase the contrast by a notch and its all perfect!

ProChefChad said,
Step 1: Use VLC
Done

VLC is the IE6 of the Media Player World. It is a big joke.

You will get NO performance benefits Windows 8 provides using something as stupid as VLC.

_heracles said,
You will get NO performance benefits Windows 8 provides using something as stupid as VLC.
Yet it supports formats that Windows 8 doesn't. I have no interest in letting Microsoft dictate what I can and cannot watch, so I'll continue to use VLC. More importantly, Metro apps are incredibly cumbersome on the desktop and usually have a fraction of the functionality of regular desktop apps.

theyarecomingforyou said,
Yet it supports formats that Windows 8 doesn't. I have no interest in letting Microsoft dictate what I can and cannot watch, so I'll continue to use VLC. More importantly, Metro apps are incredibly cumbersome on the desktop and usually have a fraction of the functionality of regular desktop apps.

If you know anything about media players, MPC is the only way to go.

VLC is a joke. Only people who are not educated use it - whenever I see someone using it I know this person is the demise of our species.

Saying that you use VLC is the same as saying that IE6 is awesome. It is not and never will be.

_heracles said,

If you know anything about media players, MPC is the only way to go.

VLC is a joke. Only people who are not educated use it - whenever I see someone using it I know this person is the demise of our species.

Saying that you use VLC is the same as saying that IE6 is awesome. It is not and never will be.


hey! I use VLC when i come across formats WMP doesnt support. And tried a few MKV decoders, and quite frankly, the MKV decoder in VLC is hel of alot better then the ones for WMP.
Oh and sometimes when video files have build in subtitles, they are automatically on with WMP and no way to disable them (might've been with those MKV's tho, not sure) and if i can understand the language, i dont want subtitles And VLC lets me turn them off.

To each his own, but to generalize people just if they use VLC is quite frankly... retarded.

Oh i also use Winamp over WMP for music, altho this is mainly because of winamp remote WMP never hangs the music, Winamp does sometimes when the system is on heavy load

and yes, im a pirate, however a dutch pirate, so its legal altho its mainly for those american and brittish series they NEVER release here and ocasionally the movie i dont find worth buying or going to cinema for

_heracles said,
Only people who are not educated use it - whenever I see someone using it I know this person is the demise of our species.

Dude... what the ****?

Marcin Kurek said,

Dude... what the ****?


Person plays something in VLC, computer goes to sleep.
Person plays something in VLC, computer screen turns off.
Person plays something in VLC, it laggs.

Person plays something in VLC, his battery life falls of the cliff.
Person plays something in VLC, multi-tasking feels laggier.

Person plays something in VLC, doesn't use his GPU.
Person plays something in VLC, artifacts everywhere.

etc, etc

Normal persons use WMP, professionals use MPC:HC, and kiddies use VLC.
It is just how the world works.

This reminds me. If Windows 8 is going Metro UI, then where is the Metro UI evolution of Windows Media Player? It doesn't seem a bit different since version 12

netsendjoe said,
This reminds me. If Windows 8 is going Metro UI, then where is the Metro UI evolution of Windows Media Player? It doesn't seem a bit different since version 12

You seem to be missing the point. Windows Media Player doesn't exist in Metro, it's a classic desktop application. Why would they evolve it?

Instead you have the video and music Metro apps (which granted at this stage are quite poor, but they are still in preview and lag behind OS development for obvious reasons). There will also be a host of other media player apps for Metro once the OS is released.

netsendjoe said,
This reminds me. If Windows 8 is going Metro UI, then where is the Metro UI evolution of Windows Media Player? It doesn't seem a bit different since version 12

Stoned, I'm guessing...

Ya, it isn't different for Metro because IT ISN'T MADE FOR METRO SINCE METRO HAS ITS OWN MEDIA PLAYERS. The Metro players do use the Media Player engine though, if that makes you feel better.

Really?

Metro has it own library and music and video applications built in and Windows Media Player is not used in this context. Just like you don't see Windows Media Player on WP7 either, or the XBox 360...

netsendjoe said,
This reminds me. If Windows 8 is going Metro UI, then where is the Metro UI evolution of Windows Media Player? It doesn't seem a bit different since version 12

Getting phased out it would seem. The Zune software was so much better anyways. I was hoping they would evolve the Zune software into the desktop media player for 8, but no such luck there.

drazgoosh said,
And that's why many will use Gom/VLC/other media players, as they can support many file types. Most importantly .mkv IMO

Maybe this is unusual, but for me the one and only time I ever saw an MKV was when downloading an episode of Fringe that I missed on TV.

drazgoosh said,
And that's why many will use Gom/VLC/other media players, as they can support many file types. Most importantly .mkv IMO

And oddly, something like 99% of Windows users never touch other media players because they don't have time or need for crap codecs from the *nix world that are no longer needed.

Lookup VLC, you can find articles claiming that 500 million people use it. (However, in the fine print on the actual VLC site, the actual number of users based on version downloads is around 60 million people around the world at best.)

The crazy thing is that most of the 'codec packs' and the alternative 'media players' bypass a lot of technology.

Sadly people that are tricked into a lot of these codecs/packs/players don't realize that these are the reasons that their notebook battery can't play a full a movie, or why they see crazy artifacts, and can't play music and games at the same time and their CPU utilization is 3 or 4 times what it should be and glitch here and error there.

The codecs that write over the Windows 7 hardware acceleration codecs are the worst and sadly it took the people distributing theses and even the codec makers a LONG time before they realize they were 'hurting' performance. Yet some package developers/authors still opt for the less compatible and high CPU utilization codecs because they read once that it was a .001% better quality when decoding something.

TCLN Ryster said,

Maybe this is unusual, but for me the one and only time I ever saw an MKV was when downloading an episode of Fringe that I missed on TV.


Im a pirate and unlike others, i openly admit... i ONLY encounter MKV with torrenting my series that will never air here (stupid dutch crap tv). The legit sources I visit are often MPEG's.

Yeah, i'd like to see MKV support as well. I use it when ripping my blurays to store on my server to stream to my HTPC. Blurays I own. And I have Dolby TrueHD/DTS MA HD so I have to use MKV. Would be nice if they supported it natively but I can get it up and running in media center with just a few clicks so no biggy.

"With Windows 8 running on a Windows 8 certified PC, video decoding for common media formats will be offloaded to a dedicated hardware subsystem for media."

And surprisingly enough, "Windows 8 certified PC" just happens to need certain components that a lot of current PC's don't have - meaning there's no real "optimization" but just moving the load from CPU to dedicated components.

You know, this all sounds awfully famili.. holy **** now I know; Amiga back in 1985 had dedicated components to offload content.

What goes around comes around I guess..

MiukuMac said,
"With Windows 8 running on a Windows 8 certified PC, video decoding for common media formats will be offloaded to a dedicated hardware subsystem for media."

And surprisingly enough, "Windows 8 certified PC" just happens to need certain components that a lot of current PC's don't have - meaning there's no real "optimization" but just moving the load from CPU to dedicated components.

You know, this all sounds awfully famili.. holy **** now I know; Amiga back in 1985 had dedicated components to offload content.

What goes around comes around I guess..

Video has been offloaded to dedicated hardware sybsystems for media
SINCE WINDOWS XP

It is more and more efficient with each Windows iteration.

MiukuMac said,
"With Windows 8 running on a Windows 8 certified PC, video decoding for common media formats will be offloaded to a dedicated hardware subsystem for media."

And surprisingly enough, "Windows 8 certified PC" just happens to need certain components that a lot of current PC's don't have - meaning there's no real "optimization" but just moving the load from CPU to dedicated components.

You know, this all sounds awfully famili.. holy **** now I know; Amiga back in 1985 had dedicated components to offload content.

What goes around comes around I guess..

Comment/Troll fail. They talking about offloading the video decoding to the GPU, something that's been happening for years. They just are now enforcing that minimum GPU function in the "Windows 8 Certified" specs.

The .MKV container is not utilized by any commercial content producer, as far as I know. It's use seems mostly limited to the ripping of commercial video content, and often for (illegal) file sharing. Given that, it's no real surprise that Microsoft and Apple don't support this container.

It's a shame because AC-3 audio is not formally part of the MPEG Part 4 standard, and so MP4/M4V files containing discreet surround audio can only be played on a very limited number of (generally Apple) devices. The MKV container does handle this, however, and would be a nice solution if there was more widespread playback support.

Silversee said,
The .MKV container is not utilized by any commercial content producer, as far as I know. It's use seems mostly limited to the ripping of commercial video content, and often for (illegal) file sharing. Given that, it's no real surprise that Microsoft and Apple don't support this container.

It's a shame because AC-3 audio is not formally part of the MPEG Part 4 standard, and so MP4/M4V files containing discreet surround audio can only be played on a very limited number of (generally Apple) devices. The MKV container does handle this, however, and would be a nice solution if there was more widespread playback support.

Some people are complaining about not having
MKV + 10-bit h264 support

If that is not admitting that you Pirate Japanese shows and expect everyone to support you, I don't know what is.

_heracles said,

Some people are complaining about not having
MKV + 10-bit h264 support

If that is not admitting that you Pirate Japanese shows and expect everyone to support you, I don't know what is.


Commenting is disabled on this article.