Video Codec Hell!

When I first got my Zune 80 back in December, I installed and tested out several different types of video conversion software on my laptop. Cucusoft, MediaCoder, Aimersoft… you name it, I tested it! Of course, I uninstalled each of them since I didn’t need them after my testing (and the fact they were mostly “trial” versions), however, some of them would leave fragments of themselves on my laptop system. Registry file entries, unused DLLs, etc. were still hanging around causing problems with my current video converter. In some cases, video converters will install their own video codecs which can be outdated or be simply inefficient. Not a good environment for converting videos.

For me, the usual symptom is a badly produced WMV video file when using Windows Media Encoder, or missing audio in the file. This almost always can be traced back to a bad or conflicted video/audio codec on the computer system. I was having such a problem with a recent video conversion on my laptop, so much so that I decided to hunt down and clean out all the corrupt and viral video codecs and start fresh. Thus, began my crusade to wipe out the codecs!

I started by going to “Remove Programs” and uninstalling everything I had that could possibly install a video codec. That included any video codec pack, or any “Movie Maker” software (I had ULead Movie Factory installed). Versions of FFMpeg, MEncoder, etc. were all stripped off. Once I was confident that I had everything that I previously installed removed, I started up the application called GSpot which has an option to display all installed video and audio codecs on a system, and highlight those codecs that were “bad” since they were missing a file.

After identifying these “bad” codecs, I started up regedit in a DOS window and began searching for them for manual removal. I remove every “bad” codec from the registry file until GSpot indicated everything was in good working order. After which, I used some registry cleaner software packages (i.e., CCleaner, RegScrubXP, and Windows Registry Repair Pro) to clean and remove any dead entries. Now one more reboot of my system, and it should be scrubbed clean of all 3rd party installed codecs.

Note, at this point GSpot indicated that I had about 145 codecs installed. This may seem like a lot, but they are needed codecs for basic audio and video compression. I was confident that I was at a good clean starting point, and my next step was to install the necessary (“good”) codecs to do my video conversions.

Now, I normally recommend staying away from the “codec packs” since they can often install unnecessary codecs on your system that could cause conflicts and other issues, but I decided after my meticulous cleaning that I would try installing the codec pack called Vista Codec Package. Even though it is called Vista Codec Package, it still can be used on Windows XP systems. I chose this pack for several reasons:

  1. The codec package seems to be updated very frequently (the latest version was dated this week).
  2. The installer has an option to remove old codecs (to avoid conflicts).
  3. The variety of codecs installed is wide enough to cover my video conversion needs.
  4. The user reviews for this codec pack were very good.

So, I proceeded to install the Vista Codec Package with reckless abandon in hopes of getting my laptop back into good video converting shape. Note that during the initial phase of the installation process it seemed that the installer was finished (because there was no installer dialogbox displayed), however, I hear a lot of disk activity and there was a background process running called “vistacodecs_v462.exe” in Task Manager. After a few minutes, a new dialogbox appeared asking me a few questions to complete the codec installation. At this point, I did another reboot of my system for good measure, and did another check with GSpot to make sure all my installed codecs were still good.

Finally, I began my tests by converting some AVI files, MPG and VOB files to check the quality of the produced video and audio. Since all codecs are not the same, it was important for me to verify that everything looked good and worked efficiently. Since the Vista Codec Package used some of the standard codecs available (e.g., FFMpeg, MEncoder, etc) I knew the chances were good I had quality codecs installed.

After doing my several tests, it appeared that the Vista Codec Package worked out well for me. So for now, eveything looks much better on my laptop, and I’ll certainly post if and when I might run into problems.

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2 thoughts on “Video Codec Hell!

  1. Mel says:

    I did the same, in a search for a good converter. Ffdshow ended up taking over dvd audio and video playback, making my dvd software (Nvidia) not work. Uninstalling didn’t solve the problem, so I had to reformat Windows.

    Thankfully, after testing about 15 programs, I found Madz dvd to zune converts very fast. Just a tip if you haven’t found a program you like.

  2. Joe says:

    I had a simualr problem, I had tried a lot of codec packages, etc trying to edit movies to put back on DVDs. My media player would no longer play simple streaming from such sites as NASA. Did what was suggested, unloaded all programs that load codecs then ran GSPOT to clean the registry out, but no help to the problem. Finally -DUH – figured out, right click media player in the browser and check the options. If it thinks the connection is too slow, the player will play audio and not video.

    This was a good though, because it made me clean out my laptop. Everything media works much better.

    Joe

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