As final example I recorded a quick movie. A note, the video is extremely low quality and obviously for learning purposes intended only. Have a look if interested, and again pardon the image quality.
tip: once you hit play - the outer right button allows HQ playback, which is advised.
In this demonstration video we quickly setup the three settings as explained in this guide, then we playback a x.264 720p trailer and then a 1080p movie trailer. We'll zoom into the task manager, observe the CPU utilization during playback of these trailers.
The system used here is a midrange Intel Core 2 Q6600 based PC with 2 GB memory on a NF730 motherboard running Windows Vista 64-bit. Amzing stuff really. The video card used is a GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB. We have realtime high-def MKV content being decoded, accelerated and enhanced all over the GPU.
So you guys, I hope I have opened up some doorways for some of you. It really is a shame that container formats like MKV and filters as x.264 do not have embedded industry support from both ATI and NVIDIA.
How cool would it be to see some sort of codec (like NVIDIA initially offered with PureVideo) to open up and enable features as show in this article NATIVE in windows. Grab your remote, startup Windows Media Center, select a x.264 / MKV movie and enjoy it being decoded over the GPU.
It can be done fairly easy, and configuration could be dealt with from within Catalyst or Forceware drivers. Unfortunately neither ATI or NVIDIA is making a move into that direction, and it can be nothing other then a loss for everybody, features like these would boost graphics card sales for sure, and in the year 2009 we feel should have been a standard a long time ago already. Admittedly, I'm a bit of an opportunist though.
Luckily the guys who develop open source project like Media Player Classic - Home Cinema get us a good step closer to what we all want. To me it is amazing what a small group of people achieved fairly quickly. I have much respect for that.
So then, I assure you that you will have fun using Media Player Classic Home Cinema. With it you can finally accelerate and enhance content like x.264, remember ... pretty much any content format is supported with this software.
My experiences. I've tested the software on four different machines, and can summarize this:
NVIDIA ION | Intel Atom 230 | 2GB - Accelerates well, stutters when enabling Shaders
AMD 790 FX | Phenom 9950 | 2 GB | integrated GPU - Accelerates well, stutters when enabling Shaders
X58 | Core i7 965 | 6 GB | Radeon HD 4650 512MB - Flawless playback including combined shaders
The generic consensus is simple, any system will do fine, but if you want to enable shader processing and image quality enhancements, it's strongly advised to have a dedicated graphics card, meeting the requirements we mentioned.
With that said I'd like to close this article. We'll open up a forum thread on this article where you can share your experiences. Remember, this is free software. Fool around with Media Player Classic - Home Cinema a little and observe how much fun you will gain with it.
This article is not intended to criticize companies like NVIDIA and ATI. We just feel that something so standard and common as x.264 should be natively supported. Also, and this has to be said, of course there are many good reasons to use for example CoreAVC or FFDSHOW if you have enough CPU processing power. There's nothing wrong with that, in fact these two examples are out of this world as well.
And surely if you merely watch DVDs or Blu-ray movies then PowerDVD and WinDVD will be more than sufficient and probably an even better alternative. However, when when it comes to handling x.264 and similar file/container formats over the GPU, nothing comes even remotely close to Media Player Classic Home Cinema.
We'd like to hear about your experiences in regards to this software and your graphics card, we setup a discussion thread here. Check out the software (download here), it won't cost you any money as it is a free open source application. Enjoy and have fun you guys.