Earlier this week, we had a call to a client’s house in Yorkville, where she was having trouble watching a video from her camera’s SD card, using Windows Media Player.
While there are a number of reasons why Windows Media Player might not be able to play a video, one of the most common reasons is that it doesn’t have the required codec. A codec (“coder/decoder”) is a way to shrink the size of a video or audio file, while sill maintain decent-quality output (using a mathematical formula to rearrange the data in more compact ways).
When a new video is saved by a camera, or by a person using video editing software, a video codec must be chosen. This is often done “behind the scenes”: Your video camera will rarely ask you what kind of codec to use. That’s because, often, your camera is only programmed to use one particular codec. Which codec will the camera use? That’s up to the manufacturer of the camera! Sometimes, they will choose a codec created by their own company (eg. the Sony video codec), sometimes they will choose the cheapest for them to use, or – bless their hearts – sometimes they’ll use the most popular codecs, so that it will be easy to view the files on any computer. To this last group of manufacturers, we say “Thank you!”.
There are many, many (many!) codecs both for video and audio. Some codecs are more popular than others; some were once popular, but have been overshadowed by a new format.
So, here’s the kicker – and it’s all right there in the name – a codec is a way to code and decode an audio or video file. In other words, you need the codec to save a video, but you also need it to open and watch that video.
Key concept: Unfortunately, that the codec does not get embedded into the video. Only the name of it is added to the file, to tell Windows Media Player which of its installed codecs to use. When Windows Media Player opens a new file, it will read the file’s information and see that it’s using the “Higgledy-bottom” codec. Windows Media Player will then check and see if it has the “Higgledy-bottom” codec installed.
If it does, your video will play. If it doesn’t, you’ll get an error message.
So, for any video format to be watchable in Windows Media Player, you have to have its appropriate codec installed.
Sound awful? Well, it is… sort of.
Windows Media Player does come with a number of codecs already installed, allowing you to view the majority of today’s video formats.
You can have a look at the list of these codecs, at Microsoft’s web site: The default codecs that are included with Windows Media Player 9 and with Windows Media Player 10.
But if you’re trying to view a video and it won’t play in Windows Media Player, what are your options?
Well, here are two options for you to consider.
SOLUTION 1: INSTALL MORE CODECS!
If Windows Media Player is not playing your video, than it’s lacking the appropriate codec.
To fix this problem, you can download and install that codec.
While there are ways to determine exactly what codec you need, you may want to start by simply downloading the Media Player Codec Pack from cnet’s widely-trusted Download.com. Here is a current link to the Media Player Codec Pack: click to open. If this link doesn’t work, you can always go to www.download.com and search for “Media Player Codec Pack”.
According to the program’s description, “After installation, you will be able to play 99.9% of files through your media player”.
So, this should do the trick.
NOTE: As with any installation, be sure to carefully read each screen as you install Media Player Codec Pack. Often times, programs will ask if they can install other programs at the same time (eg. Ask Toolbar, Bing Toolbar, Google Chrome). You do not need to agree to install these programs, and they are not essential to the main program you are installing. Most times, the creators of these secondary programs have paid to be bundled into the installation of the main program. You simply don’t need them. You always have a choice! Don’t install any programs that you don’t want to.
Follow the installation instructions of Media Player Codec Pack, then restart Windows.
Now fire up Windows Media Player and see if it will show your video.
Did it work? HUZZAH!!
Is it still not working? Try Solution #2.
SOLUTION 2: DOWNLOAD VLC MEDIA PLAYER
If you can’t get Windows Media Player to behave, then we suggest that you give VLC Media Player a try.
VLC is pretty cool – it’s open source, not-for-profit, totally free (no fine print), and all in the name of one noble cause: kicking Microsoft’s/Windows Media Player’s butt.
And they do this fairly well. Not only is the program admired because it “Plays most codecs with no codec packs needed“, but it also has a more robust set of features than Windows Media Player. (One of our favourite features is the Volume control, which goes past 100% all the way to 200%. Instant amplification!! Perfect for those quieter media files.)
You can download VLC Media Player by clicking here.
Install the program, Restart Windows, and open your video using VLC.
Did that do the trick? HUZZAH!!
Still having troubles?
If you’ve tried both of the solutions above, and you’re still having troubles, then there are a few possibilities remaining. Firstly, your video may be in a very rare video format (As in, not part of the 99.9% covered by the Media Player Codec and/or VLC).
You can find out precisely which codec your video is using with help of a tidy little program called MediaInfo. You can get MediaInfo here. It’s totally free, and supported by in versions of Windows. Once you find out the codec that your video is in, you can do some Googling, to figure out how to install the appropriate codec.
If, however, MediaInfo is not able to read the file or determine its codec, then it’s time to seriously suspect that the file is corrupt.
Are there ways that you can confirm that the file is in good shape? If it was recorded by a video camera, can you play the file on the camera itself?
If the file is corrupt… well… that’s outside of the realm of this blog posting, sadly. If this is your situation then we suggest some intense Googling, and we wish you much luck! : )
Happy video watching from Perfect Fit.