Those of use who use Media Center in our homes as more than just a DVR have this love/hate thing going on. On the one hand, we love Media Center. The interface, the functionality, the DVR capabilities, all of it. We also hate the fact that Microsoft has, so far, decided that extenders should be half-hearted affairs that just can’t do everything the PC can.
Well the times they are a changin’ and you can thank Ben Drawbaugh and Andres Echevarria. Working together the two have come up with a method for converting avi and mkv HD movie or TV files into DVR-MS files and grab the metadata at the same time. This is done using DVR-MS Toolbox as well as YAMMM for metadata retrieval. While DVR-MS isn’t a preferred file format, it is Media Center’s native TV format (until Windows 7) and so it works perfectly for those who use an extender model in their home.
I’ve had a chance to play with the new DVR-MS Toolbox profile and I have to say that it works perfectly. I’ve taken several MKV movie rips and converted them to DVR-MS. The new files play at full resolution, maintain the 5.1 surround sound and just look great.
One of the best things I’ve found about this profile so far is that it doesn’t seem to matter what you throw at it. I’ve converted MKVs with both DTS and AC-3 sound and it takes care of it. AVIs have yet to be an issue. Neither container has yet to give me an issue.
There is only one problem with using DVR-MS files and that’s size. So far, every file I’ve converted has increased by 25% to 35%. This isn’t an issue with the way this conversion is done, it just goes with using DVR-MS. Compression isn’t something the format does well. It’s not a party stopper though. I’d rather take more space and have great files than be stuck trying to install codecs to get things working.
If you’re interested in getting this working, head over to Ben’s post. He’s provided a full walk-through on how to set everything up including metadata retrieval and how to make it 100% automatic.
Would it be better is Microsoft would just support all the containers and codecs out there so no file conversion was needed? Sure. But until that happens (and don’t hold your breath) Ben and Andres have come up with a perfect solution. There’s nothing better than getting your files into a native format which you know will be supported. Looks like I have some work to do!