Playing 1920×1080 MPEG4 video files without “stuttering”

I previously played my own HD videos (videos that I created) at 1920×1080 by streaming them off a slightly older Windows XP PC over a network to an Xbox 360 connected to an HDTV.

Two things happened that killed that solution:

  1. The Xbox 360 eventually died completely (already been down the “red ring of death” problem in the past).
  2. My youngest child is now old enough that she did not care if we replaced the 360.

Looking for a low cost solution I re-assigned my old 3.06 Ghz single processor machine still running XP to play videos through the VGA connector on the HDTV. I still used that machine for some software development but spent today transferring over the last files and programs I needed on to my much newer multi-core desktop that I use for development and video editing.

The good news is that this all went well.

The bad news is that any time I tried to play a 1920×1080 MPEG4 video (most of mine are encoded at 4 to 8 Mbps depending on the content), the images stuttered badly. One in particular looked like I was watching a slide show, not a video!

I tried using Quicktime, VLC and the Media Player Classic Home Cinema software and all had various kinds of problems from stuttering to false colors (VLC).

Looking around I discovered that the problem is due to H.264 decoders that are too slow and can not keep up with full frame video.

But there is a solution – CoreAVC 2.0 and CoreAAC codecs. They have optimized their H.264 decoders for far faster performance than all the others.

Once I bought and installed those codecs, I can now play the 1920×1080 H.264 videos in Windows Media Player and get smooth video. No frame drops that I could see. Plus, the fan on the PC only kicked up half way to keep the CPU cool – so the fan noise was lower too.

For the $18 cost of the software, I’ve replaced the parts of the Xbox 360 that we really wanted – streaming our own videos. Plus we can now watch YouTube, Hulu, Vimeo and eventually Netflix videos too. And I’m going to have give Flight Simulator or X-Plane a whirl soon too 🙂

The CoreAVC and AAC codecs are working well for me. You might take a look at them if you are having trouble playing 1920×1080 videos on an older computer.

Update: If you are having trouble playing 1920×1080 videos on Youtube … it is probably because your computer cannot keep up. Decoding and displaying an H.264 1920×1080 video image, at 30 times per second, seems to be beyond the capacity of most computers. My quad core computer seems to be able to just keep up. It might work better for you if you first wait for the entire video to download, and then try playing again. Alternatively, just use the 720p version. Most people cannot tell the difference between 1080p and 720p, especially after it was encoded once for upload to Youtube, and then transcoded at Youtube, downloaded and decoded to play on your computer.