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We already know from Deck’s great posts and RSVR85’s Media Center customization guide that Windows Media Center is a robust media hub with a great user interface. The ability to pull in internet TV, act as a DVR for broadcast TV, and serve as a library for music, pictures, and videos has made it my choice in my home entertainment center. However, it does have its shortcomings, one of which is its inability to play some types of video files without third-party software. I’m going to show you how to make this a non-issue by configuring Windows Media Center to utilize non-Windows Media Player programs to play these files.

Install MediaBrowser & VLC Player

Deck and RSVR85 have already sung their praises for this great third-party tool that interfaces with IMDB to download great images, movie descriptions, ratings, and even actor information. Allow me to join my voice with theirs: if you have a movie collection on your Media Center PC you need Media Browser. It’s simply beautiful and works spectacularly well. In addition, playing some types of files (specifically HD or Blu-Ray rips) is impossible without the external player support that Media Browser brings to the table.

To download Media Browser, visit this site and run the .exe file after making sure Media center is closed. Before we launch Media Center, however, we’re going to make a few changes from the default configuration (or you can launch it to take a quick peek before we make the changes for some before & after goodness). Also, make sure you have VLC Player installed. For the download, visit this link. Open the Start Menu, type “Configuration” in the search bar, and then launch the Media Browser Configuration Tool.

Change Theme (Optional) & Set Up VLC as an External Player

I’m going to lay out step by step how to install a great-looking theme and set up external players in Media Browser. It’s really just a couple of simple steps.

1. Click the “Plug-Ins” tab in the Media Browser Configuration Tool 2. Click “More Plug-Ins” to view the packaged plug-ins
3. Select and install the Chocolate Theme

In my opinion this is the best looking packaged plug-in theme for Media Browser. I’m sure you’ll be impressed by it. If you want you can check out the other themes as well. Now on to configuring VLC to play a certain file type.

4. Click on “Advanced” towards the top of the window to activate more configuration options for Media Browser
5. Select the tab labeled External Players
6. Click “Add” on the bottom left
7. Select the type of file you want VLC to play and hit “OK” 8. Select the file type in the left pane, and click “Select Player” on the right
9. Set the path for VLC, which is usually something like ‘C:\Program Files\VideoLAN\VLC\vlc.exe’
10. Change the parameters on the bottom right to : "{0}" "--fullscreen" "--sub-track=99" "sub-track-id=99"

This will ensure that VLC launches in  full-screen and with no subtitles on.

11. Test it! Navigate to Media Browser from the main Media Center menu, select the folder you have added to the library that contains your test file, and launch the file. It should minimize Media Center and launch the file in a full-screen VLC window. To return to Media Center simply close the VLC window.

By default you can’t close VLC with a Media Center remote, but I’ve found a workaround. In my next guide I’ll talk about using Eventghost to control VLC Player. This is a great trick to play Blu-Ray rips or other HD movies in Media Center without downloading codecs. If you have any questions or need help, leave a comment!

About Mike

Mike recently graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Information Systems and currently works as a data manager in the organ transplant department for a large healthcare company, mainly working with Oracle databases and systems administration and occasionally doing some web development. On the side he enjoys playing with the Android platform and Windows Media Center. He also spends time as an administrator on the Mintywhite Forums.

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3 thoughts on “Ultimate Media Center: Use External Players for Broader Media Center Playback”

  1. Farrboat says:

    THanks fo the good tutorial

    I allready have movies in the media center

    Now, if I go to media browser there are no files to play

    When I play a movie it has lots of noise around the edges of images

    If I p;lay the ts files in vlc directlly thery are perfect


  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the Tip! Works great after I upgraded Media Browser to latest version.  Please post a guide on how to configure Eventghost! :)

  3. Pappacool says:

    Ok, this is great, but i have no possibility to select music files and play them with VLC

Comments are closed.

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