I got myself a Blu-Ray (BD) drive for my PC the other day, the LG CH12LS28 was $80 from IJK with shipping and everything. Out of the drives on offer it was the cheapest that also happened to be a burner.
It arrived on Wednesday, day before the Australia Day holiday. “Fantastic”, I thought, “now I’ll just dig up some decent BD player software”. I haven’t done this for a while because I don’t own many DVDs, and Media Player Classic or Windows Media Player does a fine job anyway. How Hard Can It Be?
How about the included software, a (probably cut-down) copy of PowerDVD? Eugh, no I don’t want to use your 1-click Install-friggen-everything autorun installer. I’ll just go and run setup.exe manually in the “PDVD” folder. Except that it bails out with a useless error message. Th-that’s fine, it’s n-not like I wanted to use your included software anyway!
I’ve used PowerDVD before, it was alright. I’ll go grab a trial copy and see if it’s worth the money. Not only is the website pretty average, I couldn’t download the demo! I went to download the 30-day trial (which wanted a name and email to send their newsletter to, did I just step back into the 90’s?) and it sent me a downloader app from Cnet to fetch the real installer. Seriously?
I was giving it the benefit of the doubt right up until the downloader app failed halfway through to get the 130MiB installer and threw an unhelpful error. Strike, you’re out!
WinDVD was still a thing last time I checked, maybe it’s okay. It looks like Corel has bought out the company since then. As seems to be far too common, the installer is fugly piece of work that arose when someone in the company said “hey this platform lets you change the colours and add round corners and skin the everliving shit out of installer!”, so they did. At least I could successfully download the installer directly from them.
The player itself is pretty “meh” to look at, and functionality is thin on the ground. Am I asking for the wrong thing? Play the disc, lemme control the playback a bit, stuff like that. There is a bunch of options, for stuff that’s entirely irrelevant to me. Why can’t I get a screencap, by the way? There’s a button for it, greyed-out.
Well, maybe I can live with this, like having Stockholm syndrome. I’ll just eject the disc for now and put it away. Oops, that’s sorta made WinDVD unhappy even though it wasn’t playing. The damned thing has hung and is unresponsive. Terminating the process from the task manager doesn’t work and now the fucker is sitting there with a blank grey window. My BD drive isn’t closing either - normally a light nudge on the front triggers the tray to go in, but not now. A firm push shows I’m clearly pushing against the gears now, and the eject button ain’t doing much either. FUCK!
About five minutes later, WinDVD deigns to close itself and disappear, and the drive tray is responsive again. Another few seconds and WinDVD is uninstalled with extreme prejudice.
Caption: Register my fucking WHAT!? Yeah, no.
Can this really be the state of the art when it comes to BD software? The googles seem to think so, but some people on various forums seem to like Arcsoft TotalMedia Theatre. Out of everything I’ve tried so far, this is almost inoffensive.
Not too many surprises, and not overly shiny. I’d like to customise the keyboard shortcuts a bit, but it otherwise works, and the graphical UI elements know how to be small and stay out of the way. I still can’t take a screenshot, is this a prohibited UOP (User OPeration) on the disc or something? Creators can disable things like fast-forward, rewind, chapter jumps, etc., but that’s usually for copyright notices and stuff, not petty stuff like this.
TMT also put this TM Server thing in my system tray. It’s apparently meant to allow control from a phone or something, which is cool but it’d be nice if they asked or mentioned it anywhere. I don’t believe I saw it in the installer.
TMT seems like the least-worst out of this limited sampling. Then I read about AnyDVD. It handles the dirty work of decrypting the disc, letting you use whatever the hell you want to play the BD. Like Media Player Classic.
I’ve used Slysoft’s products a fair bit in the past, and they work. After faffing about with the trial version of AnyDVD HD for a bit I saw I would have difficulties unless I got the full version, so I forked out my 78 AUD on the spot. I can’t say I’m disappointed. Put the BD back in the drive, AnyDVD did its thing, and I could open the files in MPC very easily.
I should emphasise that this isn’t a perfect solution. I don’t get the pretty BD menus and navigation stuff. Nor can I make use of 3D content and BD-Live and whatnot. People will say “who cares?”, but they’re legit features. Those are nice, really. I couldn’t give AnyDVD+MPC to my parents and expect them to use it.
But it is good for me. It lets me play bluray discs and take screenshots. All I wanna do is play my video, and maybe pause and framestep every now and then to get some screenshots of tsundere girls so I can post them to my friends on IRC. That’s all I wanna do, man!
Maybe I’m looking at this all the wrong way. Maybe all the player software I looked at is heavily oriented for “home theatre”, and what I’m asking for is so utterly incompatible with that. But should it be so hard to mow your lawn with a Bugatti Veyron?
And why is video sizing so hard? Players seem loathe to admit it, but BD video is made up of pixels, like lots of other digital media. Full-screen mode is good, but what if I just want the video to display 1-to-1 pixels on my screen? In MPC I just push ‘2’ for 100% Zoom. Maybe precise zoom sizes are a grass-cutting sort of option, not a “hurtle along at 400km/h” option.