BluRay playback on Windows 7

Recently I upgraded to a 1080p screen and a 5.1 speaker set to compelent my Windows Media Center home theatre PC. Suddenly those low-quality 700MB DVD rips with stereo sound and about as many pixels as a Nokia phone from the last millennium don’t seem so great. It was time to go high-definition.

I downloaded a slightly compressed BluRay rip, but it was 15GB and took a week to download. My ISP seems to be rate-limiting filesharers these days, which doesn’t help. I searched for legal HD movie downloads but I couldn’t find any in the UK. Even if there were such a site, there’s still no getting round the fact that a good quality video is going to be at least 10GB.

So I decided to buy a BluRay drive and some discs. I popped the SATA drive into my media PC and it was immediately detected. So I put a BluRay disc in the drive, but Media Center said that software had to be installed to play BluRay discs. That’s OK – not entirely unexpected and hopefully just as simple as installing any other video codec.

The BluRay drive came with a CD of software, including Cyberlink PowerDVD, which said it could play BluRays. So I installed it, and it can indeed play BluRays. Unfortunately it offers no integration with Media Center, and to play a BluRay you have to scrabble around on your hands and knees with the keyboard and mouse.

After some searching online, I discovered an app called TotalMedia Theatre. Several people in home theatre forums had recommended it as an app that sort of integrates into Media Center. It’s a bit ugly because it minimises Media Center and launches its own splash screen before starting to play the BluRay, but at least it doesn’t require manual intervention.

Getting 5.1 audio out of TotalMedia Theatre took a bit of prodding at the settings, and at the buttons on the front of my Sony receiver, but it seems to be fine now. So, my first high-defition, surround-sound BluRay experience tonight will be to watch… erm….  Frost/Nixon. A dialogue-driven political drama. Never mind!

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