Saturday, September 02, 2023

Easy 10-bit video support on Windows

This article will help you with the fact that many Microsoft Windows applications do not, by default, view cinema camera output, including 10-bit files and the HEVC (also known as H.265) codec. Have you ever asked yourself...

  • Why won't my video application play my video files?
  • Why can't I see icons for my video file in Windows Explorer?
  • How can I see full technical information for my video files?

Read on for solutions, most of which are free and easy to achieve. 

Let's address the first problem, playback of video files. It is sometimes wrongly stated that Windows itself doesn't support 10-bit or HEVC. This is incorrect. The problem is that many applications do not include this support. Examples include Windows Media Player, Windows Film & TV, and VLC.

There are three solutions.

Solution 1: Use a different video player

Install the feature-rich and free Potplayer, produced by Korean firm Kakao. This plays 10-bit video and HEVC codec without any further fuss. The installation will prompt you for the option to "Install additional codec (OpenCodec)", but this step is is unnecessary.

Tip: Once a file is opened, tap Ctrl-F1 or choose "Playback/System Info" from the File menu. This provides detailed information on the various streams in your file. Very handy!

Solution 2: Buy the Microsoft HEVC support

If you open an HEVC file in Microsoft's "Film & TV" you will be prompted to purchase the "HEVC Video Extensions" plugin from the Microsoft store for €0.99 / £0.79. Once installed, this application works fine. 

This solution is also required to get HEVC support in the free version of DaVinci Resolve. I am not sure why Blackmagic don't build in this codec support, but there you are!

Solution 3: Fix VLC

If you prefer using VLC, you must make two Preference changes. First, go to the Input & Codecs tab and disable "Hardware-accelerated decoding", as shown below.

Next, go to the Video tab and change the "Output" to "OpenGL video output for Windows". Other people recommend "OpenGL video output" but this is incorrect, as you will then lose the mouse cursor when over the main application window.

Display video thumbnails

The second problem is viewing thumbnails for your clips in Windows Explorer. The solution is to install Icaros and run the configuration when prompted. You'll see something like the following.

This screen allows you to target the files you wish Icaros to handle. I simply chose the preset "Video" (highlighted in the screenshot above). This won't immediately change your Explorer view, because icons are cached on your system for efficiency. Click "Thumbnailing" to turn Icaros off. Then click this a second time to turn the app back on. This clears any cached thumbnails. 

You should now see thumbnails like the following in Explorer.

Aside: A better Explorer

Truth be told, I never use Windows Explorer. It's a poor way of managing files. For general use, I prefer MultiCommander. For media, I use Faststone Image Viewer. This browser supports a large number of file formats, including photo RAW. But to display video thumbnails it too requires Icaros.

View video technical info

Install MediaInfo. Now you can use the context menu in Explorer to get info on your video files. Simply right-click and choose MediaInfo. (In Windows 11 you need to choose "Show More Options" to see the customised menu.)

The interface is highly configurable, but the view is quite ugly. I do prefer the Potplayer display.

Codec help

If you are still not able to see your video files in your preferred applications, you can try installing the K-Lite Codec Pack. This comes in various packages, but "Basic" is all you need at this point. Choose the default install options. This will give you H.264, HEVC, HEVC10, and VP9 codecs. However, I have not had much luck with this approach. Neither is it necessary if you follow my other advice.

DaVinci Resolve

The free version of Resolve does not by default play HEVC content on Windows. Clips will appear as "Media off-line"... which is an incorrect error statement. The clips are very much present, as demonstrated by the fact the audio plays correctly. You require Microsoft's HEVC Video Extensions (see above).

The paid version of the software, Resolve Studio, plays such clips without Microsoft's plugin.


All of the above has been tested and text updated, 15 December 2023.


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