How to Improve DVD Playback on Your PC
by Kevin J. Vella, Public Relations Manager, Uniblue Systems
Up to a few years ago, when computers were much less powerful than they
are today, watching movies required specialized hardware that was rather
expensive. With the advent of better processors, better movie encoding and
decoding technology, and Digital Versatile Disk (DVD) technology, you can
comfortably watch your favorite movie on your PC without much trouble. Or
Modern computer hardware technology allows you to watch a DVD
inexpensively - all you need is a DVD drive, a decent CPU and good DVD
software that allows you to run your movie. However, even when playing DVD
with the most powerful computer systems you can experience glitches (e.g.,
the screen freezes for a split second or video and audio playback are not
synchronized for a few seconds). These glitches are called stuttering. So
how can you minimize and avoid stuttering? Or how can you improve overall
DVD playback on your PC?
What Causes the Problem?
Dedicated hardware (e.g. a DVD player) does only one thing - decoding
movies to play them for your entertainment. Hence, you do not experience
any stuttering. Many times, though, it is either not convenient to buy or
use a DVD player. In these cases, you would play your DVDs on your PC.
Computer processors have to keep up with a number of processes while
running DVDs. Moreover, they can only do one thing at a time. So they will
prioritize among processes indiscriminately and they will switch rapidly
from one task to another giving you the impression that they are handling
several tasks at the same time.
Each running task gets a small slice of CPU time before the CPU is handed
over the next task. If your DVD decoding software doesn't get enough of
those slices, it won't have time to decode all the frames in your DVD
movie at high quality. The result, as you probably know, is dropped
frames, stutter, and other annoying effects.
What Can You Do?
What can you do about prevent the DVD decoding software from running
out of CPU time? There are a few things you should always do before
watching DVD movies on your computer:
1. Reboot the computer before you begin to make sure the operating system
is completely stable.
2. Terminate all programs that aren't absolutely necessary, ideally
everything except the DVD software and some system processes. Use WinTasks
to terminate as many processes as possible. By using WinTasks, you can
terminate many background processes that don't show up in the CTRL + ALT +
DEL dialog box. As long as these are not system processes or anti-virus
programs, they can usually be stopped for better results. When you have
terminated all unnecessary processes, save the current process
configuration to a preset. This way you can simply click the Preset button
to stop and start the right processes before playing DVDs.
3. Make sure you have the latest version of DirectX and DX Media.
4. Try increasing the priority of the DVD software. You may have to try a
few different settings before you find the optimal priority for your
system. Priority settings can also be saved to a
5. Make sure you have the latest drivers for your DVD drive.
6. Lower you screen resolution and colour depth to 800 x 600 and 16-bit
colour when playing DVDs (32-bit colour may be preferable on some graphics
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