What do the MPEG-2 and VC-1 decoder options get you on the Raspberry Pi?


Last week the Raspberry Pi foundation announced you could purchase MPEG-2 and VC-1 decoders for the Raspberry Pi. The MPEG-2 option costs £2.40 and the VC-1 codec costs £1.20, you buy the options from the Raspberry Pi store and then they mail you the codes.

The codes that the Raspberry Pi foundation email must be added to a file called config.txt which is located on the boot partition of the Pi’s SD card. You open the file and add the lines to the file. You must do this for each image you have built for the Raspberry Pi and the code is linked to the serial number of your Raspberry Pi.

So what do you get when your purchase the MPEG-2 decoder and what does the VC-1 decoder do?

I copied a few files from my Media Center system to an external hard drive (to I could rule out any network issues). I used the latest version of Raspbmc and the recordings were taken from a Windows 7 machine with DVB-T2 card. I also tested WMV (Windows Media Video) files and a un-encrypted DVD file.

I tested the formats one at a time with a combination decoder licences installed, here are my results:


Format With out decoders With MPEG-2 With VC-1 Only
Windows Recorded TV SD Recording (WTV) Audio Only Video and Audio Audio Only
Windows Recorded TV HD (WTV) Audio Only Video and Audio* Audio Only
Windows Media Video (WMV) Will not play Will not play Video and Audio
DVD** Audio Only Video and Audio Audio Only


* BBC One HD recordings would load but not play correctly, Channel 4 HD worked fine.

** Un-encrypted DVD

So if you want to use a Raspberry Pi to watch Windows Media Center recordings you will need the MPEG-2 decoder but unless you want to watch WMV files you don’t need the VC-1 option. If you want to watch DVD files all you need is the MPEG-2 decoder.

I will be bringing my Raspberry Pi to our user group in September if you want to have a go with it in person. Over the weekend I recorded a video testing some of the formats which I have embedded.

About the author Ian Dixon:
Founder of The Digital Lifestyle.com and host of The Digital Lifestyle Show. Started podcasting in 2005, Windows Entertainment and Connected Home MVP. Lover of gadgets from the Raspberry Pi to the iPad, Android to Windows 8. Also a massive motor racing fan