PapaJohn Productions

Newsletter #143
Sherlock - The Codec Detective!
 

 
I don't know if this issue is a good idea. As important as they are to video work, the understanding of codecs remains an elusive goal for me. It's for that reason that I thought taking a closer look at Marc Liron's 'Sherlock - codec detective' might help. I don't think it did, but I'll share with you what I found. 
 
As the world turns, there are more and more codecs to decode and encode videos... and to sometimes cause Movie Maker to crash or hang. The situation continues in Vista... which provides less visibility than XP to the installed codecs.
 
XP Device ManagerVista dropped the lists of codecs that XP's Device Manager > Sound, video and game controllers provides, leaving just the device specific line items. Utilities from third parties such as GSpot are needed even more than they are in XP. 
 
Codecs are confusing and mysterious. When you're missing one, it's hard to know which one to get and where to get it from... it's easier to turn to a mega-codec pack and dump them all in... but that sometimes results in things getting worse.
 
When a codec is involved in a crash, and you can tell from the event viewer data, it might be listed in Movie Maker's compatibility list to easily uncheck and resolve. If it's not listed in the event data, or not shown in the list, you need to do some detective work.
 
Note that codecs can be involved in issues with Vista's DVD Maker, and the app's synergy with Movie Maker is such that you resolve it the same way, by using Movie Maker's compatibility list.

 
This issue won't present a good understanding of codecs or how to resolve issues with them. Nor will it present anything really new. What I'll do is use Sherlock to check my laptop's codecs to see how things are, and think about what, if anything, I should do. I'm not having problems with Movie Maker or other software, so it'll just be an academic exercise.
 

 
Sherlock
 
Sherlock - The Codec Detective utility isn't new app. It's been around for a few years, during which my main tool has been GSpot. Sherlock was developed by Marc Liron, one of the Microsoft MVPs in Digital Media. Here's an excerpt from Marc's website...

I noticed that there was no reliable utility that could:

# Determine the codecs installed on a Windows XP computer

# Check to see if any of the codec's were "BROKEN"  (will be highlighted in RED....)

# Export the data to a text file for technical support!

# Was FAST to run on a PC and did NOT require installing...

# SMALL enough for download by modem!

...So I created one!

I call it:

SHERLOCK - The Codec Detective

The important thing to remember here is that YOU do NOT need to understand what this software DOES!

You just RUN it, click the SAVE button and it CREATES the TEXT file automatically...

All YOU do then is email the file OR "copy and paste" the contents of the file to whoever is providing you with technical support!

Couldn't be easier!

I'll also include this disclaimer and request from Marc...

Disclaimer

I'll use the GSpot utility to cross-check Sherlock. Before getting into it, here are...

 
... a few notes...
 

 
Notes...
 
The video explosion made it to our local newspaper. I saw a picture on the front page the other day with a pretty severe motion blur across it. The caption said to go to their website and watch the online video... so it's a daily newspaper including links to videos!!!!
 
Vista Corner
 
I found a bug or quirk of DVD Maker that I wanted to formally report to Microsoft, but didn't know what official submittal to make now that the beta is closed. From what I see in Vista, the only offers to submit such info is after a crash that leaves info in the event viewer. But what do you do when there isn't a crash or such data?
 
I checked with Microsoft to see how an MVP should make such submittals, and also how anyone else might do it. The result is a new section at the bottom of my website's About Movie Maker page. Use the links to submit whatever you want.
 
Making Movies with Vista! the six page article is in the Spring 2007 Special Edition of MaximumPC, on bookstands now to May 29, 2007. Starting on page 78... the article covers the movie making process from camcorder tape to viewing it on a standard video DVD.
 
 
.... back to the main topic...
 

 
Sherlock - the Codec Detective
 
Sherlock is for XP systems only.
 
Downloading and installing...
 
As Marc says, there's no installation. Download the sherlock.exe file, put it in the folder of your choice, and run it.
 
Broken CodecsAs Sherlock opens, it goes through the computer and checks codecs. On my laptop, after the checking is done, it warns about one audio codec and three video codecs being broken...
 
pressing OK
 
The warning says to click on the respective codecs in the list to see more info...
 
Doing it gives the same message for each of the broken codecs.
 
Driver not found
 
The bottom line seems to be that each of the broken items has a registry entry, but not a file.... the registry has the friendly name of the codec, but Sherlock can't provide detailed info about the version because the data resides in the file, which is missing.
 
Broken for my items means the codec file isn't there. Sherlock's comment about the codec not being uninstalled properly means the uninstall didn't clean up the registry.
 
If you have a tech support person, lists of installed and broken codecs are what the utility produces. Installed ones get lots of info, and broken ones are simply listed by the friendly names.
 

 
Sherlock's Info...
 
After the warnings about broken codecs, Sherlock shows you a list of the installed audio and video codecs. The picture shows the audio list.
 
Info includes the path to the driver, except for the broken ones, which show no info in the Driver field. Here's what I get from it for my first broken codec, the Morgan Stream Switcher.
 
Morgan Stream Switcher
 
A broken car can sit on a street or in a garage, not hurting anything. Maybe a broken codec is similar. A small file hanging around but not hurting anything is OK by me. If I need the missing or broken codec, that's another story. For now I'm doing fine without them.
 

 
What does GSpot say about the broken items?
 
GSpot Missing FileGSpot has a column for the Driver File name. And it highlights in red those with missing driver files.
 
Here's what it shows for the Morgan Stream Switcher. As with Sherlock, it must be getting the info from the registry. ...   
 
GSpot - More InfoDouble-clicking a selected codec in Sherlock doesn't get any more info... but in GSpot, here's what you see.
 
While Sherlock told me 4 codecs are broken, GSpot says 8 are missing files. The bold ones are those that are reported by both Sherlock and GSpot.
GSpot reported all that Sherlock did, along with 4 more.
 

 
Check the Device Manager...
 
A check of the lists of Audio and Video codecs under Sound, video, and game controllers shows none of the eight with missing files.
 

 
Search the registry...
 
Run > regedit > search for 'Morgan'... the first hit is in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT > CLSID > HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{083863F1-70DE-11D0-BD40-00A0C911CE86} > Instance > HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{083863F1-70DE-11D0-BD40-00A0C911CE86}\Instance\{D3CD7858-971A-4838-ACEC-40CA5D529DC8} >
Registry
There's one other registry instance which shows the same info as above. 
 
Searching for 'DivxAntiFreeze', one of those found by GSpot but not Sherlock, shows similar info...
DivxAntiFreeze
I wonder why GSpot shows more codecs than Sherlock!!
 

 
Search the hard drive...
 
For 'morgan' and the CLSID number... not found
 

 
Searching the internet... got lots of info
 
For 'morgan stream switcher' - got this Morgan Stream Switcher Website, which rings a bell or two.
 
The site refers to downloading and running MMSwitch.exe... mmswitch.ax is one of the 'problem codecs' on my website page. 
 
Morgan Site InfoThe Morgan-Multimedia site covered codec packs... mentioning MMSwitch.dll and MMSwitch.ax.
 
Here's a couple interesting paragraphs from the site.
 
Where, when, why did I get the registry entry... did it come in with one of the installed video utilities or apps?
 
Things are difficult enough doing detective work on codecs, without having to sort good original ones from less than perfect hacked files. 
 

 
Search my personal database
 
I collect lots of info in my personal database... a search of it for 'morgan' got some info to add to the above...
DivX AntiFreeze Filter.. Divxaf.ax
Kristal Studio.. 
Ac3audio.ax
InterVideo Audio Decoder.. 
Iviaudio.ax
Morgan
Multimedia Stream Switcher.. 
Mmswitch.ax
FFDShow MPEG-4 Video Decoder.. 
Ffdshow.ax
DirectShow Subtitle Filter.. Subtitds.ax
The 6 codecs mentioned are all in the list of problem codecs in my Crashes and Hangs website page.
 
It's interesting how this short list correlates with my broken codecs.
 

 
Check my Movie Maker 2.1 Compatibility List...
 
... Iviaudio.ax is listed, and it's the only item unchecked. The others are not listed.
 

 
Back to the hard drive to search for Mmswitch.ax....
 
not found... maybe it was me who manually deleted it without cleaning out the registry. 
 

 
Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
 
It's great to not be having any codec problems with Movie Maker, and to have the luxury of just sniffing around my system to write a newsletter.
 
Sherlock did one thing well... providing an immediate but short list of broken codecs. GSpot confirmed the list, doubled it, and provided a bit more info.
 
GSpot's latest version works on Vista, while Sherlock is currently for XP only. Continue to use GSpot, especially useful with the dropped codec info from Vista's Device Manager.
 
I added another codec to the problem list a couple days ago... Nero's NeResize.ax... maybe the user had a hacked version and not the real one!!! How does a tech supporter know? Codec issues are not going away soon.
 
Have a great week and enjoy your video work...
 
PapaJohn