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Troubleshooting WMP - Flickering in Windows Media Player

written by: •edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 8/4/2011

Do you sometimes have trouble with video files that flicker when played back in Windows Media Player? If so, here are some possible fixes.

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    Playing video on your PC actually requires a lot of the machine, and sometimes it has trouble playing the video smoothly and as a result you get weird picture problems. If you are experiencing flickering in Windows Media Player 11 while trying to watch a video, there are many possible causes for this problem. Likewise, there is a variety of solutions to try. In this article, I will run down the most common causes for video flickering in Windows Media Player, and offer ways to fix the problem. The issue often just involves a software update, but sometimes hardware deficiencies are to blame.

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    Media Player Settings

    Media Player Options 

    The most common cause of video flicker in Windows Media Player is when hardware acceleration is enabled. For some reason related to limitations of the hardware, this causes people a lot of trouble when playing some video file types. If your videos are flickering and video hardware acceleration is turned on, then turn it off. If your videos are flickering and the acceleration is turn off, then turn it on.

    To adjust the video hardware acceleration in Windows Media Player 11 for Vista or Windows 7, go to ToolsOptions. Under the Performance tab, you will see an area marked DVD and video playback. Uncheck the box that says Turn on DirectX video Acceleration for WMV files.

    If you are using Windows XP and Media Player 11, go to ToolsOptions, then under the Performance tab you will see a slider for Video Acceleration. Just make it the opposite of whatever it is set to, but you can start by setting it to None and see if your video files will play without flickering.

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    Video Drivers

    Any time your computer is having video problems, either from trying to play video files or just general issues with the display or in certain games, and then you should update your video drivers. Sometimes this can be done via Windows Update, or you may need to go to the manufacturer’s website to get the most up-to-date drivers.

    The majority of computers these days have a video chipset made by either ATI or nVidia, and you can get the latest video drivers from their sites at ATI.com or Nvidia.com. Be sure to know your correct make and model for the laptop in order to get the right drivers. You may have to look at the bottom of the computer to get the specific model. It never hurts to do a full reinstall of the video drivers, just in case there is a problem.

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    Video Codecs

    DivX Player 

    Video files use codecs to encode and decode the audio and video portions of the file. A codec is just a format type that uses compression methods to build the multimedia file. If you try to play a video that was made using a codec you do not have, Media Player will attempt to update itself but I have found that this does not work most of the time.

    The most commonly used codec right now is called DivX, and you can download its codecs and players from DivX.com. Another one to look for is called XVid, and you can download those codecs and players from Xvid.org. These programs also include their own media file players that you may want to try as an alternative.

    If the video file is from a vendor or customer, you may need to ask them what software they used to create the video. Some devices, like surveillance camera systems, use propriety formats that require special players where Windows Media Player won't work properly at all.

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    Multiple Display Issues with Laptops

    One problem I have run into is when people are using a laptop with a projector and try to play a video while displaying to both the laptop screen and the projector at the same time. Sometimes the video will not play at all and other times you can get it to play only if you drag the window off screen so that a portion is visible.

    What’s happening is that the laptop’s video capabilities just can’t push that much data to two displays at the same time, so the video often won’t play on the projector screen since it is considered a secondary monitor. If you run into this problem, you should might consider upgrading your laptop’s RAM or just use one display instead of trying to do both at the same time.

    Some laptops let you go into the BIOS to designate the amount of memory dedicated to video, and this may also be an option although that memory will be taken away from other programs so it could result in other performance issues.

References

  • Display Properties screenshot taken by author.
  • DivX screenshot courtesy of DivX.com.
  • Author's personal experience in the IT industry.