VDPAU: VC-1 or which card to buy

This article answer the question where VC-1 is and probably will be used and how much.

For the impatient ones: Buy a 8400GT (G98) or 9300GT (G96), because you’ll never know ;-) (or see full list here)
And if you’ve already bought a graphics card, and want to know if your card is capable of playing back VC-1 content with Nvidia’s VDPAU, you can do this with this little tool: vdpinfo

On 14th of November 2008 Nvidia released its first hardware accelerated video driver for Linux. They called this video output driver VDPAU: Video Display and Presentation API for UNIX. Since this day you can (more or less) watch HD content encoded in

  • MPEG2
  • H.264 (MPEG4/AVC)
  • WMV3
  • VC-1

But only a few graphics cards have the ability to decode VC-1 on hardware.

But where to get HD content from at all and what are the differences between the above listed formats?
Well – the HD-DVD AACS DRM protection has been cracked in 2007 and the software tool AnyDVD can ‘backup’ Blu-Ray disks since may 2008. Since then there is a lot HD content available in the wild. If you e.g. look for ‘1080p‘ and ‘x264‘ at PirateBay, you’ll get a huge list of available HD titles, all encoded in x264, which is nothing else but the H.264 format. The usual container format for such files is the Matroska container. The extension is ‘.mkv‘.
If your only source for HD content are such dubious sites, like PirateBay (shame on you), then any Nvidia card starting with the 8xxx series would suffice.

But let’s get serious and let’s go back in time a few years from now.

The time video DVD started their triumphal procession across the world, no video playback with Linux was available those days. The commercial content was scrambled, and you had to posses a hardware- or a commercial software player in order to watch it. These software players were available for Windows, and yes, the name implies it, they weren’t free of charge.
The DVD protection got hacked in 1999, and due to a brute force attack against the weak content Scramble System (CSS<->libdvdcss) it’s possible and legal to watch scrambled DVDs on Linux today.

And as history repeat itself, not only the VHS war and era has ended, so did the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray war ended also. And both, HD-DVD was hacked in 2007 and the Blu-Ray scrambling system BD+ was cracked last year, too.
This makes the way free for Blu-Ray video disk playback on Linux. I don’t want to spread rumors. There is no player available yet, and it’s only speculation that there will be an Blu-Ray player (library) for Linux soon.

Under the assumption, that there will be an available Blu-Ray player for Linux in the near future, the necessity of VC-1 hardware decoding is rising.
The table on the next page shows a list of the most popular Blu-Ray titles in a German online store this month.