Posted by Brian @ 11:45 am on March 27th 2011

Fix the black screen of death playing x264/h.264 mkvs on WD TV HD player

I have a Western Digital WD TV HD media player that I really like, even though it was quickly orphaned by Western Digital as a product. Maybe someday we’ll have legislation that requires a corporation to provide a guaranteed time of product support, including software updates and bug fixes.

Anyway, once in a while the WD refuses to play a video in the Matroska “mkv” format, particularly those using the H.264 codec encoded with the mkvmerge utility. When this happens the WD basically shows a black screen and more or less locks up. Once that happens on the WD you can only eject the HD and reboot.

The fix for this is to remove video compression on the mkv in question, which sounds daunting but really is only a one-line command that takes a couple of minutes to execute and doesn’t change the quality of the video. You need the mkvmerge program which is part of the mkvtoolnix package in Ubuntu. mkvtoolnix is also available for Windows if you’re stuck there.

Here’s the command:
mkvmerge -o output.mkv --compression -1:none input.mkv

Where input.mkv is your original file and output is the fixed file.
(Edited: I changed the command to remove /all/ compression in an mkv)

Posted by Brian @ 6:08 pm on March 7th 2011

After searching many years

My quest to find the lost city of snacks is finally at an end.