Dale Dietrich
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Success with Video Streaming to my Xbox 360 using VLC

Categories: New Tech

For years I have been looking for a convenient way to stream my videos (movies, video clips, video game trailers etc.) from PCs on my home network to my HDTV in the living room. Today I have had my first success using the new video streaming functionality built into the most recent XBox 360 Dashboard software update.

This Arne360 blog entry describes the basics of setting up the new Windows Media Player 11, sharing media directories with the 360 and setting up the 360 so it can access content from a home network. That was all well and good, but a continuing basic problem was that the Microsoft video streaming solution only supports their proprietary (but still very good) .wmv codec. Most of my video content is not in the .wmv format – or at least it wasn't.

Today I stumbled across this Joystiq post about the freeware transcoding program called VLC (download here) (official website). This program is butt-simple to use.

  • Download and install the VLC program.
  • Download and save this text onto your desktop into a batch file (ie: Copy and paste it into Notepad and save it as VLC.bat onto your desktop).
  • Then simply drag and drop most any video in any format (or at least any format I use) onto the batch file's icon on the desktop, and it will automatically be transcoded into the .wmv format.

When done, a WMV version of the video will be saved in the same directory of the source file and, assuming that directory is accessible to your Xbox 360, it will be accessible and playable on the 360 with  no further effort. It's THAT simple.

All is not peaches and cream though. There's good news and bad news.

First the good news:

  • Once set up, it works like a charm.
  • Transcoding with VLC is easy-peasy.
  • The picture quality is as good as the source – in this case, most of my videos/movies look fantastic when played back through the Xbox 360.
  • All my .wmv videos are easily and instantly available for playback through the 360 – no more DVD flipping.

Now the bad news:

  • All the videos (even when sorted in different directories on my PC) end up being tossed into ONE long directory when listed on the Xbox 360. In my case there’s some 140 .wmv videos, video snippets, tutorials, video poscasts, demos, movies, trailers etc. on my computer. When I access them through the 360, they all show up in one long alphabetical list.
  • There is no way, that I can find so far, to separate them into sub-folders on the 360. This is notable because when I view my pictures or access my music through the 360, they are sorted into directories as they are on my PC. This anomaly is quite odd.
  • The fast forward and rewind seems to be busted. When I try to fast forward and rewind the .wmv files when watching them on the 360, they just stutters as if I was playing the videos back in frame-by-frame mode – there certainly is no "fast" movement forward or back.
  • I can only play and pause – though pressing the chapter forward and back buttons does seem to move me forward and back in indeterminant and varying time increments backwards and forwards through some, but not all, videos.
  • The Xbox 360 does not remember where you I left off when returning to a video that was previously viewed (as TiVo does).

Upcoming Streaming Through my TiVo Series 3

  • TiVo recently announced a new service about to be launched that does effectively the same thing – and more.
  • The new TiVo service will allow users to stream Quick Time, .wmv format and Mpeg 4 movies/podcasts/video content stored on the PC to the TiVo.
  • Since TiVo will also play videos coded in the .wmv codec, the transcoded video files I'm creating now for playback on the 360 will be equally accessible through my TiVo Series 3 – once TiVo rolls out that software upgrade that is.

While I don't like the fact that all the videos are tossed into one directory on the 360, and while the fast forward and rewind functionality seems to be broken, it is still terrific to finally have all the videos I care about, permanently saved on my computer and playable at will on my Plasma TV through my Xbox 360 – no more DVD flipping! Yeah!

Note: I’m not talking about Microsoft’s new Xbox 360-based movie/tv download service that launched in the U.S. yesterday. That’s a whole different kettle of fish. For licensing reasons (Listen to Major Nelson's Podcast #201 on this topic for more info.), Microsoft has not yet launched this outside the U.S. No doubt the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and the PS3 launch made this a high priority for U.S. roll-out before the rest of the world. I expect Microsoft to extend this to Canada, Europe and the world as their team has time to negotiate the various country by country rights. I certainly am looking forward to it.

Sources: Joystiq | Arne360

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  • tim makres

    yeah….what about zune…….and div x?…..im about to go try that ….im havin problms connecting my laptop to the 360 thus far though……i’d rather watch my movies on the bigscreen instead of this thing…..i dnno i havn’t got a usb with the flat ends on both ends of it yet…..i only have a ethernet cable and that won’t work yet and i have a usb with a flat end and one of those phone style square ends …the 360 has a usb in like that so im about to go give that a shot………..packeges sent and recieved its just i can’t figure out how to stream yet….im feelin retarded

    any help would be great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • Dale Dietrich

    Other than the method above Tim, I’ve not successfully streamed movies to my Xbox 360. I’ve had several recommend TVersity to me since I wrote this article. I may give it a try, but so far I’ve not found anyone on the net describe how they got it to work and what I should/could expect.

    As for movies off my laptop, yes, this is how I used to do it. I have a home network all connected through Wireless A (Wireless G provides too much interference in my building). Anyway, my Dell Plasma has a VGA input so I just plug my laptop into that, started up the movie through my wireless home network and away she goes.

    The whole point of streaming through the Xbox was to eliminate this cumbersome method.

    Also, I’m expecting the new release of TiVo Series 3 software to offer similar functionality. So that may be my end game scenario this year.

    If I try TVersity and when TiVo upgrades its software to allow such streaming, I’ll definitely add posts to this blog describing the results I’ve seen.

  • tim makres

    thank u much……it seems i may have done something wayy wrong hooking it up…..
    i cazn’t get on xbox live anymore since my first attempt to do all this…it can’t recognize my ip address anymore….even though i can hop online with my laptop at the ame location……have i inadvertantly changed my xbox????……i’m not really upon networking
    and i reallly loved xbox live…..it recognizes my laptop on occasion but not all the time….mostly it wonder what ip address it’s looking for……

    this is somewhat disturbing..and i hope i won’t have to send my 360 back…..
    also with alot of games it gives me a insert xbox360 game page thats in like 3 languages……an error loading the game….

    u seem a little more educated than i with most of all this…..\\

    so what do u think?

  • Dale Dietrich

    Sorry, I can’t think of any way of helping you. I had set up my Xbox 360 to work with Media Connect (to view pictures on my PC and play my music) a year ago when I first got my Xbox.

    So, when I started using VLC with Windows Media Player 11 as described above, I did absolutely nothing to the Xbox 360. Navigating to the media blade and accessing my computer through it made the “video” option available – it wasn’t available before.

    I don’t know what changes you made on the 360, if any. If you did make changes then undo whatever you did on the 360.

    On the PC side, I find “System Restore”, [Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/System Restore] is the cure-all for many problems. Before installing any major new software I always set a restore point. If anything goes wrong, I restore the system to the prior restore point. I fyou have System Restore enabled you may be able to use it to set your system back to a date in time before you started fiddling.

    That’s all I can think of. I hope it helps.

    …Dale

  • mehelp

    dude please help me i am connected throught zune and i have all my videos im wmv format and they still dont play ill check this daily so please HEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLP

  • stewart

    Mehelp guy,

    in the program u should of downloaded, to make ur 360 connect, u cna choose where u want to get the vids fomr, jsut swt it to ur Downlaod folder form zune

    stewart,

    email me for help

    stewpot_smile2005@msn.com

  • Nate

    Hey Dale, I have a Dell 9100 Series Desktop PC and I have an Xbox 360. I was trying to stream videos the way you described it and something isn’t right. I have VLC and I have the batch file, but when I try to launch it, it an MS-DOS window briefly appears and disappears. Do you have any troubleshooting information about this subject?

  • joe

    Dale i have the exact same problem as nate. I downloaded the programs you said to and i couldn’t get it to work.

  • Brian

    That might be because in the batch file the path to the program is not correct, if you install the VLC program to the default directory you will have to edit the begining of the batch file from:

    “c:\vlc\vlc”

    to

    “C:\Program Files\VideoLAN\VLC\vlc”

    HTH

  • phil kruczkowski

    having the same issue with Xbox360 not recognizing any video files in my directories..
    tried the latest suggestions posted, but the .wmv files are not created…maybe I’m looking in the wrong place, but aren’t they supposed to move back to the source dir?

    thanks.
    philk

  • http://none josh

    I tried your batch file and it did the same thing it just popped up then i changed the program link to match my install like you put above and worked like a charm… also the newest version of tversity that just came out a few days after after the lastest update with the new video support and the directory support works MUCH better than the old one but I am going to transcode all of my videos so i can play them off of a usb drive instead of killing my cpu transcoding on the fly. Thanks, and I LOVE vlc btw its one of the best programs I have ever used I use it for many other things like steaming movies to friends and whatnot.

  • http://na.net THE DUDE

    why not just go to the TVersity site and read exactly what you can and cannot do. When you set up the codecs and TVersity properly you can play just about every divx, xvid, mpg and about every format available aswell as the uber cool feature of streaming directly from web URLs, podcasts, RSS feeds. It organises everything into nice seperate folders of which you can create your own if you want and also plays all music and images etc etc.
    Just set it up for the 2nd time earlier and I am very pleased with the results, there is only one thing: no fast forward or rewind on non-native formats on the 360 although this is an option on other network devices such as you desktop/laptop or indeed if you want to access your library remotely from anywhere in the world which you can do aswell!
    Pause/play and aspect ratio options do work on the 360, all the above i think is the same for the ps3 and wii aswell.
    And remember kids; gooooooooooooogle is your friend.

    BTW, go here for a good codec guide to ensure most vids work properly: http://www.digital-digest.com/articles/Xbox_360_DivX_XviD_Playback_Guide_page2.html

  • Nina

    I was having problems playing a avi on windows media player, everytime I opened the avi file it would crash. So I was trying to find some help online and I came across your post at

    http://www.techspot.com/vb/topic30683.html

    and I tried to do what you said with deleting the files etc. and that still didnt work, but I was going to try and convert it into a wmp file like you did above, downloaded the VLC Media Player and it worked perfectly in there. THANK YOU SO MUCH for your post!! *Hugs* You rock and deff know what your doing =)

  • jay

    I can not stream anything to my xbox. My pc does not recognize my 360 and visa-versa , It used to, just fine with my first xbox360 but I got the red ring and they sent me a new one( born on date of 8-07 very new )WHAT THE HELL? I have turned off fire walls and went through zune software I went through my media adition 2005, and I spent 3 hrs on the phone with microsoft no help (my phones batterys died) and nothing..What do I do?

  • jas

    hey i have a question about xbox (not 360).. i have evo x installed on it, was wondering if theres a way to go online through my xbox so it will have my “computer screen” on my tv

  • SleazyE

    Ok, I don’t know why everyone left this out but…
    You must put “VLC.exe” in the command line in the .bat…
    Example…
    “C:\VLC\VLC\vlc.exe”
    Or whatever your pathfile to your VLC executable (Program)….
    Happy Streaming!

  • Mike

    Ok i have it working, but the .avi file im turning into a .wmv file got shortened. the movie is supposed to be an hour and ahalf long but the wmv is only 31 seconds. can someone tell me what is going on and how to fix it?

  • Dale Dietrich

    Guys, sorry to have abandoned this topic. I don’t check the comments all that often. I have abandoned VLC and several others I have tested now that TiVo Series 2s, TiVo Series 3s and the Xbox 360 all pretty much do everything I want out of the box – accept Mpeg4s, wmvs, Dvix and XVid (and other formats) from my home network for playback through the devices to my HD TV. They do it all now pretty effortlessly. So there’s no point in trying to get these other gerry-rigged systems to work if you have a TiVo and/or an Xbox 360. I also understand that the PS3 will start supporting DivX/XVid soon, among other formats.

    Cheers.

    …Dale

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  • http://www.videogame911.com/playstation-3-repair/ playstation 3 repair

    I always install any major new software to set a restore point before. If an accident, I will return to the previous system restore point. Thanks for sharing.