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.
- 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.
- Failed Getting TVersity to Stream to Xbox 360 (December 8, 2006)
- Success with Movie Playback on my Xbox 360 using VLC (November 23, 2006)
- Using TiVo Series 3 in Canada (October 15, 2006)