Windows Media Center users have enjoyed on-the-fly transcoding for some time, courtesy of Transcode 360. While the developer says he expects "someone to knock up a transcoding solution not too far down the line" for Windows Media Player 11 and Windows Media Connect (read: not Windows Media Center), he suggests that it won't be him doing it.
So, until Microsoft adds support for more codecs or offers up an application capable of transcoding (to WMV) and streaming on-the-fly (okay, that will never happen), we're forced to manually transcode our non-WMV files into WMVs and then, if we wish to stream, point our 360s at the WMV files (on our PCs). That's the solution. Now, we're gonna show you how it's done:
Luckily, Happy Beggar has already taken care of most of the legwork. The site recently compared three (WMV-capable) transcoding applications: VLC, WinAvi 7.7, and Windows Media Encoder. The clear winner, in both speed and quality, was VLC, an open source media player that has a history of proven functionality. VLC is what we'll use for this guide.
Step One: Download VLC (official website). Exctract the folder to the root of your hard disc drive (usually "C:\"):
For clarity, rename folder as "vlc":
Step Two: To make things even easier, Happy Beggar provides us with a supplemental batch file that optimizes transcoding (download here).
Step Three: Move/copy batch file into the folder where the videos you wish to transcode are contained:
Step Four: Drag and drop a video file onto the batch file:
Command Prompt will automatically launch (and execute batch script), followed by VLC; transcoding begins:
(Arrow: WMV is automatically added to the oringal file's folder)
[Note: Transcoding times will vary. Happy Beggar was able to convert a typical 42-minute TV show (hour-long program with commercials removed) from XviD to WMV in 13 minutes; it took us just over twenty minutes for the same size file.]Step Five:
At this point, you can transer the newly created WMV file(s) to a thumbdrive or burn them onto a CD/DVD; or better, stream them from your PC (Windows XP required) to your Xbox 360. [For help establishing a connection between your PC and Xbox 360, see here
You could use Windows Media Player 11 (guide here
) or TVersity (guide here
) to tag your videos for sharing, but we've found the simpliest approach is to add your WMV files (as they're created) to a folder (example: "My Videos") that has been set up to share with the Xbox 360.
To set up a folder for sharing, launch the Windows Media Connect application (under Network and Internet Connections) from the Control Panel:
Select the "Sharing" tab and add the folder you keep your WMV videos in:
- 1. Select "Sharing"
- 2. Click "Add..."
- 3. Locate folder (and rename, if desired)
- 4. Allow folder to be shared with Xbox 360
- 5. Click "OK" to add
Now it's time to fire up your Xbox 360 (first: make sure your PC is on and Windows Media Connect is enabled). Navigate to the Media Blade and select "Videos," and then (1) select "Computer"; (2) select the video you wish to stream; (3) Select "Play":
(on HD monitor):
On standard-def TV:
On 57-inch Projection HDTV:
[Note: video quality will vary and is dependant on several key factors: (1) quality of original video file; (2) transcoding settings (Happy Beggar batch file is designed to use optimal settings); (3) the display -- we found that videos looked best on a 25-inch standard-def TV because the lower resolution muted most of the WMV's imperfections (due to compression).]
While tedious, transcoding your video files to WMV is simple -- and free. If you're the type to catch up on TV's latest hunched over your computer screen -- or perhaps delve into other, more sordid,
types of video -- now you can consider moving that experience onto your Xbox 360. Enjoy.
[Thanks to Happy Beggar
for its good work!]