Last month I blogged about the upcoming Xbox 360 update that would add MPEG-4 and h.264 video support. A few days before I first heard the news, I had ordered an Apple TV, which natively supports these formats. As soon as I found out that my Xbox 360 would support these newer formats, I quickly cancelled my order. I’d have to wait a month, but hopefully it would be worth it.
So at 5 am this morning, the update downloads to my 360. So I quickly flip over to the Media blade to see if the MP4 files shared from my PC will work, and… AND…!!!!
Nothing. I get a listing of a bunch of videos that the Xbox still doesn’t support (namely the XviD/Divx variety), but no MP4 files. I’ve got all the Firefly episodes encoded and ready to go, and I can’t watch them – what insolence!
After some snooping on the Xbox team blog, I discovered the problem at the bottom of the Spring ’07 Video Playback FAQ
21. What are the different video codecs that Zune and Windows Media Player support out of the box for streaming?
The Zune software supports unprotected WMV, MPEG-4 Part 2 and H.264. Windows Media Player 11 supports protected and unprotected WMV.
22. How can I get Windows Media Player 11 to stream MPEG-4 Part 2 and H.264 to my console?
By default, Windows Media Player 11 does not support MPEG-4 Part 2 and H.264. You can either convert your MPEG-4 Part 2 and H.264 content to WMV or you can install a 3rd party MP4 DirectShow decoder pack to import MPEG-4 part 2 and H.264 files into your library. Once they are in your library they can be streamed to your console just like WMVs.
Basically, my Windows Media 11 install wasn’t doing the job – despite the fact that I can view MP4 files just fine on my PC. I have ffdshow installed, but I guess that won’t do the trick. So I downloaded and installed the Zune player – despite not actually owning a Zune – and now it’s indexing my fairly large media collection.
Twenty minutes later…
Zune player finishes indexing my media, and I hop on the 360… it’s still not showing any MP4 files. I disabled media sharing in Windows Media 11, and disconnect then reconnect to my PC. Hallelujah! There’s my episodes of Firefly. I click “Play” and…
Sweet jumpin’ Jehoshaphat – it has to download an “Optional Media Update”. One I’ve already downloaded apparently. I’m so confused. So I re-download it, and finally – success!
I was able to play back the Xplay video podcasts, Firefly episodes encoded with Handbrake (iPod compatible), and Futurama episodes encoded with MeGUI (not iPod compatible). That was a lot of hoops to jump through, but at least it’s working now, and much better than having to transcode with TVersity or Transcode360.