So you want to stream video to your living room?

So I've been meaning to look at Windows Media Player 11 and how it can stream video to the Xbox 360. Apple's announcement of the imminent release of Apple TV pushed me to figure out whether I needed such a device. Answer is that I don't, but WMP blows chunks. Big surprise. Tackling things one at a time.

1) WMP will indeed stream video (or at least it claims to), but it will only stream WMV's. Truthfully I didn't test this - I don't really care, because I don't have any WMV files. C'mon Microsoft that's retarded.

2) If you look at the web page the Xbox 360 send you to, it will tell you install the Zune software. With grave misgivings I did this. Man it looks terrible. Zune is even more restricted than WMP - it won't even play AVI files. I spent more time downloading and installing the Zune software than I did testing it.

3) Connect 360 - a product that I have recommended (and still do) for audio streaming from a Mac only supports WMV video as well. (sigh)

4) But there is a fix - and it's freeware. If you have a Windows XP machine then you can run TVersity! (EDIT 5/14/07 - the link was changed from .org to .com) Basically you install this on your Windows machine and it will transcode a file to WMV in real-time and stream it to your 360. The claim is that any file that Media player can play will transcode. I know XVID and DiVX files work.

TVersity is a bit rough. My 360 basically locks up when the stream finishes - you have to bring up the Guide and reboot into the dash. Video streaming to the 360 means you can't fast-forward or rewind. I don't know if that's a 360 feature, or unique to TVersity. I guess I should try digging up a WMV and feed it to the Media Player. But if you have an XP machine, a 360, and a collection of video files in formats other than WMV you should try it out. Note that it won't support DRM'ed files - so if you do buy stuff from iTunes the Apple TV might be a better solution. For me - it's not clear whether Apple TV will play more open formats yet.

I believe TVersity is transcoding at the file's native resolution, and the 360 appears to be upscaling to 1080i - and it preserves aspect ratios. It's doing a pretty good job. It's certainly not HD, and it's not even really DVD quality. But it's much better than my previous solution for playing video files on the home theater - hooking my PowerBook up via SVideo.

Anyway, if you have video files that you'd like to watch on a 360, definitely give TVersity a try. Well worth the (free) cost.

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