How to stream media to your Xbox360 using TVersity

I've been a long time TVersity user.  Love the app.  It's the nicest of the UPnP streaming out there.  Well documented, easy to use, etc..  Enough with the kissing up...

One thing I've been struggling with as of late is streaming large videos across the network.  I've started ripping my DVDs & Blu-rays so the family can watch them whenever (and so the discs don't get goobered up).  The trouble I've found is that if they are not a lower bitrate WMV, transcoding will darn near kill your PC.  As a result you get crappy (technical term), choppy video.  Since I can't leave well enough alone, I spent many hours trying to come up with a solution.

This guide will (hopefully) help you stream various video file formats/containers including the Matroska .mkv files.

What You Need

A Word on MKV Files

I think it's important to quickly cover .mkv or Matroska files.  MKV files are containers for video, audio, subtitle, or picture files.  They are NOT video files themselves.  They merely contain the video/audio/etc..  This allows for multiple languages and subtitles to be packaged into a single file.  More on Matroska files here.

Software

This has been tested on Windows 7 64-bit and Windows Server 2008 R2.  This should work on on Windows XP as well.  If you're running an anti-virus program, you may want to exclude your media directories from being scanned when accessed.  I would still advise that you run a nightly scan on your entire computer just to be safe.

Hardware

You will need a PC with a dual-core processor at bare minimum.  Why you ask?  Well because you will be using the PC to do the heavy lifting otherwise known as transcoding.  The more CPU you can toss at it the better.

You will need some RAM too.  At least 2GB.  Again, the more the merrier.  Though this is NOT as important as CPU.

Your network needs to not suck.  If your Xbox is on a wired connection, you should be good.  If your Xbox is connected via wireless, make sure the signal is good.  A poor signal will cause issues.

Basic hard drives should work fine.  Internal (SATA) drives will perform better than external.  Externals do work fine for smaller videos though.

My Hardware Setup:
BFG nVidia 8800GT Video Card
BFG 680i Motherboard
Intel Q9550 2.83Ghz Quad-Core
6GB RAM (no pagefile)
WD 36GB Raptor Hard Drives in RAID0 (operating system)
WD 1TB USB External Hard Drive (movies / music /pictures)
Windows 7 Enterprise 64-bit
Xbox360 Elite

My Network Setup:
Xbox360 Wired to a Linksys WRT54G acting a as client-bridge (running dd-wrt firmware)
Linksys WRT54G acting as an AP (PC wired to this)

As you can see, I am using wireless.  My SNR is excellent though.  I have no signal issues.

Installation Steps

  1. Install MediaInfo.
  2. Download TVersity.
  3. Install TVersity, but do NOT install the TVersity codec pack.
  4. Install CCCP using the defaults.  (Don't mess with the settings.  I know it's tempting.)
  5. Open the TVersity GUI.
  6. Under Library, add a folder for your videos.  Click advanced and choose "always" under the transcode options.  (At this point you're probably complaing about quality because everything will be transcoded.  Well, quit.  Read to the entire article first.)
  7. In the Settings menu, choose "Transcode".
    TVersity Library Settings

So here's where things get interesting.  I'm going to give you all of my settings that work for me.  First I need to tell you that I "dumb" things down to 720p.  Why you ask?  Well quite honestly 1080p is rough on hardware.  There aren't currently any hardware decoders for the format so it tends beat up the CPU.  The other part is that 720p looks just fine to me.  Heck the Xbox can't even do Dolby Digital on streamed movies so what's the point.  That said, here are my settings:

  • When to transcode: Only when needed
  • Decrease the bitrate...: Unchecked
  • Maximum Video and Image Resolution:
    Video: 1280 x 720
    Images: Who cares
  • Windows Media Encoder
    Use DirectShow for Windows Media Encoding: Checked
    Windows Media 7
  • Optimization: Quality
  • Connection Speed and Quality
    Wireless 54G
    Medium (if you're using wireless, choose medium)
  • Compression: Minimum
  • Decoding Speed
    Decode the media as fast as...: Checked
  • Audio Capture
    Use Stereo Mix: Unchecked

TVersity Transcode Settings 1
TVersity Transcode Settings 2

There you have it.  It wasn't complex, but it did take some time to fine tune everything.  Some movies will still buffer at the start.  They shouldn't pause during the movie though.

Problems?

Well it could be a myriad of things.  Open Task Manager and watch your CPU, memory, disk, and network utilization.  My quad-core sits at around 75-79% CPU, 8-10Mbps network, and 2-8MB/s disk activity.  You mileage will vary.

Also, use the MediaInfo tool.  It will give you a wealth of information about your files.  Pay special attention to bitrates.  High bitrates will kill the network.

All else fails, feel free to leave a comment.  I'll do what I can to help.

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