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Monday, 14 July 2008

Using Transcode 360 with My Movies and Vista MCE

I just saw a great guide on setting up Transcode 360 with My Movies for MCE. Enables movie play back on the Media Center Extenders of DVD VOB's, DivX and XVid etc.

It includes some of the pitfalls that took me a long time to work out, such as the Transcode 360 registry change that is required.

See the guide here on Toby's blog.

Introduction

My main reason for using Transcode 360 is the ability to watch movies (movies I have backed up to hard drive and watch through the Vista Media Center) on my Xbox 360. The Xbox 360 is a Media Center Extender device, but it does not support playback of ripped dvds (.vob files), Xvid, Divx, and other formats for that matter. It does support WMV. I could transcode movies into WMV to watch them on the Xbox 360. I prefer to skip that step - it takes too long and will use up more space.

WebGuide option

Before using Transcode 360 (referred to as TT from now on) I used WebGuide. WebGuide is accessible through the Media Center interface on the extender device. We had problems though. Even though the server and extender are both connected to a 100Mbps LAN, trying to watch the movie on the extender at 8Mbps (Ultra) quality level always led to skipping and other issues. We would then try to watch the movie at 2000Kbps (High) and even then we would eventually have some kind of problem while watching the movie (usually freezing or skipping). Also, the quality level was awful when watching on a large screen.

Transcode 360 option

Next I explored TT as an option for watching movies on the extender. At first I had some problems with TT and gave up on using it. But, the inability to watch movies on the extender was a major loss. Later, I again tried TT and this time was able to get it working. Below I will try to describe briefly how to get TT up and running with My Movies and Xbox360.

These instructions are for Vista MCE 32-bit Since I use Vista Ultimate 32-bit, Xbox 360 as extender, My Movies 2.42 and 2.44, and Transcode 360 1.6.3 I am limited to my experiences with the given versions. I will not have information on XP MCE, or other versions of these apps.

How you should already be setup I will assume you have a Vista MCE running My Movies. You have movies ripped, and added to your My Movies database. Using My Movies on the MCE box, you can successfully watch ripped DVDs.

Transcode 360 download

On the Vista MCE machine, install Transcode 360 Version 1.6.3. Since the transcode.co.uk website has been down for weeks, I have an alternate location the file can be downloaded from:

http://www.transcode360.be/Transcode360Vista1.6.3.zip

(keep in mind I've only tested this with Vista 32-bit). In case that location is no longer available,
here is an alternate download location.

Installing Transcode 360

During the install the first decision you will need to make is 1) to run as a Service 2) to run as a tray app. I recommend choosing Service. Click Next. On the next screen you decide whether to run with local system permissions, or run service under dedicated accounts permissions. I recommend choosing the first option (if you want to change this for network file access we will do that later). Click Install. When the install finishes choose to manually reboot later. Click Finish.

If you will only be accessing movies stored on the Vista MCE machine, follow the instructions in the paragraph below titled registry update. If you need to access movies shared on another computer follow these steps: click on Start>Right click on Computer>click on Manage>under Computer Management at the bottom click the triangle next to Services and Applications>below click on Services>in the right pane scroll down to Transcode 360 Transcoding Service>right click on Transcode 360 Transcoding Service and choose Properties>click the Log On tab>put a dot next to 'This account:' In the first box have access to the other computer. In the next to boxes type the password. Click Ok. Now follow the instructions in the paragraph below called registry update.

Registry update

I am providing a batch file that will do this change for you, or you can manually do it.
To do this automated, download this file to your computer. Browse to where you saved the file, double click on it. Inside you will see the TT_Network.reg file. Double click it. When prompted, choose 'Run'. On the 'sure you want to continue prompt choose yes'. You http://www.transcode360.be/Transcode360Vista1.6.3.zip here is an alternate download locationtype a username that is an administrator on the MCE machine, and is also configured to this file should then get a message that the keys or values were successfully added.

To manually do this, browse to C:\Windows and double click regedit.exe. Next expand HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software and click on Transcode360. In the right pane double click on InstallationType. In the Value data box remove the existing value and type in Network. Click Ok. Close the Registry Editor window.

Whether you did auto or manual go ahead and reboot the computer.

Update Mencoder.exe

After the computer reboots we want to update the version of the mencoder.exe used by TT. On the Vista machine you may want to enable viewing file extensions for this part. It will make things easier. To enable extensions go to Control Panel>Folder Options>View Tab>uncheck the box next to 'Hide extensions for known file types'. Click Ok.

Now go to My Computer and browse to C:\Program Files\Transcode360\Wrappers\MEncoderTranscoder folder. Right click on the file mencoder.exe and choose rename on the menu. Rename it to something like mencoder.exe.old.

Go to http://www.mplayerhq.hu/design7/dload.html and get the latest version of MPlayer for Windows (you do not need the GUI version). At the time this is being written the current version is MPlayer 1.0rc2 Windows. The download is a .zip file. Save the .zip to your computer. Open or extract the .zip when the download is done. Inside you will see a file called mencoder (mencoder.exe). Right click on the mencoder.exe and choose Copy. Now browse to C:\Program Files\Transcode360\Wrappers\MEncoderTranscoder and paste the file here (Edit>Paste or right click and choose Paste). Now we have updated the version of mencoder.exe we are using compared to the one that came with Transcode 360.

Go to Start>All Programs>Transcode 360>Transcode 360 Configuration Utility. On the menu on the left click on Advanced. Under Profile Name you should see Xbox 360 - Mencoder. That's what we want. Some have solved problems with TT by checking the box at the bottom 'Downmix multi-channel AC3 to stereo MPEG audio'. I am running with that checked. Click Exit.

You may need Microsoft Hotfix

If you run antivirus software on your Vista MCE machine you will want to apply this MS hotfix (SP1 users should not need this hotfix). If you do not, you may experience a problem with movies freezing when your try to watch them on the extender. This hotfix is for Vista x86 only. Click here to download. If you want to see the MS KB doc it is here Microsoft Hotfix KB933049

Adding Guest account to network movie folders and sharing themIf you will be accessing movies from an extender(Xbox 360), we need to alter permissions setting on the shared movie folders computer. The bottom line is 'Guest' account needs to be enabled on the other machine, and 'Guest' needs to have Read (Read and List) to the movie folders. On Vista Ulimate and Vista Enterprise Enabling go to Start>right click on Computer>choose Manage>expand Local Users and Groups>Highlight Users>in the right pane right click on Guest>choose Properties>on the General tab make sure that 'Account is disabled' is unchecked. Click Ok.
In Vista Home Basic and Vista Home Premium editions go to Control Panel > User Accounts > Manage Accounts, and Turn on Guest Account.

To give Guests access to the movie folders go to Computer and browse to the root folder containing all of the movie folders. Right click the folder and choose Properties. Click the Security tab. Click the Continue button (if UAC is enabled). Click the Edit button. Click the Add button. In the 'Enter the object names to select' box type Guest. Click Ok. Click Ok again. Click Ok.

Share the movies folders, if not already, and everyone should have read.

Add the guest account the the movie folders. Give Guest account Read access.

I intend to come back and give instruction on the above two sentences.

If the above is not configured, when you go to Watch Stream on your extender, you will get a 'Path not found ' error message.

To sum, enable Guest account, give guest account read to movie folders (do this by giving read to the parent folder (or drive) and the permissions will propagate down. Finally, share the folders so the UNC path matches the path you specified for the movies in My Movies.

Testing

Bring up your Xbox 360, connect to the Media Center, go to My Movies, pick a movie and choose 'Watch Stream'. If you click Watch you will get an error. So use Watch Stream. You should see 'Loading' for a short period, and then you should get the spinning circle in the middle of the screen. The spinning circle may stop spinning for a short period before the movie starts. If the spinning circle stops and you wait, and wait...and no movie, then something is wrong. The xbox may be frozen at this point. I'll get into some troubleshooting below.

Troubleshooting

The two versions of My Movies I have used TT with are 2.42 and 2.44.

It may be beneficial to disconnect from the Media Center on the Xbox 360 if the permissions changes were made while connect from the Xbox. I always do this when I make a change so I can't really so if it is not necessary. From the extender, close media center. Then reopen media center on the extender.

Valuable information will come from the TT log file. These are located at C:\Users\Public\Transcode360\LogsIf you tried to watch a movie on your extender using Watch Stream in My Movies and it did not work, look at the log file with the most recent 'Date modified' value. This should be the log created when you tried to stream the movie.

The error message you get when you try to stream the movie is important. Depending on what happens, you may not get a message.

The event viewer on the Vista MCE machine will also give valuable information. Go to Start>right click on Computer>choose Manage>expand Event Viewer>expand Applications and Services Logs>Click on Transcode 360 Service>in the right pane events will be listed. Looks for events that are 'Error' and 'Warning'.

Examples

The path [some path] was not found when trying to watch a network movie-> give 'guest' account access to the network folder

After doing the above try to watch the network movie and get 'Transcode failed transcode was unable to transcode the file [some path].
-> this could be that the service is running with an account that does not have permission to the remote computer-> this could be the mencoder.exe file is not updated

If in the log file you see:

*ERR* Transcoding error:*ERR* This codecs.conf is too old and incompatible with this MPlayer release! at line 6
-> you can delete the codecs.conf file located in the C:\Program Files\Transcode360\Wrappers\MEncoderTranscoder\mplayer folder

If in the Event Viewer you have a message that includes 'Cannot open file/device.
'->it might be a permissions, network access, firewall type issue.

Make sure your movies are stored in a separate folder for each movie. Inside the movie folder there should be a Video_TS folder and within it the movie files (.ifo, .vob). Transcode 360 looks for the Video_TS folder and the movie files within. If the folder and file structure described above is not used, the movies will not work.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can you have multiple files within your video_ts folder? I have seen other forums where people suggest you can only have 1 vob.

Stuart said...

This is not a guide I have written myself. I never used Transcode 360 with VOB's as I had a copy of my DVD's in DVR-MS format for playback on my extender. Transcode 360 worked well for me transcoding AVI's to the MCX on the XBOX 360.

I'm not sure if you have to have only one vob file or not? What issues are you seeing?

Anonymous said...

What's the point of this when the Xbox can stream Divx/xviD through WMP11/Windows Media Extender? You don't have to use the Media Center function on the Xbox.. just click on Videos and it should pop up.

Stuart said...

You are correct you can just play DIVX/XVID natively from the XBOX 360 dashboard with out the need to transcode.

However we want to stay in the Media Center UI on the XBOX and not have to drop out to the dashboard.

I am hoping in Windows 7 we might be able to play DIVX/XVID in the Media Center Extender on the XBOX natively but this is not fully confirmed as yet.

toby said...

Can you have more than one .vob file in the Video_TS folder? Yes, you can.

What's the point of this? Streaming a movie the was ripped in .vob format. The point is transcoding. If you don't need to transcode the format, then don't use it.

Anonymous said...

I am getting a "communicating with Transcode 360 failed" error. The only thing I can find on this has to do with running Vista 64, which I am not. Any thoughts? Also, I am trying to transcode a iso image.

samuel said...

I have an issue where i try and transcode some avi files and i get a black screen but i get audio

Any ideas

Anonymous said...

I did this last night and it worked fine! Then this morning, I booted up the 360, went to watch a movie and there was no video feed. Had audio, but no video. I have no idea why, all of a sudden it is unable to process the video. Any of you guys have a theory?

JohnnyG said...

I had the codec error but that didn't fix it. I have Vista Media Center 32-bit, an HP MediaSmart Connect X280n and My Movies, latest version 2.62 I think.

I have ripped my entire DVD collection onto my WHS and I cannot play anything. I find it hard to believe that with all of the technology that this is so difficult to do.

Any suggestions on how to fix the "Unable to transcode ..." would be greatly appreciated

Anonymous said...

i have followed the above instructions to stream an mkv file but all i get is transcode has a failed connection.
any ideas of what i may be doing wrong?

Anonymous said...

There is no mencoder.exe in the zip file that I downloaded as per you instruction. I tried downloading the latest and also the version you mentioned. There is a mencoder file but it is mencoder.c and not .exe - I think that you have to compile to code to make the .exe but I have no idea how to do that. Do you know of anywhere else to get the "already compiled" memocder.exe? Thanks.

JohnnyG said...

I finally got the movies to play but it seems as if only one VOB file plays. Anything I can do to stop this?