Xbox 360 Spring Update Video FAQS

With great power comes great responsibility, and with added codec support comes a crapload of new questions. That's why Microsoft's Xbox team has released a FAQ detailing what you may or may not want to know about the newly supported codecs.

Among the more interesting answers (as if knowing what setting to choose when re-encoding content for your Xbox 360 wasn't interesting enough) is the "No" to "Do you support DivX", the "No" to whether they support MPEG-2, and the fact that you can now play back some 1080 content at 30fps. Hit the jump for a look.

1. What exactly does the Xbox 360 support for H.264?

Xbox 360 supports the following for H.264:

· File Extensions: .mp4, .m4v, mp4v, .mov

· Containers: MPEG-4, QuickTime

· Video Profiles: Baseline, main, and high (up to Level 4.1) profiles.

· Video Bitrate: 10 Mbps with resolutions of 1920 x 1080 at 30fps. See question number 6 for more information.

· Audio Profiles: 2 channel AAC low complexity (LC)

· Audio Max Bitrate: No restrictions. See question number 6 for more information.

2. What exactly does the Xbox 360 support for MPEG-4 Part 2?

Xbox 360 supports the following for MPEG-4:

· File Extensions: .mp4, .m4v, .mp4v, .mov

· Containers: MPEG-4, QuickTime

· Video Profiles: Simple (including Simple profile content mislabeled as Advanced Simple)

· Video Bitrate: 5 Mbps with resolutions of 1280 x 720 at 30fps. See question number 6 for more information.

· Audio Profiles: 2 channel AAC low complexity (LC)

· Audio Max Bitrate: No restrictions. See question number 6 for more information.

3. What exactly does the Xbox 360 support for WMV (VC-1)?

Xbox 360 supports the following for WMV:

· File Extensions: .wmv

· Container: asf

· Video Profiles: WMV7 (WMV1), WMV8 (WMV2), WMV9 (WMV3), VC-1 (WVC1 or WMVA) in simple, main, and advanced up to Level 3

· Video Bitrate: 15 Mbps with resolutions of 1920 x 1080 at 30fps. See question number 6 for more information.

· Audio Profiles: WMA7/8, WMA 9 Pro (stereo and 5.1), WMA lossless

· Audio Max Bitrate: No restrictions. See question number 6 for more information.

4. How do I create H.264 and MPEG-4 Part 2 content? What encoders does Xbox 360 support?

You can create this content on one of many 3rd-party applications. Xbox 360 supports many popular encoders.

5. What are the different ways to play video content on Xbox 360?

You can play video from a USB 2.0 FAT32 removable drive, optical media, and by streaming from the Zune software or Windows Media Player 11.

6. What is the "real" max bit rate, resolution, and frames per second that you support for all the different formats?

Xbox 360 does not specifically block video from playing based on a maximum bit rate, resolution, or frames per second. The maximums listed above for each codec are what we have tested for various video playback sources. Higher rated content will not be blocked, but playback may be less then optimal. Use higher bitrates at your own risk.

7. What is the maximum video file size that is supported?

The maximum file size for an MPEG-4 Part 2 and H.264 file that can be played is 4 GB. However, Windows Media Player 11 and the Zune software do support streaming WMV files greater than 4GB.

8. Do you support 5.1 channel AAC?

No. Only 2-channel AAC is supported. If you want to play a 5.1-channel video on your console, you will need to encode it to WMV with WMAPro 5.1 audio.

9. Do you support DivX?

No.

10. Do you support MPEG-2?

No. Xbox 360 Media Center Extender does support MPEG-2, but you can't play this content in the Xbox 360 video player .

11. Does Xbox 360 Media Center Extender support MPEG-4 Part 2 and H.264?

Not at this time. You must play these videos in the Xbox Dashboard.

12. Does Xbox 360 display embedded artwork for MPEG-4 Part 2 and H.264 files?

Yes. You can embed your artwork that is less than 400KB in the video files and they will be shown in the Xbox 360 video area when streaming from the Zune software.

13. How do display modes work?

There are 5 display modes: auto, letterbox, fullscreen, stretch, and native. You can access these modes while watching a video by pressing Display on your remote or A on your controller.

a. The auto setting attempts to automatically determine what the best viewing experience is for your video. If it is a very low quality video, it will enlarge it enough to be viewable on your screen while limiting the size for optimal viewing. If the video is of higher quality, it will it will enlarge it to fit the TV. For both scenarios, it will retain the aspect ratio of the original video (for example, 4x3 or 16x9).

b. Letterbox mode will display your image full screen while retaining the aspect ratio of the original video. Use this if you want to override the auto function and fit the content to your TV.

c. Fullscreen mode will display your image full screen with the assumption the video is 16x9 formatted for 4x3 screens. This can be helpful for older content that may be 4x3 with black bars encoded into the video. This mode will allow you to zoom through the black bars and see it as wide screen.

d. Stretch mode will display your image full screen and stretch 4x3 content horizontally to fill a 16x9 TV. This can be helpful for those who always want to fill their TV regardless of the aspect ratio of the content. This causes 4x3 content to appear stretched.

e. Native mode allows you to see the content at its original resolution. Use this to view content that is extremely low resolution or very low bitrates.

14. How are display mode settings saved?

Every time you watch a new video, the display mode defaults to auto. If you decide to change the setting, each time you watch the same video the console will remember what you chose last time.

15. What is the information bar?

The information bar on the on-screen display (OSD) now shows you exactly where you are in the video and where the chapters are in the file. In addition, for downloaded content, it will also show how much of the video has been downloaded.

16. How are the chapters determined?

Each video is divided into 10 chapters, allowing you to quickly move around the video content. Use skip to move to the next or previous chapter. Each chapter appears as a tick on the information bar.

17. Can I fast forward, rewind, and skip while watching content while it's being downloaded from Xbox Live Marketplace?

You can move around in video you have already watched. For example, if you watch 15 minutes of a TV show, you can to go back 10 minutes and then skip forward to the 15 minute mark again (where you left off). After the video is fully downloaded, you can move through the entire video.

18. After the May 2007 update, my 3rd party software doesn't stream videos correctly. Why?

Video navigation was changed in the May 2007 update. 3rd party software that does not support folders through network sharing will not work correctly. You'll have to contact the software developer for support.

19. How can I set up Windows Media Player 11 or Zune to share my media to my console?

For info about setting up sharing, see http://www.xbox.com/en-US/support/systemuse/xbox360/digitalmedia/pc.htm.

20. Should I continue to use Windows Media Connect (WMC) to stream video to my Xbox 360?

Windows Media Connect can be used but is no longer supported. You can manage and stream content to Xbox 360 with Windows Media Player 11 or the Zune software.

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.

23. I can't see my video files from the Zune software on my console. What's wrong?

Make sure that the folders containing the videos you want to share with your console are included in the Zune software's list of monitored folders.

24. I received a message that says a media update is required to play the content. When I download the update I get the message "The download could not be completed. Please try again later. Any points you used for this transaction have already been deducted from your balance and will not be deducted again" with error code 8070005. Explain.

You'll get this error if you previously downloaded the media update on another Xbox 360 console with the same profile. You are only allowed to download the update on one console per profile. You can work around this by creating a temporary Silver membership to download the update. Once it's downloaded, you will be able to use the update with any profile.

Spring '07 Video Playback FAQ [MSDN]