How To: Stream Any Video to Your Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii

Maximum PC Staff

Whether you ripped your entire CD and DVD collection, purchase DRM-free content online, or you acquire your media from less legitimate sources, we'll show you everything you need to know to stream your audio, video, and pictures to any console you own.

The secret to streaming on all three platforms is a little program called TVersity. TVersity is a a standalone media streaming utility, designed to stream video to devices that support a number of different protocols, including UPNP, DLNA, and Flash video. The driving goal for the folks behind TVersity is to let you stream your media to any network connected device using the software. While it's still in beta and is in constant development, TVersity works reasonably well now; although it can be tricky to configure the first time.

The reason we love TVersity is that it automatically converts your content into the proper format for easy streaming, on the fly. This is important because none of the streaming boxes actually work with all the common audio and video formats. While the PS3 can play MPEG1 and MPEG2 video, it can't play WMV formatted files. The Xbox can play WMV, but chokes on many Divx and Xvid files. The Wii can only play Flash movies, using the downloadable Opera browser.

Getting the TVersity service working properly, and then configuring it for the best image quality is tricky, but it can be done. We're going to start by configuring TVersity and the codecs you'll need on your system, then we'll jump to console-specific sections after that.

Getting TVersity Installed and Working

Before you can stream your first video, you need to get TVersity working properly. All the software you need is free, and it's fairly easy to use. Before we begin, you should download the software you need: Tversity , ffdshow tryout , and (maybe) the Codec Sniper . Download them, and then come back.

1. Clean out your old codecs


The number one problem for users of TVersity is incompatible or conflicting codecs installed. Usually, these are a result of people installing software that includes “every codec you need”, such as the K-Lite codec pack. While you can try Tversity, and it may work, you'll save yourself a lot of hassle if you just clean up your codecs before you start.

First, go to the Add/Remove Programs control panel, and uninstall any codec packs you find in there, as well as utilities like AC3Filter, Xvid, and Divx. Additionally, some apps, such as Nero, also include codecs. You'll need to uninstall them as well (for the time being) you can safely reinstall them when everything's working. When you've uninstalled everything, reboot the PC and then try to view a movie using the missing codecs, if Windows Media Player complains that the codec is missing, you're on the right track and can continue to the next step.

If your video plays, you'll need to run the Codec Sniper, and manually delete the offending codecs from your system. To remove a codec, simply click on it, and select delete. Only delete codecs affiliated with your codec packs and other codecs you manually installed. Deleting the wrong things here can really break your system so be careful. You'll need to reboot for any changes made here to take effect as well. Once your codecs are clean, and your videos won't play anymore, you can move to the next step.

If you can't get rid of all the codecs using Codec Sniper, you may need to back up your important data and reinstall Windows. While we had good luck cleaning out the codec cruft on several machines, we had one test rig that just wouldn't work with TVersity at all.

2. Install ffdshow


When using ffdshow, stick with the Stereo default—other audio options don’t seem to work with TVersity.

There are a couple of different codec options you can use. If you primarily want to stream MPEG4-based media, Divx, Xvid, and the like, ffdshow is the best option. (If you want to stream more advanced H.264-based codecs, you'll need to use a more comprehensive codec pack though. For that, we recommend the CCCP . If you install CCCP, you don't need ffdshow and vice versa.)

The secret weapon that will let TVersity transcode all your video is ffdshow. Ffdshow is a kind of universal codec, it works with most of the MPEG4-based codecs, and also lets you decode Dolby Digital and DTS audio streams. Install the software, selecting the default options for everything. Make sure you choose the default audio option for ffdshow (Stereo - 2 speakers), regardless of your actual speaker config. TVersity doesn't seem to work well with the other options.

After you've installed ffdshow, you should be able to once again view your MPEG4 (Divx and Xvid, mostly) videos in Windows Media Player.

3. Install TVersity

TVersity must run as a service, with its own login and password, to access media on a network share.

Now it's time to install TVersity. You can use most of the installer's default options, except for the TVersity Codec Pack, which you do NOT want to install. When you're asked if you want to install the TVersity codec pack, uncheck that box. You've already installed all the codecs you need. Vista users will see an error that the TVersity service didn't start properly, so you'll need to manually start it using the shortcut in the TVersity Start Menu folder.

If you want to stream media that's stored on a network share—another machine, a NAS box, or a Windows Home Server—you need to configure the TVersity service (a service is an application that runs even when no one's logged into the machine) to run as a user who has permission to access the network share. You'll need to do that even if your network share is configured to allow everyone access—services which log into the local system account are denied access to the network. To change the login information, go to Control Panel, Administrative Tools, Services, and then scroll down to the TVersity service. Right-click on that, and go to the Log On tab. Click the This account button, and set it to use a username/password that has permission to access that network share. You'll need to restart the service after you've changed the login info, you can do that on the General tab by pressing Stop and then Start.

4. Add Media to TVersity

When adding media to TVersity’s library, be sure to indicate at the bottom of the screen what type of content you want streamed from the folder.

This is the easy part. You'll want to open up the TVersity client on your media streaming machine, click the big green + sign, and add the folders that contain your media to the machine. It's really important that you tell TVersity which type of content to expect in each folder—if it adds all the images in your music directory, your photo section will quickly get clogged with all the album art on your rig. That's no fun at all.

After you've added your media, it will take TVersity a while to search all your folders and add everything to its library. Take a ten minute break to walk the dog, make a snack, or something else. TVersity doesn't work particularly well while it's scanning your library, so it's important that you take a minute or three.

5. Test Streaming With Your Console

If it's been ten minutes, you should be able to test out your streaming setup. Now, you should skip ahead to the section for your Xbox 360 , Playstation 3 , or Nintendo Wii .

Stream to Your Playstation 3

Before we go any farther, you should confirm that your Playstation 3 can see the TVersity server and can stream video from it. Once we've done that, we'll work on optimizing video quality. The PS3 delivers great video and audio quality, but it can be a little tricky to configure.

Fire up your PS3 and go to the Video blade. You should see an entry at the top of the list that's YourPC'sName: TVersity Media Server . If you don't, you should verify that your PS3 is connected to the network, and that your PC's firewall is either disabled, or you've given TVersity permission to listen on port 41952. Additionally, you need to enable UPNP broadcasts and Multicast on your router. If you have an older router, you may need to update the firmware or actually replace the device with a newer model.

Once you're connected, browse to the Video item, then the My Video Item, and then click All Video and browse down to one of your videos. If you followed the instructions, you should be streaming video to your PS3. It will be crappy, low resolution video, but it will be video. With everything working properly, we can tweak the visual quality in the next step.

6. Crank Up the Visual Quality


TVersity’s default settings are fine for wireless connections, but a wired connection and increased visual-quality settings offer the most satisfying results.

The maximum visual quality you'll get from your streamed media is dependant on two different things—the quality of the network connection between your PC and the actual speed of your PC. You see, transcoding is tough work and streaming media is network intensive. TVersity's default settings work reasonably well on an 802.11g network, but the resulting video looks terrible. You'll be hard pressed to stream even DVD quality video across wireless—at least until there's an 802.11n-based solution for streaming video.

Assuming you have a wired network between your PS3 and your PC, you can really ratchet up the video quality. To do that, you'll need to open up TVersity's profiles.xml file, which contains the settings that TVersity uses to determine the proper format to use when streaming to different devices. You can find it at c:\Program Files\TVersity\Media Server\profiles.xml. Open the file in notepad.

You only need to adjust the PS3 section, so press ctrl+f to open the find dialog, and search for Playstation. That should take you to a line that reads <friendlyName>Sony Playstation 3</friendlyName>. Scroll down until you see the <transcodeTarget> section, and change ”video/mpeg16” to ”video/mpeg2” in both the video= and onlineVideo= sections. Save and close the profiles.xml file, and then go back to the TVersity client.

Click on the Settings tab, and then go to the Transcoder page. We recommend that you adjust these options one at a time, then save your settings, restart the service (Advanced menu, Restart Sharing), and test playback to ensure that one change doesn't bork your setup.

The first thing you'll want to do is adjust the maximum video resolution, so that TVersity doesn't automatically downconvert your ripped DVDs to a lower resolution. We recommend 1280x720, which is equivalent to a 720p signal. This setting will let you play DVD-quality content at its native resolution, with no conversion or artifacting. If you experience network performance problems, it's a good idea to lower this setting to 640x480 or lower.

Now, we're going to adjust the settings to maximize quality. If you're on a wireless network or have a slow CPU, your performance will suffer if you enable these settings. First, make sure the box labeled Use DirectShow for Windows Media Encoding is checked and the codec is set to Windows Media Video 9. This will improve performance and quality of the video the system outputs. Finally, set the transcoder to optimize for Quality, the Compression setting to Minimum, and set your connection speed to Wired (100Mbps), with the quality set to Excellent. Click Save at the bottom of the page and then restart the TVersity service by going to the Advanced menu and clicking Restart Sharing.

7. Watch Streamed Movies

All you need to do is fire up your PS3 and go to the video tab. Your TVersity server will be near the top of the list of sources, and will contain your PC's name. Drill down through the menus to find the video you'd like to watch, and click the X button to view it. Now you're streaming video across the network!

8. Troubleshooting

If you're having trouble getting streaming working, there are really three possible problems: codec issues, bandwidth problems, or PC performance problems. If Codec Sniper and Add/Remove programs didn't fix the problems, it's probably easier to back up your rig and reinstall Windows from scratch. Reinstalling Windows sucks, but troubleshooting codec problems is even worse.

If your CPU and network bandwidth aren't sufficient to transcode your video in real-time, you can use the PS3's Copy feature to transcode and copy the video to your PS3's hard drive. To do enable that, all you need to do is select the video and press the triangle button. Go down to the Copy option, and be prepared to wait a while. Copying your movies to disk is really the only viable option for Wi-Fi users if you want to watch your movies at anything approaching decent quality.

But wait, there's more! Be sure to check out our selection of cool TVersity hacks at the end of this story

Stream to Your Xbox 360

With the Fall 2007 Xbox Dashboard Update, the 360 now has full support for native Divx and Xvid streaming. While you can stream through Windows Media Connect, you'll also be able to stream other, unsupported formats if you use TVersity. Before you can do that though, you should test video playback on your 360 using the default settings. Fire up your Xbox, and go to the Media blade. Select the Video Option, then press X to select your source. You'll need to select the option labeled TVersity on <yourPC'sname>:1 .

If you don't see that option, you need to open a port on your firewall, or possibly disable Windows Connect on your server PC. Windows Media Connect serves a similar function to TVersity, which can cause conflicts. To disable Connect, open up Windows Media Player on your PC, and press Alt to open the menus. Then go to Tools, then Options, and click on the Library tab. Click Configure Sharing and then uncheck Share My Media. You may have to restart your PC to see a change.

Once your Xbox is connected to your PC, you can go to Media/Video section and browse to view a video. Assuming that works, move on to the next section. If it doesn't, you probably need to go back and take another look at the installed codecs. If there's nothing obvious wrong on the codec front, you should skip ahead to the Troubleshooting section.

6. Increase Your Visual Quality

The maximum visual quality you'll get from your streamed media is dependant on two different things—the quality of the network connection between your PC and the actual speed of your PC. Transcoding is tough CPU work and streaming media is network intensive. TVersity's default settings work reasonably well on an 802.11g network, but the resulting video looks terrible. You'll be hard pressed to stream even DVD quality video across wireless—at least until there's an 802.11n-based solution for streaming video.

To make your adjustments, open the TVersity client and click on the Settings tab. Then go to the Transcoder page. We recommend that you adjust these options one at a time, then save your settings, restart the service (Advanced menu, Restart Sharing), and test playback to ensure that one change doesn't bork your setup.

The first thing you'll want to do is adjust the maximum video resolution, so that TVersity doesn't automatically downconvert your ripped DVDs to a lower resolution. If you're on a wired network, we recommend using the native resolution of your set. Typical resolutions are 1280x720 (720p) and 1920x1080 (1080p). If you're streaming to a standard-def set, you can leave TVersity at its default setting. By using the native resolution of your TV set, you'll get the best possible image quality, without forcing TVersity to resize your video on the fly. If you experience network performance problems, it's a good idea to lower this setting to 640x480 or lower.

Now, we're going to adjust the settings to maximize quality. If you're on a wireless network or have a slow CPU, your performance will suffer if you enable these settings. First, make sure the box labeled Use DirectShow for Windows Media Encoding is checked and the codec is set to Windows Media Video 9. This will improve performance and quality of the video the system outputs. Finally, set the transcoder to optimize for Quality, the Compression setting to Minimum, and set your connection speed to Wired (100Mbps), with the quality set to Excellent. Click Save at the bottom of the page and then restart the TVersity service by going to the Advanced menu and clicking Restart Sharing.

7. Watch Streamed Movies

All you need to do is fire up your Xbox and go to the media blade. Click on the Video entry, and drill down into the My Videos path until you find something good to watch. Now you're streaming video across the network!

8. Troubleshooting

If you're having trouble getting streaming working, there are really three possible problems: codec issues, bandwidth problems, or PC performance problems. If Codec Sniper and Add/Remove programs didn't fix the problems, it's probably easier to back up your rig and reinstall Windows from scratch. Reinstalling Windows sucks, but troubleshooting codec problems is even worse.

Unfortunately, for Xbox users with crappy networks, there isn't an easy way to copy an already converted movie to your hard drive. For whatever reason, Microsoft doesn't allow that. On the other hand, if your CPU isn't up to the task of encoding in real-time, you can help that by increasing the hard drive space available to cache already-converted movies. To do that, to Settings in TVersity, and increase the amount of disk space to give more space to converted files. Then, start viewing a movie. While it may fail at first, if you give it a few moments to get a buffer built up, you should be able to start watching on a second attempt.

But wait, there's more! Be sure to check out our selection of cool TVersity hacks at the end of this story

Stream to Your Nintendo Wii

Unfortunately for Wii owners, the Wii just isn't a great streaming device. However, if you've installed the Internet browser, which supports Flash, you can actually watch video using the Wii. Setting it up is quite simple. If you've gotten to this point, all you need to do is point the Wii browser to the proper IP address and port.

To find your IP address, go to the Control Panel and open Network Connections. Right click on your network connection, and go to Status. Look for the Details button and find your IP address there. Then go back to your Wii, and go to this URL: http://xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx:41952/, where you replace the xxx's with your PC's IP address.

We experienced mixed results, and because the Wii is pretty barebones, it was tough to tell what was causing the problem. In reality, this isn't something you're going to use on an everyday basis. It's more a cool hack at this point that anything else. Hopefully, Nintendo will add a video streaming channel with a dedicated UPNP browser at some point in the future.

There's not a ton of troubleshooting to do if streaming to your Wii doesn't work. You're just out of luck.

Three Cool TVersity Hacks

As a tasty streaming media apertif, we have three quick 'n easy streaming hacks using TVersity. Enjoy!

Add Your Music Library to TVersity

Fancy music streaming boxes can cost a few hundred bucks, but using TVersity and your console, you can get the exact same effect using hardware you already own. All you need to do is tell TVersity where your music is stored by going to the File, Add Folder menu and browsing to it. You'll need to go to the Advanced menu and refresh the Media Library before your music will show up, but once it does you'll be able to listen to your own tunes, even while you're playing games.

Stream Your Favorite Podcast

We wouldn't dare suggest what you should use your streaming media server for, but if you were interested in streaming your favorite podcast (like the one hosted at http://feeds.feedburner.com/maximumpc/1337, perhaps?) you can set it to automatically download by opening TVersity and going to File and clicking Add Podcast/RSS Feed and putting the URL in. Again, that URL is http://feeds.feedburner.com/maximumpc/1337, in case you forgot.

Once you've got the content on your server, you can stream it to your Xbox while you're playing games. Sure, there's a heaping helping of irony to listening to the Maximum PC Podcast while you play Halo, but we're not going to judge, I promise.

Stream Pictures from the Web

You upload all your photos to your favorite photo site, but you'd like to show them to your family on your big-screen TV. It's simple! All you need to do is find the RSS feed for the photostream you want to view and input it in the Add Podcast/RSS Feed dialog, just like before. They'll show up in the appropriate menus of your PS3 or Xbox 360.

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