Streaming Video on the Console

The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are very capable machines. Learn how to take advantage of them to play videos, music, and more from your computer.

The PlayStation 3 comes with a Blu-ray player, a Web browser, a music player, a photo viewer, and plenty of other features that remind us that it's no mere PlayStation 2. The Xbox 360, sans Blu-ray and Web browsing, has fewer multimedia options, but players seem to get by with Netflix streaming and Xbox Live online features. However, for all their robustness, the consoles are rather unrefined when it comes to video support. The Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 have their quirks when it comes to playing various video codecs and container files. Both consoles can play videos, but not all video files are compatible out of the box. Videos that play easily on the PC or Mac go unsupported on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It's also not as easy to find, download, and install a codec on the console as it is on the PC. New codecs might come bundled with new firmware updates or as downloadable content, but they don't come often enough to count as reliable support.

Developers recognized this video compatibility problem and created programs such as TVersity, XBMC, PS3 Media Server, and many more free and not-so-free programs to help console owners play videos on their systems. All of these programs are able to transcode video on the fly so, at least in theory, you won't have any problems with video compatibility. PS3 Media Server is the best pure video player of the bunch, whereas the others offer some unique features worth exploring. TVersity, a Windows-based program, lets users stream video content to just about any device, anywhere, and has a lot of preloaded video streams from the Internet that make it easy for novices to get started. XBMC acts more as a dedicated media viewer, with its own onscreen graphical user interface, and can stream video content as well. All of these programs require a computer and a home network to run. You might want to consider upgrading your processor if you want to transcode high-definition videos.

TVersity

Streams It'll go anywhere Transcoding

TVersity lets you take your videos and streams with you anywhere you can access the Internet, but we were content to find out how well it works in the confines of a home network for our console testing. The program will easily feed consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, other PCs, network-enabled video devices such as Roku boxes, DirecTV receivers, the Sony PSP, and even the iPhone. It even recognizes which devices are hooked up and scales the video content up or down according to the device being used. In addition to serving files from your hard drive, TVersity can port in streams from YouTube, NPR, and many other Web sites. A single, moderately powerful PC can feed multiple devices across the home simultaneously. Computer horsepower comes into play when you have to transcode large, high-quality files quickly.

Provided that you have a console and a Windows-based PC, TVersity makes streaming video dead simple. It was easy to install and configure on our test PC. We pointed the program at our video, music, and pictures folders, and then we selected a few online video streams that the TVersity interface had preloaded. The streams featured new content from various Web sites, including HD feeds and old TV shows such as MacGyver and the original Star Trek. Our PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 both found their new networked friend without any extra effort. On the PlayStation 3, the TVersity server icon appeared in all of the media-related crossbar selections, including videos, music, and photos. We didn't encounter any problems when we had our PS3 connected to our network with a wired cable, but switching to Wi-Fi brought about a 7351 DLNA error that we safely ignored to no ill effect. We saw similar kinds of errors from time to time, but rebooting the console or simply pressing "next" seemed to remedy the issue. The Xbox 360 identified our TVersity server just as quickly as the PS3 and had zero hiccups connecting to it.

PS3's Video Layout Xbox 360's Video Layout MacGyver! PS3 TVersity Xbox 360 TVersity

Nearly all of the video files that we threw at the PS3 worked with TVersity, and the Xbox 360 worked just as well after downloading a codec pack through Xbox Live. The program automatically transcoded files that normally wouldn't function on either of the consoles, turning them into viewable videos. The vast majority of content worked, although we encountered issues with high-bit-rate MKV files. You will have to tweak the TVersity settings to solve some rare video-incompatibility problems, so expect to spend some time on Google and in the TVersity settings menu to get everything running just right. Both consoles had issues with fast-forwarding and rewinding on a few files, but we had great success with the PS3's scene-search feature on most videos. High-definition feeds and videos looked great, although they didn't work well via 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. It's really more of a wireless bandwidth issue than any fault of the program. The videos played perfectly after we switched to a wired network.

There are many alternatives outside of the three programs that we discuss here. Red Kawa's Media Center X and Winamp both have free offerings. Red Kawa has two flavors of Media Center X, one for the Wii and another for the PS3. Winamp's gotten more powerful over the years and is capable of broadcasting SHOUTcast streams. You can try out MythTV if you're feeling adventurous on the Linux side. MythTV is fairly popular, but it's mainly known for its DVR capabilities. On the pay side of the spectrum, you can find Twonky, Nero MediaHome, Rivet, and Connect360. They cost between $15 and $40, so they won't set you back too much. Most of them offer transcoding support and have friendly-looking interfaces that should make them easy to use. It's also great to have technical support when problems crop up.

Do you use your console to watch videos? What do you watch and how do you watch them?

XBMC

XBMC YouTube Plugin More media? Settings

XBMC, formerly known as Xbox Media Center, acts as both a front- and back-end media center program. That means it can serve content to devices such as your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 console, and it can also play content directly on your TV if you have your Windows/OSX/Linux/AppleTV machine installed with XBMC connected to your TV. The program has a slick graphical user interface that's easy to use while sitting on the couch. XBMC isn't robust enough to feed such devices as the iPhone, but it has its niche if you need the GUI and media-server capability for a home theater PC. XBMC is open source and has become so popular that it has a couple of spin-off programs such as Plex, Boxee, and MediaPortal.

Like TVersity, XBMC transcodes and streams both Internet and local video content. TVersity provides you with many Internet streams to choose from right out of the installation, but you'll have to go out and hunt for content with XBMC. You'll need to track down plugins and scripts to import Internet based content. Adding YouTube content required some work. We first had to perform a few Web searches to find the proper scripts, and then we had to manually place the files into the proper directory for XBMC to recognize the feed. Overall, the whole process isn't particularly friendly from start to end, but the added functionality is worth the effort.

You'll have to jump over a few hurdles to install XBMC, but it's not difficult. You'll need to keep your video-card drivers up to date and keep an eye on your firewall exceptions for a smooth installation. (The instruction manual will tell you that too, but we discovered that for ourselves when we tried to man through the initial installation without reading the instructions first.) Both consoles detected XBMC with no trouble after we got the program installed, and we were able to access files in exactly the same manner as we did with TVersity. File playback worked fine with just about all of the MPEG, AVI, WMV, and MOV files we tried. As with our TVersity experience, high-resolution MKVs didn't work out of the box. Again, you're going to have to Google up solutions and fiddle with settings to make the difficult files play properly. All of the other basic functions, as well as music and image playback, worked perfectly.

XBMC gets a leg up on the other programs by providing scripting and plugin support, though plugins do take work to find and install. If you're persistent enough, you'll be rewarded with access to all kinds of content, games, and expanded functionality. Check out sites such as XBMCZone, XBMC Add-Ons at Google Code, and the currently offline XBMCScripts for the goods. Of course, you will inevitably have to check out the official XMBC forums for help, and to keep abreast of new developments in the community. 

PS3 Media Server

PS3 only Add those files Where the magic happens

If you have videos, PS3 Media Server can probably play them. All of them. You won't find a couch-friendly user interface, streaming support for all sorts of nonconsole devices, or any other ancillary features that have nothing to do with playing videos on your PlayStation 3. The only bit of extravagance the developers managed to add was support for multiple operating systems. PS3 Media Server runs on Windows, OSX, and Linux. The program also takes advantage of multicore CPUs for transcoding, although the feature is usable only by Windows users at the moment.

Setup and installation couldn't be any easier. Outside of clicking on the install file, we didn't have to do much. Adding media was as simple as pointing the program at a folder on our hard drive. The lightweight interface uses very little in terms of system resources (although you might want to keep an eye on RAM usage once the program starts transcoding). Adding shared folders proved as easy as hitting the plus button.

As the name suggests, the software works only with the PlayStation 3. (We did get media files to show up on the Xbox 360, but they didn't play properly.) We encountered no issues at all in getting the program to work with our PS3. Every video we threw at the program worked properly, including the gigantic MKVs that bogged down TVersity and XBMC. Like the other programs, there are probably some formats that the program can't handle, but PS3 Media Server offered the best video compatibility from the default installation.

Conclusion

We enjoyed using every one of the programs that we discussed in this feature. However, we found that none of them are bulletproof. Expect to encounter any number of random network issues and the occasional crash. Making so many different devices play nice with each other and have them support a bazillion file formats is very difficult, and, frankly, we're still impressed with the fact that all of these programs are free (feel free to donate though). Each program has its strengths, and when it comes down to it, you're not really limited to running only one of the programs. We actually ended up running all three of them at the same time for maximum functionality.

Do you use your console to watch videos? What do you watch and how do you watch them?

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Discussion

199 comments
SKW1972
SKW1972

All this sounds like greek to me. As somebody who's not interested in NetFlix or streaming videos,would I still need to get any of these programs? Obviously I don't need them to play games or watch blu ray movies. Would I need these programs to play demos,or watch the promotional videos that I see at the stores or for add ons?Thanks,in advance,for any answers.

Tank252ca
Tank252ca

Asm92784 wrote: "I use my PS2 for streaming media to my TV using nothing more than a simple homebrew app on my PS2 with NO modchip and Windows file sharing on my PC. I can use all of my music and Pics and any Divx or Xvid video file which is my preferred video format anyways. Who needs a Ps3 or a 360 for that matter when my PS2 is still giving me so much use." Ummm... Just about anyone with a high definition TV. Keep in mind that the PS2 is SD only and the PS3 and 360 are both HD devices. I've used laptops and the Wii to play SD content and the image quality is no where near what you'll get from a modern console, even at 720p. You're main advantage is smaller file size and less computing power requirements. 1080p files start to get quite large and older PCs will choke on those files if you try and transcode on the fly, but if you have a large HD TV those older SD video formats will look horrible on the big screen.

Ninjitsu_Gamer
Ninjitsu_Gamer

Uhh...Gamespot? Are you sure this thing works with the 360? Seriously having a hard time getting this to work...

truckingpete
truckingpete

so I got a question...can you stream TV shows from Hulu on to your 360 using TVersity????

Farazjr
Farazjr

Whoever wants to get rid of the XBOX 360 red ring of death go to www.360ringofdeathfix.com and fix it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

jxsilicon9
jxsilicon9

Its better just to use an external harddrive. I just copy movies to my external usb harddrive and then connect it to xbox 360. It has to be in fat32 format. It doesn't work with ntfs.

polterdice
polterdice

You can stream netflix on ps3 without PlayOn now, just request the disc, pop it in and select your movie

Asm92784
Asm92784

I use my PS2 for streaming media to my TV using nothing more than a simple homebrew app on my PS2 with NO modchip and Windows file sharing on my PC. I can use all of my music and Pics and any Divx or Xvid video file which is my preferred video format anyways. Who needs a Ps3 or a 360 for that matter when my PS2 is still giving me so much use.

eternity21
eternity21

Is Netflix only accessible in the US? What about Asia & Europe?

Mattallyc
Mattallyc

Mediatomb is what I use to stream to my PS3. Works on Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OS X. It's completely free (opensource), and was quite easy to set up. Google it!

warfighter172
warfighter172

Any comments on how safe tversity is? When I try to download on my computer it asks me to switch off my UAC (user account control) I'm not sure if I should allow that! Any ideas please help! Thanks

Gammit10
Gammit10

I've used orb to not only stream media to my 360, but to access my home computer while at work. I recommend checking it out.

boxterduke
boxterduke

Quick question, using xbmc or any of the other programs mentioned, can I stream the content of the video_ts folder of a movie that is ripped on the PC?

cwistova
cwistova

I use TVersity with PS3 on a wired connection. I stream music, videos & photos. Works great!

FZTofer
FZTofer

TVersity isn't for macs :(

magic137b1
magic137b1

The only problem i have with my console and media streaming is that i can't play anything from iTunes to the PS3. I think they should make a console version of iTunes for the PS3 or Xbox so you can stream all that stuff.

zenon0069
zenon0069

With the cost of NAS what it is (ok mine was £340) it beats the hell out of having to have your pc on at all times, as an added bonus my IcyBox came with the required server already built in!!!

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

@zenon0069. Good point mate, Thats exactly want i want to do, however at the moment i am using an external drive connected via USB and it works fine BUT i want to connect & play via my LAN, that would be cool without having to rely on Streaming from another device (PC). All i can tell you is that my current method only allows playback once the drive is formatted as FAT32.

zenon0069
zenon0069

This is going to seem like a really stupid comment but i thought i'd throw it out there and see what happens, but what about linking your PS3 or 360 to a NAS drive? eliminating the PC completely, i have a NAS with 2 x 1.5Tb drives for the purposes of film, music, pictures etc.

Adam_the_Nerd
Adam_the_Nerd

This is fantastic for people that want to watch movies and TV without having to burn to a DVD or crowd around a small screen. Why watch on a 17-22" screen when you could watch on a 30-50" one?

ion_flux
ion_flux

"Renji12 Posted Feb 9, 2009 10:55 am PT its not a computer thats the point dumbass" PC. Category. Front page. Consoles are for people like you.

Renji12
Renji12

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

HarryPalms
HarryPalms

Why is this on the PC category front page? Real computers have streaming video out the kazoo.

S31Ender
S31Ender

"Its not even up for discussion which console has better media playback capabilities. Plus whos gona want to use up their hdd in their 360. I got a 250 gig in my ps3 so I put whatever I want on it." Streaming does NOT place the files on your console. You don't even need a hard drive at ALL to stream on the 360. (I don't know for sure about the PS3, but I would ASSUME it's the case as well.)

orcbuster
orcbuster

great job on the article, use my xbox to stream media from my computer all the time.

internationaal
internationaal

I think thearticle should have included Windows Media Player. It does a decent job, it just fails on my ps3 when trying to get a list of MP3's. Also, Nero MediaHome that came as part of Nero 7 (it's now a separate package!) worked okay, just transcoding was strange as it first wanted to transcode the whole file before starting to stream it...

N2TheFlames
N2TheFlames

That TVersity ROCKS. Just got it rolling in my network, streaming to my PS3, PSP, and my Blackberry Curve. This is EXACTLY what I've been looking for. I can sit on the patio with my laptop and watch anything that's on my computer in the house. The PS3 plays them without hesitation or lag. I tried XBMC as well as MANY other so-called media servers. But this was the only one that just WORKED, and worked WELL. Thanks Gamespot for this info!!! 5 stars!

swgneni
swgneni

Wow!! I had never discovered this before. I was always moving my portable HDD back and forth. This is so much better. Thanks gamespot!!!!!!!

Junior_AIN
Junior_AIN

Yesterday I was gonna mess around with XBMC, learn how to do stuff and all that, but ended up not doing it.

lhsjazzman
lhsjazzman

I still think people are missing the point. Some people say, "I don't want to stream because I have a (storage devices galore)." Streaming allows you to store everything on your PCs massive drives (1.5TB here), turn on your computer and PS3 or X360, and voila! You don't have to move files or hardware. My PS3 is in the basement, my PC is on the 2nd floor along with the wireless router. I could re-run an ethernet cord through the air ducts to the basement, but that's a pain in the butt and required a 150-200ft Cat5e cable (had a wired computer in basement, but not near the PS3). I also never have to copy files and move them to external storage. This is why you would opt for digital streaming. Location and convenience are the motivating factor. My router has usb for NAS, so even better, no computer has to be on! The Xbox's only advantage is its ability to act as a Media Extender, meaning it can communicate directly with Windows Media Center, taking advantage of WMC's solid interface. Other than that, I have to say PS3 is the better choice for video sourcing because of BD and built-in wireless. In response to rift33, I've heard TVersity is good, but I've used Nero8's MediaHome for about a10 months now, and love it. I'd say Nero8 is a better option because you Media server and BD/DVD/CD authoring software, too. To each his own, that's just my opinion on the matter.

ianik
ianik

I`ve PS3 and X360 and PC. all of them are connected to TV separately... OMG why should I care about streaming between them? of course it is nice to know this and good to know HOW TO, but as it is already said in here "Cool, no thanks" ....

YourChaosIsntMe
YourChaosIsntMe

Marco = blah, blah, blah, blah. Seriously dude, shut up. The guy who said that about the 360 is an idiot and you're an idiot for responding to him. Chill out and recognize that most of us don't give a **** what super awesome console you prefer. It just doesn't seem necessary. Why would I want to view photos or listen to music through the PS3.I understand streaming videos through your PS3, but you could save yourself 5000% of the hassle by getting the right set of cables to go from your PC to A/V inputs on your television. The "All-in-one" marketing angle will not be getting me this generation. I understand why some people are enamored with it (Maybe you're really into cutting-edge tech, maybe you like to show off, maybe it is simply functional for you because your PC isn't anywhere near your tv...I don't know), but I've personally got better things to worry about when my PC to TV connection is more reliable and functional than any of the software available. So, in short, "Cool, no thanks."

rift33
rift33

TVersity rocks and seems to be the best so far atleast!!!! I have all of the systems and tversity seems to work best and I tried all of these programs that they have here. So I recommend "well u guessed it" tversity!!!

TheGameCritic
TheGameCritic

Marco why u trying to start an argument? god if u want to argue take it to the forums

Grodus5
Grodus5

Marcopolo, I'm not trying to start an argument, however, you can't mention that Resistance 2 was nominated best shooter without saying that the winner of said category was Left 4 Dead, which the last time I checked, was not on the PS3. However, I will give you the rest of your post, except Guitar Hero, which will also be on the 360. Also, I have a friend that is the biggest Sony fanboy ever, bought a PS3 at launch, sold it. Guess what he just bought? Both a PS3 AND a 360. The PS3 had a slow start, but its coming back, thats for sure.

marcopolo4212
marcopolo4212

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

maxpaynev3
maxpaynev3

@ thenephariouson Thanks man, I have a 250g HD but didn't know why my PS3 & XBOX wasn't reading it

Senor_Kami
Senor_Kami

@rmoorevtps: The 360 supports all of those except for the AVCHD. Neither consoles support .MKV files and both of them have extremely wonky MP4 support (no subtitles formats supported, can't use AAC-HE and video must be marked as 4.1 or it won't play). I'm surprised the article totally skipped over PlayOn.

rmoorevtps3
rmoorevtps3

PS3 supports the following video codecs: * Memory Stick Video Format * - MPEG-4 SP (AAC LC) * - H.264/MPEG-4 AVC High Profile (AAC LC) * - MPEG-2 TS(H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, AAC LC) * MP4 file format * - H.264/MPEG-4 AVC High Profile (AAC LC) * MPEG-1 (MPEG Audio Layer 2) * MPEG-2 PS (MPEG2 Audio Layer 2, AAC LC, AC3(Dolby Digital), LPCM) * MPEG-2 TS(MPEG2 Audio Layer 2, AC3(Dolby Digital), AAC LC) * MPEG-2 TS(H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, AAC LC) * AVI * - Motion JPEG (Linear PCM) * - Motion JPEG (μ-Law) * AVCHD (.m2ts / .mts) * DivX * WMV * - VC-1(WMA Standard V2) Its not even up for discussion which console has better media playback capabilities. Plus whos gona want to use up their hdd in their 360. I got a 250 gig in my ps3 so I put whatever I want on it.

LexLas
LexLas

Nope i'd rather use my computer. I would not want to jepordize my PS3 like that.

prestoncross
prestoncross

AHAHAHA andypipkin... theres the old famous excuse. "more games/ better games" please. come up with something new. and dont you think the 360 might have more games since it came out a year or two before the PS3? but last time i went by Gamestop, it looked like PS3 had the same amount of games on the wall as 360. And where do you get Gears of War being game of the year? go look at what game is game of the year for '08. Metal gear Solid dumbass. Sorry man, but your Halo games, and Gears of War, and PGR4(HAHAHA) doesnt measure up to Killzone 2, Metal Gear solid 4, Resistance, or Gran Turismo. And sh*t, what other game compares to Little Big Planet? hmmm. Nothing.

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

Any 360 owner trying to stream: You DONT need to 'Stream' video files from Media Centre onto the 360: 1, Purchase External USB HDD & Caddy. 2, Format as FAT32. 3, Copy / RIP all your favourite flicks onto the drive as AVI/DIVX. 4, Select and play them via the Video menu (dont need to be connected to XBL to play). NOTE: If you take a JPEG image of the film cover and name it EXACTLY THE SAME the video file name e.g. Film Name= Star Wars JPEG name = Star Wars. This will then insert the film cover on the film file, pretty cool. I know this may seem pretty obvious but just dont see the point of streaming from Media Centre etc.

marty352
marty352

P.s. i have the bluetooth remote for the ps3 and it makes things an absolute breeze to watch films and play music :)

marty352
marty352

Did you guys miss the topic or what, its about streaming using your consoles whether its xbox or playstation not what games are exclusive. why must the convo always be the same, you've made your point we get it so can we get back to the topic please!