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New codecs for Xbox 360 means more video options

When Microsoft revealed the release date of its Spring Update, the most heavily touted features were Windows Live Messenger integration, better Achievements system and the new QWERTY keypad accessory. What wasn’t obvious at first were some of the less advertised features, namely H.264 and MPEG-4 support:

  • Added H.264 video support: Up to 10 Mbps peak, Baseline, Main, and High profiles with 2 channel AAC LC.
  • Added MPEG-4 Part 2 video support: Up to 5 Mbps peak, Simple Profile with 2 channel AAC LC.

With the addition of MPEG-4, the immediate question is if the Xbox 360 will now play DivX or XviD videos downloaded off the Internet. The answer is no, as the Xbox 360 will only natively support the WMV and MP4 containers—not AVI or MKV.

Red Kawa, maker of Videora, applauds Microsoft’s additions through a post on the Videora Web site. “This puts Microsoft at the head of the pack in the Apple TV vs PS3 vs Xbox 360 video battle royale. Wth the Xbox 360 you get full 1080p video support (aka H.264 Level 4.1) as well as H.264 High Profile support. The Apple TV maxes out at 720p (Level 3.1) and H.264 Main Profile support. Meanwhile the PS3 supports 1080p (Level 4.1) but only at H.264 Main Profile as well,” the post read.

The Spring Update will be released the week of May 7 and will be easily accessible to every Xbox 360 owner through Xbox Live or on

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Example files
By DingieM on 4/12/2007 9:29:30 AM , Rating: 2
So what kind of files (i.e. with what file extension) can be played then? Still vague.
Full 1080p is nice but my TV cannot display it...<sigh>, its just one of those "HD Ready" that maxes out at 1080i on a maximum screen resolution of 1366x768.

RE: Example files
By abhaxus on 4/12/2007 9:52:15 AM , Rating: 2
Your TV technically "maxes out" at 720p, which in many ways is a superior format to 1080i. Your sources should be outputting to your TV in that format, as you are losing substantial resolution to the deinterlacing process otherwise.

Also, the article states that it will only support mp4 and wmv extensions for the time being.

RE: Example files
By creathir on 4/12/2007 11:02:12 AM , Rating: 4
Actually, he is not losing resolution. He is just losing frames per second. 1080i runs at the SAME resolution as 1080p, but it is half the frame rate. (30 fps instead of 60 fps)

The frame rate is a big deal, but considering our eye only picks up 30 fps, this is not a SUPER big deal.

Also, it is important to note that most film (movies) natively are in 24 frames per second. Resolution is not affected really by frames per second.

- Creathir

RE: Example files
By abhaxus on 4/12/2007 11:31:34 AM , Rating: 2
Your point would be valid if he was referring to his 1080p TV, but if you read his post, his TV's native resolution is 1366x768. So having sources input at 1080i is going to have lower image quality than 720p (provided the source is a 1080p/720p source, such as the xbox 360).

RE: Example files
By Jackyl on 4/12/2007 11:58:13 AM , Rating: 2
It is always better to scale down instead of scaling up. Setting you DVD player to output at 1080i and having your TV scale down to 720p is better. The TV is 1366x768, which is a little better than 720p frames (1280x720).

If you just set your player to output 720p, the TV's scaler than has to rescale up to 1366x768. This is a no-no for most home theater owners.

RE: Example files
By Jackyl on 4/12/2007 12:15:36 PM , Rating: 2
If the TV has a good deinterlacer, inputing 1080i into a TV that has 1366x768 is more acceptable than inputing 720p into it. Because the TV would still have to scale the 720p input up to 1366x768.

Every home theater suggestion I've read says that if you have a 1366x768 TV, then set your DVD player to output 1080i, and let the TV scale down to 1366x768.

RE: Example files
By Lakku on 4/12/2007 11:48:13 AM , Rating: 3
It's not true that the eye only picks up 30fps.. I wish that myth would die. Aisde from that, it depends on the TV whether or not you are losing resolution. Not all TVs are created equal, and many do not deinterlace 1080i properly. A number of sets halve the 1080 to 540, and then synthesize the remaining 540 lines. You are therefore, essentially, getting a 1920x540 picture. A good TV deinterlacer chip saves the first 540 line in memory, receives the second, then puts them together to give you your image. These two feats take place because almost every HDTV is inherently progressive scan.

RE: Example files
By noirsoft on 4/12/2007 8:43:37 PM , Rating: 2
I believe the original fact that became this myth is:

At around 24 fps is when the average eye begins to see a succession of still images as continuous motion instead of single frames.

Obviously eyes differ from individual to individual, but the point is that 24 fps is the minimum needed for most people to see it as smooth and continuous, not that it is the max needed.

As for 1080i vs 720p, my set definitely looks better when receiving 720p vs 1080i, and it has a Faroudjah deinterlacer. One should always try it both ways and see which is preferred rather than rely on any technojargon recommendation.

RE: Example files
By Jackyl on 4/12/2007 11:52:14 AM , Rating: 3
No, you are not losing frame rate.

1080i is interlaced , and runs at 60Hz. Each frame is made up of two fields . This turns out to 30fps.

1080p is progressive and runs at 60Hz. Each frame is just a full frame. Every frame is displayed twice essentially, making it 60fps. But you are not gaining anything. It just doubles frames. In fact you may lose smoothness of motion in fast action scenes, because interlacing can make motion look smoother.

"Your" eye may only pick up 30fps, but there are many people who can see the difference and advantages of higher frame rates. 24fps in film is old technology that needs to be updated. It is very jerky looking to me. 30fps is not much better. If the film industry went with any of the 48fps standards Maxivision 48 cinema , I would then be happy.

Read up on Persistence of vision .

RE: Example files
By Motley on 4/12/2007 2:28:19 PM , Rating: 2
First 1080i and 1080p doesn't specify a frame rate. It's not fixed at 30/60 fps as you suggest.

Second, 1080p doesn't double frames.

Third, interlacing doesn't make motion look smoother, in a best case scenario, you'll get larger jumps between frames because of the lower frame rate. It's quite common however, for the input source and deinterlacer to be using two differing techniques, especially if the original source is interlaced or has had some smoothing done to try and make it look better. Think of it like this...

Frame 1 / Frame 2

In this case think of an edge of an object that is moving right (or camera panning left), where the edge of the X object is straight up and down.

Interlaced, you will get this:
Frame 1 / Frame 2 / De-interlaced
OXX / --- / OXX
--- / OOX / OOX
OXX / --- / OXX
--- / OOX / OOX

As you can see, the de-interlaced frame the edge of the X object is no longer straight up and down, which is what is called the "tearing effect" that interlaced images have. The more motion, the more jagged the edge of the X object becomes. In low motion scenes, your brain will kinda auto-correct the edge for you if it's an object your are familiar with, but as the edge gets more jagged, it won't, and it looks terrible.

RE: Example files
By Jackyl on 4/12/2007 3:00:06 PM , Rating: 2
According to the official HDTV specs, frame rate is fixed. Please show facts showing otherwise.

RE: Example files
By saratoga on 4/14/2007 2:23:58 PM , Rating: 2
He technically right. You can do 1080i at a million FPS if you really want to. No TV does this as you point out, but if you want to be an ass on the internet, you can correctly say that the FPS can be anything.

RE: Example files
By paulpod on 4/12/2007 5:06:28 PM , Rating: 2
> Third, interlacing doesn't make motion look smoother

This is insanely wrong. Smooth motion is why interlacing was chosen for TV over 70 years ago. Imagine a baseball moving across the screen. Getting a 1/60 exposure shot of the ball 60 times a second is critical to perceiving smooth motion. Losing half the lines of each exposure is irrelevent to smoothness since the brain fills in that spatial data perfectly. The brain has much poorer capacity for filling in temporal data.

Watch a film of a baseball game sometime to see how "archival" versus "live" it looks. Watch a drummer drumming frame by frame on a 60fps 720p live TV broadcast (I use: transport stream->DGIndex->Virtualdub). That framerate is just barely good enough to catch full strokes. 24 or 30fps just gives you a suggestion of the actual motion.

Before I got full hardware deinterlacing to work on my PCs with HD tuners, the 30fps approximation was unwatchable.

RE: Example files
By darkavatar on 4/13/2007 5:47:29 AM , Rating: 2
I'd say you're not entirely correct.

let's start from the old SD days. the g'old CRT TV set displays 60 fields/sec, and displays(scans) each picture at a different time point sequentially. Since the eye sees each field on the correct temporal point you will get smooth 60fps motion. this works because Old CRT TV is a interleave scaning display.

but the problem is it is usually saved as 30frames/s interlaced (eg:DVD & other MPEG streams). On a progressive scan display (like an LCD or my crappy digital progressive scan CRT TV at home), 2 interlaced fields will be shown as 1 frame on 1 temporal point , and either interlaced lines show up or you get a blurred average of the two fields (depends on decoder/player). Both are not smooth 60 fps motion, and might not even look smooth at all.

you can try this by interlacing 60p video to 60i, which is stored as 30p. Try playing that file you will see what I mean. If you use any kind of deinterlacing, then I doubt that you are seeing 60fps. You need do a frame-bob:separate fields, double vertical rez, save/view as 60fps file.

If any 60i was stored as 60p @ half rez, then its not interlaced, right? So an interlaced stream must be referring to 60i stored as 30p, which introduces all kinds of problems. I don't have a modern HDTV set, so I'm not sure how they deal with that, probably depends on their DSP chips anyway.

read further @
its PAL so replace 25 with 30, 50 with 60 ,100 with 120.

PS:my crappy digital progressive scan CRT TV at home shows 60i as 30p, it simply progressively scans the same frame(2 fields) twice to make it 60hz. Which mean interlaced hell on a CRT TV, kinda unbelievable, but true.

So for me, interlacing doesn't make the motion look smoother on the TV.

Red Kawa
By i4mt3hwin on 4/12/2007 9:30:13 AM , Rating: 2
Does anyone know how many mbps a 1080p movie is? H.264 encoding should be fine, but for the mpeg I was under the impression that 1080p is 8000+ mbps.

PS - I've been using Red Kawa's software for some time now, with both my PS3 and Xbox360. He makes some great stuff and I recommend those who haven't used it to check it out.

RE: Red Kawa
By Jackyl on 4/12/2007 12:11:36 PM , Rating: 2
Well the DVD standard supports 9.8Mbps(9800kbps) video, with 10.08Mbps(10080kbps) total bitrate including audio.

Blu-Ray max video bitrate 40Mbps, maximum total with audio 48Mbps.
HD-DVD max video bitrate 29.4Mbps, maximum total with audio 30.24 Mbps.

RE: Red Kawa
By walk2k on 4/12/2007 12:57:43 PM , Rating: 2
Most movies average around 18-20mpbs (with the newer codes, AVC/VC1).

But you can get "acceptable" results down to 10-12mpbs, and that is unfortunately what downloadable content will shoot for, in order to speed up transfer times.

RE: Red Kawa
By Motley on 4/12/2007 2:43:50 PM , Rating: 2
In car terms (because I personally like car analogies), you've just asked:
Does anyone know how many mph a ford car is? Regular unleaded should be fine, but for the car I was under the impression that ford is 240+ mph.

You have to be a bit more specific, and under what conditions. A 1080p movie can be anywhere from like .01 mbps to a 100000000000mbps depending on frame rate and compression. Of course DVD's, HD-DVD's and blue rays have a maximum mbps they can sucessfully play without stuttering (not being able to read the data off the disk fast enough, or not being able to process that particular frame rate/encoding).

By solgae1784 on 4/12/2007 11:54:45 AM , Rating: 2
I'm glad MS is now supporting H.264 and mp4 support. It makes me feel better that it now puts on par or above the apple TV, with an added bonus of being able to play games and being able to display on 1080p. Unless of course, you decide to hack off apple TV.

I can't see MS supporting DivX or Xvid anytime soon, least it might promote streaming pirated movies that are usually encoded as DivX/Xvid, and MS doesn't seem to like to take any chances.

Only problem would be that H.264 encoding takes twice as long as the other codecs, so I think transcoding solutions would still stick with WMV or mpeg4.

RE: H.264
By ViRGE on 4/12/2007 12:58:19 PM , Rating: 2
It depends on how the transcoding is handled. Based on the features described, the 360 won't have a problem with the current MPEG4/H.264 streams, it will just be the container and the audio. While it's a bit easier just to do a full transcode to WMV, it's entirely possible to do a streaming half-transcode and take the existing video stream, take the audio stream and transcode it, and then pack that all in a MP4 container.

Even if it didn't work well for transcoding, it would be quick & easy to write a utility to repack those files permanently. At the very least, I'd expect this to cause the release groups to quickly change their routines for HD(H.264) releases by dropping MKV+H.264+AC3 and start doing MP4+H.264+AAC instead.

By Mitch101 on 4/12/2007 9:49:55 AM , Rating: 3
Thankyou Microsoft now deliver the 65nm version of the X-Box before I can find a Wii and Im yours.

For any of you who record in HD formats on your PC's you know what this could mean.

HD streams can run up to 19.2MBS but 8Mbs should be perfectly fine for 1080i streams. If you encode them into WMV9 or HD-DIVX then it will surely do.

The phatom
By OrSin on 4/12/07, Rating: -1
RE: The phatom
By wrekd on 4/12/2007 9:53:55 AM , Rating: 2
?Syntax Error?

Does Not Compute!

Beep! Beep!

RE: The phatom
By Yeah Yeah on 4/12/2007 10:12:10 AM , Rating: 1
Remembet the company tha thad the game console that never saw the light of day. Thye had mouse keybaord think that should hqavebeen released a while back too. That would be perfect for the xbox. To bad ms is really trying not to kill the PC gamering market. I love PC games but once in while i would not mind playing some on a console and for that you really need a mouse and key. At least I do for RTS.

Dude you don't need a fucking keyboard and mouse, you need spell check!

RE: The phatom
By Visual on 4/12/2007 11:50:17 AM , Rating: 5
"Gamering" is officially my new favorite word now.

RE: The phatom
By FITCamaro on 4/12/2007 11:57:24 AM , Rating: 1
Firefox 2.0 to the rescue!!!

Bring BD add on to xbox 360!!
By teainthesahara on 4/12/07, Rating: -1
RE: Bring BD add on to xbox 360!!
By Mitch101 on 4/12/2007 10:06:24 AM , Rating: 2
Microsoft please allow streaming of HD-DVD and BLUE RAY media from the PC to the X-Box 360.

I would much rather have a central media center than several doing the same function.

Heck you can make it a Vista Exclusive if you want.

Sounds like a setup for a Blu-Ray add-on...
By therealnickdanger on 4/12/07, Rating: -1
By therealnickdanger on 4/12/2007 9:42:32 AM , Rating: 2
I wanted to add that there are probably many studios that also prefer to use MP4 for protected content for Video Marketplace rather than WMV.

RE: Sounds like a setup for a Blu-Ray add-on...
By abhaxus on 4/12/2007 9:50:12 AM , Rating: 4
What are you talking about being their lead codec? The VAST majority of BD movies to this date have been mpeg2. HD-DVD meanwhile has mostly been an h264 and VC-1 format so far. To play back HD-DVDs the 360 would have already had to support h264, it is required for the format. Now they are simply making the decoding available to other containers besides an actual HD-DVD disc.

I personally hope mkv support is soon to follow, either from MS or from someone else. I would buy a 360 in a heartbeat if they added mkv support. I have dozens of movies in 720p and 1080p waiting to be watched in my theater room.

RE: Sounds like a setup for a Blu-Ray add-on...
By Mitch101 on 4/12/2007 10:02:42 AM , Rating: 2
One can only hope they support mkv but I think thats a long shot.

By UNCjigga on 4/12/2007 10:39:53 AM , Rating: 2
Well as long as the right codec is supported, isn't it a fairly easy task to change the wrapper/container of a media file? I know this wouldn't be ideal (you'd lose support for multiple audio streams and embedded subtitles) but at least you won't have to reencode/transcode the movie. I'm not an expert on MKV though so I don't know.

By therealnickdanger on 4/12/2007 12:18:44 PM , Rating: 2
Oh yeah, I forgot about that. LOL! It's one of those days...


Opening the Xbox360 to the AVI and MKV containers would rule so undeniably hard.

RE: Sounds like a setup for a Blu-Ray add-on...
By Topweasel on 4/12/2007 9:52:03 AM , Rating: 2
They have always supported Blu-Rays lead codec (Mpeg2) along with Mpeg4-AVC with their VC-1. Why? Because Mpeg4-AVC, Mpeg2, and VC-1 are all codecs required for playback on HD-DVD players just like Blu-Ray. All this does is allow for use of Mpeg4 standard to be used as a codec for certain containers in regards to local stored media files.

RE: Sounds like a setup for a Blu-Ray add-on...
By tuteja1986 on 4/12/2007 10:24:16 AM , Rating: 2
OMG : ) I am so happy : )

Now Microsoft give me OGM and MKV support too.

Anyways its not a Blu-ray setup as Microsoft would have to support Java for it and HD-DVD supports all tree format that Blu-ray supports.

By sscilli on 4/13/2007 2:57:46 AM , Rating: 2
Good news, though they of course only support worthless containers. It's not hard to demux and remux to the right container, but for the average noob downloading pirated content this will stop them for a while. As far as what resolution to output to you TV goes, I always go with native resolution or less resizing. If your TV has a native resolution of 1366x768 than outputing to 720p would mean your TV will apply a slight upscale. But outputting to 1080i means that the image will be upscaled upscaled and interlaced, and than downscaled. I don't know about you guys but I was under the impression that the less post-processing you do to a video the better.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il
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