Playing Ripped DVDs with Media Center Extenders


At last I have succeeded in getting ripped DVDs to play from my Xbox 360's Media Center Extender, and here is how I did it. First off let me explain my goals:

  • I want to be able to play my kid's DVDs via my home network, so they can avoid trashing the shiny discs any more than they already have
  • Playback needs to be from something other than my PC, so my kids don't trash that
  • I also want to avoid transcoding the DVDs into another format, because my time is extremely limited (thanks to having two kids)
  • I'd like the original DVD menus and Extras to be available.

Ah well, 3 out of 4 ain't bad: the last goal is still unattainable.

Requirements

  • Media Center on Vista SP1
  • Media Center Extender (I use an Xbox 360, I assume the 2nd gen extenders will also work but I don't have one)
  • The ability to edit XML files (e.g. Notepad)
  • Ripped DVDs

How I Did It

  1. First off I ripped the DVDs to my file server. I'm not going to tell you how to do this.
  2. Next I enabled "DVD Library" which lets you play ripped DVDs on the Vista machine itself in Media Center
  3. Next I got my Xbox 360 to see my Media Center on my Vista (64-bit) box. This was substantially harder than it is for most people as I run a Domain Controller on my home network, plus the files are on a file server, not on my Vista machine (here is a link to the magic for those with their own domain controller). Once I got it working I was crucially disappointed to see that "DVD Library" did not show up on the Xbox.
  4. The trick to getting "DVD Library" to show up is revealed here. This took me longer than it should because although "DVD Library" showed up on my Xbox soon enough, the only content was the Apollo 13 and Vertigo clips that come with Vista. No amount of me messing with the Extender Settings could change this. However, turns out I was an idiot: pressing the Info key brings up a sub-menu with "Add Movies" on it. Once I did that and added the share from my server, I was in business.
  5. Getting rid of Vertigo and Apollo 13 proved impossible except by removing the files physically from my Vista machine.

More Info

I created a new share on my server, called DVDs, to separate the kids rips from the general pool. For each desired movie, I made a new directory (whose name is what shows up in the "DVD Library"), and into it I placed:

  • Folder.jpg - disc artwork borrowed from Amazon, cropped to DVD-shape when required
  • VIDEO_TS.IFO - zero length file required
  • The hardest bit: working out which VOBs are the actual movie. For each one, I created a hardlink MPEG from the VOB in the original rip directory.
  • Foo.wvx - XML file as described in the link above. Only a few elements are supported, described in the Playlist section of this page. The name of this file makes no difference, the extension does though. For each VOB you worked out above, add an Entry/Ref section as described.

Hints & Tips

When playing DVDs this way, there is no trick play, and chapter skipping just seems to jump 30 seconds or so. Also when there is a transition of one MPEG to the next, there is a few seconds of blackness. Anamorphic DVDs look great, 4:3 ones as well as expected, but non-anamorphic widescreen titles have black bars on all sides.

If you find the ASX spec you will see all sorts of goodies, but they are mostly ignored unfortunately. Its hard to find the spec, but this link works sometimes and this one at other times.

Don't use Windows Media Player to work out which VOBs are which: it is too smart and recognizes its a DVD rip. I used Nero's Showtime instead. You can use WMP to check the WVX file works, but note that it will choose a seemingly random audio track for each MPEG file. Don't be alarmed, MCE chooses the right track when it plays them, WMP is broken in this regard.

I had problems using a VIDEO_TS directory: just placing the listed files directly into a suitably named directory worked much better for me.

In an ideal world you could play ripped DVDs on Extenders out-of-the-box, but you can't and some hoops are necessary. These hoops are worth it for me though. I can dream about DVD menu support I suppose...

Comments (26)

  1. Cronan says:

    I’ve been trying to get this working for years. Andy, you’ve made me very very happy, thanks for this specific post and a great blog in general.

  2. Mehar says:

    Nice write up, I’m going to have to try this one out later.

  3. Andy-Pennell says:

    I just discovered that the WVX file does NOT need to have full paths if it is in the same directory as the MPEGs themselves, which would have saved me a bunch of typing last weekend. A basename is sufficient. Also makes the file more "portable" around your network.

  4. Andy-Pennell says:

    Picked up a Linksys DMA2100 Media Extender on Craigslist for a song and it works brilliantly for this. Stuck the Linksys on the kids’ 4:3 TV instead of using my Xbox 360 on our widescreen TV.

  5. Tipper says:

    Go grab the plugin for media center called mymovies from http://www.mymovies.dk/

    It will automaticially do the ripping as well as the folder.jpg creation all from a menu inside of the media center gui.  It also lets you have all of the dvd menus and such.

  6. Andy-Pennell says:

    Thanks Tipper, I did take a look at mymovies but it says it doesn’t work on the 360 (see http://www.mymovies.dk/documentation/xbox-360-extender.aspx)

  7. deadspeak says:

    Mymovies works a treat with xbox360 i’ve been using it for months, i have around 250 dvd’s in dvr-ms format on a WHS and everything works great full ffwd and rewind, skip etc.

  8. Mehar says:

    I’m might check out the mymovies plug in, it seems like a really nice tool.

    I wonder if I can get Libra working with it though.

  9. Wade says:

    deadspeak – would you mind reaching out to answer some questions?  I’ve been trying to get MyMovies and the XBOX360 to work for awhile now, to no avail.  I’d be grateful for any information or tips you can share!

    blog@wadewegner.com

  10. Pete Stagman says:

    I’ve been working on the WHS and NAS symbolic link issue and came up with a workaround. I added a new How-To page. http://www.htpcug.org/DVDLibraryonExtendersHowTo/WHSandNASdevices/tabid/169/Default.aspx It’s currently a LOT of work to create all the links, but it’s a start.

    I’ve asked the person who wrote the original createwvx.vbs script to update it to autoamate this procedure. If anyone else wants to tackle the script, be my guest. I’m no good at VBScript.

    –Pete

    —————————————

    Pete Stagman

    Media Center MVP

    President, Home Theater PC User Group

    http://www.htpcug.org

  11. For some inexplicable reason Zune playlists (ZPL) are different from Windows Media Player playlists (WPL).

  12. Wes says:

    Spend about 3 days on this to find out that I had everything working except, I needed to add the movies folder again for the extender =-(

    Thanks Andy.  Your blog was the help I needed.

  13. Jon says:

    Following the instructions, I could play ripped DVD on Vista ultimate. However it doesn’t work on my linksys extender.  The error is "The file type is not recognized, and cannot be played."  Any ideas?  Thanks.

  14. Pete Stagman says:

    For everyone that was having problems running the CreateWVX script. There is now a utility that automates the entire link process.

    http://www.nedmug.com/DVDLibraryonExtendersHowTo/tabid/168/Default.aspx

    –Pete

  15. Barry says:

    Hi Andy,

    I’m really trying to get this to work…

    Here is my thread….

    http://thegreenbutton.com/forums/ShowThread.aspx?PostID=302298#302317

    I get the movies to show up….but when i try to play them it "thinks" for a bout 30 seconds and then i get this error:

    "Cannot Play Video" File type is not recognized and cannot be played.  Either the correct codec is not installed ot the file is corrupt.

    I’m not sure why….can u please lend me some advice / help?

    thx!!

  16. Steve Jeans says:

    Why do NONE of these links to http://www.htpcug.org work anymore?? This seems to be the key to solving my problem byt yet all the links are dead. Is there an other place where I can look?

  17. Collide says:

    Can you explain how you were able to play media that resides on a file server share and not on the Media Center from your xbox? I wasn’t able to get this to work.

  18. Andy-Pennell says:

    Steve: the site seems to be having trouble, but http://www.htpcug.org/DVDLibraryonExtendersHowTo/tabid/168/Default.aspx works for me right now.

  19. Andy-Pennell says:

    Collide: do you run a Windows Domain too? I added a link to the info that you need into the posting.

  20. Bart says:

    is it possible to have subtitles with this technique? That would be great for me since english is not my native language and most movies are english spoken.

  21. Andy-Pennell says:

    Bart: No, this technique plays the EVOBs audio/video only. If you post-processed the video and burnt in the subtitles to the video it would work, but I forget the names of the tools necessary to do that.

  22. Tim says:

    I did everything but DVD Library won’t show on Xbox360. Please help.

  23. Craig Fox says:

    Well Written!!!  I wish you had put this together when I had decided to move my DVD library to disk late last year.  I came to all the same conclusions that you did and even used many of the same tools.  A couple of comments.

    1) Permissions on the MetaData share must be set to Modify or greater.  Don’t know why but VMC need to have it or it will ignore the Meta Information and go download a temporary cache.

    2) I use a hidden share for this.  Given the nature of the data I thought it should be hidden from the network. (This is done by adding a "$" to the end of the share name in Windows)

    3) I found a interesting hack for making this library available to Media Extenders (XBox 360).  Details can be found on TheGreenButton.com, but the jist is to create an MPEG link to the VOB file to and create a playlist for the DVD.  The article has a script that performs both these actions.

    OK, for the question.  Given the nature of the DVD library, unlimited disc (intentional pun) space and all, I am looking for a way to play long (2 disc / over 3 hours) movies without having to "change the disc" or display the second (Disc 2) in the library.  

    Any Thoughts?

  24. Jeff Nelson says:

    Or just use DVDFab to rip the movie to the Xbox format which created a .wmv file

  25. sid says:

    i’m almost positive that my problem lies within the xbox its self becuase i got everything to show up, the movies are in the library. but when i go to play them it says i need to install the xbox optional media update. but when i go to do that… it says that i can’t retrieve information from xbox live. anyone else have this issue?

  26. John Kostenbader says:

    Any idea how to do this with Windows 7? Would love to accomplish this but seems written for VMC SP1 and in fact when I created the recommended links it did not work.

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