I previously installed TVersity on my Windows server at home to use as a media server where the Playstation 3 could read data such as photos, music and movies, and it worked fine with ordinary formats such as Windows Media Video and AVI/Xvid etc, but now I wanted to try out HD videos (720p). I read some forums about it and many talk about issues with either video or sound not being able to keep up when using transcoding. Transcoding is basically when TVersity is recoding the stream to a format and resolution that is supported on the viewing device, in this case the PS3.

I decided to give it a go and start out with the basic setup and then take it from there…

My setup consists of a server running Windows 2003, it has a main storage of 6 x 320 Gb (1.6 Tb) in a RAID5 array, 2 Gb of memory and a 1.8 Ghz core2duo CPU. The network is full gigabit all the way to the Playstation 3.

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I figured that the best way would be to skip transcoding and see if the PS3 could just play the file format .mkv out of the box, if it was possible at all. I set the transcoding option in TVersity to “always off” and just pointed the PS3 to the shared folder and hit play. Then I got an error message on the PS3 that the “file could not be found”, and TVversity said that it “could not start decoding using directshow”.

So, basic setup didn’t work. Now there are several ways of getting this to work; (1) you convert the mkv-files to VOB, which is supported by the PS3, or (2) you install codecs so that TVersity can use transcoding directly on the stream.

Solution #1 – Converting files from MKV to VOB or MPEG2

I think the 1st solution is an uggly one since you have to do manual work before playing the video, and also there might be an issue with loss of quality. Anyway, I tested it with a program called mkv2vob, and tried both MPEG2 and Xvid encoding both neither worked, same error messages. No luck with this, and let’s face it, this is not a nice solution at all. I want to be able to just use the MKV-files straight from the storage. Probably my Dreambox could easily play the VOB and MPEG2 files, but converting files is not a solution, it’s a workaround.

Solution #2 – TVersity transcoding on the fly

For the 2nd method I first configured TVersity to always transcode to a resolution of 1280×720, but TVersity can’t handle this transcoding (yet) without installing some additional codecs so I installed a x264 codec (K-Lite Codec Pack Full) and excluded all other codecs in the pack. Then as I restarted TVersity it asked if I wanted to download the latest version ( I did, and it also installed alot of codecs (including one for x264) that is needed for transcoding, but it still didn’t work.

I then also installed Haali Splitter Codec, which I read alot about in the forums too, and after that I got a “data corrupted” message. Some progress since it now begins to read the data atleast.

It’s working!

Then I started mediaserver.exe with the “-debug” parameter in a DOS-window, and then it worked! I had read that debugmode or changing the user of which the service is running has helped alot of people.

Starting mediaserver.exe in debug mode works because the codecs cannot run with the system account, they must run with a user with admin privileges apparently. I had some problem in using the “log on as” option on my server, it said it couldn’t find the domain for some reason, so I just started it in a DOS prompt windows instead. It probably works without debugmode too, important thing seems to be that it runs in the user environment. I just have to figure out why it can’t find my domain (same server is DC) and start mediaserver service with another account.

So now I can enjoy some x264 HD videos on my PS3, and it actually makes a difference on the quality, you notice much more detail in faces and hair of people comparing to normal AVI videos. I think the CPU of the server might be alittle bit too slow though because sometimes the movie stumbles abit when the CPU load peaks, but then again I’m using the server for other things too. It helped abit to increase the priority of the mediaserver.exe process.

I assume that it’s only a matter of time before Sony implements support for the x264/mkv file format, and even read RAR-archives and one can just open the file like a normal Xvid and the PS3 will do the decoding itself and then there will be no problems with server not being fast enough.

I hope you get yours to work also, if not, feel free to post comments and I’ll help out if I can :).

Update (2008-12-27): Solution #4 – PS3 Media Server

There is a new software available that is very easy to setup if you have the codecs in place, PS3 Media Server. I’ve written a post about it here. It’s worth a look, it can stream full HD movies with much less resources than TVersity, no lag, stuttering or anything with the same hardware.