Streaming h.264 from Windows Home Server to Xbox 360 (Part 2)

After configuring my WHS so that it will stream h.264 to my Xbox, I now need to convert some movies.  For converting movies to h.264, Handbrake seems to be a good solution, if not the most user friendly.  It offers numerous options, many of which are explained on the Handbrake User Guide.  There are several presets available with options preconfigured for specific devices, though they are mainly targeted towards Apple i-devices.  Unfortunately, there is no preset for Xbox 360 in the current version (v0.94), with developers claiming in their forums that none of them have one, that it doesn’t support standards properly, and it seems to be not worth their time.  Despite that, I still want to find a good combination of settings to produce nice looking h.264 files that will stream to the Xbox.

I started out with the High Profile preset in Handbrake.  However, that did not work out, as there was a lot of stuttering and pausing upon playback from the 360.  I tried the normal profile, which was much smoother, but did not look as good.  Then I began to tweak settings, mainly on the Advanced tab to product a conversion somewhere between Normal and High.

 

My WHS is a home built Athlon dual core at 1.9GHz, 2GB RAM, and 1.5 TB storage on 2 disks.  Both the WHS and Xbox are connected to a 1Gbps wired network with an 8-port switch and 4-port router between them.  I’ve tested many different settings, and so far these seem to be the best that I’ve come up with for streaming from my WHS to the Xbox:

  • Container: MP4; File type: m4v
  • Picture tab: Anamorphic = Strict
  • Video Filters tab: All off
  • Video tab: Codec = h.264; Framerate = Same as source; Quality = Constant quality @ 72%
  • Audio tab: Audio codec = AAC; Mixdown = Auto (Dolby PL II); Bitrate = 160kbps
  • Subtitles = none
  • Advanced tab: Reference frames = 3; Mixed References = yes; Motion Estimation Method = Default; Subpixel Motion Estimation = 6; No Fast P-Skip = Yes; No DCT-Decimate = Yes; B-Frames = 2; Adaptive B-Frames = Default; Direct Prediction = Default; Weighted B-Frames = No; Pyrimidal B-Frames = No; Analysis = Default; 8×8 DCT = No; CABAC Entropy Coding = Yes; Trellis = 0; Other stuff on defaults

Handbrake-1

These settings seem to give a high quality conversion, with a movie clocking in at around 1 hour and 40 minutes taking up about 2.5GB.  There seems to be an occasional stutter during playback on the 360, but for the most part it seems to work well.  I have not narrowed down yet whether the stutter is due to the WHS, the Xbox, or the network.  I will continue testing, and update this post as necessary.  Any suggestions on settings or tools, please leave a comment!

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