Saturday, March 1, 2014

How to Play Blu-ray Movies on the Xbox 360 (Regular or RGH/JTAG)

It is an age-old question: How can I play Blu-ray movies on my Xbox 360? Sure the Xbox One now has Blu-Ray capabilities, but there has been A LOT of news about issues with playback. The PS4 should reign supreme here, but as of late it has been in the headlines for similar circumstances... So, with a bit of work and know-how, I will show you how to get Blu-ray quality videos to play on your Xbox 360!

Already Know the Basic Steps? Skip to Playing Blu-ray Movies on a regular Xbox 360 , or a RGH/JTAG Xbox 360.

Okay, so you cannot play Blu-ray movies directly on the Xbox 360. However, that does not mean you cannot watch 1:1 Blu-ray quality videos on the Xbox 360!

What You Will Need:

The software is all freeware. I am assuming that you already own a Xbox 360, a PC, and at least one Blu-ray movie. You can purchase an external Blu-ray reader from Amazon for about $40. The USB flash drive or an external Hard Disk Drive will vary, but you can get either quite cheap nowadays.

To Be Noted
  1. The Xbox 360 can only see up to 32GB for a USB flash drive, so a HDD is recommended.
  2. ffdshow are just a set of filters, they are needed to be able to import certain types of footage into Microsoft Expression Encoder.
  3. The Blu-ray Disc Ripper requires .Net framework 2.0. If you are using Windows XP you will need the UDF 2.5 file system to recognize Blu-ray discs.

Blu-ray movies tend to be between 40GB and 20GB in size. Their bitrates are normally between 55MB/s and 15MB/s.  

Blu-rays use the H.264/MP4 AVC and VC1 codecs for high quality video (MPEG2 was initially used when first introduced). Microsoft created the Windows Media Video 9 Advanced Profile which utilizes VC-1 for high quality video, and is the basis of WMV HD. It has been compared with HD DVD and Blu-ray quality and is often considered on par.

Microsoft Expression Encoder
The Microsoft Expression Encoder is free and encodes to VMW HD (VC-1). The product was discontinued in 2011, but can still be freely downloaded. It contains two presets (720p and 1080p) for the Xbox 360.

Xbox 360 & VC-1
All Xbox 360 consoles can play WMV VC-1. According to the official Xbox 360 website, the console can only play WMV VC-1 video at bitrates of 15MB/s or below. I have tested this at 15MB/s, 20MB/s, 25MB/s, and 30MB/s, and each successfully played without issue! This is the secret to getting Blu-ray quality!

Step One: Ripping the Blu-ray Disc (Simple)

  1. Insert your Blu-ray movie into the Blu-ray reader.
  2. Open MakeMKV.
  3. Select the Backup option (folder with arrow icon).
  4. Check off "Decrypt video files", and choose the destination to rip the movie.
  5. Click "OK".


Step One: Ripping the Blu-ray Disc (Free)
  1. Insert your Blu-ray movie into the Blu-ray reader.
  2. Run AACS Keys.
  3. Find and note the "Volume Unique Key".
  4. Run Blu-ray Disc Ripper.
  5. Make the "Source Folder" your Blu-ray drive.
  6. Set the "Destination Folder".
  7. Place the Volume Unique Key as the "CPS Key".
  8. Check "Remove Blu-ray Region Code".
  9. Click "Start".
The Blu-ray ripping time will depend on your Blu-ray drive speed. Once done, it should come out as .M2TS files.

*As for MakeMKV, the program is extremely easy, but they do give an evaluation period. You can use the program while it is in beta (and it has been for a long time) by registering a free beta key from here.

Step Two: Trimming the Fat
  1. Play the .M2TS files on Windows Media Player. If you cannot play the files, then you have not installed the ffdshow filters.
  2. Delete any files that are not part of the movie.

Step Three: Encoding .M2TS to VC-1 w/ Lossless Quality

VC-1 is already a Blu-ray codec, but we need to make sure that we do not get a degraded copy of the original. We want the exact same high quality as a Blu-ray!
  1. Right-click on one of the .M2TS files.
  2. Select the "Details" tab.
  3. Check the "Data rate" and make a note.
  4. Run Microsoft Expression Encoder.
  5. Click "Transcoding Project".
  6. Click "Import" in the lower-right corner.
  7. Change the file type in the lower-right corner to "All Files".
  8. Choose the .M2TS files.
  9. Ensure that each .M2TS follows each other with no space in between on the timeline.
  10. On the right-side, under "Presets", go to Encoding for Devices > WMV > VC-1 Xbox 360 HD 1080p and double-click.
  11. Look under the "Encode" tab below.
  12. Change "Video" to "VC-1 Advanced".
  13. Change "Audio" to "WMA Lossless".
  14. Underneath there is another "Video" tab with an arrow. Click it.
  15. Change "Mode" to "CBR - 2 Pass".
  16. Change "Frame Rate" to "Source".
  17. Change "Bitrate" to the "Date rate" you noted. For example, if the "Data rate" was 20,189Kbps, make it 21,000Kbps. ALWAYS ROUND UP TO THE NEXT THOUSAND.
  18. Change "Size Mode" to "Source".
  19. Click "Encode" in the lower-right corner.
  20. The output directory is determined by "Job Output" under the "Output" tab on the right-side. 
This will take a long time. The "CBR - 2 Pass" makes the process long, but it is necessary to get a 1:1 quality copy of the Blu-ray movie. The process will go quicker if you have a fast and powerful CPU.

Step Three-2: Save the Settings as a Preset 

Instead of going through all the parts of Step Three every time, make a preset of the settings. Click the "+" sign in between the "Apply" and gear icon under "Presets". You can then name your preset and type it into the "Search" area to find and use quickly.

If you do make a preset, DO NOT FORGET to change the "Bitrate" to the according "Data rate".

Step One: Optional Media Update

The Xbox 360 has the limitation of only being able to use a FAT32 formatted USB flash drive or HDD, which means it can only read 4GB files or smaller. Because of this we will not be able to watch our WMV VC-1 file unless it is cut into smaller files or...
  1. Login to Xbox Live.
  2. Search for "Optional Media Update". This update allows iPods to be played thorugh the Xbox 360.
  3. Download the update.
Step Two: FREE USE

TransDisk gives a 15-day evaluation period before purchase. MacDrive gives 5 days. If you plan to do this often you should buy the respective program. However, if this is something you will seldom do, then you can try this free method to avoid the trial-days limit. 
  1. Download the program of choice.
  2. DO NOT START THE PROGRAM. It may be best to not install it yet either.
  3. Create a System Restore Point.
  4. Disconnect from the Internet.
  5. Start the program.
  6. Follow Step Three.
  7. Restore the System Restore Point.
This should allow you to reuse the program as many times as you want. If the program connects to an online server to communicate who has a trial edition, and you are connected to the Internet, this will not work.

Step Three: Format USB/HDD

With the update installed we can now use a USB flash drive or HDD formatted in HFS+. This is a Mac formatted drive that will play files much larger than 4GB!
  1. Run TransDisk or MacDrive.
  2. Format a USB flash drive or external HDD into HFS+. 
Step Four: Play!

Load your VC-1 movie file onto your USB flash drive or HDD. Connect that to your Xbox 360 console. Boot it up and play your VC-1 movie file in all its HD glory!

RGH/JTAG Xbox 360
Step One: Dash Launch

Dash Launch is needed to launch MPlayer.
  1. Download Dash Launch 3.10.
  2. Make a folder called "Dash Launch" on a USB flash drive or external HDD.
  3. Extract the Dash Launch 3.10 contents into the "Dash Launch" folder.
  4. Put the USB flash drive or external HDD into your Xbox 360.
  5. Boot up your Xbox 360 and go to your non-Microsoft dashboard (i.e. Freestyle, XEXDash, 360 Menu, or Ingenius).
  6. Move the "Dash Launch" folder onto the Xbox 360 hard drive.
Step Two: MPlayer

The MPlayer is a special media player for hacked Xbox 360's. It can play numerous codecs, but more importantly, it can use NTFS formatted drives!

NOTE: These steps will assume some knowledge on your part about your specific system as there are slight variances between hacked consoles.
  1. Format your USB flash drive or HDD to NTFS.
  2. Download MPlayer.
  3. Extract the files from the MPlayer download onto the USB flash drive or external HDD.
  4. Place the VC-1 movie file onto the USB flash drive or external HDD.
  5. Boot up your Xbox 360 and go to your non-Microsoft dashboard.
  6. Go into your "Dash Launch" folder.
  7. Go into the "Installer" folder.
  8. Select the "default.xex" file.
  9. Ensure the USB flash drive or external HDD is inserted.
  10. Navigate to the drive selection area by clicking the left bumper twice.
  11. Choose the USB flash drive or external HDD you inserted.
  12. Run the "xenon.elf" for the MPlayer. 
Step Three: Play!

MPlayer will boot up and immediately recognize your NTFS-formatted USB flash drive or external HDD. Select it and then choose your VC-1 movie file to see Blu-ray quality on your Xbox 360!