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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Warner Bros continues to support HD DVD! Official Statement from SVP

Jim Noonan, Warner Bros. Senior Vice President and General Manager, "We have made no decision to change our present policy which is to produce in both HD DVD and Blu-ray.”

HD DVD and Blu-ray releases on December 11th, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixThis is the week that we've been waiting for. No, it's not because we just love Harry, it's because we can't wait to see how the red version of Harry sells against the blu. Why? Because, the HD DVD edition isn't free (like 300) and with all the stand-alone HD DVD players to hit the street recently, we think it's got the best chance yet of out selling blu. But Harry isn't the only big title this week, as Blu-ray has High School Musical 2 and Lost: The complete Third Season. Meanwhile, HD DVD has a huge title in the way of The Bourne Ultimatum. December doesn't have many more blockbuster titles, but there are a few in the coming weeks including the Simpsons Movie, as well as Rush Hour 3.

HD DVD 355 vs Blu-ray 388*


* Blu-ray total does not reflect 32 Paramount titles that were previously available.

from Engadget HD

Sharp reveals gamer-centric 1080p LC-32GP3U AQUOS LCD TV

Sharp's new GP3U family may be marketed towards the sophisticated gamer, but we're pretty certain just about anyone could get down with a set like this. Announced today, the 32-inch LC-32GP3U comes in a trio of hues (black, wine red and white), boasts a "unique swivel stand for ultimate viewing and gaming flexibility," and offers up bottom-mounted speakers to boot. Furthermore, this 1080p AQUOS touts a slim-line design, a Game Mode button on the remote for activating Vyper Drive and providing quick access to side terminals, a subwoofer audio output, two component / three HDMI 1.3 inputs, a VGA port, 10,000:1 contrast ratio, six-millisecond response time, integrated ATSC / NTSC tuner with Clear QAM support, 450 cd/m2 brightness and 176-degree viewing angles. If you're champing at the bit to fix your eyes on this one, all three versions will be available just in time for you-know-what for $1,599.99.

from Engadget HD

Third Official “Grand Theft Auto IV” Trailer

Normally I summarize the media alerts and press releases we get in, but as a HUGE Grand Theft Auto fan, I must give you the following news in all of its unedited glory. Enjoy!

Today “Grand Theft Auto” fans will get their next look at the eagerly anticipated “Grand Theft Auto IV” with the release of the third official trailer, "Move up, ladies" on and Xbox LIVE Marketplace.

At 3pm EST, gamers can get another glimpse at Grand Theft Auto's colorful world in HD on and Xbox LIVE Marketplace. While online you can also check out the first two trailers, screen shots, and a preview of the “Grand Theft Auto IV” Marketplace theme.

“Grand Theft Auto IV” is the next chapter of the award winning “Grand Theft Auto” franchise from Rockstar Games and will be coming to the Xbox 360 on day one. In addition to online multiplayer, a first for the series, gamers will experience hours of additional gameplay with two downloadable episodes exclusively available on Xbox LIVE following the release of the game. Focused on the story of Eastern European immigrant Niko Bellic, “Grand Theft Auto IV” takes players back to Liberty City and promises a cinematic story told like only Rockstar can, an extremely vast and detailed world to explore and gameplay like the series has never seen before.

For all things Xbox 360 and Grand Theft Auto IV visit:

from Gamerscore Blog

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Microsoft Cuts Price of Xbox 360 HD DVD Player Again

Microsoft has unofficially lowered the price of the Xbox 360 HD DVD Player again; this time to $129. Back in July, the software giant dropped the price of the Xbox 360 HD DVD Player from $199 to $179 and today, Amazon and Toy "R" Us are offering the add-on at this new low price.

Zune 80 in the CNet Prizefight

Donald Bell, Jasmine France, and Josh Lowensohn at CNet do a comprehensive review and comparison of Zune 80 vs iPod Classic.Kudos for the team at CNet for doing a thorough review - in the areas of Navigation, Sexiness, Compatibility, Sound and Science, and Wallet Factor. As for the winner? Well, clickthrough to the article to find out!

from Zune Insider

Free Xbox Live Marketplace content and Silver accounts

Just a reminder that if you have a Silver account, you won’t have access to free content on the the Marketplace (like demos) when they are first posted. That content will be available to Gold level exclusively for one week, after which Silver members will have access to the free content.

The Fall update has a special message (above) to reflect this as well. If you have a Silver account and you see a piece of content that has a red circle with a slash through it (like the ‘Ryan Industries Plasmids and Gene Tonics’ content above) you’ll have to wait until a week after the content is released to access it.

This is not done to annoy our Silver members—limited time exclusive access to content is just one of the many benefits of having a Gold Xbox Live account.

from Xbox Live's Major Nelson

10 reasons why HD DVD or Blu-ray is here to stay

HD DVD vs Blu-rayWhile our favorite past time is to argue the merits of our preferred HD movie format, there are many out there like Jason from CE Pro that believe that neither format will survive. And while we agree that there are many compelling HD alternatives to both formats, here are ten reasons why either HD DVD or Blu-ray will survive.

  1. They offer the best picture and sound quality
  2. You own the disc, no one can expire it or take it away
  3. Discs still cost less per GB than a Hard Disc
  4. Discs don't 'just' go bad and cause you to lose your movies
  5. Discs are portable and can be shared with friends
  6. Eventually HDM players will cost less than upconverting DVD players
  7. Xbox Live Marketplace HD expires and is locked to the device
  8. HD VOD is limited in selection and availability
  9. Even when VUDU gets HD, it costs too much, and the content is locked on the box
  10. HD Movie channels crop, compress, and offer worse audio than DVD
Sure, no format lasts forever, but one of these HD movie formats will be here for ten or twenty years.

from Engadget HD

Xbox Live Video Store Update for Europe and Canada

In case you missed it, the man across the pond (Acey Bongos) has all the details on the Video Store coming to Europe. Meanwhile, our friends to the North can get their update directly from the lovely Jade.

The main points is that the video store for these regions will be launching on December 11th. Check the appropriate post to find out more details, including what type of content you can expect for your region when it launches.

When I have details on when the Video Store is coming to your region, I’ll let you know. Until then please remember licensing for entertainment content is very tricky,
and everyone is hard at work to bring the Video Store to as many regions as possible. Thanks in advance for your understanding and not filling up the comments with queries about your region.

from Xbox Live's Major Nelson

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Xbox 360 Fall Dashboard Update Details

Go ahead and say I'm biased, but Xbox LIVE is the best online service for a console, period. They say the proof is in the pudding, so enjoy a giant bowl of delicious Xbox LIVE pudding as we talk about some of the new features in the Fall Update.

While we have already talked about the new Parental Timer, Games on Demand, and the Friends of Friends features, the lovely and talented Nelson Rodriguez has put together a video featuring the lovely and talented Tony and Chris to talk about some of the new features. The video shows the beta version, so expect some visual changes for the actual launch.


For those of you that prefer "reading", here are some of the details:

Xbox LIVE Arcade Hits - There will be permanent discounts on some of the best-selling Arcade titles. The first games to become Arcade Hits will be “Bankshot Billiards 2” and “Lumines LIVE,” which will be available for 800 Microsoft Points each, and “Marble Blast Ultra,” “Small Arms” and “Zuma Deluxe,” which will be available for 400 Microsoft Points each.

Inside Xbox – A new direct feed brings current news straight from into the Xbox LIVE Dashboard providing members an easy, predictable entry point where they can discover what's new in: game releases, events, and Xbox LIVE Marketplace offers.

Enhanced online profile – Members interested in sharing a few more details about themselves will have the option to go beyond their motto and further personalize their profile with an expanded bio. The extended bios will be visible to “Friends Only” or the entire Xbox LIVE community.

New video features – The convenience of full-screen movie previews and enhanced video codec support further expand the options when it comes to the Xbox 360 entertainment experience.

Easy-to-use navigation features – With several noteworthy changes in the Xbox LIVE Dashboard, from the new Game Store button to the Video Store button to enhanced visuals and descriptions in the video library, Xbox LIVE members can find what they want, when they want it.

And that's not all. For a complete list of all of the new features and improvements to LIVE, check on December 4th for all of the details.

Major Nelson has details on Child Account Graduation and Changing Live ID Association if you're interested in how either of those are going to work.

You can read the full text of the media alert here.

from Gamerscore Blog

December 2007 Xbox 360 Video Playback FAQ

December 2007 Video Playback FAQ

** Represents a new feature or change in functionality from the Spring 07 release.

**1. What exactly does the Xbox 360 support for AVI?

Xbox 360 supports the following for AVI:

· File Extensions: .avi, .divx

· Containers: AVI

· Video Profiles: MPEG-4 Part 2, Simple & Advanced Simple Profile

· Video Bitrate: 5 Mbps with resolutions of 1280 x 720 at 30fps. See question number 11 for more information.

· Audio Profiles: Dolby® Digital 2 channel and 5.1 channel, MP3

· Audio Max Bitrate: No restrictions. See question number 11 for more information.

2. What exactly does the Xbox 360 support for H.264?

Xbox 360 supports the following for H.264:

· File Extensions: .mp4, .m4v, mp4v, .mov

· Containers: MPEG-4, QuickTime

· Video Profiles: Baseline, main, and high (up to Level 4.1) profiles.

· Video Bitrate: 10 Mbps with resolutions of 1920 x 1080 at 30fps. See question number 11 for more information.

· Audio Profiles: 2 channel AAC low complexity (LC)

· Audio Max Bitrate: No restrictions. See question number 11 for more information.

3. What exactly does the Xbox 360 support for MPEG-4 Part 2?

Xbox 360 supports the following for MPEG-4:

· File Extensions: .mp4, .m4v, .mp4v, .mov

· Containers: MPEG-4, QuickTime

· Video Profiles: Simple & **Advanced Simple Profile

· Video Bitrate: 5 Mbps with resolutions of 1280 x 720 at 30fps. See question number 11 for more information.

· Audio Profiles: 2 channel AAC low complexity (LC)

· Audio Max Bitrate: No restrictions. See question number 11 for more information.

4. What exactly does the Xbox 360 support for WMV (VC-1)?

Xbox 360 supports the following for WMV:

· File Extensions: .wmv

· Container: asf

· Video Profiles: WMV7 (WMV1), WMV8 (WMV2), WMV9 (WMV3), VC-1 (WVC1 or WMVA) in simple, main, and advanced up to Level 3

· Video Bitrate: 15 Mbps with resolutions of 1920 x 1080 at 30fps. See question number 11 for more information.

· Audio Profiles: WMA7/8, WMA 9 Pro (stereo and 5.1), WMA lossless

· Audio Max Bitrate: No restrictions. See question number 11 for more information.

5. Can I mix and match the video and audio codecs outside of those defined in questions 1 through 4 above?

No you cannot. We only support each audio and video codec in the explicit containers defined in questions 1 through 4.

6. How can I determine if a video file that I am trying to play conforms to the specifications as laid out in questions 1 through 4?

You can use a 3rd party tool to analyze your video files to determine what audio and video codec is used. A popular 3rd party tool to analyze video files can be found at

7. How do I create WMV, AVI, H.264 and MPEG-4 content? What encoders does Xbox 360 support?

You can create this content on one of many 3rd-party applications. Xbox 360 supports many popular encoders. Specifically for encoding to WMV you can use Microsoft Expression Encoder or Windows Media Encoder.

**8. What specific features of Mpeg-4 Advanced Simple Profile does the Xbox 360 support?

The Xbox 360 supports Bidirectional Frames (BVOPs), Interlaced Frames, Quarter Pixel Motion Compensation, Global Motion Compensation, and MPEG Quantization.

9. What are the different ways to play video content on Xbox 360?

You can play video from a USB 2.0 FAT32 removable drive, optical media, and by streaming from the Zune software, Windows Media Player 11, or Windows Home Server.

10. What are the different video codecs that are supported in all the different ways to play video content on the Xbox 360?

See table below for more information:


Supported Codecs

From USB storage device to Xbox 360 Dashboard Video Player





From Windows Media Player 11 to Xbox 360 Dashboard Video Player






From Zune Software to Xbox 360 Dashboard Video Player




From Windows Home Server to Xbox 360 Dashboard Video Player




From Windows Media Center to Xbox Media Center Extender

WMV(Protected), WMV(Unprotected),


* = Please refer to question 32 on how to configure Windows Media Player to share these file types to the Xbox 360.

11. What is the "real" max bit rate, resolution, and frames per second that you support for all the different formats?

Xbox 360 does not specifically block video from playing based on a maximum bit rate, resolution, or frames per second. The maximums listed above for each codec are what we have tested for various video playback sources. Higher rated content will not be blocked, but playback may be less then optimal. Use higher bitrates at your own risk.

12. What size USB storage device does the Xbox 360 support?

The Xbox 360 will support as big of a storage device as you can format using FAT32. Unfortunately when formatting a device in Windows Vista or Windows XP you will be restricted to a maximum FAT32 size of 32GB. You can work around this limitation by using a 3rd party utility or using an alternative Operating System that does not have this restriction. Please note that the maximum size of any single file on FAT32 is 4GB.

13. What is the maximum video file size that is supported?

The maximum file size for an AVI, MPEG-4 Part 2, and H.264 file that can be played is 4 GB. 4GB is also the maximum size of any single file that you can store on a FAT32 USB hard drive. However, Windows Media Player 11 and the Zune software do support streaming WMV files greater than 4GB.

14. Do you support 5.1 channel AAC?

No. Only 2-channel AAC is supported. If you want to play a 5.1-channel video on your console, you will need to encode it to WMV with WMAPro 5.1 audio or use the AVI container with Dolby® Digital 5.1 audio.

**15. What types of AVI files are supported?

The Xbox 360 supports files encoded using MPEG-4 Part 2, Simple and Advanced Simple Profile. These files are often referred to as Xvid or DivX® video files. Many common PC DVD authoring tools, cameras, and camcorders are capable of encoding files using MPEG-4. Note that some files authored for DivX devices may also contain additional functionality(menus, subtitles, multiple audio tracks, etc). The Xbox 360 will attempt to play these files, but does not support any of the additional functionality and in some cases will be unable to play the file.

16. Why don’t some of my older versions of DivX® files play?

Since we only support Mpeg-4 compatible codec implementations, we will not be able to play video files older than DivX® 5.0.

17. Does the Xbox 360 support video artwork when browsing my collection from Windows Media Player 11 or the Zune PC software?

The Xbox 360 will display whatever video artwork that is displayed in Windows Media Player 11 or the Zune PC software for each video file.

**18. Does the Xbox 360 support video artwork when browsing my collection from a USB 2.0 FAT32 removable drive or optical media?

For all video types we will search for a corresponding .jpg file and use that as the artwork. For example video1.avi would display the artwork in video1.jpg if it existed. In the absence of this file, for the mp4 container, we will search if the video file has embedded album artwork and display that instead. Please note you cannot use this method when streaming from Windows Media Player 11 or the Zune PC software. See question number 21 for more information.

19. What is the maximum album artwork size that the Xbox 360 supports?

You should not exceed 512KB for all scenarios. This includes embedding artwork in the mp4 container, storing artwork alongside the file in a separate .jpg container, or streaming from Windows Media Player 11 or Zune PC software.

**20. How does the “Sort by Type” and “Sort by Title” option work when browsing my own generated video content?

The “Sort by Type” option is the typical Windows Explorer view that a computer would show your files in. It will first alphabetically sort your folders and then alphabetically sort your files. The “Sort by Title” option allows you to sort all folders and files alongside each other. Both of these sort options are persistent and linked to your profile so that you do not need to set them every time. See question number 21 for more information.

**21. What is a sample way of organizing my video hierarchy so that I can best utilize artwork and folder structure on the Xbox 360 for my personal video collection?

The following example uses the sort option “Sort by Title” on a USB hard drive connected to the Xbox 360:

· Genre 1 (Folder)

· Genre 2 (Folder)

· Video 1.avi (File)

· Video 1.jpg (File) (Artwork)

· Video 2.mp4 (File) (Artwork embedded in file)

· Video 3 (Folder)

· Video 3-1.wmv (File)

· Video 3-2.mp4 (File)

· Video 3-2.jpg (File) (Artwork)

· Video 3-3.wmv (File)

· Video 3-3.jpg (File) (Artwork)

· Genre 3 (Folder)

22. How do display modes work?

There are 5 display modes: auto, letterbox, fullscreen, stretch, and native. You can access these modes while watching a video by pressing Display on your remote or A on your controller.

a. The auto setting attempts to automatically determine what the best viewing experience is for your video. If it is a very low resolution video, it will enlarge it enough to be viewable on your screen while limiting the size for optimal viewing. If the video is of higher resolution, it will it will enlarge it to fit the TV. For both scenarios, it will retain the aspect ratio of the original video (for example, 4x3 or 16x9).

b. Letterbox mode will display your image full screen while retaining the aspect ratio of the original video. Use this if you want to override the auto function and fit the content to your TV.

c. Fullscreen mode will display your image full screen with the assumption the video is 16x9 formatted for 4x3 screens. This can be helpful for older content that may be 4x3 with black bars encoded into the video. This mode will allow you to zoom through the black bars and see it as wide screen.

d. Stretch mode will display your image full screen and stretch 4x3 content horizontally to fill a 16x9 TV. This can be helpful for those who always want to fill their TV regardless of the aspect ratio of the content. This causes 4x3 content to appear stretched.

e. Native mode allows you to see the content at its original resolution. Use this to view content that is extremely low resolution or very low bitrates.

23. How are display mode settings saved?

Every time you watch a new video, the display mode defaults to auto. If you decide to change the setting, each time you watch the same video the console will remember what you chose last time.

24. What is the information bar?

The information bar on the on-screen display now shows you exactly where you are in the video and where the chapters are in the file. In addition, for downloaded content, it will also show how much of the video has been downloaded.

25. How are the chapters determined?

Each video is divided into 10 chapters, allowing you to quickly move around the video content. Use skip to move to the next or previous chapter. Each chapter appears as a tick on the information bar.

**26. Can I fast forward, rewind, and skip while watching content while it's being downloaded from Xbox Live Marketplace?

You can move around in video as much as you have already downloaded. If you skip or watch past the point that you have already downloaded, you will be required to wait for it to buffer enough to begin normal playback again.

27. Is there other 3rd party software out that I can use to stream from my PC to my Xbox 360?

The Xbox 360 team extensively tests that we work well with Windows Media Player 11 and the Zune PC software. If you do decide to use 3rd party software, please contact them directly for support.

28. How can I stream content from my Mac?

To share from a Mac computer you will be required to use a 3rd party streaming solution. Please note that we do not support 3rd party streaming solutions and you will be required to contact them directly for support.

29. After the May 2007 update, my 3rd party software doesn't stream videos correctly. Why?

Video navigation was changed in the May 2007 update. 3rd party software that does not support folders through network sharing will not work correctly. You'll have to contact the software developer for support.

30. How can I set up Windows Media Player 11 or Zune to share my media to my console?

For info about setting up sharing, see

31. Should I continue to use Windows Media Connect (WMC) to stream video to my Xbox 360?

Windows Media Connect can be used but is no longer supported outside of Windows Home Server. We strongly suggest people upgrade to Windows Media Player 11 or use the Zune software to receive the best experience for managing and streaming content to Xbox 360.

32. How can I get Windows Media Player 11 to stream MPEG-4 Part 2 and H.264 to my console?

By default, Windows Media Player 11 does not support MPEG-4 Part 2 and H.264. Your first option is to install a 3rd party MP4 DirectShow decoder to import MPEG-4 part 2 and H.264 files into your library. Once they are in your library they can be streamed to your console and they can be played from within Windows Media Player 11 on your PC.

An alternative approach is to rename all of your mp4 files to have an “.avi” file name extension. This will enable Windows Media Player 11 to import them into the library and will allow them to be played on your Xbox 360. To enable the playback of these files on the PC, you will still need to install an appropriate decoder on the PC.

33. I can't see my video files from the Zune software on my console. What's wrong?

Make sure that the folders containing the videos you want to share with your console are included in the Zune software's list of monitored folders.

34. I received a message that says a media update is required to play the content. When I download the update I get the message "The download could not be completed. Please try again later. Any points you used for this transaction have already been deducted from your balance and will not be deducted again" with error code 80070005. Explain.

You'll get this error if you previously downloaded the media update on another Xbox 360 console with the same profile. You are only allowed to download the update on one console per profile. You can work around this by creating a temporary Silver membership to download the update. Once it's downloaded, you will be able to use the update with any profile.

**35. What shortcuts can I use with my gamepad while using the Video area?

LB skips backward one chapter. RB skips forward one chapter. RT fast forwards. LT rewinds. Start toggles between play and pause. X and Y bring up the On Screen Display for more advanced options. While browsing through your lists of videos you can also push Start to automatically begin video playback using the bookmark if it exists bypassing the Resume/Restart page. You can also use RT or LT to page up or page down through lists of items.

**36. Why do I see the message “Updating content. This may take a few minutes. Please wait.” the first time when entering the Console video area?

To support grouping television and game videos your content metadata needs to be updated. Once this process is completed subsequent entries into the Video area will be very quick. Please be patient during the update process and allow it to complete updating all of your content metadata.

**37.What changes have you made to selecting the source for Videos, Music, and Pictures?

The source selection is now mapped to the X button for each of these areas. The Xbox 360 will remember the last source that you picked and default to that. We have also removed the computer affiliation from the System Blade and we now show a list of all the computers that you can connect to directly in the Select Source scene. This allows you to quickly jump between Windows Media Player 11 and Zune PC software media shares.

**38.How can I play music from my iPhone® and iPod Touch®?

Unfortunately the iPhone® and iPod Touch® uses a different mechanism for storing your music then a traditional iPod®. We are currently unable to play music from the iPhone® or IPod Touch®. You can still browse the pictures stored on these device through the Pictures area in the Xbox 360 dashboard.

**39.Can I play videos from my iPod®?

The Xbox 360 does not support playing videos from an iPod®.

from Xbox Team

More on the Xbox 360 Console Update

The Xbox 360 console team has a bunch of details on what's coming in the Update next week, details on the video support we're adding, and there's also a complete list of features on

I'm also told that while the European and Canadian Video Stores announced at E3 didn't launch with the Fall Update, everyone remains committed to launching the service this year, and more information will be released soon.

from Gamerscore Blog

Child Account Graduation and Changing Live ID Association

In addition to the list of new dashboard features that were announced today, there are a few more that were not included in the press release that I think may be of interest to some longtime blog readers. After the update, there will be two new choices in the account management section of the dashboard:

The ability to change the Windows LIVE ID associated with and Xbox LIVE account.
The description pretty much says it all, but choosing this option changes the Windows Live ID associated with your Xbox LIVE account. It will also transfer all your Microsoft points to the new Windows Live ID as well. Here are some screen shots that show what this looks like in the dash.

Promote your Xbox LIVE child account to an adult account.
If you were not yet 18 when you signed up for Xbox LIVE, your account was designated a child account. Child accounts are tied to a parent's Windows Live ID to control Family Settings, and some features of Xbox LIVE are restricted. After you turn 18, (how about "Now, if you're over 18, or when you turn 18") you can promote your child account to an adult account. If you signed up for Xbox LIVE with a child account and have since turned 18, after the update you'll see a new option at the very top of the Account Management section of the dashboard. The 'Promote Child Account" will allow you to promote an Xbox LIVE account that is a child account to an adult account. This promotion removes the Family Settings and Xbox LIVE restrictions. To promote your account, you must agree again to the Xbox LIVE Terms of Use and marketing opt-ins. If a parent's credit card was on your account, you must also enter a new one to replace it. (Yes, you can use pre-paid cards as well.)
Here are some screen shots that show what this looks like in the dash.

Another new feature that may be of interest to some: this update will also allow Under-18 Xbox LIVE members to now use Messenger on Xbox 360.

from Xbox Live's Major Nelson