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Old 11-21-2006, 10:30 PM
Jason Dunn
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 29,160
Default Zune Ugly Truth #1: Media Center Video Synchronization

This is the first in a series of tips that will address a core failing of the current Zune hardware/software, explain what the problem is, how to work around it (if possible), and what we propose for a fix. If the issue is fixed at some point, we'll update the tip with that information.

BACKGROUND: Anyone that has used a Portable Media Center (PMC) device, the precursor in many ways to the Zune, will no doubt be familiar with the way you could connect a PMC, and using Windows Media Player 10 or 11, take those gigantic 4 GB TV shows in DVR-MS format and convert them to a 320 x 240 Windows Media Video (WMV) file. The process was slow, but it worked and the quality of the resulting video was usually quite high. The process has been made even better now that dual core CPUs are becoming more common, because the back-end Windows Media Encoder process will use both CPUs to speed up the encoding.

PROBLEM: The Zune software will not accept DVR-MS files. It will not convert them to WMV for playback on the Zune hardware, it will not list them in the library, and you cannot drag and drop the files into the Zune software. This means there's no easy way to get TV shows and movies from a Windows Media Center PC onto your Zune.

WORKAROUND #1: The only way in to get DVR-MS video files onto the Zune is to get them converted into the proper type of file that the Zune can play without conversion, which is only a 320 x 240 WMV. If you have a PlaysForSure device, follow these steps:
  1. Connect a PlaysForSure device to a PC running Windows Media Player 11
  2. Sync over the DVR-MS videos to your player. It will transcode (convert) to 320 x 240 WMV (wait several hours depending on your computer)
  3. Move the video off PlaysForSure device back to to your PC
  4. Sync the WMV files onto the Zune
WORKAROUND #2: The only way in to get DVR-MS video files onto the Zune is to get them converted into a 320 x 240 WMV. Windows Media Encoder can't do it, Windows Movie Maker can't do it, but if you can get one of these tools to work for you and get the file into MPEG2 format, you can then convert the file to WMV with the Windows Media Encoder, or another video editing application (such as Premiere Elements). There are some applications that will covert DVR-MS into WMV, but many require a live connection to the device, and most I've tried have been quite flakey.

PROPOSED SOLUTION: The Zune team should add the DVR-MS conversion back into the Zune software. Since it's essentially Windows Media Player 11 with a Zune skin, the fact that it is missing this functionality is baffling to say the least. People with Windows Media Center computers have easy access to video content via cable TV, and not allowing them to view that content on the Zune makes it a less appealing solution.
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