The Complete Guide To Turning Your Video Game Console Into A Living Room Media Centre

Your video game console is great for playing games, but you might not realise it's also one of the best media centres around. Here's how to set up all of the modern consoles so you can stream videos and music to them direct from your computer.

Title photo remixed from Evan-Amos, Cornischong, and Evan-Amos.

The PS3 and the Xbox 360 both have media centre capabilities built right in, so they're easy to set up. The Wii (and Wii U) don't have native options, but have workarounds that can turn them into media boxes as well. In this post, we'll break down how to set up each console, as well as the best practices for getting top quality out of your stream.

What You'll Need

For the Xbox and PS3, we'll use PS3 Media Server (despite the name, it works really well on the Xbox 360) because it's simple, free and cross-platform. If that doesn't appeal, you have plenty of other options. With the PS3 and Xbox 360 you can also copy videos directly to the hard drive (or play via a USB stick). That's cumbersome compared to streaming wirelessly, which we'll concentrate on here.

We've talked about plenty of custom home theatre builds, including a powerful $700 one and even a $40 one made from a Raspberry Pi. Arguably the best part about using a game console as a media centre is the fact it's already in your living room. Provided you already own a console, you don't really need much to get started:

Once you're set up, you're able to stream videos, audio and photos to your TV and home entertainment centre wirelessly with just a couple of clicks. Ready to go? Jump to the console of your choice:

How To Stream To Your Xbox 360

While the media centre capabilities are a little buried on the Xbox 360, they're easy to set up. Here's how to do it.

Set Up PS3 Media Server

Before we dig into the Xbox menus, we need to get PS3 Media installed and running:

  1. Download and install PS3 Media Server.
  2. Launch PS3 Media Server
  3. Add your media folders to PS3 Media Server by clicking Navigation/Share Settings > Shared Folders.
  4. Click the "+" sign and add any folders you store your media in, including videos, photos and music. You can also share your iTunes library, as well as any other application-specific libraries such as those for iPhoto or Aperture.

It's also worth clicking over to the "Transcoding" tab to make sure you have the video codecs needed to play videos on the Xbox. Transcoding is how PS3 Media Server ensures your Xbox can play more formats than the Xbox 360 natively allows. Essentially, your PC changes the video format on the fly so it's readable by the Xbox.

For the most part, you can leave these settings as is and not worry about them. If you do experience some trouble with video playback, you might need to look into the codecs you have installed on your computer so you have everything you need to play videos. If you struggle to get something to play, the PS3 Media Server Forums offer settings suggestions for different formats, as well as tips for getting subtitles working properly.

Set Up Your Xbox 360

Getting to the right place on your Xbox is kind of a pain, but once you're there it's easy to start streaming videos:

  1. From the main Dashboard, select the TV and Movies tab.
  2. Select "System Video Player".
  3. Select "PS3 Media Server".
  4. Select a video and start streaming.

Once your video is playing you're good to go. Sometimes pausing, fast forwarding, and rewinding doesn't work as well as it should, but for the most part it's as seamless as playing video right on your computer.

How to Stream To Your PS3

The PS3 is a powerhouse media centre. Since it supports more video formats than the Xbox 360, you don't need to transcode the video as often (which means you'll get a clearer picture and put less stress on your computer). If you have a choice, we recommend using the PS3 instead of the other consoles.

Set Up PS3 Media Server

PS3 Media Server has lots of options you can tweak, but for the most part the only thing you need to get it running smoothly on the PS3 is to point PS3 Media Server to the right folders.

  1. Download and install PS3 Media Server.
  2. Launch PS3 Media Server
  3. Add your media folders to PS3 Media Server by clicking Navigation/Share Settings > Shared Folders.
  4. Click the "+" sign and add any folders you store your media in, including videos, photos, and music. You can also share your iTunes library, as well as any other application-specific libraries such as those for iPhoto or Aperture.

It's also worth clicking over to the "Transcoding" tab to make sure you have the video codecs needed to play videos on the PS3. Transcoding is how PS3 Media Server ensures your PS3 can more video formats than the PS3 allows. This isn't as much of a necessity on the PS3 as it is on the Xbox, but you still may experience problems with certain video types so it's worth knowing where to look.

If you do experience some trouble with video playback, you might need to look into the codecs you have installed on your computer so you have everything you need to play videos. If you struggle to get something to play, the PS3 Media Server Forums offer settings suggestions for different formats, as well as tips for getting subtitles working properly.

Set Up Your PS3

Getting video to stream to the PS3 is easy, but before you start you need to make a one-time change to the settings:

  1. Enable DLNA by heading to Settings > Network Settings > Media Center Connection (you only need to do this the first time).
  2. Go to the Video section (or audio if you want music).
  3. Select "PS3 Media Server".
  4. Select the video you want and it will start streaming.

From now on, you just need to start PS3 Media Server on your computer and you can stream videos to your PS3 instantly.

How To Stream To Your Wii

The process of using your Wii as a media centre is a little more complicated than the PS3 or Xbox because it's not directly supported. It's still really easy to set up by tapping into your home computer through the Wii's browser. If you want to make the experience a little more fluid, MakeUseOf has a media centre guide that requires setting up your Wii for homebrew. It's not complicated, but we're going to stick to a simpler method we outlined a few years ago.

Set Up Orb Caster

Instead of streaming through the software on the console itself, you do it through the web browser. For that, we're going to use Orb Caster.

  1. Download Orb and select to install "Orb Caster" during the setup wizard.
  2. Select the folders you want to share (video, audio, iTunes, and so on), and let Orb index everything (this might take a while if you have a large library).
  3. Open the Orb Control Panel from the taskbar (or the menu bar on a Mac).
  4. Click the "Libraries" tab.
  5. Select "Enable Orb Remote" and create a remote access account with Orb (it's free).

Once that's all set up it's time to head over to your Wii to gain access.

Set Up Your Wii

Next, load up your computer's media library from your Wii's browser:

  1. If you haven't already, head to the Wii Shop Channel and download the Opera browser.
  2. Launch Opera.
  3. Point Opera to mycast.orb.com and enter your Orb username and password.
  4. Select a video you want to watch and stream away.

That's it. The process is a little convoluted, but it's surprisingly easy once you're set up.

How To Stream To Your Wii U

Since the Wii U still relatively new, there isn't a really solid streaming option yet. VidiiuStreamer, which is currently in beta, works well enough. You can also stream MP4 videos directly through your Wii U's browser if you prefer.

Set Up VidiiuStreamer

VidiiuStreamer is incredibly easy to use, and while it only supports MP4 video files right now, transcoding is on the way. Here's what you need to do on your computer:

  1. Install VidiiuStreamer.
  2. Point to the directorys you want to share.
  3. Click "Start server",
  4. Copy down the URL VidiiuStreamer gives you.

Once VidiuuStreamer is running, it's time to move over to your Wii U.

Set Up Your Wii U

To get videos from your computer to your Wii U, you can use either the gamepad or the TV. Do this through the Wii U's browser.

  1. Open up the Wii U browser.
  2. Type in the URL Viddiiu gave you.
  3. Select a video and stream away.

That's it. The whole process is very simple, and it works fairly seamlessly.

Viewing From USB

If you don't want to deal with wirelessly transferring your videos, you can transfer video to your console's drive using a USB stick or play it directly from the stick itself. USB support is limited to just formats the consoles recognise (and you can't transcode), but it's useful if you need to bring a clip over to a friend's house. You can always convert it to a supported format with Handbrake before copying it to USB.


Comments

    Plex is much simpler to setup than this. Plus has the added advantage of Android and Iphone apps if your into that kind of thing.

      I had heard this, then I tried it. Seriously unimpressed and more hassle to set up than PS3 Media Server. But I don't use either - Win7's built-in DLNA server trumps them both for convenience and ubiquity.

      Plex is amazing love it. Works easy as for WDTV streaming and Xbox360. Kept getting error messages for PS3 though. PS3 is very picky about where it gets its media from.

    Wow, they started updating PS3 media centre again? I gave up on it when it just started breaking due to lack of updates.

    Serviio is fantastic however and pretty low on resources compared to some others. I also love that it pulls album / poster art for all your music and movies from the internet, and lets you browse your movies by category, actor, director, etc, as well as being able to live convert HD video to readable formats on PS3 and Xbox. Streams 720 and 1080p content no problems.

    I have it running from my old WHS.

      they never stopped developing PS3 Media Server, there was a time there when updates were very far and few between, but it has never been seriously broken, unless you watch subtitled media (even still it doesn't handle it very well)

      I will have to check Serviio out. All of my music/movies have full metadata incl. album art already, but I would like faster browsing by metadata.

    What other media streamers on the PC support transcoding? This is very important for me because 1) A lot of my videos are not natively supported by PS3 (mkv, rmvb), 2) Subtitles don't always work with straight streaming over DLNA

      Check out universalmediaserver, has a few more features than serviio and does transcoding really well.

    I was a big fan of TVersity until they started charging for the basic version. Since I don't need any of the more advanced features it wasn't good enough to pay for

    Personally i moved from PS3 Media Server as the Development was slowing down. You should check out Universal Media Server (UMS) as it's supporting a whole lot more devices than PS3 Media server

    "PS3 media centre" needs Java, so it ends there for me!

    Just buy a raspberry Pi install XBMC on it, create a share, done. I have used PS3, Xbox, Wii. They have been packed away since I got the raspberry. Plays all media types no problem, low power. Phone remote. No more calls from the Mrs saying the xbox, ps3 is not working. Do yuorself a favour and ditch these power hungry devices for a raspberry, and no I dont work for them.

      +1
      There's the added advantage of having the RaspBMC being able to play ALL files without Cinevia issues cropping up. Transcoding on the consoles doesn't help with that bit of DRM.

      Also, PS3 Media Centre is atrocious. I've installed it multiple times and have had nothing but problems. Serviio and UMS aren't too bad, but I still swear by TVersity. And while they're now charging for the basic version, its not exactly expensive. ($4 USD)

      Does raspberry pi have the juice to handle 1080p?

        Yes - though I connected a hdd to the Pi. I've heard streaming from a server doesn't work very well.

    or if you are lucky to have a CFW ps3, install showtime, and dont worry about silly transcoding issues

    I tried using PS3 Media Center on my xbox just then and it will not pick it up, it can see the other servers on my computer, but not PS3 Media. Can anybody recommend a way to fix this?

    This was really helpful, thanks. PS3 Media Server and Universal Media Server both work great. Finally I can connect my mac to my 360! Only small issue I had during set-up was needing to add the applications to my firewall's allowed connections, easy to do though, just drag and drop. Cheers.

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