The recent release of Zune 2 has been sort of a good news / bad news situation for those of us who use Windows Media Center to record TV and/or movies. The original Zune desktop software did not support the dvr-ms format used by Windows Media Player Center (thanks for the correction, David) at all, so the good news is that the new Zune desktop software will handle automatic conversion of dvr-ms files to sync to the Zune. This is a big step forward for most folks.
Unfortunately, the bad news is that the automatic conversion does not include content recorded in high-def, due to the AC3 audio encoding used for these programs.
One solution that has worked well for me is to use Expression Encoder, along with a third-party AC3 decoder, to encode the HD dvr-ms files for the Zune. Here's how:
Credits to my Microsoft colleagues David Bono, Bjarne Dollerup, and Tokuro Yamashiro, as well as the rest of the Zunistas who commented on the above process, for helping suss out this process.
It's important to note that this option does not work with HD content recorded over CableCARD, because that content is encrypted when it is recorded.
Good point, Robert, and thanks for bringing it up. You are correct that this will only work for unencrypted HD content. So if you're recording from an ATSC tuner (which is what I have, using an over-the-air antenna), or unencrypted QAM, you're good to go.
So where are those files now? I can't find them :-/
Note that Media Center copy protects certain shows even if through ATSC tuner or unencrypted QAM. It seems to be the case of movies with no comercials on MPLEX channel. So even for that unencrypted content the translation will probably not work.
Of course, this would all be a moot point if Microsoft would just allow the Zune to sync with Windows Media Player. I have a Gigabeat S60 (a portable media center device on which the Zune was based) and WMP has no problems transcoding HD DVR-MS files for the Gigabeat, even if it has AC3 audio. I had to install the Nvidia PureVideo MPEG-2 decoder because the Microsoft one builtin to Vista had problems with AC3. I wish MS would just open the Zune and allow it to sync with WMP.
Korneel: If you're talking about the output from Expression Encoder, they should be under your Documents folder, look for Expression > Expresion Encoder > Output. By default, each job will create a new timestamped folder under the Output folder.
Gabriel: Haven't run into the issue that you mention, but thanks for bringing it up, in case anyone does.
Yogi: I understand your issue. Clearly there are tradeoffs with having Zune be an integrated vertical environment, and this is one of them. There are also tradeoffs with opening up to other sync solutions. Hopefully there will be better support for HD in future Zune software versions, but I'm not sure that allowing Zune to sync with WMP is necessarily the right answer. In any case, it's not my decision to make.
For $99, you are MUCH better off with TMPGEnc Xpress 4.0. It takes a while to load DVR-MS files (it handles ATSC and NTSC), but conversion is smooth as silk.
Also, you get support for almost every file type out there, as well as encoding to more than WMV (VC-1).
I tried this on two different systems, but the Nvidia filters don't show up on the Tools | Options | Compatibility list. Am I missing something? Thanks!
The Expression dialog only lists installed codecs, so the Nvidia codecs will only show up if they are installed on your system.