Using MediaCoder to transcode videos for Zune

The Zune is great for watching movies, TV shows and YouTube clips of cute kittens, but sometimes it can take a good chunk of time and a bit of magic getting your videos ready and loaded on the Zune. There’s nothing worse than having spent a good 30 minutes transcoding an axxo-ripped XVID movie (yes you know what I’m talking about) into WMV, added to the Zune library for it to spend another 30 minutes transcoding it again because it wasn’t the particular type of WMV it was fond of.

I’ve tried this and I’ve tried that, Encode360 was good up and until a few video formats it just had difficulties with.

Just recently, I’ve finally found the perfect codec settings for the free MediaCoder software to transcode just about any video I throw at it and would sync without a second conversion. Do try this at home.

Step 1: Download and install the latest version of MediaCoder. There’s a new version of this app almost every other week so it’s good to get the latest version whenever possible.

Step 2: Download and install the MediaCoder Extra Codecs Pack. This allows MediaCoder to handle a wider number of video formats you may want to transcode, for example Flash Video.

Step 3: Download and install the Microsoft Windows Media Format 11 SDK. MediaCoder uses the native SDK to output the otherwise proprietary WMV compliant files.

Step 4: Run MediaCoder. (If you encounter an error, download and install the Visual C++ 2008 Redistributable Package).

Step 5: Download my preset with the codec settings. Load the preset from MediaCoder under “File” then “Load Preset”.

Step 6: Now drag and drop any video you wish to convert into the blank list. Click “Start” to begin transcoding them. (If your MediaCoder crashes, do not click on the video in the list. Sometimes it’ll crash trying to fetch the video details. Click “Start” straight after the videos are in the list to avoid this.)

Step 7: Once the videos are done, rename them from the default title of “MediaCoder Clip” by right clicking on them, “Properties” and in the “Details” tab.

Step 8: If you have an automatic sync already set up for your Zune videos, move the videos to that folder. If not, open the Zune software and switch to the “Videos” tab. Drag and drop the converted video into the content area. Once populated, right click on it and select “Sync”.

Step 9: Enjoy.

If you’re curious what the codec settings in the preset file are exactly, they are as follows. You can increase the video framerate to around 1000 KBps to increase the quality, but it’s going to be hard to tell on the smaller screen anyway.

  • Video
    • Format: Windows Media
    • Codec: Windows Media Video 9
    • Mode: Bitrate-based
    • Bitrate: 768 Kbps
    • Resolution: 320×240
    • Frame rate: 25 fps
  • Audio
    • Encoder: Windows Media Audio
    • Codec: Windows Media Audio 9.2
    • Resample: 44100 Hz
    • Mode: CBR
    • Bitrate: 192 Kbps

41 insightful thoughts

  1. Thanks, however, we all feel how quirky user experiance is this – ideal process would be to open explorer, drag videos to zune, it will ask me if I want to transcode videos, then it will download unknown codecs on the fly and start encoding. But not even Apple got this far :(.

  2. weird. i have never had problems with encode 360. it is very simple. you only need to use a bitrate lower than 768 for it to pass it to the zune. any bitrate higher will get reconverted. that and using either wmv 8 or 9 but if youuse 9 you just put the bitrate to 700k TOPS. as someone who has converted around 1000 videos to the zune with encode360.. i believe to have the authority enough to tell you you were doing it wrong. 😛

  3. Tremendous! Thanks for the walkthru, I kept meaning to try out MediaCoder but my eyes glaze over when I think about going through the trial and error to find solid encoding settings.

  4. I know you’ll receive endless suggestions about other options, but after months of tinkering, I found something that meets my criteria (free, legal, and fast). The answer is WinFF (which is simply a GUI to the ever-popular FFmpeg). It has a preset for iPod (the container format is .MP4), and this works perfectly on the Zune.

    One install, no worries. http://www.winff.org/

    Oh, and doug_jnr: The Zune’s screen beats the living daylight out of the iPod’s. It’s vivid and bright. The only thing that looks better is the iPhone/Touch, but those offer minuscule storage.

  5. @Fire: That works, but the problem with that is that as soon as you try to sync it up to your Zune, the software will convert/transcode it again to a native WMV format because that’s what the Zune will play. The software says it support all those formats (WMV, H.264, MPEG4) but in reality, that’s what it will all convert back to WMV again. That’s not too bad for shorter videos, but if you spent 30 min transcoding a movie to MPEG4, the Zune will spend another 30min transcoding it to WMV again.

  6. @Long: Awww. I had to get it off ebay. Actually, my mum wanted one too, so she has one now (8gb) – and so does one of my friends (8gb). That’s at least three in Queensland.

  7. On the topic of getting a Zune – where is the Australian (or general international) Zune? I wouldn’t mind owning one…

  8. @mrmckeb: Well, unless you know a cool dude from Microsoft – ebay. I can’t remember where I got mine, but my friends and my mums both came from 1800memory. Two days to get it, pretty good (but I don’t think they sell the 80). You may have to wait for them to get it back in stock.

  9. You can get the X64 update. I’m not sure entirely how that works, but I presume you install the X86 version then it updates the files to be 64-bit native?

  10. So true. I’ve been wondering why not all of my WMV files will sync with my Zune. I guess I needed that “particular type of WMV”, whatever that is. MediaCoder sounds good.

  11. Yeah this one isn’t like those cheap crapware run-of-the-mill ABC to XYZ converters. This is a gooood app that originated on Doom9.

  12. “…transcoding an axxo-ripped XVID movie…”

    yes I know what you are talking about!!! you’re axxo!!! just kidding…

  13. @Long: Actually, converting to .MP4 using WinFF *doesn’t* require a reconversion by the Zune software. I’m sorry if I didn’t say that before; obviously, that’s a pretty big deal for me, with my rather slow single-core 1.8 GHz laptop.

  14. Transcoding is the next big application use in my opinion for PCs.

    Check out: http://www.badaboomit.com for a really new transcoding software that uses NVIDIA GPUs to do the work rather than the CPU for an amazing increase in performance.

    CUDA on Nvidia GPUs is the next big thing for software.

  15. @Roy: You’re definitely right. In fact, I forgot about entirely my ATI also has a hardware transcoder called AVIVO. It doesn’t have resolution configurations so I can’t get it to a Zune-native format, but applications like this should definitely speed it up.

  16. I discovered that program a few months ago (had a lot of trouble to make it work) and was using it ever since. Thanks for sharing this guide and your presets :)

  17. @Long:
    “the software will convert/transcode it again to a native WMV format because that’s what the Zune will play. The software says it support all those formats (WMV, H.264, MPEG4) but in reality, that’s what it will all convert back to WMV again.”

    What nonsense.
    All three formats are natively supported by the Zune 80 (Zune 30 is WMV only) and as long as they meet the required specs:
    http://www.zune.net/en-us/products/zune80gb/specs.htm
    There will be no transcoding.
    The only thing missing from the specs is the WMV9 requirement.
    While the Zune 30 read WMV7/8/9 the new Zunes require WMV9 only.

  18. When I try to use Windows Media as the encoding format, I get an ‘encode thread blocked’ error and can’t continue. It happens even when I disabled the audio. Tried un- and re-installing different versions of MediaCoder and un/re-installing the Windows Media 11 Format SDK. It works when selecting different video codecs, and nothing works when using WMV.

    The site admin (“mixer”) from the MediaCoder site (forum.mediacoderhq.com) does comment on Jun 5, 2008 that there have been “ongoing problems with encoding to WMV’s”. I’m wondering if anyone else has come across this problem and a way around it?

  19. If this is still of some interest: I had the same problem here with blocked threads and it took me days (and nights) with trying out everything. And now I finally have the solution. After another re-install of MediaCoder I used the setup wizard, choosed Windows Media audio and video output there AND (and this seems to be the most important point) the poprietary (I think it said so) encoder and not the built-in encoder. This seems to show up in the video settings as “Container: ASF” and “Encoder: WM Encoder”. Format is of course Windows Media Video. And now it finally worked without blocked threads. Apparently the built-in encoder is buggy …..

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