Playstation 3 as a Media Player: m2ts.

Sony’s Playstation 3 is one of the best media players around: it can play Blu-ray Discs, pictures, music, videos and finally, games. One of the best uses for the PS3 is the ability to stream content from a media server through DLNA. Nothing of what is written above is any news, nor does it brings any big issues to anyone.

Now, let’s assume I have a number of media players at home, and I need to find a container that is supported by them all (PS3 included) but also must support all the functionalities I need (HD and subtitles). There things get tricky.

PS3 supports a number of containers out of the box: .ts, .avi and .m2ts, but is only able to support HD content on .m2ts files. To most people the big issue is that .mkv files are not supported at all, so we’re left with only 2, as .avi files don’t support h.264: .ts and .m2ts. On the other hand, there’s no way to play subtitles on HD content without burning it onto the picture itself.

MPEG2 transport stream (.ts), is a container designed for the transmission of live content, for instance Digital Television and DVB streams in general. It is immensely flexible as most professional containers derive from them, for instance AVCHD and m2ts. Unfortunatly, for the purpose of this post, it is to flexible, as it supports everything you can through at it: video, pictures, music, binaries, subtitles, and each one of them in at least 5 different formats. The problem lies on the immense number of formats and codecs that TS supports, which makes the support for ALL OF THEM spotty.

Derived from MPEG2 Transport Stream comes M2TS, is in fact is MPEG2 Transport Stream with some limitations: the supported codecs and formats are limited to AC-3, DTS (and HD versions), VC-1 and H.264, and subtitles from bitmapped to text, and that it, around 1000th of what is supported by the full blown MPEG2 transport stream. The advantage is that, as it limits thinks, support for it is also easier, and this is exactly what happens. .m2ts is supported by PS3 on all H.264 Full High Definition glory, both as a file and from any DLNA server, which the whole point. Unfortunatly, it still doesn’t supports subtitles, not even Bluray’s native format PGS (Presentation Graphics), which is a shame (at least until System Software 3.41). The up side on this is that most all other media players support .m2ts and PGS subtitles, and on top of this, is also supported by all other devices that support AVCHD, which makes it accessible from brands such as Sony, Panasonic and LG and on their equipments. So unless Sony decides to supports DIVX HD (and MKV), this is the best container to be supported by PS3 on the log run

So at the end, we got a container which is supported by PlayStation3, and at the same time is supported by everyone else and it supports subtitles, which is the furthest I could get on achieving all the goals.

Now, how to generate .m2ts files? Extremely easy, for windows, Linux and OSX just use TSMuxer, which is able to convert MKV to .ts or .m2ts, and adding subtitles as we needed. For Snow Leopard users, please use this version, as there is some issues with the latest version of TS Muxer. Please give a heads up in case that link dies, as I still have the required files.