Enable HD Video On A Softmodded Xbox

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This guide will help you turn a standard definition XBMC installation on any softmodded Xbox into a high-definition XBMC installation, which involves connecting a Xbox high-definition cable-adapter and, if it is a PAL Xbox, converting the Xbox to NTSC mode.

It will work for all recent NDURE softmods (Krayzie 1.1.1, Kingroach NDURE 3.1, SID 5.11), and should also work for most other softmods, although it might be wise to upgrade to one of the three listed NDURE softmods before you start.

Audience

This guide is aimed at owners of XBoxes who have already softmodded their Xbox and wish to enable HD modes. You should also have XBMC installed and preferably have some experience using it.

Disclaimer

You perform the steps in this guide at your own risk. If in the course of doing so you destroy your Xbox or your TV then it is your responsibility. Xboxes were designed to play official games, and any modding or running of homebrew software is done at your own risk.

Prerequisites

Okay, so you have a softmodded PAL Xbox and you have XBMC working, either as your dash or as an application. What else will you need?

  • A High Definition TV that can display NTSC input (most should be able to)
  • A High Definition cable (see below)
  • An Xbox gamepad
  • XBMC running the default Confluence Lite skin (at least while you do the upgrade)
  • An Xbox program called Enigmah* (Google is your friend)
  • FTP access to your Xbox
  • Depending on your softmod, you might also need HeXEn (Heimdall's Xbox Engineering Disc) or Frosty's Rescue Disc, burned to DVD-R at 4x or slower. (Again, Google is your friend)
Note: Enigmah Video Selector software usually comes as a CD-image (ISO or IMG), and it is also included with HeXEn. For the guide you just need the program so you'll have to locate a utility that will allow you to extract the files from an Xbox ISO image, like Qwix. Note that ordinary ISO readers won't work, because Xbox DVD images are a non-standard format.

The cable adapter

You need a special cable to get the high-def signals from the Xbox to a high-def TV or projector. The cable will have a standard Xbox AV connector on one end and five RCA jacks on the other (three of these are component video connectors, the other two carry the left and right audio signals). The cable may also have a socket or connector for a TOSLink optical/digital audio cable.

There are several brands of Xbox high-def cables available and they vary a lot in quality. Bad cables can really mess things up so this is one area where spending a bit of money up front will prevent headaches later on. Two types of cables are generally recommended as being reliable.

The official Microsoft High-Definition AV Pack

These weren't sold in Europe because Microsoft believed that HD was still very much a niche technology in Europe at the time. You can sometimes pick them up on auction sites like ebay though. There are two versions, and both perform equally well.

The first version is a two (or three) part cable - first there is a block with the Xbox connector, five RCA jacks and a TOSLink socket, second there is a set of component leads included that can be used to connect each RCA jack on the block to the corresponding jack on your TV. If you want digital audio you have to buy a TOSLink cable and plug it into your AMP and the socket on the block.

The second version does away with the block in favour of having a chunky connector at the Xbox end and five built-in component leads at the TV end. The chunky connector end has a TOSLink socket - again you have to supply your own cable for that.

Monster GameLink 400 X

This is similar to the official MS type 2 version - it has a chunky end with the Xbox connector and a digital audio socket and five RCA component leads at the other end.

The digital audio connector isn't a standard TOSLink socket. Monster sells a companion TOSLink cable (the LightWave 100 X) which comes with an adapter to plug into the socket on the GameLink.


The HD enabling process

Enabling NTSC

  1. Hook up your Xbox to your High Def TV using your shiny new cable. Don't worry if the picture looks a bit poor at this point, you haven't actually enabled HD mode yet.
  2. Connect to your Xbox using an FTP program (you'll have to find another guide if you don't know how to do that). Once connected copy over the Enigmah program - put it in E:\Apps\Enigmah).
  3. You now have to disable the virtual eeprom on your softmod, so you can make the necessary changes to the video mode in the real eeprom. How you do this depends on which softmod you have. (For those that require a file called eeprom_off.bin you create a blank text file on your computer and rename it "eeprom_off.bin" without the quotes - make sure that is the whole name, Windows sometimes hides the last extension and eeprom_off.bin.txt is no good to us.)
    1. For Krayzie 1.1.1 you copy eeprom_off.bin to the root of the E partition, then reboot and use your dash to launch Enigmah (see the next step). Alternatively you can run Krayzie extras (E:\Apps\Extras\default.xbe), then select Launch Extras - Professional Mode and use the dash to launch Enigmah.
    2. For Kingroach NDURE 3.0 you copy eeprom_off.bin to the root of the E partition, then reboot and use your dash to launch Enigmah (see the next step). Alternatively you can run E:\ndts\default.xbe, then select Launch Menu and use the dash to launch Enigmah.
    3. For Kingroach NDURE 3.1 you copy eeprom_off.bin to E:\NKP11\, then reboot and use your dash to launch Enigmah (see the next step). Alternatively you can run E:\ndts\default.xbe, then select Launch Menu and use the dash to launch Enigmah.
    4. For all other softmods, or for any unknown softmod, or if none of the methods above works, cold boot with HeXEn or Frosty's Rescue Disc, then use the File Manager to launch Enigmah.
  4. To run Enigmah, if you are in XBMC you can use the filemanager to search your XBox drive for the program. Click on "default.xbe" in the Enigmah folder to run it. If you are using UnleashX you use the UnleashX File Manager to launch Enigmah in the same way.
  5. The Enigmah screen should say "Current Region: PAL". Press B on the controller, the screen should now say "Current Region: NTSC". Exit the program by rebooting your Xbox. You should now be in your default dashboard, so start XBMC if you aren't already there and go to System Info (System-System Info-Video), where it should say "Video & XBE Region: NTSC M" - but don't worry too much if it doesn't - for some softmods a final step is required!
  6. Use your dash file manager to remove any copies of eeprom_off.bin you placed on your Xbox during step 3. If you are running Krayzie 1.1.1 then you need to update the virtual eeprom - run E:\Apps\Extras\default.xbe, then select Launch Extras - Update Virtual eeprom, and follow the instructions. If you are running SID 5.1 then you also need to update the virtual eeprom - cold boot with HeXEn or Frosty's Rescue Disc, delete C:\SID5\eeprom.bin, launch E:\UDATA\21585554\000000000000\evox.xbe, select "Backup eeprom", cold boot again with HeXEn or Frosty's Rescue Disc, then copy E:\UDATA\21585554\000000000000\backup\eeprom.bin to C:\SID5\eeprom.bin.
  7. Switch off your Xbox then power it back on. Start XBMC and go to System Info again (System-System Info-Video), where it should now say "Video & XBE Region: NTSC M". If it now says "Video & XBE Region: PAL" then something has gone wrong, so go through steps 3 through 6 again, double checking that you are following the instructions, or using one of the suggested alternative virtual eeprom bypass methods in step 3.
  8. If none of the methods in step 3 works, cold boot with HeXEn or Frosty's Rescue Disc and use Xbox File Manager to manually locate all files called eeprom.bin. Whenever you find a copy, use FTP to take a backup to your PC, then delete the original from the Xbox. Once you've done that, run Enigmah from HeXen or Frosty's Xbox File Manager, and repeat steps 5-7.

Enabling HD modes

  1. Enable HD Video Output Modes. Almost there! Now that your Xbox is running NTSC you need to enable the HD modes your TV supports, using one of the following options (n.b., options 1.2 and 1.3 shouldn't be necessary, but are left here for completeness).
    1. This is the easiest method, and should work for all recent XBMC builds. Repeat step 3 from the NTSC enabling section above (whichever version worked for you previously), but instead of launching Enigmah you launch XBMC, then go to System-Settings-System-Video Output and enable the video modes that your TV supports and that you wish to use. Note that, for a standard Xbox with 64MB of RAM, the recommendation is to use 720p, because 1080i uses too much memory, but you can still enable it here, then just not select it when you come to setting up XBMC in the next step. If you want digital audio, do the same for digital audio modes, under System-Settings-System-Audio Output.
    2. If your softmod supports dual booting, switch on your Xbox using the eject button. This should take you to the standard MS dashboard. In the MS dashboard go to Settings-Video and enable all the HD resolutions your TV supports. If you are using the TOSLink digital audio connection then go to Settings-Audio and enable the audio types your decoder supports.
    3. If your softmod doesn't support dual booting then you need to repeat step 3 from the NTSC enabling section above, but instead of launching Enigmah you launch C:\xboxdash.xbe to start the MS Dash. (Depending on your softmod, it might also be named C:\xb0xdash.xbe, or C:\xb1xdash.xbe, or C:\msdash.xbe - if you have both and one doesn't work then try the other.) Enable the HD modes and audio as described in 1.2.
  2. Use your dash file manager to remove any copies of eeprom_off.bin you placed on your Xbox during step 1.
  3. Update Virtual eeprom. If you are running Krayzie 1.1.1 or SID 5.1 then you need to update your virtual eeprom:
    1. For Krayzie 1.1.1 run E:\Apps\Extras\default.xbe, then select Launch Extras - Update Virtual eeprom, and follow the instructions.
    2. For SID 5.1 then cold boot with HeXEn or Frosty's Rescue Disc, delete C:\SID5\eeprom.bin, launch E:\UDATA\21585554\000000000000\evox.xbe, select "Backup eeprom", cold boot again with HeXen or Frosty's Rescue Disc, then copy E:\UDATA\21585554\000000000000\backup\eeprom.bin to C:\SID5\eeprom.bin.
  4. Switch off your Xbox then power it back on. If not already in XBMC start it up. Go to System-Settings-System-Video Output and System-Settings-System-Audio Output to confirm that they reflect the changes you made in step 1.
  5. Select Display Resolution. Go to System-Settings-Appearance-Display-Resolution and select the resolution you would like XBMC to run in from now on. Leaving it set at the default "Auto" setting means that it will use the maximum resolution you selected in the Video Output setting in the previous step. Most users seem to recommend 720p as providing the best combination of resolution, speed, and memory usage on a standard Xbox, so even if you have enabled 1080i Video Output in the previous step you should probably select 720p here.
  6. Select Video Playback Resolution. Go to System-Settings-Videos-Playback-Resolution and change the resolution you would like videos to be played at. XBMC will scale the video up or down as necessary and output it at this resolution. If you chose 720p for your screen resolution then 720p would be a good choice here too. Leaving it set at "Best available" will use the maximum resolution you selected in the Display Resolution setting in the previous step.
  7. Since you are running at a new screen resolution you should probably go through screen calibration again, just to make sure you are seeing all of that HD goodness. You might also want to change to a dedicated HD skin - PM3.HD is shipped with the latest XBMC builds, so that's a good place to start - but remember that HD skins use more memory.
  8. Finally, take a backup of your modified eeprom (use Evox, or Config Magic, or xman954's eeprom dumper). Copy it to your PC, and make a further backup - just to be safe.

All done

That's it, you should now be enjoying XBMC in high resolution.