I have a had a lot of questions about supported video formats on the Raspberry Pi so I thought I would try some and see what works and what doesn’t work. The little board could make a great media extender if it will play the required video formats.
Using the Debian install for the Pi I installed VLC but due to it not using hardware acceleration the playback was very poor and not really usable, I tested XBMC on Debian and that worked better than VLC for video playback but the best system is to use the pre-built image that I wrote about a couple of days ago.
So using OpenELEC I found that any file converted with Handbreak to mp4/m4v works fine this seems to be the best format to play, including HD video. The only way I could get Windows Media Center recorded TV files to work was by converting them with Handbreak. SD recordings played the sound but had no video and HD recordings didn’t play at all, however Daniel Vieira (@dangules) said they if you tried playing them after the thumbnail generated they did play but I didn’t find that, more testing is needed. So It seems mpeg 2 video files don’t play at all.
I also found that I could get live TV almost working via a HDHomerum, it works for about 30 seconds but then the audio breaks up, @dangules found that HD TV files would play via DVBLink server but it was a little stuttery but it’s early days yet, he also got the BBC iPlayer app working by download the adding and copying it to the download folder.
On some MKV files I found that the video would playback at 1080p but there was no audio but it did play audio descriptions, I couldn’t find a way to change the audio channel and I guess that if the audio is mpeg2 it wound’t play even if it could be swapped.
We found that h.264 based video works, HD works, divx and xvid works, but not mpeg2, overall mp4 files seem to be the best format to play and Handbreak seems to be the best way to convert the files, considering how new the build is I am pretty sure it’s going to be better and better.
UPDATE: I have Freeview HD recorded TV files working on the Raspberry Pi by getting Windows Media Center on the host PC to generate the thumbnails before trying to stream from the Pi, see the 2nd video
In this video I test different video file and see if they will play: