Encoded video and HDi interactivity are now being offered to disc-authoring companies by Microsoft to test out how their content will behave as HD DVD format discs.

The new HD DVD Emulator For Xbox 360 allows companies, including film studios, to test out how their content will behave before burning it.

Microsoft says that the tool is an alternative to "expensive hardware or time-consuming and costly trial-and-error processes for testing HD DVD titles".

It explains that the tool enables companies to model the behavior of HD DVD content, including encoded video and HDi interactivity - the company's implementation of the advanced content interactivity layer in HD DVD, which is used in the HD DVD player add-on to the Xbox 360, and in Toshiba players.

To set up the Emulator, the testers must have a connection to Xbox Live, Microsoft's online gaming site, and be able to navigate to the download games menu to download the software to the Xbox 360.

The emulator software uses the Xbox 360 videogame system or a player add-on to support playback from either a network's storage system, a portable hard drive or optical disc.

During this playback process, developers can test layout, menus and the title's interactivity functionality.

The software keeps a detailed log report to help developers find code problems, Microsoft said.

"Microsoft developed the Emulator to help save studios and postproduction houses time, resources and costs involved with the creation of HD DVD content, and let them focus on what really matters - pushing the envelope with the format", added Jordi Ribas, general manager of HD DVD at Microsoft.

The tool was tested in a beta program that ran from July through to November.

Participants included Deluxe Digital Studios, Enteractive GmbH, Imagion AG, Memory-Tech and NetBlender.

The software carries a one-time licensing fee of $2999.