How to Watch Movies on Your Surface
More a shopping mall than an app, Microsoft designed the Video app for the Surface to pull you into its two storefronts: The movies section entices you to buy or rent movies, and the television section adds the hook for TV shows, both past and present.
Be sure to use the Video app only when you're logged in with a Microsoft account, and your wallet will always be available. You also need a strong Wi-Fi connection for downloading or streaming videos.
For some reason, the Video app doesn't list movies you've shot with your Surface's built-in Camera app. To play those movies in the Video app, slide your finger up from the Video app screen's bottom edge to reveal the App bar. Tap the Open File icon and then use the File Picker to navigate to the videos in your Pictures library's Camera Roll folder.
The Surface works with videos encoded in WMV (Windows Media Video) or H.264/MP4 movie formats. The Video app doesn't support other video formats, like TV shows recorded by Windows Media Center or TiVo. If your movies are encoded in another format, you need a conversion program to copy them into MP4 format.
Or, if you own a Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2, you can upgrade your Desktop app to Windows Media Center. It's a $10 upgrade that lets you watch any show recorded with Windows Media Center.
To open the Video app and browse its wares, follow these steps:
From the Start screen, tap the Video tile.
The Video app appears. The Video app immediately confuses things by changing its name to Xbox Video. That's because the Video app lets you play videos to your Xbox game console, if you have one, so you can watch your movies on the big screen.
Browse to the type of video you want to watch.
The Video app sprawls horizontally across your screen. It offers four main sections, most of which hide beyond the screen's left and right edges:
Home: When first opened, Xbox Video shows this screen that lists currently popular shows and movies.
Personal Videos: Scroll to the left of the opening Home screen to see the hidden area that shows any videos living in your Surface's Videos library. (That area also contains videos you've purchased or downloaded from the Video app.)
My TV/My Movies: Next to your Personal Videos section, the app lists TV shows or movies you've purchased previously from Xbox Video.
Recommendations: If you've purchased or rented other movies, Xbox Video lists similar movies here.
New Movies/Featured Movies: Head here for the latest releases so you can catch up on movies you've missed on the big screen.
New TV Shows/Featured TV Shows: Similar to the previous category, this lets you watch the TV shows everybody was talking about at the water cooler last week.
Tap a video's tile to see more about it.
As you browse the categories, tap any tile to browse trailers and to buy or rent movies and TV shows. (Some shows offer a free episode, usually a season opener.)
Other buttons let you buy the video, see more about it, watch its trailer, or in the case of TV shows, buy a discounted season package or individual episodes.
Most shows come in both high-definition video (more expensive) and standard-definition video (usually discounted by about 30 percent).
Watch a video.
Tap a movie or TV show tile from the storefronts to rent, buy, or download the video to your my Videos section. The app charges the credit card associated with your Microsoft account, or prompts you to set one up.
As you watch a video, slide your finger up from the screen's bottom to expose buttons for pausing, playing, and skipping forward/backward. The Play To button lets you play the video through your Xbox game console if you have one.
Before diving into the Video app with your credit card, keep these tips in mind:
When starting with the Video app, view free things at first to familiarize yourself with the app's mechanics. The Video app often offers free TV pilots, free movie trailers, and behind-the-scenes promo videos.
Can't find a particular item? Tap the Search box in the app's upper-right corner, type a keyword, and press Enter. The Video app lists all matching videos.
Rental items and some specials are time-dated, meaning they'll disappear from your Videos library after a certain date. Read the fine print so you know exactly what you're buying and how long you have to watch it.
If you'll be traveling, look for items with a Download option. After these items are downloaded, you can watch them when you're out of range of a Wi-Fi connection. (Again, read the fine print because even some downloaded videos will expire after a certain time.)
Before you can buy anything, the Video app requires you to type your Microsoft account password. That's a handy safeguard against accidentally brushing against a Buy button and downloading a season of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
You're not restricted to your Surface's Video app for movies. Netflix offers a free app for watching streaming movies, and you can watch Amazon's instant videos, as well. (Amazon hasn't released an instant video app yet, but you can still watch Amazon's videos through your web browser.)