Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Video on the Go

One of the things that have fascinated me about the iPAQ and the Treo is the ability to play video on them. I didn't play with the iPAQ long enough to get around to it but I've had time to play with the Treo.

I read a lot of forum entries and blogs on how to get video (particularly movies) to a PDA. The issues are the same regardless of iPAQ or Treo.

The tricky part of the process is getting the video file size down to where it'll fit on a memory card. There are a couple of programs I've played with that do that.

The first one I tried was PocketDivXEncoder. It's very simple to use. Here's a forum post on how to use it. The downside to PocketDivXEncoder is that you have to decrypt the DVD first. I happened to have a decrypted copy of National Treasure so I attacked it. I'm sorry I didn't keep up with how long it took. PocketDivXEncoder worked great and the output file was 185 MB when formatted at 320x240 for the Treo.

The second movie I tried with PocketDivXEncoder was Love Actually. I hadn't decrypted that one first so I had to jump through hoops to create VOB files. I did that and then ran PocketDivXEncoder against it. It churned for a while then gave an error message in French and pretty much quit.

I tried everything to work around the mysterious error.

I finally gave up and went back to the forum entries. This time I found a reference to the FairUseWizard. This is a more general utility than PocketDivXEncoder. It's main purpose is to "create movies that will play on your standalone player with the DivX and XviD codecs." A PDA is just another case of this.

The big plus for FairUseWizard is that it will decrypt the DVD for you. The downside is that you control the encoding parameters primarily by setting the target file size. For Love Actually, I set the target file size to 250 MB but I wasn't able to satisfactorily set the resolution to the Treo's 320x240 (it said it wasn't a recommended resolution). I played with it a couple of times but finally just let the "wizard" run things and it worked perfectly. The output file was right at 250 MB.

Incidentally, both PocketDivXEncoder and FairUseWizard support XviD which is what I used.

I popped my 512 MB SD card into a card reader and copied both files over along with The Core Pocket Media Player (TCPMP). With the card back in the Treo, I used FileZ to install TCPMP and the appropriate codecs.

Voila! They work like a charm. TCPMP has all kind of settings and tweaks but all you really need to do is click on Play. The Treo's 5-way left and right let you skip backward and forward and the center button is Pause/Play. Stick your headset into the jack on the bottom and you're off in your own world.

Oh, by the way. All of the above programs are FREE!

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