Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 32,
It has been a busy week this week for me. Of course the big news of this week is a new DVD Catalyst 4 update (4.1.2), which, aside for some bug-fixes and a few new profiles, introduced new screen resolution settings for the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble NOOKcolor to enable you to make your movies as full-screen as possible. To show off the difference this makes, I also created some sample videos using the new settings, and, after 2 weeks of using it as my main entertainment device, I published a Kindle Fire review on my website.
Letís start with the tech news of this week:
The web is still milking the releases of the Kindle Fire and the NOOKtablet, but a few interesting things this week.
Asus Transformer Prime: Available for pre-order through a variety of different retailers, and a couple of websites already received units for review.
With the XBOX 360 selling nearly 800.000 units in 1 day (black friday), partially thanks to an upcoming update that adds TV functionality to it, Iím wondering what Sony is up to. The Playstation 3 Firmware 4.00 is around the corner, which supposedly adds functionality in order to work better with the upcoming PSP Vita handheld, but since itís Sony, I canít help but wonder what they have taken out/disabled in the PS3 this time.
There is also a lot of talk on the web about a spyware app called Carrier IQ, which supposedly monitors everything you do on an Android-based phone and then shares part of this information with your cell phone carrier.
DVD Catalyst News:
DVD Catalyst 4 v4.1.2
Last week, someone contacted me about full-screen videos on the Kindle Fire. Because of the small menu-bar that is displayed in most of the apps you run on the Kindle Fire, creating videos using the full resolution of the Kindle Fire results in black borders on the sides. So with some calculations and tests, I came up with settings that take the little menu bar into account for the video files, so it is possible to eliminate those black borders completely. Because the settings required a change in code in DVD Catalyst 4 to be able to use it, I released DVD Catalyst 4.1.2. Because a release for just a settings addition alone isnít enough, I also did the same (about time, I know) for the NOOKcolor. For the NOOKtablet, using the full screen resolution is fine, but because the NOOKcolor has a video-size limitation that is different from the screen resolution, custom settings also had to be created.
For full details on all this, have a look at the release notes for 4.1.2:
Together with the DVD Catalyst 4.1.2 release, I converted a couple of trailers using the different settings in order to show the difference.
Full-screen movies on the NOOKtablet:
This was easy. The NOOKtablet doesnít really care about the screen size of the video, and it doesnít have a menu bar at the bottom for everything you do, so the full screen resolution of the NOOKtablet can be used for video playback. During tests, I was able to have it play a 1920◊1080-sized video file without any issues, but since the NOOKtablet doesnít have TV-out, there is no actual need to use video files of that size. The trailers show off the quality of videos on a NOOKtablet.
Full-screen movies on the Acer A100:
DVD Catalyst was the first conversion tool that actually took the permanent Honeycomb menu-bar into account. When the Xoom was first released, we actually picked one up, and found that if you use the actual specifications of the device for video files (which is basically what all other conversion tools do) you end up with black borders on the side of the video. By taking the menu-bar into account for the screen-size, DVD Catalyst 4 was capable of creating video files that made full-use of the available screen portion for video playback. Of course we did this for the 7″ tablets as well, but it wasnít as well-known, so we created some sample trailers to show people what the Acer A100 (and other 7″ Honeycomb devices) is actually capable of when it comes to video.
Full-screen movies on the NOOKcolor:
One of the additions to the 4.1.2 update of DVD Catalyst is a custom screen resolution for the NOOKcolor. With a screen size of 1024◊600 and a maximum screen-size limit for video files of 854◊480, you always end up with black borders on either the top/bottom or the sides. With the custom settings, it is now possible to create true full-screen video files for the NOOKcolor.
Full-screen movies for the Kindle Fire:
With the 4.1.2 update, DVD Catalyst is the first (only?) conversion tool on the market that can create full-screen video on the Kindle Fire. Similar as on Honeycomb tablets, the Kindle Fire has a small menu-bar that is permanently visible during video playback, which restricts the size of video files a bit. With this update, DVD Catalyst now takes this little bar into account, enabling you to watch your movies on the Kindle Fire without black borders.
Kindle Fire Review:
In last-weeks newsletter I already expressed my opinion towards reviews from popular websites that are mainly interested in Apple products. Now, after 2 weeks of using the Kindle Fire as my main entertainment device, I posted a review of my own. Aside from screenshots of the Kindle Fire that you have not seen before (unless you own one yourself), the review does not show any favoritism towards any Apple device or other product, well, maybe towards the Kindle Fire itself. Because of my limited use for tablets (mainly video, web and some software development), it really doesnít matter to me if the device is running Android, BBX/QNX, WebOS or has an Apple logo on it or not. If it plays videos, has a webbrowser of some sort and lets me put stuff on it of my own, it has my needs covered. A game here and there is nice but not a requirement for me. Since all the devices on the market pretty much have all I use covered, I donít have to fight with work-arounds (unless I create them myself). All I care about is if it does what I need it for, how it does that, and how big of a chunk it takes out of my bank account.
But, on a side-note, as much as I love the Kindle Fire, I did put it back in its box for now, and its sitting on a shelf. Rather than sitting in plain sight, tempting me, I have put it away, and am now starting with a run with the Barnes & Noble NOOKtablet. For 2 weeks, I have put a lot of time on the Kindle Fire, and now itís time to find out how the NOOKtablet is holding up.
Of course every week I get a few questions regarding DVDs that end up being a bit tricky. The DVD releases of this week were, similar as last week, quite disappointing, so all I got was 2 older ones.
Elf (2008) DVD
Electra (2005) DVD
TV: As I mentioned in quite a few articles and newsletters on my website, I have a strong dislike (to put it mildly) towards the TV system. The darn commercials are what make things so bad.
Iím bringing this up again, because thanks to Amazon Prime and the Kindle Fire, Iíve stumbled upon Top Gear UK, and have been watching a couple of episodes a night. At first I didnít really pay much attention to it, but I noticed that I went to bed quite a bit later than usual. It happens every now and then when I get into a marathon-mode, but with Top Gear I was just watching 2-3 episodes at the most.
Then I realized what was happening. Because Top Gear is a BBC show from the UK, an hour-length show, without commercials, is about 55 minutes in length. When you watch an hour-show in the US, and cut out the commercials, you are looking at barely hitting 40 minutes. Watching 3 episodes of a US show is about the same as just 2 of one from the UK.
The reason for this is because the BBC is funded by a controversial TV Tax. You basically pay for a license for each TV, and that money is used to fund the BBC to create TV shows. A lot of people in the UK (well, most of them I guess) hate the idea of this tax, but I am quite sure that if they would be stuck with US TV for a couple of months, they would wish it was the same here. 40 minutes of TV shows, and 20 minutes of commercials that are mainly medical related, either meds themselves or lawyers trying to get rich by advertising a class-action-lawsuit.
Top Gear UK:
When I first started playing with the Kindle Fire, I noticed this show in ďPrimeĒ, so I gave it a go. It took a little to get into, but now with a couple of seasons under my belt, I love it. Aside from doing things with supercars that you donít see anywhere else, the challenges they do, the trips etc, it is quite entertaining. They recently started with a US version, which I have setup on the TiVo, but I havenít gotten to that yet. I donít think they can put as much into the 40 minutes of TV time though. Maybe with a couple of car-commercials added in-between, it might appear to get to the 55 minute mark.
The wife and I are into ďThe Amazing RaceĒ which is the only show I actually watch on TV, and every time, it reminds me of the nightmare that is TV. We have the show set to record on the TiVo, but for some darn reason, 60 minutes, the show before The Amazing Race always extends for 20-30 minutes, which of course screws up the TiVo recording. When we start watching it, we end up having to fast-forward for half an hour, and of course we miss the ending as well. If you call a show 60 minutes, why canít they keep it within the 60 minutes, or did they not include the 20 minutes of commercials?
And that is all for this week. Today I will be putting some cabinets together and putting in some carpet tiles on the porch we turned into a room a few months ago, which should finish up that project. This weekend, I have quite some work planned for MovieGallery. As I mentioned earlier, the Kindle Fire is currently out of sight for me to give the NOOKtablet some dedicated attention, and last night I spent some quality time with it. Hopefully later this upcoming week Iíll be able to write a proper review of the device (also without the common Apple favoritism found in most reviews of course).
Thanks again for taking the time to read my newsletter, and see you next week,
DVD Catalyst 4 Product Information:
DVD Catalyst 4 User Guide:
DVD Catalyst 4 Bluray Guide:
DVD Catalyst 4 Conversion speed information:
DVD Catalyst 4 Tweaks I use Myself: