Thank you for reading the 64th DVD Catalyst Newsletter.
I'm still experiencing complications with the email part of the newsletter. With personal things, as well as the recent beta and update for DVD Catalyst, MovieGallery, I haven't had the time yet to investigate the cause of the problem.
For your convenience, this link will take you to the newsletter archive on my website, which includes this, as well as all the previous newsletters:
Newsletter | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
This week was mostly about the newly released Google Nexus 7 tablet, but there were a few other interesting tidbits as well. For me, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble approved the MovieGallery update from last week without a hitch, which doesn't happen too often, and I'm dealing with some (small) draught-related issues as well.
Let me start with this week's tech news.
The Google Nexus 7. I'm sure many people are getting sick hearing and reading about this tablet. Still, with this being an "official" Google device, it has been one of the most anticipated device-releases of the year, at least for the Android-world. This week, the majority of pre-orders were shipped out, and mine came in on Tuesday. I posted a few articles on my website already, but I'll write some more down below.
Apple is currently dealing with a backfire of one of its lawsuits against Samsung. A UK court found that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7, Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 8.9 all have recognizable differences between Apple’s iPad, and as a result will remain on sale in the UK. Because of the publicity that surrounded the lawsuit, a UK judge also ruled that Apple has to pay for notices in a variety of different media and on Apple.com to let people know the results. Of course this has already been appealed by Apple. Whether this will go through or not, I just hope that this will reduce the amount of lawsuits being pushed out these days so that the money involved can be used for something like research and development on new technology.
Aside from Apple, also McDonalds is working on damage control. Earlier this week, stories of Mr. Steve Mann, a professor who's been wearing augmented reality glasses since the late 90's, started to fill the tech news websites. Supposedly, Mr. Mann had a run-in with employees of a McD establishment in Paris, France. Papers were torn and the glasses ended up being damaged. For more details, have a look at these links:
Steve Mann's Blog: Physical assault by McDonald's for wearing Digital Eye Glass
McDonald’s denies Steve Mann wearables assault - SlashGear
Countering McDonald’s Denial, Cyborg Posts New Photo of Alleged Assault
With Google's upcoming Google Glass offering similar functionality, I'm sure that when finally released, we will see stories like these come up more often than not.
DVD Catalyst News:
Earlier this week, I updated DVD Catalyst 4 to v4.2.1. Feature-wise, it is mostly the same as the Beta from last week, with the exception of the new scan/conversion engine combo used in the beta (which is the main reason for the public beta test) and the additional features (stylized subs) that it brings, but in addition to those changes, I included new device profiles, including the Nexus 7.
The release notes can be found here:
DVD Catalyst 4 v4.2.1 Release Notes | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
More about the update (and the beta) below.
Aside from the release notes for the DVD Catalyst 4 v4.2.1 update:
DVD Catalyst 4 v4.2.1 Release Notes | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
I also posted up a DVD Catalyst guide for the Google Nexus 7 Tablet:
Ultimate Nexus 7 Video How To Guide | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
and of course, after my own Nexus 7 arrived, I posted up some articles:
Nexus 7 comparison pics | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
A few pictures I took of the Nexus 7 next to other tablets, such as the Xoom, Playbook etc.
Asus Google Nexus 7 First Impressions | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
An early review of the Nexus 7 after 1 day.
And another tablet to my "collection".
Due to my work, I have a large collection of different tablets. Unlike my competitors whom just look at the specs of a device and claim to have the best converter for it, I try and pickup the main devices out there in order to really get to know the capabilities and the limitations of it, and use that to come up with proper settings. Of course I don't own all of the 1000+ different devices listed in DVD Catalyst 4, but I have the main ones covered.
As a result, I have all the main competitors of the Nexus 7 within arm's reach, enabling me to do a proper comparison of them.
With the Nexus 7, Google attempts to take on the NOOK Tablet and the Kindle Fire. Of course there are other devices, such as the iPad and the Blackberry Playbook, but those are not as direct a target as the first 2.
As you can tell from these comparison images:
(Nexus 7 - NOOK Tablet)
(Nexus 7 - Kindle Fire)
All 3 are similar in size, and offer similar functionality.
While all 3 run Android, the Nexus 7 is the only device that runs a "normal" Android version. Both the NOOK tablet and the Kindle Fire use a custom shell on top in order to make the device more user-friendly for its purpose.
The NOOK Tablet is the only one of the 3 that offers expandability by means of a MicroSD card slot. The Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7 are more focused on using the cloud-based services offered by their creators, with both having only 8GB (the Nexus 7 also comes in a 16GB version) of space available for user-content on the device itself.
Unfortunately, that is the only advantage that the NOOK Tablet offers over the other 2.
Each company has its own Appstore (with Amazon's Appstore actually being available on both the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7), but due to Barnes & Noble not offering support for ad-based games and apps, its offering is mostly paid-content and only a shadow of what is available on the other 2. B&N recently started offering digital music downloads, but both Amazon and Google offer streaming video on top of that.
And this video service is where the Google Nexus 7 falls apart for me, but more on that later.
Last night I watched a full movie on the Nexus 7, and compared to some of my other tablets, the video playback was a bit washed out. Especially compared to the same movie on the Blackberry Playbook, the colors were a bit off.
Similar as a TV display in a big-box store, if you put different screens next to each other, things look quite different, but if you take a screen by itself, it is not bad though. With the Nexus 7 being specifically developed to fit its price-point and to include more powerful hardware than any of its direct competitors, it shows that Asus did cut a corner when they selected the screen.
Aside from the screen (and the video store), the Nexus 7 really is a top-competitor for the NOOK tablet and the Kindle Fire. Performance, thanks to the quad-core Tegra3 cpu/gpu and Jelly Bean being developed alongside the hardware, the entire user experience is super smooth. No noticeable lag, and coming from other Android devices, it almost feels like it knows what you want to do and do it half a second before you do.
App-wise I did run into some compatibility issues. Last week, I bought the HD version of Amazing Alex, and unfortunately, that is not (yet?) compatible with the Nexus 7. Also another favorite app of mine, HBO Go, is also not compatible, which is a bit of a let-down.
Overall, I would recommend the Nexus 7, but it really depends on what you want to use it for.
Online Video Stores:
Amazon offers a $80/yr Prime service that works with the majority of its services. Aside from enabling free 2-day shipping on physical purchases, this service also provides a very large collection of streaming movies and TV shows, free with the membership. On top of that, if you purchase DVD/Bluray movies that include Digital Copies, chances are you can access that digital copy directly on your Kindle Fire, even before your DVD's are shipped.
To counter that, Google included a $25 "credit" with the Nexus 7 to be used in the Google Play store. You can rent/purchase movies and shows in the Play Store now, but unfortunately, pricing is just ridiculous.
For example, take "Act of Valor" in the Play Store. $3.99 to rent SD, $4.99 to rent in HD, $14.99 to buy SD and $19.99 to buy in HD.
For 5 bucks more, I can pick up the Bluray + DVD + Digital Copy bundle, and don't have to worry about not being able to watch my movie if I move over to a different, non-Android device later on.
While my scenario is somewhat extreme, it does provide an interesting insight as to what and how about online video services.
I have a large variety of Android and Apple devices, a Blackberry Playbook, Playstation Vita, XBOX 360 and some other stuff.
If I purchase a movie from iTunes ( also 14.99 SD, 19.99 HD for Act of Valor), it will only play on Apple devices. I can play it on my iPod Touch, iPad and Apple TV. If I purchase a movie from the Blackberry Movie Store (they have one, same pricing), it will only play on the Playbook, the same for the PS Vita etc. Then we also have Ultra Violet and Vudu.
With all these different services offering severely restricted (locked to certain devices) videos of the same movies and TV shows at prices that are pretty much the same as that of physical content (DVD/Bluray), the only way I would pay for those would be through some form of subscription (Amazon Prime, or a Zune Video Pass service) or if they lower the prices by considerably.
With the DVDs I have, I can watch all my movies on all my devices, as it should be. With a purchase from one of those video services, I'd be stuck to just them for my content. If I upgrade next year to a different device group, the collection I would have build-up would be useless.
Hopefully tonight we get to see some rain, but for months, we have not seen a drop here. The heat and the lack of water has turned the grass brown, I've been watering the plants outside twice a day, and the greenhouse I setup for my wife in May I have had to keep open in fear of boiling the veggies in there.
With the lackluster winter we experienced, it was to be expected that summer would be quite different than from the years before, and it is nice to not have to worry about severe weather like tornadoes this time, but a bit of rain here and there would be nice.
Because of the dryness, the dogs have a massive flee-problem that I can't seem to get under control. Petey, the older one of the 2 yorkies we have, has been digging his behind so bad that after I gave both of them a bath, I decided to give him an army-style haircut. During summer we do keep their hair short (they look like little Bambi's ), but I went a bit further this time. It hasn't solved the flee-problem completely yet, but he is not spending hours on end digging at himself. I picked up some stronger stuff from the pet-store earlier, so hopefully that will make them a bit more comfortable.
For some reason, the cat (he's an inside cat) has managed to stay away from the flees. Even though he does share the same blanket with the 2 dogs, he has not been itching himself, which is good. While my wife might not mind (he sheds his black hairs all over the carpet) I'd hate to have to shave him like I had to with Petey.
To get my facts straight for the Online Video Store stuff above, I dug up the PS Vita again after a month of not using it. Somehow it still had a full charge, which is something I wasn't expecting. I did put it away after it spent a night on the charger, but usually these devices, when placed in standby, drain fairly quickly.
It was a sad experience getting the Vita back out of its case. I should have left it alone Hardware-wise, the Vita is really cool and has a lot of potential, but unfortunately, Sony doesn't seem to think so. It seems that Sony is pushing out more games for its predecessor, the PSP than that it shows interest in the Vita. The last "big" game that was released for it was Lego Batman 2, and that was a disappointment, considering that it was the same limited version as that of the (less powerful) Nintendo 3DS.
Having started with the original GameBoy and Sega GameGear, I've always enjoyed portable gaming devices, but it seems that Sony has lost interest in them as well. With its Xperia smartphones, it actually does come up with some interesting content, such as this week's (Xperia-exclusive) release of Tombraider, Guardian of Light, but not for the PS Vita.
DVD Catalyst 4 v4.2.1 and v4.3 Beta 1:
Aside from the changes and new stuff mentioned in the release notes, a few new things not mentioned were added as well.
The new features are a bit technical and because of this, they require a bit more information than just a mention in the release notes. I will be going into more detail at a later point on them, but I figured I'd provide at least some information about them.
Both new features are located in Global Settings, so you will need to switch DVD Catalyst to "Power User" mode.
Note, the Power User checkmark just hides/unhides advanced settings. If you make changes to it, and prefer to use DVD Catalyst in its cleaner "basic" mode, just uncheck the Power User checkmark to hide the advanced settings and options.
The first new option is located in the "Language" tab in Global Settings, and is called "export DVD subtitles".
This feature, when enabled, will save the subtitles from a DVD into a separate .sub+.idx file combo, which can be used in some video players to provide selectable subtitles. Normally DVD Catalyst 4 converts movies with "hard subs", so the subtitles become part of the actual video and thus cannot be turned off, but with this setting, they end up as "softsubs", where a video player that supports them (such as VLC) enables you to turn them on/off at will.
The "export subs" setting only works one way though.
The second new option is located in the video files tab, and is called "Decoder Fix".
This setting switches the way DVD Catalyst reads (decodes) the video portion during conversion. In almost all cases, this setting is best turned off, but unfortunately for some video types, mainly DVR-recordings from satellite or from software like MythTV, you might run into conversion issues. By enabling this setting, these files might convert properly.
How to make your video files smaller:
Tip : How to make your video files smaller | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Even though DVD Catalyst 4 offers one of the best compression for video you can find, I do get questions on a regular basis from people who would like to have even smaller video file sizes. This article provides some tricks as to what you can adjust to reduce the file-size of your movies, while keeping a good quality video to look at.
What is CRF:
What is CRF? | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
One of the most powerful features included in DVD Catalyst 4 is CRF.
CRF is a feature that automatically adjusts the quality during the conversion itself to produce the best possible visuals while not wasting any data. It is one of the main settings recommended in the "make files smaller" link above, and ever since I added it to DVD Catalyst 4, I've been using it for almost all of my own conversions. This article explains in detail as to what it is, and how it works.
Volume Enhancement Technology | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
If you have used other conversion software, you might have noticed that with different video types (DVD, ISO, AVI, MKV etc) you end up with video files that have different volume levels. Especially with DVD-sources (DVDs, ISO's, ripped folders) the volume of video files created by the majority of conversion tools is quite low, and combined with less than stellar speakers on tablets and phones, you really need to use headphones/earbuds, in order to be able to listen to the movie.
With DVD Catalyst 4, you don't experience this. While you still have to deal with the loudness of the speakers of the device you use for playback, DVD Catalyst 4 uses something I call Volume Maximizer to make all your conversions louder based on a volume level. All your video files will be louder, but unlike simply boosting the volume a few points (which often results in "too much" if you convert video files) it makes all your videos have the same volume level, so there is no need to adjust the volume on your device when you switch to a different movie.
Volume Maximizer, along with CRF are my 2 favorite features in DVD Catalyst, both of them work in a way of "set and forget", leaving you to only worry about figuring out what you want to watch, rather than spending hours of fiddling with different settings to get it just right.
How To Put Movies On | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
For most of the popular devices (iPad3, Nexus 7, TF300, TF Prime etc) I have detailed how-to guides on the website. Aside from how to use DVD Catalyst 4, also things like border removal, troubleshooting etc are covered.
DVD Catalyst 4 is still on sale for only $9.95, which is about less than half the price of one new-release movie bought from one of the online stores.
It started to cool down outside a bit, thankfully. Some clouds came in, so hopefully we'll get some rain later today.
Thank you for reading this week's newsletter, and I'll do what I can to get the email-part of the newsletter back up and running.
Have a great weekend, and see you next week.