Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 72.
It turned out to be a crazy month. After a few months of technology-draught, it seems all the tech companies are using September to catch up in preparation of the holiday season. So far, this month, we have had big names such as Amazon and Apple announcing their new products, and of course Samsung, Motorola and even Nintendo are doing their part as well.
But, with all these announcements, are we actually dealing with something new, or is it just more of the same?
Let's start with some of this week's tech news:
Wednesday, Apple was holding its September press conference. For quite a few years, Apple uses the September event to announce its consumer "music" line, and this year was no different. Accompanied by a concert of the Foo Fighters, Apple announced updates to its iPod Nano, iPod Touch, and of course the new iPhone, the iPhone 5 was announced.
Following the iPad 3, it seems this year it's all about screen with Apple. Both iPod models and the iPhone 5 received a larger screen. More room for apps, and of course better for video. Aside from the screen update, of course new additions were added such as Bluetooth to the Nano (handy for in the car if you don't use a smart-phone), and better cameras to the iPhone and iPod Touch.
With the iPhone 4 being 2 years old now, the duration of a standard phone contract, many people are now capable of upgrading, but aside from the much needed LTE addition, I don't see the iPhone 5 as a true upgrade. Similar as what happened with the iPad2, it seems Apple is holding back something for next year, and if you do upgrade your iPhone 4 with iOS6, it includes the majority of the new additions.
The same goes for the iPod Touch 5. Aside from a slightly faster processor, better camera and the additional row for apps because of the slightly larger screen, no additional features were added that are not available in the 4th generation model.
During the announcement, nothing was being said about how older-generation iPhone/iPod Touch apps will look on the new models. With the change in screen size, from 960x640 to 1136x640, the screen has become wider in one direction, so apps that are already available either end up with black borders on the side, or the images will get stretched in width.
With the first iPad, the available apps ran either small, or could be scaled to double in size, and of course with the iPhone 4, iPod Touch 4 and iPad3 Retina resolution boost, developers scrambled to enhance the visuals of their apps, and now again a different resolution to take into account. With the (rumored) iPad Mini being announced next month, we will likely see the introduction of yet another screen resolution, so the amount of different resolutions, within a 3 year period, for Apple iOS, not including the iPad Mini, devices comes to 5;
3rd gen iPhone/iPod Touch, 480x320,
4th gen iPhone/iPod Touch, 960x640,
5th gen iPhone/iPod Touch, 1136x640,
iPad 1/2, 1024x768,
iPad 3, 2048x1536
and then they say Android is fragmented.
In a couple of hours UPS will be knocking on my door with the new 16GB Kindle Fire HD 7". Originally I pre-ordered the 32GB model, but for some reason, shipping of the bigger model is 6 weeks away, so in order to be able to answer questions, I switched it earlier this week to the 16GB model. Thankfully for the larger one, the release dates are the same, so I can leave that in place.
Last year, I got a Kindle 3G model for Christmas, and while it doesn't have video playback I have been using it here and there for some reading. Not mentioned in last week's newsletter, of course the non-Fire Kindle's received an update as well.
Following the NOOK Glowlight, Amazon added light functionality to its Kindles in the form of the Kindle Paperwhite.
Higher resolution, white-screen instead of grey, long battery life, and of course easier to read at nights with the lighted screen.
Unfortunately, this year Amazon has gone a bit crazy with pricing. Of course undercutting the majority of its competitors is important, and with Amazon's focus on profiting on content rather than making a profit on hardware sales, their devices have become very popular, however, this year, they decided to add "Special Offers" on everything. For the Kindles this was to be expected, however, it was something not mentioned during the announcement last week in regards of the new Kindle Fire models. Of course they can be removed, but this will add another $15 to your pricing.
Another thing not mentioned in the announcement last week (or I somehow missed it in the live-blog from Engadget) is the inclusion of an HDMI port on the new Fire HD. I was looking through some reviews and articles of the Fire HD, and noticed the port on one of the pictures. A nice surprise.
Galaxy Note 2:
This week, Samsung made the Galaxy Note 2 available. While Apple was making people excited about the larger 4"screen, of course the master of screen size when it comes to phones is the original Galaxy Note. Measuring at 5.3 inches, it created its own category in the market, sitting in between smart phones and tablets, offering the advantages of both.
Now, its successor is available, boosting better specs in almost every way (except for the slightly lower resolution despite the larger 5.5" screen), while the competition is still catching up. Of course competitors are around the corner, LG just released the Intuition, and HTC is rumored to release a fullHD device soon.
Droid Razr M:
Also available this week is the recently announced Droid Razr M, a "budget" version of the upcoming Droid Razr HD/HD Maxx.
As an entry-level smartphone, it doesn't have killer specifications, but looking at some reviews online, it seems to deliver a lot of bang for the buck for the average user.
Nintendo announced the release date for the successor of its hit Wii console, the WiiU, Nov 18 in the US.
Following the trend it started with some of its previous incarnations, the WiiU doesn't try to compete with the XBOX360 and the PS3 in terms of visual splendor, but more in the form of originality and uniqueness.
One of the main differences between the WiiU and the current generation of consoles is the addition of a screen in the touchpad. Used in-game for things like maps, mini games and inventory management, it is an interesting concept, but one of its past-competitors, Sega, tried something in the past with its Dreamcast console. The idea is cool, but I am not too sure if taking your eyes off your big HDTV to look at the tiny tablet-screen for a mini game of some sorts is the right way to make the experience more immersive.
To me, the idea of such a screen results in distraction rather than added functionality, and of course switching back and forth between a TV at a distance and a small screen close up will result in even bigger warning messages in the user guide. I can imagine the headaches after playing a game of Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, let alone the pain in the neck.
Earlier this week, I was experiencing some website issues, and it appears that I was not the only one. GoDaddy, one of the largest web-hosting companies on the planet, was experiencing major technical difficulties, resulting in 100s of 1000's of websites being unreachable for a few of hours.
Of course this was a bit of a nuisance, but it also shows you more about a company. Yesterday afternoon, I received an apology phone call from GoDaddy, along with some free credit on some of their services. Coming from Powweb, where issues always result in finger-pointing and useless copy & paste responses, and of course more recently my (still no response) support experience with Diamond Multimedia, dealing with a company that actually cares for their customers is quite a surprise.
I have been working on some new stuff for my MovieGallery Android app. In particular, a way to pull movie covers and information and such from websites, as well as a few different view-modes for the images.
As I normally do with big changes/additions, I setup a skeleton app with some basic functionality, and work the new stuff out in there before I add the new code to the main application.
Some of the new stuff I wanted to do is functional in the skeleton app, and it will actually port over fairly easy, however, there are still a few things left for me to fiddle with in order to get images pulled, but expect some nice new improvements to MovieGallery within a reasonable amount of time.
DVD Catalyst News:
With the Kindle Fire HD being delivered as I type this, I updated DVD Catalyst 4 to v184.108.40.206. As the version number suggests, it is a "small" update, so no new features or things like that, however, it does include profiles for the new Kindle Fire models (Kindle Fire 2, Kindle Fire HD 7, Kindle Fire 8.9), the new Apple devices (iPhone 5, iPod Touch 5, iPod Nano 7), the new Razr models (Razr M, Razr HD, Razr HD Maxx) and of course Nokia Lumia 820 and Lumia 920 profiles.
Aside from the profiles, I have been working on providing better support for non-ascii characters (Chinese, Japanese etc) in srt-based subtitles. In Global Settings > Language a new setting can be found called UTF-subs, which will make these subtitles work a bit better.
Q: I know DVD Catalyst 4 support all these devices, but I remember reading somewhere that you could set things up to convert videos for multiple devices with a single click. If I have an iPhone, a Nexus 7 and a Galaxy Note, how would that work?
A: It is a unique feature in DVD Catalyst 4 that I call "Multi-Device".
In the many years that I have been doing this, I've build-up a large collection of different devices.
With DVD Catalyst 4, everything runs in "Batch" mode ("transparent batch"). I f you have multiple DVD drives, just fill them all and DVD Catalyst 4 will find your movies and convert them all, if you want to convert 100 AVI's, ISO's or MKV's, just drag the folder containing them over. With that in place, and looking at a large pile of different gadgets, it was an obvious step to also do the devices in batch-mode.
If you enable the Power User checkmark, tap on "Modify" to look at the device profile settings. Then simply tap "Add device" and it creates a second entry, a duplicate of what was selected. change it to whatever you want, and DVD Catalyst will convert everything using both settings.
So to set it up for an iPhone, a Nexus 7 and a Galaxy Note, just start DVD Catalyst 4 and enable the Power User checkmark.
1. Select the iPhone profile you want to use.
2. Tap on "Modify" and tap on "Add device"
3. Change the profile to the Nexus 7
4. Tap on "Add device" again
5. change the profile to Galaxy Note.
Now, whatever you convert with DVD Catalyst 4 will be converted 3 times. The video files will be stored in folders named like the profile to make it easier to find the ones you want.
Q: In most of your website and forum posts you mention you use the HQXT profiles for your conversions. Why?
A: The HQXT profiles use settings that are better than any other profile, and using them for your conversions will produce video files that are often smaller and better quality than video files produced by other profiles or even competitor software applications.
The non-HQXT profiles, as well as the settings used for conversions using most other conversion tools, use fixed bitrate settings. This means that once you set the video quality, this will be consistent through-out the entire conversion.
This by itself is not a bad thing, however, video conversion, the actual compression part that determines the file-size and the quality, works by storing the differences between individual frames. If you use a fixed bitrate setting, it doesn't matter how big or small the difference is between frames, it will use the same amount of data to store it. If your bitrate is set too high (3000Kbps for a DVD conversion), it will still use the selected setting, even if it isn't needed. If the bitrate is too low, it will store whatever it can, and ignore the rest, resulting in visual quality issues.
With the HQXT profiles, this doesn't happen. It actually ignores the selected "fixed" bitrate setting, and just use a "visual quality" value (CRF) instead. Based on this setting, it will automatically adjusts the bitrate to whatever is needed. For small frame differences, such as someone talking, where just the lips differ a bit, it will use a low bitrate setting, and for large frame differences, such as an action scene with a car chase or an explosion, it will use more.
Throughout the entire video conversion process, it will continuously adjust itself to whatever is needed. If it needs less, it will use less, if it needs more, it will use more, but it makes sure nothing gets wasted.
When you compare videos created using the different settings, you will notice that the file-size of HQXT files are usually a lot smaller in size and still look better, especially during action scenes. Of course it depends on the movie of course, but for most movies you will end up with a video file that looks better than one created using other conversion software AND is only half of the file-size.
Aside from the HQXT profile, of course a few additional features that happen automatically come into play as well.
* With most conversion tools, if you select a screen-size higher than that of your original video (a HD profile when you are converting a DVD for example), the conversion tool just blindly enlarges your video. DVD Catalyst does not. By default, it will use the original resolution of your video instead. Upscaling video from a lower resolution to a higher resolution during conversion is a waste. It just blows up each frame by enlarging the pixel size, however, each pixel takes up bits to determine its color and intensity. So by going from DVD resolution to HD resolution, you end up with a video file that, needlessly, requires more data to store the differences, thus larger files.
If you leave it at the original resolution, such as what DVD Catalyst does, you end up with a higher quality video file, which, when you play it in a video player app, will scale to the screen resolution, making it the same size as one you scale during conversion. Smaller files and a higher quality.
* And let's not forget the unique Volume Maximizer feature.
Many conversion tools are able to boost the volume of your video files, but they work by just increasing everything by a couple of points. DVD Catalyst actually analyzes the volume of the video, and adjusts the volume from there to a louder level.
The difference is that each video type has different volume levels. DVDs and ISOs usually convert softly, but if you convert AVI or MKV files, the volume is a bit louder. If you increase the volume by a fixed amount for all your conversions, you end up with bad distortion on files that already have a loud volume.
The Volume Maximizer feature in DVD Catalyst (which is enabled by default) ensures that regardless of the volume of your original video, DVD, ISO, AVI, MKV, the volume of the video files that are created all have the same, safe, volume level. No chance of distortion because the volume gets increased too far, no soft volume for one movie and a loud volume for another, all your movies will have the same volume.
In the News section, I brushed on the screen-size differences between the various Apple devices. In the last 3 years, Apple has released iOS-based devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) with 5 different screen resolutions. With Apple dropping support for the original iPad and the 3rd (and older) generation iPhone and iPod Touch models, the number can be brought down to 3, but is this a feasible option for developers?
Of course dropping support for older devices makes it easier for developers to embrace Apple's upgrades, and with the sales numbers that Apple provided (boasted?) during the press event this week, it sure seems that there is plenty of market to focus on the new devices only, but of those numbers, how many people are upgrading?
With such minor differences between the iPad1 and iPad2, are the majority of people who purchased an iPad2 actually new customers or ones that upgraded for whatever reason?
The same goes for the iPhones. Of course with the iPhone 5, LTE makes a big difference, but aside from that and the extra row of icons, is it really that much more than the iPhone 4S?
The most confusing part is that for the pocketable devices, Apple is putting some focus on wide-screen video playback, but for the iPad, a device touted to be for media consumption, they hold on to the old, squarish 4:3 screen aspect ratio, the same as what has been used for TV's for 60-some years. These days, almost all movies are being released in a wide-screen format. For certain functionality the square-screen ratio works better, but since books and magazines are published rectangular rather than square, and of course movies being released in wide-screen, I hope that the next iPad will be a wide-screen version.
One of the things that might help with big black borders on the iPad when you are watching wide-screen movies is a new Apple patent application for making borders the same color as colors from the actual video being displayed in order to provide a more full-screen viewing experience. Similar to the Ambilight playback experience from Philips a few years ago, which projected light at the wall behind the TV in similar coloring as what was being displayed on screen, this technique will replace the black borders with ones that change to the majority of colors displayed on-screen. An interesting idea, but while this might work for something like the iPhone or iPod Touch, where wide-screen movies end up with a thin border, when the borders are a bit larger such as on the iPad, having about 1/3rd of the screen shift colors continuously will likely induce some migraines for some people.
Of course, when it comes to apps, with the majority of iPhone apps available now not scaling well to the new resolution of the iPhone 5, having the background set to a color that is also used for the background of the app/game would be an interesting development. Similar techniques were used when Nintendo released the Gameboy Advance back in 2001, where a colorful border was placed around older Gameboy and Gameboy Color games were used, and even now, with old classic games from other systems being ported over include some form of arcade-machine border or a border with some game characters.
Of course with this patent application, those techniques cannot be used as "previous art" because those borders are all around, and doing it on just the sides or top and bottom is something completely different.
During Apple's event, it was mentioned that the majority of people who use Apple iDevices have, on average, more than 100 apps.
Looking at my own collection that I build-up over the years (keep in mind that I mainly use my tablets and devices for video using the stock apps) I can count a few games and a few utilities here and there, but even with both Apple apps and Android apps combined (and let's throw in the 5 I have for my Playbook) I don't think I hit 50, total.
My collection includes a few games like the Angry Birds series, a few utilities like file-explorers (Astro, ES, Root Explorer) and some other odds and ends, and of course my own Android apps.
Many of the apps I picked up over the years, I don't have installed, mainly because I no longer use them (or need them) and that I like to keep my devices clean from clutter.
With Apple adding another row of app icons by increasing the screen-size on the iPod Touch 5 and iPhone 5, is it really needed?
How many apps do you have installed on your tablet/phone, and, how many of those do you actually use?
I think I just heard the UPS truck coming around the corner, so I should have my Kindle Fire HD in a little while. Of course over the weekend, I'll be putting it through its paces and will post my experiences and findings on my website.
Thank you for reading this week's newsletter, and have a great weekend,
About DVD Catalyst:
Computers were designed to do repetitive tasks, but when it comes to conversion tools, many solutions force you to click through multiple pages before it converts your movie or TV show. DVD Catalyst 4 provides you with an easy to use, 1-click solution, which eliminates all those complicated steps, while still giving you complete access to every aspect of the conversion, but only if you choose to use them.
What started out as a hobby project back in 2003, after losing our jobs, we have continued to improve DVD Catalyst to make it one of the fastest, easiest and most powerful DVD and video conversion tools available. Besides offering the basic functionality that appears to be the standard for similar conversion tools, DVD Catalyst 4 simplifies complicated tasks such as black-border-removal/full-screen video, batch conversions and volume adjustment by automating them. Converting 1 video file or 100 video files, it does not make a difference. Just drag the files onto DVD Catalyst and with 1 click start a conversion.
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