Thank you for reading the DVD Catalyst Newsletter.
Like last week, this week was mostly Surface Pro week. Of course there was quite a bit of other things going on, but with the Surface Pro "release" (more of a press release or announcement, rather than an actual release, since the amount of devices actually being available on release day was a bit low) last Saturday, all over the web posts on reviews and user experiences were shared.
Lets get started:
Surface Pro release.
What has to go into history as one of the weakest product releases in history, Microsoft released the Surface Pro last Saturday.
The Surface Pro itself is a great device, but somehow Microsoft came up with the idea to just ship out a few, if any, of them to stores.
The Surface Pro basically sold out before it was actually available. But a lucky few did manage to get one, and from what I have read on the web, it is quite a success.
Even before release, the Surface Pro received a lot of critisism over the available storage space. Windows 8 of course takes up a nice chunk, and the recovery part for it takes a bit as well, but it isn't uncommon, and for some reason it gets overhyped because it is a Microsoft product.
Yesterday I ran into this:
an article that explains on how Microsoft and Apple use different size-calculations. It goes into detail that if you look at the space on a formatted drive, the same drive, on a Windows and a Mac machine, you will notice that the drive is larger on a Mac. If you ever bought external storage or memorycards, you have likely experienced a discrepancy with what is on the label/box, and what it looks like when you actually use it. For example a 32GB SD Card only has 28GB of space available.
But, Apple made it so that a 1TB drive actually shows up as 1000 GB. If you look at the same drive on a different, non-Mac, computer, the drive shows 70GB less, 930GB.
The article is a bit technical, but in the end, it compares the space available of a 128GB Surface Pro with that of a 128GB Macbook Air, and the difference isn't as big as reviewers make you believe.
For the people who are interested in upgrading the drive to a bigger one, it will be a bit tricky. iFixit did their usual thing on taking it apart, and it didn't look like they were enjoying themselves much :
Apple iWatch Rumors.
With netbooks being nearly extinct, and tablets maturing, this year seems to be the year of the Smart watch.
There are a few (Pebble for example) out there already, but companies like Sony are also getting into the market and this week rumors of Apple working on one started to appear on the web as well.
Apple already had a taste of this with the previous generation of the iPod Nano, but with the latest version of the Nano, they went with a rectangular version, which doesn't work well in a wristband. This decision might have been the first sign that Apple is working on some sort of watch.
Many years ago, back in the early 80's, and likely the reason for me to do what I do now, I wanted to have a TV-watch. It never did caught on in popularity back then, but it seems that now we are back at that spot again. During that time I did have a Casio Databank watch, and a friend of mine had one that he could program through his C64.
With all the facebook and twitter stuff people "need" to keep up with these days, having a smartphone alone might not be enough. A watch, capable of displaying the latest likes and tweets, along with what the weather is like for when you are out and about, could be the next best thing since sliced bread.
Partially thanks to the Surface Pro release, this week, an Android emulator from BlueStacks received a lot of attention.
The app runs on Windows and Mac systems, and enables you to download and play many apps and games from Google Play.
While some of the games people are used to are available in some form on computers, they are either limited or priced differently, so this is a great way to get access to all your favorites again.
A bit late for valentines, but this is really cool:
Looking at the product video, displaying flyers with a small little video screen in them is really impressive.
Way over-due, but not forgotten. Since the MovieGallery 2 release a few months ago, I have been working on an update for ImageGallery. The original version was build off of MovieGallery, so with MovieGallery having received a complete new start from scratch, the same goes for ImageGallery.
I am nearing completion, but for a couple of weeks I have been getting emails from people with NOOK HD's where ImageGallery is unable to find images on SD, so this week I released a small update to include support for that. The 1.1 update is still the original ImageGallery 1 version, with some additional file-locations added. ImageGallery 2, available hopefully next week or the week after will be a free update for ImageGallery 1 users.
On one of the forums I visit, someone asked a few questions regarding conversions. The questions, as well as the answers I provided can be an interesting read if you are interested in creating a media server for your movies.
"I have a big DVD archive of all my ripped DVDs how on HDDs. I only ripped them to my harddrive and kept the folder structure so they are still in the video_ts folder with .vob files. For films I would like the format changed so they are just single MP4 files that I can use with my devices."
Q1. I don't want to lose quality in the conversion process, if it works nicely I'll delete the old rips and just keep the MP4 file archived so I don't want any quality loss.
A1. DVD Catalyst will recognize your VIDEO_TS folders as DVDs, and convert them as such., however with all format conversions, regardless of what conversion tool and/or settings you use, there will be some quality loss. This can be quite minimal though.
Q2. Will the conversion software be able to keep subtitles working as they should normally - i.e. if someone speaks in another language it appears on screen but not otherwise, I think they are called hard coded subtitles?
A2. Yes, however, the subtitles you are referring to are "forced subtitles". For movies like Avatar, District 9 for alien sections for example.
The subtitles will be burned into the actual video though, which is what is called hard-subtitles.
Q3. I have oodles of DVD TV series which I would also like to convert. Again they are in the vob format with several episodes to a disc.
Is there a conversion program that will be able to rip a single episode out of the vob files and encode them separately? So I would have S01E01, S01E02, S01E03 (season 1, episode 1 etc.).?
Will they be able to auto detect which episode is which? I don't want to have to manually check each episode as I haven't seem some episodes yet and don't want to see some spoilers!
A3. DVD Catalyst looks at the tracks/titles reported on the DVD, and if the episodes are listed separately, and they usually are, it will convert them as such.
If the TV DVD doesn't have the episodes as individual tracks, Dukes of Hazard S01 for example, you can use scene-split options in DVD Catalyst to convert them into individual files.
Since you have your DVDs already ripped to your harddrive, you might be pleased to know that you can drag all the disc-folders from 1 season over onto DVD Catalyst, and use the "batch-rename" option to name the episodes to the naming system you want to use.
Q4. This is a trickier one. I have taken my blu-ray discs and ripped them onto HDDs using AnyDVD-HD. From there I have used tsMuxerGUI to remove everything but the film in english but that still leave me with the folder structure.
Will the software be able to convert that into a single file whilst keeping embedded english subtitles WITHOUT losing any quality?
I realise that keeping full 1080p quality is going to be a stretch to play on a Transformer 101 so I would be happy for the recoded single MP4 1080p blu-ray film to be recoded to 720p so it can be streamed wirelessly onto the Transformer.
Same questions as DVD TV really, I would like to keep the full 1080p rips, and 720p for streaming, keeping subtitles in.
A4. While there are many people who say that it doesn't work, the TF101 can play (DVD Catalyst created) 1080p MP4 files. It doesn't have the capability of displaying 1080p on-screen or using HDMI, but since you are likely going to be using your collection for playback with other sources as well, it is nice to know that you can keep the 1080p resolution and don't have to settle.
The quality thing is the same as for DVDs. Some Bluray's do have the same video format as what is used for the Transformer, H264, but the settings are not compatible with "hardware" decoding. And of course, I'm sure you would like to have a 25 GB Bluray folder converted to something a little smaller. (Note, staying on 1080 will not make them a lot smaller though).
But, as an answer to your question, its mostly yes.
Q5. Batch processing. Can these programs do what I need in a batch so I can leave them running overnight?
A5. Batch-conversions was the core-idea behind DVD Catalyst when I started development on it over 10 years ago. I was in a similar position as you are right now. I had a huge avi collection, and needed it to be in WMV format for my PocketPC. Everything that was out there at the time was 1 file at a time. On my Pentium 3 system, it took about 4 hours to convert an avi movie to a wmv movie for my iPaq, so I wanted to run it overnight, but nothing would let me, so I made my own little app for it, and things went on from there.
All the settings in DVD Catalyst are remembered, so once you have it setup to your liking, conversions are like this:
drag files/folders over (or insert disc)
Q6. Do any of them support the additional grunt from a graphics card? Basically anything to speed the process up.
A6. DVD Catalyst does not. It is CPU only.
To be able to make use of the GPU for a conversion, it is basically the same as making video files compatible with hardware decoding. Certain settings have to be used and other can not be used for the video file. Using settings or formats that are not compatible with the GPU will result in switching to the CPU.
Looking at some of the benchmarks posted by my competitors that do use CUDA, I don't see a difference when it comes to DVDs.
Actually DVD Catalyst 4 is faster.
For Bluray conversions, CUDA can speed things up a bit, but you will end up with a trade-off for speed vs quality.
Using only the CPU for the conversion process, DVD Catalyst is able to create video files that look considerably better. using settings that result in a similar file-size.
XBOX720/PS4 Used Games.
Following last weeks flood of rumors in regards of used games being blocked on the upcoming game consoles, GameStop posted up some results on research it did among some of its customers:
While the lock-down, if it would happen, would suck, I don't think it would stop many people, if any, from picking up a new XBOX or PS4.
On release day itself, obviously there wouldn't be any used games available at all, but the thing is, there is no choice.
If one of them would do it and the other would not, then it would be different. People are more likely to jump ship to which-ever one offers the most freedom, but with both companies locking things down, not getting one or the other would mean sticking with the older generation, or moving on over to the WiiU.
Steam, an online video game store, among other things, reduced the need for physical discs for game purchases. New releases can be accessed on the actual day of release without having to wait in line at the store. iTunes does the same for songs, movies and TV shows.
Both Microsoft and Sony have been offering downloadable games for purchase through their consoles for quite some time now, and this is just an extension of that business model.
But, aside from the fact that many people, including myself, don't like to be tied to some activation system. Many people don't realize that an activation system directly translates in an expiration system. The company who runs the activation servers has total control over the content you use. UltraViolet/iTunes movies, All very convenient, but if a contract-deal is lost, or if the company/system goes out of business or just doesn't like you anymore, they can simply remove whatever is attached to your account. A kill-switch so to speak.
And lets not forget that just because a new version comes out, it doesn't mean that the old one is no longer functional. I still turn on my SNES every now and then to play a game of Donkey Kong Country, and even have a DreamCast and an original XBOX still, fully functional.
I also have some old classic CD-ROM games for the PC that, eventhough it takes a bit of work to get them to run, I still play every now and then.
This is the reason why I prefer to get my entertainment in physical form. DVDs and Blurays rather than buying my movies from some streaming service online, so 20 years from now, I am still able to watch them. Games the same, used or not doesn't matter, but I am quite sure that if I would get a game through some download service, or need activation through some sort of system, that game will be gone or useless around the time of the PS6 or XBOX2880, and unlike Nintendo, both Microsoft and Sony don't release remakes of their top titles with every new incarnation of their consoles.
But, an activation system can work though. Over Christmas, Steam lured me into the purchase of some digital-download games.
What won me over was the price. Indie bundles, daily deals, holiday specials etc. Even recent games get a decent discount every now and then, providing a nice counter for losing the ability to play it.
This article goes into this in a bit more detail:
but the comment section contains some interesting thoughts on this as well.
Of course by killing off the used games market, more sales are made that bring in income for the actual studios and developers.
This in turn could result in games being offered for less.
But, it also means that there is no competition in pricing for the same content, so there is no need to lower the prices. And, in addition, there is no real need to drop prices for games soon after release either.
Now, it is common that after a few weeks, prices go down 15-20% or so, partially because by then people who bought the content on release day are done with it and it gets into the used market at a lower price. In order to compete, the same content new in box goes down in price as a result. If there is no longer any competition in this regard, there is no need for the pricing to be lowered.
My biggest concern with this is how this will translate to the rest of multimedia. With movies and TV shows, thanks to iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and the likes of UltraViolet, we are moving away more and more from physical media, and with all these services not communicating with eachother, you are basically stuck with the company or you are unable to use the content you purchased through them.
Bluray (or 1080p) video on tablets.
This week, someone brought up an interesting point in regards of HD video on HD tablets. In particular, the question was in regards of converting Bluray for a NOOK HD+
Many people don't realize the differences between Bluray and DVD. Of course the quality difference is obvious, but they miss the fact that this quality difference directly translates into a file-size difference.
Movies on a DVD, the original files, are between 4GB and 8GB in size, and the resolution is around the 800x480 or so.
Movies on Bluray, again, the original files, are between 25 and 40GB in size, and have a resolution of 1920x1080.
Not taking into account the differences between codecs used for them, the higher resolution of a Bluray movie translates into an equal difference in file-size.
With Bluray having about 6x as many pixels as a DVD, the file-size is also about 6x larger.
(Size compare: white=DVD,black=Bluray)
Needless to say, if you convert a movie from DVD for playback on a tablet and end up with a 2GB sized movie to make it look as good as the original, for the same movie in Bluray resolution you basically end up with a 12GB-sized movie.
12GB for a single movie is quite large, and I do get questions from people about that every now and then, but while cutting the file-size of a movie in half is quite easy, doing that while keeping the same visual quality and resolution is something that is almost impossible.
But putting 12GB movies on a tablet is a problem though. With most tablets still being released with 16-32GB, it means you can barely fit more than one or two movies on it. Memorycards are not going to help here either, mainly because these often don't support files larger than 4GB in size.
So to make these files smaller, there are a few options.
* The most logical one is to reduce the video quality. By cutting the video quality in half, the filesize of the movie will be cut in half as well. But, this also means that there is less information storage available for the individual pixels, which results in a bad-looking video.
* The second option is to reduce the screen resolution of your video. With a DVD quality movie being around the 2GB, and a Bluray quality movie around the 12GB, if you adjust the resolution and the quality a bit to sit inbetween, you get the best of both worlds.
With a screen size adjustment from 1080p to 720p, you can end up with movies of around the 3-6GB in size, and they will still look great, even on an HD screen on devices like the Nexus 10 and the NOOK HD+.
But to get the video quality settings figured out for your movie with the screen resolution change can be a bit tricky. Of course you can just cut the quality setting in half, but wome movies, action movies for example, require a bit more "video quality" to keep up with the movie than others, such as romance/comedy movies.
DVD Catalyst 4 includes some very unique profiles that make this quite easy though.
For most popular devices, it includes so-called HQXT profiles. These profiles are "self-adjusting" profiles. They automatically adjust the settings depending on what resolution your videos have (Bluray/DVD) and even adjust settings for your conversions while the conversion is running to ensure you get the best possible quality without using too much or too little.
If there is a quiet moment in the movie, it will use a lot less than if there is a big car chase with explosions going on, so you end up with smaller video files with a higher quality.
Because of the way these profiles work, and how DVD Catalyst works internally, for devices such as the Nexus 10, Kindle Fire HD 8.9, iPad 4 and the NOOK HD+, all you need to do to get the best quality video at the smallest sizes is to select the HQXT profile for your device, and thats it. If you prefer to make your videos even smaller, tap on "Modify" and lower the screen size setting a bit.
While going from 1920x1080 to 1280x720 seems like a waste when you are converting Bluray movies for your tablet, it is still better than DVD.
(note: to convert Bluray with DVD Catalyst 4, please have a look at the Bluray Guide. For Bluray conversions, additional software is required. To convert DVDs and video files like avi, mkv, iso, DVD Catalyst 4 is all you need.)
On the other hand, you can also stick to DVDs.
Watching a DVD on an HD tablet doesn't give you HD quality, but it looks similar (or better) in quality as what many streaming services provide, and with movies of around 1GB-1.5GB, you can fit a whole bunch of movies on even the smallest of tablets.
For DVD conversion settings, I would also recommend using the HQXT profiles for your device. Because of their automatic nature, you will be pleasantly surprised with the file-sizes of your movies when you use them to convert DVDs.
Well, back to work for me on ImageGallery 2. Hopefully I can get the remaining things implemented (porting over some settings from the 1.0 version at the moment) this weekend, and upload it to B&N next week, but no promisses though.
Have a great weekend, and see you next week,
About DVD Catalyst 4
DVD Catalyst 4 converts your movie and TV show collection (DVD, AVI, MKV, ISO etc) to great quality video files that are perfectly optimized to play on portable devices.
Convert DVDs with a single click of the button, convert 1 or 100 video files in batch-mode by using Drag & Drop, remove black bars, include subtitles or closed captions.
It includes pre-configured device profiles for 1000s of devices, including the latest Apple devices (iPad 4, iPad Mini, iPhone 5) Barnes & Noble NOOK HD and NOOK HD+, Amazon Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire HD 8.9, Google Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10 and much much more.
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