Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 94.
This week, some big announcements on the web in the likes of Sony's new Playstation, HTC's new flagship Android phone, the HTC One, and Google released an oversized ultrabook.
Aside from that, I've been working on something new and released ImageGallery 2 this week as well.
Lets start with this week's tech news:
Sony Playstation 4 Announcement.
On Wednesday, Sony announced the next version of the immensly popular Playstation console, the PS4.
For weeks, rumors have been flooding the web on it, and as usual, some proved true, others not so much, and of course a few things were a surprise as well.
While no actual PS4 was shown, the specifications are for today's standards quite impressive; an 8-core processor, 8GB memory and a high end video chip, all based on standard PC tehcnology, which makes it a lot easier for game developers to create content for it.
The games and technology demo's that were shown during the announcement were quite impressive by themselves, but these visuals can already be matched by a high-end gaming system from companies like Alienware and CyberPower, and considering that the PS4 is a device that is meant to be current for 7 years, it might start showing its age a bit faster than before.
But, this will likely be the same with the XBOX720, which is rumoured to have the same (!) specifications.
Some of the unique features Sony announced was the streaming of games. Using the technology of a recently aquired company, Sony added the ability to record and stream games from one location to another. Post videos on facebook to show off to your friends, or even send the game itself over to a friend to help finishing that level.
With this technology, Sony also highlighted that it will be possible to play games on the PS Vita this way, so finally the portable will be getting access to full games, very cool.
But, it makes me wonder that, with all this, is the PS4 actually needed. Sony didn't show the actual console, and with this focus on streaming, does it matter much if you have a PS4 to stream your games over to something else like the PS Vita, or if you stream it directly, like how the PS4 gets some of it's content.
HTC One Announcement.
On Monday, HTC reveiled the HTC One, it's new flagship Android phone. According to benchmarks, it's the most powerful smartphone, thanks to a new processor.
Aside from the significant speed increase, HTC has outdone themselves with the design as well as some nice features.
Google Chromebook Pixel.
Also announced this week is a new laptop from Google. The Chromebooks are a special bread of laptops. They are basically designed to make use of the majority of Google's web services such as Gmail and Docs, and because everything happens in the cloud, storage on the laptop itself is limited. In turn, everything works blazing fast.
The Pixel is Google's own take on it's Chromebook platform, and while it looks mighty impressive, it seems Google missed the ball with this one.
Microsoft's Surface Pro, $899 for 64GB of storage resulted in a lot of scrutiny on websites, but $1299 for 32GB of storage, no matter what the rest of the specs are (similar to the Surface Pro, except for the screen resolution and physical size), is just way too much. Granted, The Chrome OS and it's apps don't need as much space as Windows 8, but still, with a system like that, especially at that price, you are going to dual-boot it with something else for sure to make the most of it.
Early this week, I released ImageGallery 2. Completely rewritten, with better performance, nicer slideshow, and of course it now properly recognizes memorycard locations.
ImageGallery 2 Guide:
ImageGallery 2 Guide | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
ImageGallery 2 Release Notes:
ImageGallery 2 Release Notes | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Aside from that, I've been working on something to make movie playback on Windows 8 and Windows RT devices a bit easier as well. More about that down below in the thoughts section.
Q: I'd like to put some DVDs on my laptop so that I can watch them either the laptop itself or, with an hdmi cable, watch them on TV, without having to look for the DVDs themselves. Can I do that with DVD Catalyst 4?
A: Yes, you can.
If you have a smartphone or a tablet, I usually recommend sticking to a format that will play on that, which will save you from having to convert your movies more than once.
On a laptop/pc, you can basically play just about any file format out there. Maybe Windows Media Player doesn't support all the formats out there, but a free video player such as VLC (www.videolan.org) does.
For laptop/tv playback, because of the larger screens, you will benefit from increasing the video quality a bit.
Things to keep in mind:
Laptops and tablets usually have an HD screen resolution (1280x720, 1366x768, 1920x1080 etc), so you would hope that the videos end up with a similar resolution to make it look amazing.
Unfortunately, DVDs are not HD. There is a reason why Bluray exists. DVDs don't have enough room to store video at HD resolutions. Blurays have a resolution of 1920x1080, DVDs have a resolution of 720x480 (a bit different if you apply the pixel aspect ratio).
If you convert something from one format to another, it is not possible to make it look better than the original. It is not possible to make a DVD movie look like a Bluray movie. If it was, Bluray would never exist.
Some conversion tools do convert DVD to an HD resolution, DVD Catalyst 4 keeps the video at it's original resolution and quality. While it is possible to convert a 720x480 video to 1920x1080 resolution, each screen dot (pixel) will just be increased in size, making the file size larger. When you play a lower-resolution video on a laptop screen or TV, you have the ability to play the movie full-screen anyway. In many cases, the video player or the TV's scaling system performs some fancy stuff to make your lower resolution videos look better, so it is a complete waste to convert a DVD to HD resolution.
If you use a laptop/computer with a hard drive, or an external harddrive, the file-size of your movies is not that important, but if you plan on using a more portable system, such as an ultrabook or a Surface Pro, with flash/ssd drives, then making sure your videos are as small as possible becomes a big deal. For PC playback, the format of the video (and audio) doesn't matter much, but there is a big difference in how these formats work.
There are 3 that are used the most these days, DIVX/XVID, H264/AVC and MPEG2. Of course there are a lot more, some more common than others, but these are the main 3.
(Note: AVI and MKV are co-called container formats. These files don't actually determine what video and audio format is used for the content. Both AVI and MKV can contain video in MPEG2, H264, DIVX, XVID, similarly as an MPG file can contain MPEG1 video as well as MPEG2 video.)
The main 3 each have their advantages and disadvantages. The main reason of their existence is to compress video. All the information in a video, the color and intensity for each individual dot in a frame, along with the 24(or more) frames per second, for 2 hours or more, takes up a tremendous amount of file-space. For a 2 hour DVD, uncompressed, you are looking at over 200 GB (!) of space for 1 movie. That is about 50 DVDs, or 4 Blurays full.
So, the video is compressed to make it smaller while preserving as much quality as possible.
MPEG2, the video format used in DVDs (VOB files), compresses a 2 hour movie to fit on a single DVD. This format was picked for DVDs because of the good quality of video it provided, and was capable of being decoded using affordable low-power decoding chips at the time.
DIVX came out a bit later, and traded the low decoding power requirement of MPEG2 for a more performance hungry compression system, which enabled people to put a 2 hour movie (with some quality loss) on 2 CDs, so going from 200GB to 5GB (DVD) to 1.4GB (2x CD).
H264/AVC came out after that, and is now used in the majority of Bluray's as well as most streaming services (Netflix, Ultra Violet, Digital Copies) and movies from stores like iTunes.
Similar as DIVX, H264/AVC trades performance for compression, enabling either a higher visual quality (HD video) or a smaller video file while keeping the same visual quality.
Most current devices, tablets, smartphones, have hardware-decoding support (a special chip to handle the video playback), so if videos are in the proper format, the playback will be fine on those, but on laptops/ultrabooks, this might be a bit different.
MPEG2 takes up a lot of space, but in turn, it doesn't affect the battery much when playing from an ssd. If you play from an actual harddrive, then because the constant spinning of the drive, you might run into battery drain issues.
DIVX/XVID takes up less space, but requires a bit more from the processor. Back when it first came out, computers were barely over the 200Mhz (0.2Ghz), and DIVX was taxing the processor fully (forget about DVD-quality H264 on anything less than 1Ghz), but these days, DIVX is a breeze for almost everything out there.
H264 offers the best quality and compression, but on low-power laptops and ultrabooks (Intel Atom) you might run into playback issues if you use video files that are higher in resolution (HD) than DVDs.
My own preference is for the H264 format. All the devices I have can play videos in H264 MP4 format. From my iPod Classic and first-generation iPod Touch, Blackberry Playbook, Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, Galaxy Note, new iPad and even a Surface RT. Some devices (the older ones) have some limitations with screen resolution, but they can all handle the same format.
So by sticking to that, I'm pretty much guaranteed that whatever new device is next, it will be extremely likely it will be able to play the videos I already have for my other devices.
This leads me to another question I get fairly often:
Q: I just upgraded my smartphone/iphone/tablet/ipad to a newer one. Do I have to reconvert/re-rip all my movies again, or can I use the videos I already have?
A: If your video files are MP4 files created with DVD Catalyst 4, it is very likely that they will play just fine on your new device. All the current Android, Apple, Blackberry, Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT tablets and smartphones have hardware decoding support for DVD Catalyst created MP4 files, so even if you have MP4 movies you created for an iPod 6 years ago, they will work just fine on a HTC One, Nokia 922 or a Blackberry Z10.
In fact, I still use some of my own iPod Touch (G1) optimized videos from years ago.
Q: How do I delete movies from my device?
A: In the device guides on my website, I explain in detail how to add movies to a device, but not a word on how to remove them. As mentioned in previous newsletters, I am reworking the website, and will include a section for that in the guides as well.
A1: How to delete movies from Apple devices.
File transfer on iPads and iPhones is handled by iTunes. To put a movie onto an iDevice, you first add it to iTunes, and then you use iTunes to drag the movie from the library onto your iPad or iPhone.
To remove files from iTunes, you select the file in your iTunes Library, and tap the delete key on your keyboard. To delete a file from your iPad or iPhone, you select your iPad/iPhone library part in iTunes on your computer, and tap the delete key to remove it.
A2: How to delete movies from Android devices.
Android devices such as the NOOK, Xoom, Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, connect to your computer as a storage device. As of such, adding and removing files from them works similarly as if you would use a removable drive such as a thumbdrive or usb stick.
Using Windows Explorer or "My Computer", you look for the file you want to copy over, and you drag it to where you want it to go.
To delete a file, you look for it in a similar way, and select it by left-clicking once on it, and then tap the delete key to remove it.
A3: How to delete movies from Blackberry and WIndows Phone devices.
The same as for Android devices, Blackberry devices and Windows Phone devices connect to your computer as a removable device, so to delete files you can use the same methods as for Android. However, these devices often use file-sync software, similar as iTunes (Blackberry Desktop Manager, Windows Media Player, etc), which you can also use to transfer/delete your videos with.
Software Development Tools.
Last year, I upgraded my main development tool to be able to create a Mac version of DVD Catalyst. I installed the newer version, to see how the programming code that is DVD Catalyst would translate into it, but unfortunately it resulted in way too many complications, forcing me to completely re-write everything in the new version, so I set it aside for a bit.
Then, a little over a month later, the development tool company, which I paid a lot of money to for the new version (my old version didn't qualify for an upgrade), released another major new version. Because I purchased more than a month ago (a month and a week!), I had to pay an upgrade fee again. Smaller this time, but still a sizable chunk. I could have avoided this if I would have purchased their yearly subscription plan, which isn't that much less than the actual upgrade fee.
Anyway, I ended up holding off to see if I would actually need the upgrade.
The last couple of weeks, I've been spending more and more time with the new version (while continuing to use the older development tools to update DVD Catalyst 4), and ended up doing the upgrade in order to be able to do something with Windows RT.
One of the biggest gripes I have on Windows 8 is the way you have to access your videos, so to get used to the new development tools (and the code-differences), I've been working on some sort of MovieGallery app for it. I have something basic working for plain Windows 8, but in order to make it work for Windows RT, I have to port what I have over again.
Fun fun fun.
I have a lot planned this weekend. The majority will be spent on MovieGallery for Win8/WinRT, but I'll be working on the upcoming DVD Catalyst 4 update as well. On Sunday evening, I'll be watching the Oscars. Normally I don't care much for them (with my personal movie choices Oscar nominations usually mean it's not for me), but with the special James Bond stuff, I'm looking forward to it. This week, I've watched the first 3 Bonds again and have Thunderball lined up for tonight
Anyway, thanks again for reading the newsletter, 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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