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Video conversion is one of those topics that can take up an entire web site to discuss in detail. Fortunately, though, converting video for playback on an HTC EVO or Motorola Droid X is not terribly difficult.
The first thing you need is a valid video file (yeah, yeah, master of the obvious here, I know). What's really important to remember is that any time you are converting video from one format to another, there is going to be some sort of loss in quality. Now granted, the video converters that are out there today go a really long way to minimize loss to the point that it's no longer perceptible. However, I mention the loss in quality to emphasize a point: If you start with a poor quality video file, you're going to end up with a poor quality video file.
So what are good sources of video files?
- DVD or Blu-ray discs that you legally own
- Recordings from Windows Media CenterTM or TivoTM
- Home videos that you have made yourself
- Video content that you have legally downloaded
For the purposes of this article, we're going to assume the video content came from a DVD or a recording from Windows Media Center or Tivo. For converting Blu-ray discs, the conversion process becomes a little more complicated. Video files from a DVD are always recorded using what is known as MPEG-2 compression. Recordings from a Windows Media Center or Tivo are usually in either MPEG-2 or H.264 format. This is good for us because there two formats are widely used, and easy to convert.
As far as home videos go, there are a number of different formats that video cameras use these days. The tool that we will be using to do the conversion can handle many of them, so you can follow the process we're going to outline below, but your results may vary. The same applies to content you've legally downloaded from the Internet. Depending on where it's from, it could be in any number of formats. Again, you can try using the process below, but good results are not guaranteed.
To convert video files, you're going to need some software. For the purpose of this article, we're going to assume you have a Windows PC. However, there are many tools out there that work on Macs or Linux-based systems.
The video converter we're going to use is a popular one called Handbrake. A link to download it is included below. Handbrake sometimes gets a bad rap because of it's seeming complexity. The real story is that it's a powerful application with many, many options for tweaking your video conversion. Fortunately, though, we're going to make this as smooth and painless as we possibly can.
Some things to bear in mind about Handbrake though:
- It requires a reasonably fast computer. I would not recommend running it on anything less than a system that at least has a dual-core processor. While it is possible, the video conversion is going to take a really, really long time. Don't even think about trying this on a NetBook.
- Even on a reasonably fast system, the video conversion can still take some time to complete. There's a common trade off when it comes to converting video files: speed vs. quality. The faster a video conversion goes, generally the less quality the final product will have.
- Handbrake does come in Linux and Mac flavors, and those versions tend to be faster than the Windows version
- The Windows version is still 32-bit, but I have run it just fine on Win7 64-bit
You can download Handbrake from here.
Legal Notice: While I may deem the ripping of Blu-ray and DVD discs that you LEGALLY own for personal use only as permitted under the Fair Use doctrine, your local, state, or federal authorities may not see it that way. In no way does this site condone any activity which is illegal. Furthermore, the instructions in this article should not be construed as a method of duplicating copyrighted material for public distribution. In addition, the simple act of bypassing the encryption mechanism that is built in to nearly all commercially available DVD's and Blu-ray discs is generally considered to be illegal.
Whew, now that we have that out of the way, let's get on with the story. As stated above, DVD's and Blu-ray discs are nearly always protected by some method of encryption. In order to convert the video files contained on the disc to a format that can be played back by your EVO, you will need an application that can bypass this encryption. For legal purposes, I must refrain from providing links to such applications. However, a simply Google search will likely turn up some good sources.
The basic premise here is that you will need to rip a copy of the disc to your hard drive in to what is called a VIDEO_TS folder. Your best bet is to take a look at the documentation or help file that came with the application you are using to rip the DVD.
Windows Media Center stores it's recordings in one of two formats, depending on what version of Windows you are running. For XP and Vista, it stores them as DVR-MS files. For Win7, it stores them as .WTV files. HandBrake will automatically accept a DVR-MS file. However, support for .WTV is sketchy. If your files are in that format, simply locate the recording you wish to convert in Windows Explorer, right-click on it, and there should be an option to Convert to DVR-MS.
For Tivo files, there's a little bit more involved because they are encrypted. However, there is an application available that will allow you to convert them to standard MPEG-2 format stored in a .MPG file. For this I strongly recommend VideoRedo. Although this software does cost money, it handles the conversion flawlessly and is very easy to use.
The Conversion Process
It's taken a while to get to this point, but we're finally ready to start. I'm going to assume you've successfully installed HandBrake and have a usable source file.
- Go ahead and fire up Handbrake. The first thing you need to do is click on the Source button in the upper left hand corner of the window. You are given two options: Video File and DVD/VIDEO_TS Folder. If you are dealing with a DVD that you ripped to a VIDEO_TS folder, obviously you would select that option, otherwise select Video File. In the window that pops up, browse to where your file is stored or the location of your VIDEO_TS folder.
- If you are using a VIDEO_TS folder, you will next need to select the "Title" from the drop down menu next to the Source button. Generally, you're going to select the title that has the longest length, which should be the main feature of the disc.
- Next we need to pick a preset. The presets are over on the right hand side of the Handbrake window. For our purpose, we need to select the Ipod Legacy preset.
- You will need to provide a destination file name and folder in the Destination box. Typically, Handbrake will default the file name to have a .M4V extension. I've heard of a few issues with this, so you can change that to .MP4 by manually typing over the extension if you want.
- Under Output settings, make sure of the following settings:
- Container: MP4 File
- Large File Size: Unchecked
- Web Optimized: Unchecked
- iPod 5G Support: Unchecked
- Under the Picture Settings, you will need to adjust the following:
- Keep Aspect Ration check box should be checked
- Height and Width: Depending on your video, you probably don't need to adjust these. Even if your source video is larger than the phone's screen size, the player application will automatically resize it to fit.
- Set Anamorphic to none
- You normally do not need to adjust any of the cropping
- Now move over to the video settings tab, and adjust the following:
- Video Codec should be H.264 (x264)
- Frame rate (FPS) should be Same as Source
- Under Quality, make sure that Avg Bitrate (kbps) is selected, and enter 1500 into the input box
- Optional: If you really want the best quality, then check the 2-pass Encoding box. However, this will add a significant amount of time to the conversion process.
- Now lets move to the Audio tab. This is the one area that drives me a little nuts with Handbrake. Starting with v0.9.4 of the software, there is an audio track already entered in to the box near the bottom of the screen. We need to get rid of it because it doesn't default to a stereo mix down. If you click on that track in the box, which should highlight the whole row, then click on the Remove button up above, this should delete it. Once it's gone, adjust the following settings:
- Source: Automatic
- Audio Codec: AAC (faac)
- Mixdown: Stereo
- Sample Rate: 48
- Bitrate: 160
- Leave the DRC slider alone
- Important: once you've verified the settings above, make sure you click the Add Track button
- Now, so we don't have to make most of these adjustments again in the future, let's save this as a preset. Click on the Presets menu at the top, then select Add. In the box that comes up, enter a descriptive name (something like HTC EVO 4G, or Droid X), then click ok. You will then be asked if you would like to save the video cropping settings with the preset. Select No.
- Now you have two options, depending on whether you're going to convert several videos, or just one. If it's just one, then click the Start button at the top. If you are going to do more than one, click Add to Queue. To add additional videos now, all you need to do is select the source, set the destination filename and folder, and adjust the Width setting on the Picture tab. Next, click Add to Queue. Once you've added everything to your queue, you would click Show Queue, and then Start in the window that comes up.
- Once you start the encoding process, a DOS window will appear that shows the progress of the actual encoding. As I stated earlier, do not expect this to go quickly. On my quad core system, I usually get about a 3 to 1 ratio, meaning that it takes roughly 20 minutes per 1 hour of video if I use 2-Pass encoding.
Copy the video file(s) to your phone
Once the encoding is complete, all that's left to do is copy the converted videos to your phone.
To be safe, let's check how your phone is set to handle PC connections.
- From the Home screen, press your menu button, and then tap on Settings.
- Scroll to Connect to PC and tap it
- Make sure the box next to Ask Me is checked.
Now connect the phone to your PC using the micro USB cable. After a few moments, your phone should pop up a window asking you how you want to handle the connection. Select the Disk Drive option (or Mount)
On your PC, you can find your phone by opening My Computer (if you have that icon on your desktop). You should see your phone listed as a removable device. It's usually the E: or F: drive, depending on how many logical and physical drives you have in your computer. Note: If you get an error message when you try to click on the removable disk icon that asks you to insert a disk, try rebooting your phone.
When you open the removable disk, you are viewing your SD card. Just create a directory on the card named Video or Movies, or whatever you want and copy your files to that folder.
I know this has been a lengthy article, but hopefully it's provided you with some good information on how to convert video files to a usable format for your Android-powered phone. Here's a few other notes:
- The EVO, and I suspect the Droid X, can not support video file sizes over 2GB. However, unless you're ripping a 4 hour long movie, you should be ok
- These instructions assume you are using the stock video player application that came with your phone. There are other apps on the market that support many different file formats natively, which means you may not have to convert them. RockPlayer seems to be pretty good, but it is ad-ware, and it displays an annoying 'R' symbol in the upper left corner during playback, unless you buy the full version for $9.99. It does, however, support a huge number of file formats, which means for most downloaded videos, you wouldn't need to convert them.
- MKV is a popular file format for downloaded videos. You need to be aware that MKV is just a container format, meaning that the actual video data held inside the MKV could be any number of different codecs. Typically, MKV's are used with H.264 or DivX/Xvid. If you have an MKV file and want to know what format the video in it is, try using Media Info for Windows.
- Android devices can't play back high bitrate files smoothly. They just don't have enough processing power. I wouldn't recommend pushing the Avg Bitrate setting above the 1500 recommended above.
Last updated on July 24, 2010 by Randy Willis