It’s been almost a year since I discussed anything regarding my PSP. Let me first say it’s still one of my favorite gadgets. I use it mostly for watching video while in airports, on planes, etc. I have a few games but I find that the video aspect is what compelled me to buy the thing in the first place, and it is still the main feature I use.
The Sony PlayStation Portable has been updated a few times over the past year. The November 2005 update is definitely my favorite because it added support for Microsoft Windows Media Audio (.wma) playback. Copy protected .wma files are not supported.
Another feature added in the update is support for RSS subscriptions. I did some brief testing of the RSS <enclosure> support against my RSS feed and it works nicely. I haven’t bothered to see how it stores the enclosed audio file. When I tested it, it started buffering and playing the .mp3 almost immediately. Enough babbling, lets talk about DVD video, shall we?
As you know, DVD ripping is a touchy subject. There are a number of ways to “backup” your DVD collection to disk storage on a PC. Many of the commercially sold audio and video products will do this now. I have tried a variety of tools. Whatever tool you choose will need to produce the .VOB file that can then be used for conversion. Yea, you got that right, it’s a two step process. After you have completed the first step of creating the “backup” .VOB, you can head over to the PSP Video 9 website and download their transcoding utility. It’s free although they do accept donations. I am currently using version 1.6 but will probably download 1.74 later and try it out.
Using PSP Video 9
When you start transcoding the .VOB files, you have some decisions to make. You must decide if you want small size or good video quality. It’s a balancing act. You will also need to decide if you want to leave the original picture unmodified or do you want to change the aspect ratio and possibly crop to remove black bars common with widescreen formats.
I did a lot of testing over my Christmas holiday vacation to determine my preferred settings for 4:3 ratio “full screen” movies, and 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 wide screen movies. Part of the testing included cropping pixels from the top and bottom of the video to remove the dreaded black bars. I used “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” (widescreen 1.85:1) and “Star Wars III – Revenge Of The Sith” (widescreen 2.35:1) for my test base.
When you launch PSPVideo9, there are a number of profiles in the Setup area to pick from. I ended up using the “SP/368×208/29.97fps/QB4 Stereo/96kbps” profile for my widescreen tests. This profile produces a MPEG4 .MOV file with good quality video and audio. You can produce a much smaller file by using the QB7 profile.
Just to give you an idea of the size, I ripped the entire Lord of the Rings Special Edition DVD set (6 DVDs) and spread the resulting .MOV files across 2.5gig of the memory sticks I had at the time. That’s two 1gig sticks and a 500meg stick. That is some SERIOUS compression. I used the QB7 profile for that process and did not crop anything. The end result is certainly watch-able but the QB4 quality is far superior.
After doing the LOTR rips, I decided to get a little more scientific with my testing. That means writing down what I tested and documenting the end result. I never did that with the conversions I did with MCE recorded TV content so I figured I’d better document things so I don’t go bananas trying to remember later.
My Profile Preferences and Results
I ended up liking the following settings:
- 1.85:1 Widescreen – Profile SP/368×208/29.97fps/QB4 Stereo/96kbps with 10 pixel crops at the top and bottom.
- 2.35:1 Widescreen – Profile SP/368×208/29.97fps/QB4 Stereo/96kbps with 60 pixel crops at the top and bottom.
Results of the above settings:
- Apocalypse Now Redux – 875 meg
- Revenge Of The Sith – 616 meg
- Seabiscuit – 708 meg
- Black Hawk Down – 961 meg
- I, Robot – 580 meg
- Unforgiven – 495 meg
- Grinch – unknown since I deleted the last test. The last test I ran on it was using a different profile and the result sucked. I will eventually rerun it with the QB4 crops.
As you can see, the DVDs compress nicely. The limiting factor is the memory stick size you have. I recently purchased a 2gig Sandisk Memory Stick Duo from amazon.com for $109. It has since dropped another ten bucks. This will be perfect for movies like Black Hawk Down that bump up against the 1gig barrier. There are some after market PSP drives. Lik-Sang makes and sells the 4gig drive. You can also find this drive at your local game retailers.
Use the most powerful computer you have to do both steps of this process. The second step transcoding process will take 100% of whatever CPU you have. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I am saving for a multi core box. Transferring video from a MiniDV camera and conversion, DVD rips, and MCE recorded TV conversions are the most resource intensive stuff I do. My lowly Pentium 4 needs a boost so I am saving my pennies.
Hopefully you found this useful. If you don’t have a portable video player, look closely at the PSP before you buy anything. They have really nice screens, are small, and easy to use. Happy travels!!!