17 November 2005

iPod video impressions

Not going to do a full review here of the iPod 5G (video). But I did want to make a comment on something that had been troubling me before getting one. That is the video resolution - especially of the H.264 material as available on the iTMS. I had thought that 320 x 240 would be quite poor when presented on a TV. But in fact it is surprisingly good. And the file size is quite amazing - perhaps only 4 times the size of a music only file of the same length.

Personally, I prefer the larger resolution of mpeg-4. That's because I wish to use the compressed video on my Powerbook and Mac mini, sometimes connected to a projector or plasma screen. mpeg-4 specs for the iPod appear to allow resolutions such as 512 x 400, which scale better for the tv. They also can be created faster. The downside is the file size - perhaps 2-3 times bigger than a corresponding H.264 file (about 10MB per minute at that resolution and a 1200kbps bit rate).

So far I've bought one music video from the iTMS - and that is good quality both on iPod AND on a bigger screen. I've ripped a couple of music dvd's I own onto it. Takes a bit of time and some messing around,but once the settings are correct it seems to work quite well. Quality is also very good, though I've had problems with sound on one dvd when the soundtrack was type LPCM(?). That's a bug with the handbrake application I've tried for that (otherwise a great app). I've also converted a couple of TV shows from my EyeTV library. I had to convert these twice - once into DV, then into mpeg4 using ffmpegx (couldn't get H.264 to work on this). EyeTV does allow creation of iPod files (I also have a new beta version which makes the setup easier) but this doesn't work yet properly with H.264 files, and the mpeg 4 files are disappointing in quality. The episode of Extras (Les Dennis) I converted is just great (and very funny indeed). This is definitely fun, and we're only just at the start.

I'm pleased that my initial reaction to the resolution was overblown. Sure it would be nice to have full HD resolution at a file size of 20MB per 5 minutes too - and the music videos in that format for the same price. And I do wish the photos would show at higher res when connected to a TV. But we can't have everything (yet). If you haven't seen one yet, you really should!

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