Thursday, July 1, 2004

Playing DVDs on your PDA


By James Booth

Let's get the show on the road! Wouldn't it be great to be able to take your movies, TV shows, and home movies on the road? Well sure, you could get a portable DVD player. The prices on those have even come down considerably of late, but that's just one more gadget to carry around.

Wouldn't it be better if you could take them on your handheld? With the two pieces of software I'll introduce you to, you can do just that.

Make it fit

In order to get your DVD on your handheld, first it will have to be down-sized, or reduced, to fit the screen. Our first application is Pocket-DVD Studio from, shown in Figure A.


Pocket DVD Studio sports an easy-to-use interface. (click for larger image)

With a version for Palm and one for Pocket PC, Pocket DVD Studio is an all-in-one Windows application that will transform your DVD into an AVI of appropriate size for your Palm or Pocket PC. With Pocket DVD Studio, you can fit up to three hours of movie onto a 128 MB, 256 MB, or 512 MB memory card. Of course, the more you try to squeeze onto a card, the more compression, the more "lossy" the movie, and the more the quality will suffer.

Pocket DVD Studio supports handheld screen sizes from 160x160 to 480x320, with audio boost, subtitle support, and six cropping modes. You can encode entire DVDs, just small sections, or split a movie over a number files according to a size you determine. For example, if you have two 128 MB cards, you could encode the movie for 256 MB and split it across two files.

Using Pocket DVD Studio is as simple as inserting the DVD in your DVD-ROM, and clicking "Open DVD." After the DVD is scanned, Pocket DVD Studio will select the longest track by default, as the longest track is usually the movie.

The Resolution drop-down menu is where you'll select the resolution of your encoded file. Through much trial and playing around, I've figured out that you get much better results by encoding a smaller resolution, but at higher quality. Of course, I'm trying to squeeze all my movies so far onto a single 128 MB card. Maybe it's time for a bigger card, eh?

Underneath the Resolution drop-down menu is the Quality & Size slider. This is where you'll tune the size of your file. Of course, the bigger the file, the better quality. But be warned, if the resolution and quality is too high, your device might not be able to handle it.

I've noticed that the output size in the slider is really more of an estimate than a hard setting. In every video I've encoded so far, the size has come out considerably smaller than what Pocket DVD Studio estimates. In one sense, this is good, in that it doesn't underestimate the file size. On the other hand, you can be pretty far into the encoding before you realize that you could have gone a little higher with the quality.