Thursday, May 05, 2005

Palm Tungsten E is a Multimedia Player

I've been gettting good use out of my Palm Tungsten E as an audio player. I had given up trying to use it for playing video. The bundled Kimona app produced very mediocre results. I assumed that the processor was just too slow for decent video playback.

I was wrong.

Listening to the 1SRC podcast, I learned of an opensource media player called TCPMP. It is still in beta but has apparently been available on the PPC platform. I downloaded the beta and some movie trailers. I was stunned by the playback quality. It was very watchable. I found that that the Tungsten E did best with converted MPEG1 files running frame rates in the 12 frame per second range and 250k bit rate. The DivX/XVid/MPEG4 files required a little too much horsepower. So, armed with this new information, I embarked on how to make my own video files that would play well.

Turning to various XVid files sourced from HDTV, I started playing with various tools. I tried a trial of Kimona's Producer 3 but it produced horrible results using MPEG4 files. As it turns out, the best workflow can be had with free tools.

After much tinkering, I found that using a custom template using the freeware version of TMPG Encoder produced great quality MPEG1 files at a size of about 120 mb for 45 minutes of video. That would allow about four of these files to fit easily on a 512mb SD card (3 hours of video). It only takes about fifteen minutes to convert. One trick I found was that the TMPG Encoder does not handle the audio properly by default. I found that I have to first dump the audio track out to a seperate WAV file using VirtualDub. I then use this file as the audio source in TMPG. I also set up TMPG to use the lame MP3 audio encoder and reduced the sample rate to 32k at a bit rate of 128k. I saved this as a template for easy reuse. The final trick is to set the frame rate to one half of the source file rate. Most of my files are about 24 frames per second. Thus the final Palm video file is running at 12 frames per second. Surprisingly, the slower frame rate is not that noticible. The video when played othe Tungsten E appears very smooth. There is a bit of pixalization with action scenes but it is very tolerable.

I may continue to tinker to see if I can achieve better quality without increasing file sizes but I am already very pleased at the results so far.


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