A SD card small as 128MB can hold a full length movie, encoded at 15fps, with stereo sound. Hard to believe? And what if this full length movie could be played on a Windows Mobile Smartphone?
Not impossible. If you have a computer with a DVD drive, the right decoder and 127693 DVD to Mobile by Makayama Software then you can crunch up to 2 hours of watchable quality movie into a 128MB SD card. By watchable quality I mean the picture, not the script .
"DVD to Mobile (Smartphone Edition)" gives the users the tool for media-shifting, giving greater flexibility to media lovers. Attention here: while some countries allow media owners to make a backup copy for personal use, other countries totally ban this practice. New Zealand for example is in the list where media copy, even for backup purposes, is not allowed (although the MPs are in talks to change the current law). So, beware of the implications of using this program, and act according to the law in your country.
After the legal warning, we can proceed with the program itself. It's actually very easy to use, and most of the times I managed to get good quality picture on my i-mate Smartphone2. The program can be as easy to use as inserting the DVD into the drive, clicking Open and selecting the correct track (which the program correctly points out as the longest one on the disc).
Main dialog: not many options to go wrong
Once a track is selected you should see the movie playing on the small screen within the Smartphone skin. You can now select between Sharper picture or Smoother motion. Sharper picture is recommended for comedy, romatic movies and dramas. Smoother motion is ideal for action movies and animations.
Once you select the main encoding, you can then click the start button and the program will read the DVD and extract the information needed to create the encoded movie. Here comes the tedious part: a 2 hours movie can take as long as four hours to be extracted. Of course this will depend on your computer's power. In my case I've used a laptop with a Pentium III 2GHz and 512MB RAM.
Fours hours to extract this movie
Interestingly only a couple of minutes to compress it...
The program allows the user to select different aspects of the extraction, including selection of subtitles to be extracted and colour to be used on the final movie, camera angle (if available), audio and brightness. The program extracts and encodes the movie in two steps, so if the first step is completed (extraction) then users can restart the process from the second step, should the program be interrupted half way through this part.
Another interesting feature is the ability to specify a start point in the movie, and extract/encode for a certain number of minutes from that point. The program also offers a test run, in case you want a short example to test settings.
Plenty of options...
Once I got the program working I had no problem at all. It works as promissed, creating a smaller version of a movie, including some of the DVD features (subtitles, camera angle). However I had some problems making it to work. I had just installed it and inserted a DVD into the drive, selected the correct track, but the program couldn't start extracting the information.
The message does not say exactly what's the problem, but I decided to check why the movie wasn't playing in the small display within the dialog. So I opened Windows Media Player and tried do play the DVD - and it wouldn't! I needed a MPEG2 decoder. I found this later on DVD to Mobile's help section. They even link to an open source MPEG2 decoder, but this didn't work for me. My last resource was a commercial decoder then. There's a link on Windows Media Player to DVD decoders, by selecting Tools | Plug-ins | Download Plug-ins. I had three choices, and I bought one for US$14.99. As soon as I had that installed, Windows Media Player had no problem palying the DVD - neither DVD to Smartphone had any problems extracting it!
Options for DVD MPEG2 decoders
So, after almost four and half hours of action, DVD to Smartphone announced the file was ready to be copied. During the extraction process it used almost 3GB of hard disk space to store the movie, but the final DVD.avi file (encoded with Divx) was only 98MB! This is great news. It means that a 512MB SD card can fit around four movies (given and taken difference in sizes, perhaps even five!). Of course you'll need to have a power adapter for your Smartphone to be up all the time playing these movies.
I then used the Browse option on ActiveSync to copy this file to the SD card on my Smartphone and I ready to watch the movie. No problem here. Bundled with this application is the free BetaPlayer, a powerful program that plays a variety of formats.
Movie on main screen
Movie in landscape
Movie encoding information
I'll not go into the BetaPlayer itself - this would be another review, such is the number of features on this program. Unbelievable BetaPlayer is free, given all the functionality built into this software.
Back to the results of our encoding... I suggest you use a headphone while watching movies on your Windows Mobile Smartphone, since it makes the sound much better, and you can enjoy true stereo sound. The picture, as I said before is good, despite the small screen, the resolution and being only 15fps. Even so, the transitions are smooth, and fast sequences work well. Seeing how long it takes to extract and encode a movie, I recommend you start doing this way before you start preparing for a long trip. But it may be worth the work. Just leave your computer doing this during the night, while you're sleeping, and you can have your own library of mini movies soon. There's also a version of this program for Pocket PC, called 94375 DVD to Pocket PC, with similar functionality. These two programs are movie lovers' dream coming true .