Video for Androids
Q I have recently treated myself to a G1 phone running Google's Android operating system. I really like it but am faced with constant battles with my iPhone-owning friends "can it do this" or "why can't it do that?". So far it has only failed to acquit itself on two counts; I can live with it not imitating a lightsabre, but trying to get videos on to the thing in a playable format is driving me nuts. Is there a simple way to convert video files or DVDs to a format playable by the G1? For that matter, what formats does it support? I am using OpenSUSE 11.0, if that makes a difference.
A The G1 doesn't have a native video player, but there are a few available on the Android market, like the imaginatively named Video Player or Cinema. The range of formats supported by these programs is extremely limited, so you have to be careful to use exactly the right settings when converting your videos or they simply will not play. A good program for performing these conversions is Avidemux (http://fixounet.free.fr/avidemux) but this is not in the default repositories for OpenSUSE 11.0. To get it, go into the Software Repositoriessection of Yast, press Add and select Community Repositories. Add Packman, which contains Avidemux.
You should also enable the Main Repository (OSS), if this is not already done, for its dependencies. Now you can search for and install either avidemux-gtk or avidemux-qt in the Software Management section. These are basically two faces of the same program. Fire up Avidemux, press Open and select a video file. Set the Video type to 'MPEG-4 ASP (lavc)', press Configure and set the Encoding mode to either 'Constant Bitrate' or 'Two Pass - Average Bitrate'. The latter gives better quality, at the expense of a doubling of processing time.
Pick a bitrate, bearing in mind that you will be viewing this on a threeinch screen, so don't go silly. I find 384kb/s gives decent quality and small files. In the Filters window, double-click on MPlayer Resize and set the width and height to 480x320, press OK then Close. The Audio should be set to 'AAC (FAAC)' at a bitrate of 96 or a little higher. Set the format to MP4 and you're ready to go, but first you should select a small section of the video for a test run. Drag the slider to a suitable start point and press the A button, then move it on a minute and press B. Press Save, pick a filename and give it a few seconds to process the video, depending on the speed of your computer. Make sure you give the file a .mp4 extension, or Video Player will not find it.
Copy the resulting file to the SD card of the phone (remember to disconnect afterwards to make the SD card visible to the phone again), and start Video Player. It should pick up your video wherever you saved it on the SD card. If it plays well, you can transcode the whole video.
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