A universal video codec? That would be like a holy grail, especially for the growing vidcast/IPTV/term of the week video movement, especially with the recently released iPod with Video.
Of course, I don’t think that will EVER happen (jeez, sound pessimistic much).
Right now, the iPod with Video format itself would have a pretty good penetration rate, because let’s face it, the iPod is the 800 lb gorilla of portable media players.
Number 2 is probably the PSP, and because of Sony’s focus on gaming and UMD movies, it’ll probably never be number one in the portable video space (at least for this iteration).
At the same time, there are a lot of people using PDAs to view video on the go, what with multi-gig memory cards dropping in price, and the advent of smartphones like the Treo.
Content providers would be wise, if not a little safe, to go with the iPod video format, because it is/will be #1 for a while, but this means that most everyone else is going to be stuck with transcoding.
Transcoding sucks for those using anything other than an iPod.
To appease the masses, a content provider like Digital Live TV offers a cornucopia of formats…
Could there be a solution that would be a little more “universal”?
Yep. The PSP’s own MP4 format (what’s now called the “SP” format from the 1 series firmware). A more recent firmware added a new “AVC” format, but let’s ignore that. The “SP” format first appeared on the last generation Sony Clie Palm based PDAs, the Japan-only VZ90, without the annoying pixel count limit that the PSP imposes. The codecs from that device also work on the Clie UX50/40 and TH55.
This is kinda cool, but in a limited, geek kinda way, if you happen to be a Clie user.
Recently, my friend Dave’s brother picked up a G5 iPod. After it was charged up, they decided to try a PSP “SP” video on it, and it worked. No transcoding, just transfer and play. It works with the Sony Clie as well.
What makes this even more interesting is that this format will play on other portable devices that support the AAC codec, including Palm and PocketPC devices running v.66 of TCPMP with the AAC plugin. Other players for the PocketPC are also apparently capable of playing AAC encoded audio, but I only had a single opportunity to try this out, with success mind you.
A video encoded at 384Kbps, 30fps and 320×240 yeilds nice results, and a reasonable file size (3 MB per second), while one encoded at 768kbps doubles the file size, and looks spectacular. Heck, if one wants to provide a lower bandwidth, you can knock it back to 256Kbps, and it’s still tolerable on a portable screen.
There are some great encoders available for downloading, such as PSP Video 9 but for the last little while, I’ve been doing it the JAmerican Way, which allows a Windows user to right-click on a video file, and automatically convert it.
Similarly, video encoded this way also plays on Macs, as well as PC’s with Quicktime installed.
In the end, the PSP video isn’t a catch all solution, but it comes pretty darn close to meeting just about everyone’s portable media needs, and means that more CPU cycles could be dedicated to either SETI @ Home or even better, Folding @ Home.