How to get video onto the X series
It seems there's a number of folks here and elsewhere who are having trouble with figuring out how to get video onto their Walkman X. I've had mine for about a week, and I've done some playing around, so I thought I'd let people know where I've got to. Hope it helps someone. I'd also welcome comments/additions/corrections.
I'm on Windows Vista, but what I say should be generalisable to other systems.
Skip the bits you're not interested in.
FILE TYPES ON THE X
For a start, I think that the lack of substantive information that Sony provides about the player is pretty outrageous. Their own website is middled and confusing, and the manual light on detail. Here's what I've figured out
- the native resolution of the X is 432x240 pixels (picture elements - a dot of video)
- the player can play varieties of mpeg 4 (with mp4 or m4v file extension) or wmv (windows media video)
- although the manual states that the maximum resolution of mp4 is 320x240, I have converted and played mp4 files at the native resolution of 432x240, although it's possible that there's some hidden-re-sizing happening, but it doesn't look like it
- for wmv the manual refers to resolutions of 480x270 (max) and 320x240, depending on how the coding is done. The demo files that come with the X are wmv, and have a resolution of 432x240
My working assumption therefore is to always try to encode video to a resolution of 432x240, to make best use of the screen. Anything larger will be a larger file (all other parameters being equal), down-sized when playing to fit the screen, but NOT resulting in better quality.
For those not familiar with file types, a file with an extension of .mp4 indicates that it contains content of a certain type, which cn include subtitles and still images, and is most commonly used for video and audio.
There are lots of different ways of coding the video and audio, which means that some mp4 will work on the Sony X, and some won't.
One of the most popular formats for coding mp4 video and audio is h.264, which is also known as AVC (they mean the same thing), and this does work on the X. Another popular format is xvid, and although I've not tried it, I believe it doesn't work. You could have two mp4 files, both of the same resolution, both of which work on your computer, and one works on the X and the other doesn't, because they used different encoders. I don't know what other types of mp4 do work, other than h.264/avc.
HOW TO TRANSFER FILES
I've found that to transfer .mp4 files you have to use drag and drop.
To transfer wmv files you usually have to use windows media player. I also found that by using windows media player I could transfer some .avi files that I had. Again, I suspect that some .avi files will work, and others won't, depending on the coding method. It looks like if you're transferring wmv files, you don't need to worry about resolution. It seems that the X tells WMP what it can play, and WMP transcodes the files so they work.
In the UK you can download video content from the BBC iplayer. There's an option on each download page for 'more downloads', one of which is 'portable devices'. To transfer this to the X you have to use WMP, as it manages the DRM (Digital Rights Management). When I first tried this, I had some problems downloading from the iplayer, and had refer to the BBC help files to find out how to re-set the DRM on my computer. These files have a .wmv extension.
ABOUT ENCODING SOFTWARE
When you install Windows or Mac (I don't know about others, and I don't know much about Mac), you get some codecs (coder/decoder) and other software that allows you to play and, potentially, encode video. When you download some software to code video for the X, that software may make use of the codecs and other software already on your computer, or may require you to separately download other bits of software, or may install other software at the same time. The majority of the programs that you'll see advertised as 'easy to use' etc are front-ends or interfaces to all this codec stuff. People who are technically inclined ofter prefer to work directly with the codecs, but that's really not an option for most of us. It's too complicated.
Because of the way these different front-ends work, and depending on whether you already have the software they require, and depending on whether they make it clear what other software you need, then a program that works really well for one person won't work for another. The best thing to do is to try it - there's a lot of freeware, and a lot of paid-for programs. Paying for a program doesn't necessarily mean you'll get anything better, but you might get some support.
SOFTWARE THAT WORKS FOR ME
As I said above, what works for me might not work for you. I look for something that does the job, and is as easy as possible to use. Personally I find the interfaces of ripbot and super to be confusing and complex - you might love them, and that's fine.
My needs are either
1) Rip a DVD that I own (not blu-ray) to work on the X
2) Convert an existing file
DVD CATALYST was recommended in another thread, and I found this to be simple to use to rip a DVD. The pic Catalyst 1 shows the home screen. When you load a dvd, it auto-detects the video files, you highlight the ones you want to rip, and it does the job. On the left lower screen you'll see that you can pick a profile for the NWZ. I clicked the 'modify' button, the result of which you can see on Catalyst 2. I had to maually change the resolution to 432x240, the other settings are the defaults. I haven't tried increasing the video quality (the kbps means 'kilobits per second'), but I found the result as it was to be great. There are also options on how you want to handle black bars, fullscreen stretch etc, if the resolution (width x height) of the original is different from the output.
This program currently costs $10. There is a free version, but I didn't think it was so easy, as the interface is different.
To CONVERT an existing file, I found Tipard Walkman video converter. Ths costs $20 (there is a trial version). You can see from the pic called Tipard that there isn't actually a profile for the X, but by choosing one of the others, and then going to sttings, you can change the screen resolution, which is the only thing that needs to be changed. It seems to me Tipard have been quite clever in their marketing, as they have a product that will convert any format to any format, and then brought out a series of sub-products aimed at specific markets with a cut-down set of options, at a reduced price to the full product. Anything that makes it easier for people to do what they want can only be a good thing.
I don't know why this is asterisked. I'll take it out if it's not supposed to be on the forum, but otherwise you can google the product.
Another piece of free software that I quite like is Format Factory (they ask for donations), but I'm having trouble getting it to work properly at the moment, which could be because of the various codecs that I have (it doesn't recognise the widescreen format). You might want to try it - it's not as complicated as some, and not as simple as others.
Bear in mind that when playing back video on the X, if you touch the icon on the bottom right of the screen, you can set the zoom options. Try the different settings in combination with videos of different resolutions if you have them.
One other piece of free software that you might be interested in is called g-spot. This provides you with some detailed information about video files on your computer, and which codecs and other relevant software are installed.
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