Putting video on mobile device and smartphones

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Put video onto smartphones in the 3GP format

With smartphones, as any portable device, there are three big chunks to the process of getting your favorite episode of Twin Peaks out on the road with you:

  • Recording or downloading the video
  • Converting the video, if necessary
  • Transferring the video

3G phones and 3GP video standards

Once you've undergone these three ordeals, you should be able to play the video on your smartphone. Thankfully, since smartphones, are, after all, phones, they adhere to certain standards. Why is that? CDMA and GSM include standards for encoding voice and other types of data. In fact, the 3GPP (Third Generation Partnership Project) created standards for many phone features, including video. Hence, the 3GP standard.

Less thankfully, the fact that the 3rd generation CDMA and GSM standardizations were taken so far means that each has it's own specification for video. In other words, CDMA (3G2) video files are not necessarily the same as GSM (3GP) video files, hence the different extensions. Although they use similar codecs, the audio streams may be encoded in the format for voice - and since CDMA and GSM use different types of voice compression over the air, this can translate into different types of audio in the video file - and incompatability of video between phones.

Here are how the 3GP and 3G2 formats are specified:

3GP: H.263 MP4 Video, AAC-LC or AMR-NB Audio
3G2: H.263 MP4 Video, AAC-LC ,  AMR-NB or QCELP Audio

As you can see, the main difference is that 3G2 may contain an audio format not specified for 3GP. That said, it seems to be the case that many phones, regardless of carrier type, can support either format. This of course, is dependent on the phone itself, as well as the video file. You may find that video files are cross-compatible depending on the design of the phone and it's software.

In general, assuming a video file is NOT cross-compatible on a given phone, here are they types of carrier in the US, for future reference:

CDMA: Verizon,  Sprint, Cricket, US Cellular and  Alltel.
GSM: Cingular (AT&T), T-Mobile, Edge Wireless and SunCom.

Keep your carrier in mind when encoding or downloading video and you can be more confident about avoiding incompatability.

Getting the video in the first place

You can get digital video in a few ways. You can rip it from a DVD. You can record it with a hardware device, or you can download it.

If you'd like to extract video from your DVD collection for later viewing on your phone, using your PC, this process is beyond the scope of this article. However, you can check Doom9.org for a wealth of technical information and tools on the topic. (Note: It may be illegal to copy your DVDs to your PC - as odd as it may seem, breaking the CSS encryption on a DVD, even for your own use is illegal per the DMCA. We do not advocate breaking any law or infringing on any copyright.)

Downloading video is another thorny area. Aside from the large amount of free, legit video content out there, (vlogs, open video projects, etc.) A large portion of commercial content is DRM protected, meaning that it will be difficult and/or illegal to convert the format if it's not already in 3GP. For example, the videos on iTunes fall into this category. It's up to the reader to locate viable sources of legal videos to download, but it should not be hard to find what you're looking for, out on the wild, wild internet.

Recording video is legally safe and often allows the user to skip the encoding step. We'll cover this after a discussion of encoding.

Encoding to 3GP format

Based on the last section, we assume you already possess a video you'd like to put into 3GP format and watch on your smartphone. For this section, we'll use the Japanese program 3GP Converter. 3GP converter is a small freeware app built around ffmpeg that allows conversion of many videos the 3GP formats at various resolutions, along with other formats. Here is a step-by-step guide to using 3GP Converter:

How to convert digital video clips with 3GP Converter 0.34 software:

This software, while seemingly incomprehensible at first, gives a nice front-end for video conversion, along with a bevy of handy presets.

Download the program here:

3GP Converter Info & Download page (Japanese)

Step 1:

  • Download and set up the 3GP software. It is availible from this link, and does have an english setting. After downloading and unzipping the file, run Setup.exe. It will bring up a window with a bunch of gibberish, you should look toward the bottom and select English (or your more preferred language) in the drop-down box. Next, in the menu above, select the item that most closely corresponds to your smartphone - you'll need to check the video resolutions supported by your phone. Check the users' manual, product website, or, if your phone came with or captures video, check these files to determine appropriate settings- you can be pretty sure that if you encode a file to the same thing the phone records, that it will play back as well.

http://wiki.neurostechnology.com/images/8/87/3GP-PSP-Step-1.png http://wiki.neurostechnology.com/images/0/00/3GP-PSP-Step-2.png

Step 2:

  • From here the process is fairly intuitive. The main converter window opens, and you will be presented with a drag-and-drop field for your video to be converted, a drop-down list of quality settings that are sub-settings of the preset you selected in the previous step, a Browse button to select the output directory, and a greyed out progress indicator. First, select your desired quality setting. This will be up to you. The settings vary in resolution, framerate, video bitrate, and audio bitrate. The most appropriate choice for each of these will vary with your preference, the amount of space available on your memory card or phone, and the quality of your source video. In general, you'll want to use lower bitrates, resolutions and framerates when you are short on space - likewise, if your source video is only 15 frames per second, there's no need to convert it to 30. A good rule of thumb is to use the lowest setting you can while maintaining a respectable level of quality - the level of which is up to you.


Step 3:

  • Now, select an output directory. Make sure you remember this as you'll need to find the file later to transfer to your phone. When in doubt, just use "my pictures", "my documents", or "my videos", depending on your version of windows. When really in doubt just dump it onto the desktop.

Step 4:

  • Now, find the video you'd like to convert and drag it to the Drag and drop files here section. The software will begin to encode the video. This will take a few minutes at least, depending on the size, length and type of video you're dealing with.

Step 5:

  • You should find a new .3GP file in the directory you selected eariler. At this point, your video has been converted. It should be ready to transfer to your phone, according to the specific needs and procedures associated with the model.

More resources and links related to this article:

Engadget Tutorial on 3GP Converter

3GP Converter Info & Download page (Japanese)

How to record video to 3GP format:

Recording video to a PC has been done with video capture cards for a long time. This is still an option, and today there are even very slick USB and firewire options. There isn't a good way to give an adequate treatment of the whole field of video capture using video capture cards here, but here is a short summary of how they work:

  • Install the card, via PCI, USB, or other connection
  • Connect the analog video source
  • Record the video using the card's interface
  • Save the video to your PC's hard drive

Of course, "Install the card" is easier said than done, but there are many robust solutions available for those who need them.

There are other types of recording device that also encode directly to digital formats. Among them is the Neuros MPEG-4 Recorder 2 Plus, which can encode directly from analog to .3GP format in multiple resolutions. It records directly to memory cards such as MMC, CF, MS/DUO/PRO DUO, SD, etc. This is good news for users whose smartphones include slots for these types of memory card. It may simply a matter of recording to the card and moving it to the phone.

To record to 3GP using the Neuros Recorder 2 Plus:

  • Connect the power, and AV in/out cables to the R2:
    • This means connect the AV in connector to the output of your TV, DVD player, Cablebox, etc. Connect the AV Out connector to the TV's inputs, to enable viewing on the on-screen menu of the R2.
  • Turn on the R2, move to the record menu and press the enter button on the remote.
  • Hit the menu button on the remote and enter the quality setting screen.
  • Select the 3GP format that's most appropriate for your smartphone (most smartphones should playback the QVGA 3GP resolution with superfine setting).
  • Exit the quality setting screen.
  • Hit the record button and record your video. When it's done, hit the button again to stop.
  • Turn off the unit and remove the memory card.
  • Either: transfer the memory card to your smartphone Or: move the memory card to a card-reader, transfer the file to your PC, then move the file to your smartphone via USB.

At this point, you may be able to access the file straight off, or you may need to complete a few more steps to watch the video.

How to watch the video once it's in 3GP format

Assuming from the previous steps that you now have a .3GP file that you'd like to watch at some point, you're ready to put it on your phone. Now, there are some issues to consider here. In many cases, you will be able to browse the video files directly in your phone's media player, whether it be proprietary or Windows Media Player 10.

In other cases, you'll need to put the files in a specific directory in order for them to be read and playable by the phone. For example, some models such as the Palm Treo 650 have a folder labeled DCIM that is searched for video files. If the .3GP files are not in this folder, they won't appear in the media player's file list. Check the memory card for evidence of such a file system if the videos aren't showing up right away when you look for them on your phone. See if you can find other .3GP files on the card or the phone, and place them in that directory. Check your phone's manual for any special transfer procedures or file structures that must be used.

If all else fails, you can install TCPMP on many smartphones. TCPMP stands for The Core Pocket Media Player, and it's a robust media player for mobile devices. This is a free and highly capable media player, and is recommended even if you can access your .3GP files straight off. It allows compatability with many other formats, is free, and should be able to see files that the proprietary media player might not have. Check this site to download this nice piece of software. You will need to follow your phone's specific instructions for installing third-party software, assuming this is possible and there is a compatible version for your smartphone.

Now, sit back, relax, shift your knees to the side to let that portly gentleman get by, and enjoy that M*A*S*H rerun on the trainride home.

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