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Old 08-20-2009, 12:49 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default [HowTo] Encode videos with Maximum quality

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Hi folks, this is a short guide on how to get the best quality videos for your BlackBerry mobile phone.
We all love videos on our devices, but how do we get the best out of our source videos? One thing to understand is Resolutions and Aspect Ratios.

Most TV screens and Computer screens nowadays are widescreen ready, meaning they have typical aspect ratios of 16:9 or 16:10. Older screens are typically 4:3 formats. Which prompts most released videos to be in widescreen format as well.

So what's the problem? Well, most of our BlackBerrys are in the standard 4:3 ratio. Meaning, if one was to convert videos to our BlackBerry, chances are we'd end up stretching it or distorting it. That's not what we want, and this article is to make sure we use up every single pixel of your BlackBerry screen.

First, find out what your BlackBerry's screen resolution is. This is typically:
320 x 240 with pre-4.6 OS models
480 x 360 with 4.6 OS and up.

Where the first number is the width, and second is the height. We're not interested in the height bit of things, what we want is the width mainly, because that's how to maximize to optimum. Most video files you download, or rip out will most likely be in an irregular aspect ratio, and not the perfect 16:9 that you wish. We can fix that when it goes onto your BlackBerry. I will be using the Curve 8900 as a reference from now on. The 8900 has a 480 x 360; 4:3 screen resolution. So what happens if we use conventional encoders to convert a movie? Most programs will simply stretch the video to the whole 480 x 360. That will not reflect the original source video's widescreen aspect. It will a pity to watch it in a forced 4:3 setting.

The solution is easy, and very straightforward. All you have to do is resize your video to its original aspect ratio, BUT with a width of 480 at ALL times. The trick is just to find the height equivalent. Find your source video's resolution, this can be done by opening it in a player, and going into its properties, like so:

1280 x 544 is irregular, and is obviously not the BlackBerry's 4:3 ratio. So we'll make it fit, but still retain the original video's ratio format. If you're good at math, find what 544 is in correspondence to the 480 width. Divide 1280 by 480, to get the factor, then divide 544 by the same factor. 204 it becomes.

Your new resolution will be 480 x 204 when you set it to encode in your converter program.

To ensure the quality is as close to the source file, try to mix and match the bitrate, but don't go more than the source's. It doesn't matter how high you set it, if the source file has rubbish quality, don't miraculously think that your output file will jump in powers of quality. Like the saying, Garbage in = Garbage out.

If you're matching the bitrates of most source and output videos, don't be deceived that your output video will be much smaller than the source. This is a misconception most people like to believe. File size is a product of Bitrate and Duration, and is not entirely dependent on the resolution of your new video. Keep that in mind. So if you're matching everything but only changing the resolution, your file size will be exact, or near close to it. The only way to reduce file size is by reducing the bitrate. For each video, there is a "sweet-spot" of bitrate and file size. This is where beyond this point, increasing bitrates give diminishing returns on quality. This spot is for you to decide and find out. However if you're simply resizing videos that you've already acquired, chances are the author's already found that sweet spot for you. So leaving the bitrate as it is will be fine. A good program to find out your bitrate is GSpot. See the resemblance there? The common bitrate for a typical 480 x 360 video is near 500kb/s. But it always varies from video to video.

I use a free encoding program by Panzera. They offer great adjustable quality encoding programs, which are great to our BlackBerry encoding. You can reach their site here. It's the Video to 3GP converter. And it's FREE!
Free Video to 3GP Converter 1.2 - Convert video files to mobile phone videos (3GP, 3G2), AVI to 3GP, FLV to 3GP - Jacek Pazera

1. Your Bitrate
2. Your Resolution
3. 2-pass encoder for higher quality.

Here is a video I've encoded as an example.

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