Friday, 16 December 2011

The DivX Player Shootout

People like the MPEG group of geniuses have devised a lot of useful data compression and transmission formats for us consumers, but as a side effect today we have to suffer the mild wrath of confusing formats. The whole blame, if there has to be one, should squarely rest on the shoulders of digital data compression, and its various avatars. To watch a video, we used to have only a black VHS tape, tracking lines galore. But now we have a DVD, a VCD, a DivX file, an MKV file, an FLV file and what have you.
Even the hardware has evolved like the female youth today - thinner and more fragile. Why? Because it's the in thing to do. I remember my old VHS player, it was one size XXL wielding monster. Today players are shaped as pebbles, literally. This is understandable and no one is complaining, as the electronics are reduced to slim DAC circuits and thin trays to hold our discs. I'm talking about budget player models, the ones that come below Rs. 5000. It is these players we are looking at today: the market's leading DVD/DivX players.� Our players these days come with USB ports to allow us insertion of a drive, facilitating� us to play DivX files, JPEG images, MP3s, and a wee bit more. Our Indian market is teeming with these players, as the demand is clearly there. Only a very few niche, snooty videophiles are riding the full HD/Blu-ray bandwagon, most consumers today are happy with SD footage upscaled into 1080p by their ubercool players.
We have players from Samsung, LG, Philips, Sony, Moser Baer and Mitashi all capable of playing DivX. Firstly the external physical aspects are looked at, stuff like good looks, footprint, weight etc. Then moving on to more important things: the connectivity offered. Some players have unique features, some don't. Thus anyone offering Karaoke or CD ripping is given a “shabaash”. The User interface is browsed through, to see what options are available, how easily they are accessible� etc. Then, moving on we have our video test Disc, the DVE test Disc. This has a range of patterns and test videos to check luminance dynamic range (brightness and contrast with only grey), then color accuracy and more importantly how the player handles interlaced motion video, fast scene changes and more.

For the Techie readers, the DivX file created was of I am Legend, ripped off our DVD using Gordian Knot; DivX 5 was used. The file was of a bitrate of 4800 kbps, with B frames. Resolution was 720x480 29.97fps NTSC. The audio was 5.1 channel AC3. I want to see how the payers decode surround sound (the ones that can). One copy was burnt on a DVD+R, and another on an 8 GB Transcend pen drive. NO extra setting in encoding were used. No QPEL, No Adaptive Quant, No GMC. I just wanted a simple yet heavy DivX file.

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