video playback on the iAudio F2

February 26th, 2008

I have one of those mp3 players that make an iPod look like a Boeing 747. It's actually the smallest media device I've ever owned. It's fabulous, 20h of music playback and tiny and light as it is (40 grams) I barely even feel it in my pocket. And yet the displays on those things keep getting bigger. My old iRiver iFP-899 has a tiny screen that can display 3 rows of text in monochrome. I've had the Cowon iAudio F2 for a couple of years, and half the surface area is dedicated to the screen. The other half is filled with buttons, which are still rather small. But as it happens the thing actually has a color display that's able to display, well... your holiday pictures in miniature. I got the thing to play music, so I really didn't put much stock in what the display is like. But I have to say a color screen is a step forward, these devices are becoming ever more sophisticated.

So much so that the latest gimmick is movie playback. I know what you're thinking. One of those larger hand held thingys where the whole area is just a display, must be ridiculous to watch video on that tiny thing. But no. My teensy player actually has video playback too if you can believe it. I thought the whole thing was just silly so I never even tried it. But curiosity gets to you eventually, so I thought I'd check it out.

It is pretty amazing that you can get video playback on that tiny thing at all, so obviously scaling the image is a little bit more than you can expect from the playback capability. That means you have to transcode every video you want to put on it. I found handy instructions for this without looking very long. It turns out the video decoder on the player is a little temperamental, so you have to post process the transcoded files, but it's still very easy to do. I threw together a quick script that does it in one step. We're using mencoder to transcode, so whatever it is mplayer is capable of playing (which is *everything*) you can now put it on your player. (Just make sure you have mplayer with mp3lame and xvid encoding capabilities.)

#!/bin/bash

home_path=`dirname "$0"`

input="$1"
temp="tmp.avi"
output=`basename "$input"`
output="iaudio_$output"

[ -f "$temp" ] && rm "$temp"

mencoder -ofps 12 -vf scale=160:128 -ovc xvid -xvidencopts bitrate=384:max_bframes=0:max_key_interval=1 -oac mp3lame -lameopts cbr:br=128 -of avi -o "$temp" "$input" &&
$home_path/i7remux-0.1/i7remux -i "$temp" -o "$output" &&
rm "$temp"

Run this from the location where you desire the output file to be created, and supply the video file you want to transcode as argument. This will create an avi file encoded with xvid and mp3, in 160x128 pixel dimensions. You will also need the i7remux program to perform the mentioned post processing on the video file, so just download the full package:

Execute the classic ./configure && make inside the i7remux-0.1 directory and you're all set.

The resulting video file will be playable on the iAudio F2 as well as the iAudio 7 (and possibly other models if they use the same video format, haven't checked). And now for the big moment. *drumroll* Who says you need a gigantic plastic disc to watch a movie?

Yep, that's Gladiator, all 2 hours and 28 minutes of it. The file size is 543mb, which means I can fit in about 10 of those babies in the 4gb of memory. Notice the ungodly waste of precious pixels because the movie doesn't fit the aspect ratio of the screen.

So how does it play? Surprisingly well, actually. It tends to stutter a bit in the beginning, but if you let it run for a bit or fast forward it goes away. From there on it behaves like a normal video player. You now have a fully equipped cinema for ants.

I haven't checked the battery life for movie playback, but I imagine it's probably quite disastrous.

Ps. If you're wondering how to get the DVD movie into a file to begin with, you may find undvd useful.

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3 Responses to "video playback on the iAudio F2"

  1. Dirk Gently says:

    lol thats hillarious. I could see that one could use it on a long long trip - forget looking at wildlife!

  2. Paul Matusiak says:

    Nah, I prefer to watch stuff on a bigger screen But impressive nonetheless..

  3. momonster.de says:

    [...] man den I7 (und andere Player von Cowon) unter Linux mit Videos befüllen möchte, sollte man sich diesen Artikel [...]