Video Sedation

During one of Woot's last “Woot-Offs”, I picked up a couple of Sansa E250 media players for the kids to watch videos on when we need them to be calm and quite (like during visits to Ikea). They each already have a Sansa Shaker loaded with their favorite songs (Tucker seems very fond of his blue “radio”), but video is a much more effective way to keep them “sedated”. In the past, I used my T-Mobile MDA with several hours of their favorite movies loaded on it to keep them occupied – but they both had to share the screen and I didn't like the idea of them fondling my phone and possibly dropping or otherwise injuring it.

For $30 bucks each during the woot-off, I figured I couldn't go wrong, so I ordered two of them. I quickly discovered that the built-in firmware for these players could only handle video encoded using Apple Quicktime DLLs that I have so far managed to keep off my system. Plus, the compression of the supported format was so bad that I could have only put a few minutes of video in the limited 2Gb of memory the devices contain.

Here's were Rockbox saves the day. Before I pressed the shiny “I Want One” button on Woot, I did a little research and discovered this project and found it supports the players I was about to purchase. I went ahead an placed my order for two, then within hours of their arrival, I had the Rockbox firmware installed on them. I played with the software, tweaking the many settings and options the firmware provides.

Finally it was time to put some videos on the devices. It took a while to figure out the optimal encoding options for these devices, but after playing around for a few hours I arrived at the following settings:

Video Encoding Format MPEG2 (RockBox only supports this for now)
Video Resolution 224x176
Video Bitrate 192 kbps
Video Frame Rate 25 fps
Audio Encoding Format MPEG-1 Layer 2
Audio Samping Rate 44100 Hz (other samping rates break mpeg 2 compatibility)
Audio Bitrate 64 kb/s, Monophonic

Although this results in some serious visual artifacts, this is perfectly fine for the kids to watch (they haven't complained yet!). These settings allow me to cram several hours of video onto the players. The only thing I haven't figured out yet is how long the batteries last during video playback – the longest stretch of time the kids have watched the devices is about 90 minutes during a drive back from Grandma's House.

I figured I should share this little tip in case anyone else needs to administer some “video sedation” of their own while out in the world. As always, any tips and suggestions are always appreciated in the comments.


Anonymous said...

Use 224x160 for 16:9 video!

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