Sunday, January 13, 2008

converting Canon camera videos and DVDs for use with the Linksys DMA 2100

Update: I suggest looking at my follow-up post for a far more efficient way to do this.

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I have been trying to resolve a critical problem with the new Linksys DMA 2100 media center extender -- namely, that it does not play videos of my 7-month-old son that I take with my Canon camera. These videos are AVIs in "Motion JPEG" format, with PCM audio.

First, I used something called Aimersoft Video Converter, which is sort of a shitty package but has typically worked OK when converting downloaded stuff to iPod MP4 format. When I converted my camera videos to Xvid, they had audio that was just periodic clicks. I tried different audio settings in Aimersoft with Xvid but no luck. I tried converting them to WMV, but then they didn't play at all -- the extender threw a codec error.

I thus googled "convert Divx to Xvid media center extender" or something like that and found AutoGK, which actually had an option entitled "Standalone" for standalone players, with a sub-choice for "MTK/Sigma". I remembered reading chrisl's post on TGB which noted that the DMA has a Sigma chip while researching the DMA before buying it, so that seemed like the move for me. I thus got it and converted a video, and to my delight, it worked just fine. I then converted a bunch of others and unfortunately, none worked -- the audio kept clipping and echoing and was generally unlistenable. I remembered that I used CBR 128Kbit audio for the first conversion, and "automatic" for the rest. Thus, here is a working method of conversion of home videos for the DMA 2100 (short attention spans should focus on the items in bold):

  • Download and install AutoGK
  • You'll have to play with "Predefined size" in the output size settings but my videos are like 15MB to maybe 350MB so I chose "1/4 CD (175MB)" for those that are below that number.
    • Note: Unfortunately, about a third of the videos seemed to end up with the audio cutting out and the picture becoming choppy partway through. The common thread was that the converted video ended up larger than the original.
    • So if you only have small batches of similar sizes, I suggest setting the output size to be a custom size equal to its current size. For me, that always meant a slightly smaller size, and a video that played without any problems.
  • I clicked Advanced Settings and chose "CBR MP3, 128 kbps" since Auto gave me the screwed-up audio described above. For video, I used what I think are the defaults, "Auto width" and XviD
  • I pressed Ctrl-F9 and there was the key setting in the bottom right: "Enable standalone support" and the "MTK/Sigma" chipset.


As I create similarly-sized versions of original videos, I have to think about how much of an "electronic packrat" I am going to be. If I have DivX conversions of my originals that are approximately the same size, do I need to keep the Motion JPEG originals? I keep iPod copies because all of them so far are like 700MB. But another 5.5GB of movie files, when my kid's only 7 months old, indicates that I'll have like a terabyte of kid videos including the multiple copies by the time he's 3. That's not including the nightly backup copy I make to my VMware ESX server. Eh, if I run out of disk space, I'll buy some more. Hopefully upon reading this my wife will agree :D

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As an aside, it would seem that the primary function of AutoGK is for the conversion of DVDs into AVI format. Since the DMA 2100 doesn't play DVDs itself nor stream them from the Media Center, this also had a slight impact in that we can't play the two Baby Einstein DVDs that we occasionally bust out every other week (we are that sort of enlightened Upper West Side parent that strives to avoid parking our son in front of the TV). I ripped them to DVR-MS using CloneDVD and they played fine on the physical media center, but upon testing it yesterday morning I noticed a slight electronic hiss/rasp in the background. I thus followed these instructions and re-converted it just now. (Took just under an hour for two passes against 1/2hr of video. Hmm.) The result was a 400MB AVI (as opposed to a 1.12GB DVR-MS). On the PC, this file played just fine, with fine audio and video. On the DMA 2100, it also played just fine, albeit with a 5- to 10-second lag before it started playing (same as most other XviD content I've tried on the DMA) and also with parts cut off in "Zoom 2" mode. Ah well, for this, I doubt a 7-month-old baby is going to care. I converted the other Baby Einstein DVD and put them on the shelf, where they will remain forever.

--sbreck

P.S. I am slowly assembling posts on the DMA 2100 from random problems, annoyances, bugs and fixes that I see. I'll keep posting them when a fully formed post on one or more issues appears, and will update this ending as I see them:

DMA 2100 initial impressions

converting Canon camera videos and DVDs for use with the DMA 2100

Canon video conversion revisited

OTA HDTV and the DMA 2100

following up with Linksys DMA 2100 problems

…or just click the DMA 2100 label over on the right.

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Comments:
Wow, you're my savior, it appears, Mr. jbreck!! For the last two days (what feels like straight through), I have been searching all over the internet for a solution to this very topic! I, too, have a Canon digital camera (SD 1000), with which I have taken dozens of MJPG-encoded AVI's of my two-year old son. And I, too, have a DMA2100 (that I just set up those two days ago) and have been tearing my hair out trying to figure out why those AVI's won't play, much less even show, in Vista Media Center. I can't believe I found as precise a solution for my problem as this!! I haven't tried it yet, mind you, but I thought I would say "hello" anyway, and say thanks for at least addressing the issue. I also love the script you wrote in the follow-up post, but I doubt I will use it as I'm not quite as obsessive about backups as you appear to be (which isn't to say that I have copies of these AVI's on 3 or 4 different devices!!). Nevertheless, great innovation and stick-to-it-tiveness on your part!

One last thing, while were on this topic: I have a bunch of "obtained" (ahem) AVI movies on my hard drive that also won't get any recognition from the DMA2100. I checked the AVI files with some 4C-changer tool, and it shows that they use the Xvid codec, as well as some DX50 codec I've never heard of. Any ideas as to how I might get those to show up on the DMA2100? Feel free to email me at coby@cxdi.com. Thanks again!
 
thanks for the feedback. I think Windows Media Encoder (without my admittedly obsessive script) is actually easier to use for multiples than AutoGK but I'm glad some part of my information works for you.

regarding your second question, my observations from, uh, similar sources are as follows:
- anything with an XviD codec and MP3 audio should work.
- if there is AC3 audio you may find slowed-down sound with periodic stuttering (I believe this is related to using the digital coax output); use AutoGK to fix this by reencoding to 128Kbit MP3 sound
- x264 does not work at all (supposedly the Sigma Designs 8622 chip which is the core processor of the DMA2100) does support this, but not with this firmware
- DivX should work if you switch the 4CC code to XviD. I use this but there are fancier ones to do batch conversions. some types of divx (I'm thinking DIV3 "Low Motion") may require conversion via AutoGK.
- if you have AVIs that don't work, download GSpot and check the AVI to check its video and audio codec. XviD and MP3 should always work, and DivX often works when switched to XviD.
 
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