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Rant! What Ever Happened To Video On My BlackBerry?

Angry_babyI have always held close the dream that one day I would be able to replace all my portable gadgets with my BlackBerry. While this has not yet come to pass I have started using my Curve as an MP3 player. I just cannot use the video player because it is very clunky. It is missing essential basic functions that are just unforgivable oversights.  I really wish RIM would treat the consumer media player as more than just an add on application to generate buzz.

These are the reasons I am forced to carry around another device for video:

  • Remembering your last position – One of the key features of any video player is to remember where you were in the video so that you can easily return to it. This feature did not exist until OS 4.2.2 on the Curve. Even now if you open an MP3 file it will forget your position and you will have to try and find it once again. You will also lose your position in a video (such as a movie) if you restart the phone or accidentally close the media player.
  • Fast Forward & Rewind – This is an oversight that I just cannot explain. With OS 4.2.2 you can skip forward by minutes. This means if you lose your place in a video you have to skip to the minute before and watch it over again. This is not that big of a deal but it would take RIM seconds to change!
  • Full Screen Delay – RIM finally implemented full screen video in the latest versions of their OS but it is nowhere as seamless as I would want it to be. First of all there is no way to set how long the menu will show before it will disappear. Say you just wanted to check the time. Thats another 5 seconds of status bar. Could they not make it overlay on the video with transparency?
  • Volume – This is a problem across all of the Media Player. Why are there only 7 different volume options. I am stuck between a setting that is too quiet and one that is eardrum busting. This is not a limitation of the hardware because 3rd party applications have managed to overcome it!
  • Video Conversion – This is a problem with most portable video players. I got spoiled with my Creative Vision which plays 90% of the videos I download. I wish they would at least make iPod h.264 videos work on the BlackBerry. Then I could at least copy movies from my friends with iPod’s

There has been some progress in the last few months. The review Greg did of Videos4BlackBerry just goes to show that there is an audience for videos on your BlackBerry.

I also happen to know that is working on a video site dedicated to BlackBerry devices that will allow users to upload and download videos in the right format and screen size either OTA or from their Desktop. I think there ETA is middle to late Q1 2008.

Last of all I am hopeful that the future of video on BlackBerry will look better. I use a great Video Converter called SUPER Simplified Universal Player Encoder & Renderer which is completely FREE! It is utilities like these that give me some hope that watching video on a BlackBerry will actually be pleasant experience in the future.

7 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. My big rant is the last one you mentioned. No h.264 videos for the Blackberry? Why? Smarter compression and smaller file size. This I hope is a route they’re taking. Granted I can use the media manager to convert itunes videos to work properly on the Blackberry but that means I have to copy them from my Mac to my microSD card, then copy them to my work windows computer, then convert them as it’s copied BACK to my Blackberry.

    I would say there is room for shaving a few extra steps for me, and I’m sure others in there as well.

  2. I would have to agree with you. I just do not understand what RIM was thinking. Did we really need another video format. They really could have just piggybacked on Apples video success and done 10 times better. Instead they offer video support in a format that nobody else offers video in. Essentially they have made the video features useless to anybody who does not understand how to re-encode…

  3. Hum, I don’t have that problem with the player not remembering the last position. I think that happens if I reboot the phone, but not if I close the player. No, that does not happen to me. Are you sure of that?
    My big issue with the player is that I can’t rewind just a few seconds. It’s usually around TWO MINUTES. A big nuisance when I’m listening to a podcast and want to go back for something I didn’t quite understand the first time round.
    Converting videos is not a lot of fun, but I concede that watching videos in that small screen (I have the Curve) is not great either, so I never really watch videos on my Berry. But I use Linux and have found a way to convert the videos very well and conveniently. I think it works on Macs too. Here it is: open a command line and run this:
    mencoder -vf scale=320:240 “INPUT_FILE.avi” -o “OUTPUT_FILE.avi” -of avi -ovc lavc -oac lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vbitrate=230:acodec=mp3:abitrate=64;
    It is one long single line. Don’t break it. Replace scale=320:240 with scale=400:240 if it is a widescreen video. It will look better.
    If you want to convert several videos, write this script to a file named “”:
    DIR=$(echo “$i” | sed -r ‘s/\/[^/]+$//’);
    cd “$DIR”
    for i in “$1”; do
    echo “$i”
    OF=$(echo “$i” | sed ‘s/^/bb_/’);
    mencoder -vf scale=320:240 “$i” -o “$OF” \
    -of avi -ovc lavc -oac lavc -lavcopts \
    Then make it executable:
    $ chmod +x
    Then run it like this:
    $ /full/path/to/ /pathto/directory/with/videos/*.avi
    That will convert all videos in the AVI format. You can use other extensions, of course. HTH.

  4. Thats awesome Luc. I will have to try that out in Ubuntu

  5. Forgot to ask. How fast are the conversions?

  6. Ah, well. Not fast. Each conversion takes almost as long as the video’s run time.

    I forgot to say: neither Linux nor the Mac is sure to have mencoder installed. You may have to install it by yourself. Google tells me that there is menconder for the Mac. I think it comes with mplayer or ffmpeg. Check Google.

  7. Thanks for the tip, Luc!

    In your example, replacing

    -vf scale=320:240


    -vf scale=320:-2

    allows mencoder to preserve the original aspect ratio (automatically converting a widescreen video to a 320×180, a standard screen video to 320×240, etc.).

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