Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kindle Fire Video Encoding

Well Santa brought me a Kindle Fire as I was a mostly a good little boy this past year. The cheap bastard in me is reluctant to buy content from Amazon so I've been experimenting with encoding DVDs to work with the Kindle.

To create a useable video file from a DVD you first need to rip a copy of the DVD to your computer. I use the last version of DVD Decrypter which will break the DVD encryption and copy all the files from the DVD to your hard drive in a folder named "VIDEO_TS" which is a subfolder of a folder with the title of the DVD.

Once you have ripped a copy of the DVD to your computer then you need to encode the video to create a file that can be played by the Kindle. According to Amazon's specs, the Kindle can only read the following formats:

H.263 (.3gp, .mp4), H264 AVC (.3gp, .mp4), MPEG 4 SP/ASP (.3gp), and VP8 (.webm).

If you are like me you have no idea what all the standards and acronyms mean. It seems, especially with video standards, that I can never keep on top of all the jargon. In this case, it seems easiest to produce .mp4 files (these are also used on Apple devices) and preferably the H262 AVC standard as the encoded video uses a higher rate of compression.

I have had the best luck encoding video using Handbrake. The program is simple to use and I haven't had problems with video and audio sync which has been the case with other programs. Handbrake seems to have endless options, but the beauty of the program is that there are a number of presets in the right pane which you can take advantage of. Once you have downloaded and installed the program, you first need to select the folder (here the "VIDEO_TS" folder that contains the ripped files from the DVD) as well as a default path for the completed file ("Tools" menu, "Options," "General" tab, "Output Files" and "Default Path"). What has worked for me is to use the preset "Regular Normal," available in the right pane, with a couple of modifications to create the encoded video file. The first time I encoded a DVD the result was stretched vertically, so I have had better success selecting "None" in the anamorphic drop-down box and checking the "Keep Aspect Ratio" box on the "Picture" tab. This will create files of different resolutions and aspect ratios, but will preserve the original size and aspect ratio of the DVD. Bear in mind that the Kindle's screen resolution is 1024X600 (or 1024x580 if you subtract the "softbar" at the bottom of the screen). The end result is that you will have black bars of different heights on the top and bottom of the screen in landscape when you play the video file. The files that I have encoded so far have been automatically resized when played on the Kindle to the full 1024 width, despite the fact that the DVD video standard is 720 pixels. Once you have selected these options, you can hit the start button at the top to begin encoding. You should set this up on your fastest computer to speed up encoding time. One final wrinkle is that Handbrake produces files with an .m4v extension which you can just rename to .mp4 (ignore Window's warnings). These extensions are equivalent. The Kindle spec sheet says doesn't include .m4v but it can read them just the same. You might have some luck reducing the file size in the "Video" tab, "Quality" settings on the main tab as the resulting files can be quite large (600-1,200 mb). The small storage size of the Kindle will only allow you to keep a couple movies at a time on the device.

Finally, you need to transfer the encoded video file to your Kindle. You need a micro-USB cord in order to connect the Kindle to your computer. I picked up one at my neighborhood Office Depot the day after Christmas (my annual post-Christmas cord quest). Connect the Kindle to your computer and unlock the Kindle which will then show up as a drive on your computer. Dismiss the install hardware dialog boxes if you are using Windows--no additional software is needed to transfer files. Videos should be copied to the "Video" folder (books to "Books," if you are transferring .pdf, .txt or .doc files, etc.). Videos that are not downloaded from Amazon are only currently accessible on the Kindle through the gallery app in the carousel--they cannot be played from the Video tab on the main screen.

The first DVD I encoded and transferred to my Kindle was "First Blood" as I need to watch Sylvester Stallone's roid-rage "Rambo" stab David Caruso's "Mitch" over and over and over again.

Leave a comment or send me an email if you have any questions or suggestions. I am no expert in these sorts of things, but I figure I'm not the only one trying to do this.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fender Jaguar Pickups

If you are installing new pickups in a Fender Jaguar you should always check the resistance of each pickup with a multimeter to make sure that the pickup with the higher resistance goes in the bridge position and the pickup with the lower resistance goes in the neck position. A couple years ago I bought Fender American vintage reissue pickups for my CIJ Jaguar but installed them in the wrong position. I was never able to get good balance between the pickups. It ocurred to me that I should check the resistance for each pickup. I desoldered each pickup and measured 6.38K ohms for the pickup I had installed in the bridge position and 6.58k ohms for the neck pickup. The rule of thumb is that higher resistance values produce more volume. The idea is to locate the higher output pickup in the bridge position where the amplitude of the string vibrations is smaller, thus balancing the pickup output. I couldn't find any values for vintage Jaguar pickups on the intertubz, but Lollar Jaguar pickups are listed as 5.8k ohms for the neck and 6.3k ohms for the bridge and Seymour Duncan vintage Jaguar pickups are listed as 6.5k ohms for the neck and 6.8k ohms for the bridge. My preference is to have the two short extensions on the claw under the low E and A strings, which is consistent with the orientation the claws on vintage Jaguars. CIJ and MIJ Jaguars often had the claws reversed. You should also adjust the pickup height such that the bridge pickup is a bit closer to the strings than the neck pickup, but most of this is according to taste.