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Tuesday, September 19, 2006


iPodDrop 1.5 released

UPDATE: There was a typo in the URL before. The file downloaded fine, but didn't have a ".zip" extension. I've updated the URL.

Bet you didn't see that coming, eh? Another release of iPodDrop, and a BIG one at that!

There are three main changes/themes to this release, which I'll talk a bit about.

First, iPodDrop has been updated for iTunes 7 and the new iPod firmware that was released with it. This means that (at least if you use TV mode), you need iTunes 7 and the latest iPod firmware (currently 1.2 for the 5th gen iPod) to use this new version of iPodDrop. If you don't use TV mode, you should be fine with iTunes 6 and the old firmware.

Why the change? Because of Apple's new movie store! When Apple launched their new movie store, they decided that ALL videos sold through iTunes would change from 320x240 up to 640x480. Little problem though, the highest 4:3 resolution the iPod could decode was about 554x414. So how did Apple fix it? They released a new version of iTunes and the iPod firmware that supports higher resolution video decoding! As such, iPodDrop now targets a total resolution of up to 307200 pixels, instead of the old max of 230400 pixels! This means that most content downloaded off the internet should transcode without rescaling, and original DVDs should require significantly less scaling than before. So, higher quality TV output with iPodDrop! Hurray!

The second major change is a new version of ffmpeg as the core of iPodDrop. The version of ffmpeg used was something like a year and a half old, and a lot of fixes have gone into ffmpeg in the intervening time. As such, the new version of iPodDrop should be able to convert an even larger variety of videos, and will hopefully be significantly more stable. But with this comes another change... 160kbit audio is working once again! It turns out that the problem was that iPodDrop was outputting "main" profile AAC audio. The iPod has no trouble decoding it, and iTunes used to accept it just fine, but since it isn't officially supported, Apple updated iTunes to prevent you from using it. Well, the newer version of ffmpeg now supports the "low complexity" AAC that iTunes needs. So, higher quality audio output with iPodDrop! Hurray!

The third major change is a slew of DVD-related changes. iPodDrop can't do much automated detection of the various types of DVDs (although it can properly handle non-anamorphic non-interlaced DVDs without intervention). There's not terribly much that can be done about this without getting a lot more involved with the input files than iPodDrop is now. However, you should at least be ABLE to properly convert DVDs with iPodDrop, so I've made a bunch of additions. First, you can tell iPodDrop that the input file is an anamorphic DVD, so that it will get the aspect ratio correct. Second of all, you can tell iPodDrop to de-interlace the input video, if you have an interlaced DVD. Third, iPodDrop should be able to detect standard PAL DVDs on it's own as it can NTSC DVDs. And lastly, there's a new "sample" mode that will encode a 60 second sample instead of the full video, so that you can make sure you've got everything working right. So, iPodDrop can now convert most unencrypted DVDs properly! Hurray!

As you can see, a lot of major changes in this release. There are also some other more minor improvements, as you can see in the changelog, such as support for 4 thread SMP (if you have four virtual or real processors/cores). All in all, a real big improvement. However, due to the number of changes, and the scope of some of the changes (such as the ffmpeg upgrade, which involved changing the interface to ffmpeg to be able to talk to the new version), there is a bigger potential for bugs to sneak in. So, if you have any problems with the new version, or anything doesn't work that worked before, please get in touch with me and let me know, so I can fix it (note that the -ab160 option has been removed since iPodDrop now defaults to 160kbit).

You can download iPodDrop v1.5 here: iPodDrop v1.5 (2.7MB)

Finally, the changelog:

- Upgraded version of ffmpeg. This should allow iPodDrop to read more formats, and fixes the 80kbit audio problem. This might break some things, please report bugs if you find something that worked before no longer works.
- Changed audio bitrate back to 160 since the newer version of ffmpeg fixed the issue
- Removed the -ab160 option as it is no longer required
- Added support for anamorphic DVDs via -anamorphicdvd option. It forces a 16:9 aspect ratio, which anamorphic DVDs need to be played back at. I don't have any anamorphic DVDs to test with, so I can't automate this, it needs to be specified manually.
- Added -smp4 option that uses 4 threads (-smp uses 2). This is useful if you have a four real or virtual cores/processors.
- Increased max TV resolution from 230400 pixels to 307200 pixels. You'll need iTunes 7 and the latest iPod firmware. For example, this means that iPodDrop can now output at 640x480 and other resolutions that multiply to 307200 pixels.
- Added -sample option to only encode 60 seconds of video, so you can see if the video is encoding properly without encoding the whole thing.
- Added -deinterlace option to de-interlace the input video. Probably mostly useful for DVDs.
- Added autodetection of PAL DVDs (720x576), previously iPodDrop would only autodetect NTSC (720x480).
- Added a warning if ffmpeg couldn't write an output file (this change is missing from the readme changelog)

And to satisfy the GPL requirements of ffmpeg, you can get the source of the build of ffmpeg used here: http://celticdruid.no-ip.com/source/

The source of iPodDrop is, as usual, included in the package. Creative Commons license, as specified in the source, etc.

Oh, and as a note, really high resolution non-4:3 files don't look right on the iPod screen unless it's outputting to a TV. When I transcoded a DVD for testing, the iPod screen only showed the center of the film zoomed in with the rest cut off. However, it displayed normally when the iPod displayed to a TV. The iPod displays 640x480 content on the screen just fine, however.

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