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Clié movies - Image Converter vs. PEGA-VR100K

Author: sjb (Steve Brown) - ottaky@ottaky.com
Date: 10th January 2004
See also: Sony's website

The purpose of this page is to provide some examples of movie files for use on a Sony Clié. You may also want to compare the results of ripping directly from a DVD on a PC to those using Sony's PEGA-VR100K Memorystick recorder.

VR100K  

Important!
I live in the UK where PAL is the standard video system, but I bought my Clié (UX50) and VR100K in Japan where the standard video format is NTSC. Therefore, there are some fiddles involved in recording the movies below. These comparisons should be taken with a pinch of salt and may not be entirely representative of the results you'll get if you live in the US where NTSC is standard. PAL contains more scan lines per frame than NTSC (625 lines vs. 525 lines), but NTSC has more frames per second than PAL (30FPS vs. 25FPS). Also, the way the colour is encoded in PAL and NTSC signals is slightly different, but the VR100K doesn't seem to notice and happily copes with both. You can record PAL video using an NTSC VR100K without any modifications, but the result is not quite 100% - details below.

OK, so let me explain how these files were made.

Files MOV00001 - MOV00008 were created by ripping a DVD on a PC. Firstly, the DVD was ripped to an SVCD format MPEG using DVDx (version 2.0), then the resulting file was converted using Sony's Image Converter (version 1.1) from the installation disc that came with my UX50. The DVD itself was a region 2, PAL disc. I ripped two different files:

  • fox25.mpg was recorded at 25FPS which matches the original, PAL, frame rate.
  • fox30.mpg was recorded at 30FPS which meant DVDx had to interpolate some frames from the 25FPS source.

The two source files can be downloaded from the links below.

Files MOV00009 - MOV00016 were recorded using the VR100K - I used the same region 2, PAL disc. My DVD player (Samsung DVD-709) has been "hacked" to remove region restrictions and macrovision, but the output is fixed as PAL (or PAL60). Now, the VR100K I have is, technically, NTSC but it will record the PAL signal from my DVD player with a couple of provisos:

  • Because a PAL signal contains more scan lines per frame than an NTSC source, the VR100K loses some scan lines from the bottom of the picture and the aspect ratio is stretched slightly vertically. If you are recording a "letterbox" widescreen movie, all you'll lose are some black lines from the bottom - if you're recording a conventional 4:3 aspect ratio video, you'll lose some lines from the bottom of the picture.
  • The recorded video is not completely smooth because of the mismatch in frame rates.

MOV00009 - MOV00012 were recorded directly from the DVD player, a PAL source. As you can see, the VR100K does a reasonable job of recording the movies, but playback is noticeably less smooth than ripping from a DVD. Personally, I think the results are watchable, but others may think differently - I've included these files for the benefit of anybody living in a PAL country who might be thinking of buying an NTSC VR100K from Japan or the US.

Using an NTSC VR100K to record PAL signals does work (colour is fine as you can see) and the result is watchable but, being a geek, I have a video standards converter which I use to convert my PAL sources to NTSC for the recorder. So, MOV00013 - MOV00016 were created using the PAL DVD-709 where the video signal is massaged into NTSC format before being passed in to the recorder.

For those that are interested, the signal converter I have is the CDM660. Beware of cheaper, less functional devices as you may not be able to record their output. The CDM660 handles PAL and PAL60 which is important to me because my Samsung DVD player produces "quasi-PAL" output once it's been hacked which is actually PAL60. One UK supplier of the CDM660 can be found here. You can buy these units more cheaply from the US, but by the time you've added the shipping costs and factored in the 2 week delivery time, and the risk of getting stung by UK customs, you might as well just go with the UK supplier, IMHO.

The filesizes for MOV00009 - MOV00016 may not be entirely accurate as I was pressing the record button on the VR100K manually and, consequently, the movie lengths might not be 100% consistent.

I hope that's clear ;-) I told you there were some fiddles!

Anyway, here are the files .. please right-click and Save As ..

Alias Video Audio Filesize
(bytes)
Download
  Resolution Bitrate FPS  Format Bitrate  
 
DVDx -> Image Converter
 
  4594548  fox25.mpg
(PAL -> PAL)
HQ+  320x240  768kbps  30 Stereo?  128kbps  2911496  MOV00001.MQV
HQ  320x240  384kbps 15 Stereo?  128kbps  1673183  MOV00002.MQV
SP  320x240  216kbps  15 Stereo?  64kbps  929608  MOV00003.MQV
LP  160x112  96kbps  15 Mono?  32kbps  421384  MOV00004.MQV
 
  4603844 fox30.mpg
(PAL -> NTSC)
HQ+  320x240  768kbps  30 Stereo?  128kbps  2912069  MOV00005.MQV
HQ  320x240  384kbps  15 Stereo?  128kbps  1667632  MOV00006.MQV
SP  320x240  216kbps  15 Stereo?  64kbps  928285  MOV00007.MQV
LP  160x112  96kbps  15 Mono?  32kbps  421625  MOV00008.MQV
 
PEGA-VR100K (PAL source)
 
HQ  320x240  384kbps  15 Stereo  128kbps  1530955  MOV00009.MQV
SP  320x240  216kbps  15 Stereo  64kbps  865483  MOV00010.MQV
LP1  160x112  96kbps  15 Mono  32kbps  394366  MOV00011.MQV
LP2  176x144  64kbps  15 Mono  64kbps  405819  MOV00012.MQV
 
PEGA-VR100K (PAL -> CDM660 NTSC source)
 
HQ  320x240  384kbps  15 Stereo  128kbps  1555121  MOV00013.MQV
SP  320x240  216kbps  15 Stereo  64kbps  870350  MOV00014.MQV
LP1  160x112  96kbps  15 Mono  32kbps  395688  MOV00015.MQV
LP2  176x144  64kbps  15 Mono  64kbps  406724  MOV00016.MQV
 
PEGA-VR100K (SkyDigital PAL -> CDM660 NTSC source)
 
HQ  320x240  384kbps  15 Stereo  128kbps  8258986  MOV00017.MQV

That's great, but what does it tell us? Well, the VR100K's HQ, SP and LP1 formats map directly to Image Converter's HQ, SP and LP modes. The VR100K cannot reproduce Image Converter's HQ+ (30FPS) mode, but it does offer one other long play mode, similar to Image Converter's LP mode, but sacrificing video quality to provide better audio quality. To be honest, LP2 is just about on the border of acceptability for video and it's probably better suited to recording movies where not much moves (cartoons).

Additionally, these results suggest that the VR100K produces files which are marginally smaller than those created with Image Converter.

If you want to compare DVD rips with VR100K recordings, try watching MOV00001 (DVD rip, 30FPS), followed by MOV00002 (DVD rip, 15FPS) and then MOV00013 (VR100K). Obviously, MOV00001 is the best of the bunch but, at 30FPS, it takes up twice as much memory as MOV00002 or MOV00013. This may not be a problem for you if you're made of money and have a pocket full of 4GB Memorysticks, but it does mean that you'll need around 256MB of RAM for every 30 minutes of video - think in terms of 1GB for an average length movie. The VR100K can store around an hour of HQ recording onto a 256MB stick, or 100 odd minutes of either LP1 or LP2. Personally, I have a couple of 256MB sticks, so I can record an hour of HQ video onto either of them which suits me fine. If I want to record an entire movie in HQ, I split the film across the sticks, or just record the whole thing is SP format on one stick.

Pros and Cons

Is the VR100K better than ripping on a PC?

  • Ripping on a PC takes a long time - using a 1.8GHz PC it takes me around 3 hours to record a 1 hour video. That's 2 hours for DVDx to rip the file to an MPEG, and another hour for Image Converter to work its magic. The VR100K works in real time.
  • PC ripping produces large files - not a huge problem, but if disc space is tight, you might not have a gig or so of free space for the intermediate MPEG and the MQV file. The VR100K obviously doesn't have this problem.
  • Using DVDx you can crop a widescreen movie - the VR100K cannot do this and records 14:9 or 16:9 aspect movies complete with the big black bands at the top and bottom of the movie. This is quite wasteful, from a storage point of view.
  • The VR100K can record from any suitable (ie. no macrovision) video source. I've transferred movies from camcorders and I often record directly from my Sky Digital satellite receiver. You'd need a video card and a lot of free disc space to do this on a PC.
  • The VR100K costs money. I paid around 150GBP for mine from Yodobashi Camera in Yokohama. Ripping on your PC is free.
  • The VR100K is also a programmable video recorder, providing you're using it in the country it was originally manufactured for.