TV Shows For My Phone


So I read not too long ago about a guy who decided he wanted to watch some TV shows on his Nokia 3650. I wish I could find that link... What he did was download some episodes of The Simpsons and Friends, converted them to a small MPEG and then transfered the resulting 20MB files to his 128MB MMC card for viewing later. The video wasn't the best quality and Simpsons obviously made the transition better, but they were both viewable and enjoyable. I think this is a pretty cool hack.

Since the moment I read that, I've been wanting to do it myself. I've got a ton of stuff on my 128MB MMC, and yet I still have over 80MB left free right now with absolutely no idea what to do with all that space. If you figure that 20 minutes of TV show equals is what made up that 20MB, then it's 1MB per minute, which is pretty good.

Think about it... For MP3, 80MB of music would suck because you'd get tired really quickly of the same damn music over and over again. Plus the 3650 doesn't have stereo sound and it'd drain the battery like crazy if you listened to your MP3s all day (if, for example, you *really* dug that new album you ripped to your phone).

However video is a completely different story! Firstly, 80 minutes of commercial-free video is great. That's *a lot* - even if you're a couch potato by trade. I probably only watch that amount of TV a day, preferring to spend my time in front of the other CRT in the house (well, actually it's an LCD, but nevermind...). Secondly, the way you *use* video is different than MP3s. You need your full attention, so it would only be really useful in those downtimes like on a bus, metro, doctor's office, etc.

Now, Real Video may want you to think you can do this sort of thing streaming via GPRS, but that's a no go. First, it would cost out the nose (even if you were getting your first 20MB free like yours truly). Secondly, it wouldn't work in places that are out of coverage (like just about everywhere outside a city) or if you had intermittent coverage (like on a train). Thirdly, I haven't gotten Real to stream so much as an NPR broadcast to my phone yet using *any* connection, GPRS or Bluetooth, so I wonder if it's real at all.

However, copying 80MB of video over to an extra MMC and popping it in to view on the way to and from work would rule. There's a company called PocketPix that's going to be doing similar things for the GBA and the idea translates perfectly (if not better) to the Nokia 3650 and future MMC-capable Series 60 phones (i.e. all of them). I wonder if this is in the works? I won't be surprised when I see the announcements. First ringtones, then full-on videos. Hollywood has nothing to fear about the postage-stamp sized videos on MMC cards really. They're not going to compete with DVDs, but will still bring in some serious cash, I think.

I'm trying it right now as I write. I first had some trouble finding video to translate, believe it or not. First, by habit, I went online to look so I launched some P2P apps and found quite a few episodes of the Simpsons and Friends available. But they're all hundreds of megabytes and I never seem to be able to grab a whole episode. But then I realized it's sort of silly even *trying* to use P2P when I have a full-set of Friends DVDs up to the 7th season. I want to space shift episodes on to my phone... I wonder how I do that? Some quick Googling found out that the PocketPC folks have been doing this for a while, and there's a nice FAQ at I began ripping the episode into an MPEG video. It's very slow (2+ hours to rip a 20 minute episode of Friends. Woof).

I went through the process once with a 20MB sample and tried to use the latest version of Quicktime to export the video as .3GP and got a *bunch* of really weird messages about the size of the video, etc. (Mobile video has a 2MB limit?) At the end, the video came out okay, but the sound was gone. I'll have to play with this process a bit to really understand how to get everything off a DVD and onto a phone in the simplest way possible, where the images look okay and the sound works.

The results of this little adventure show how much opportunity there is for mobile video. 1) A company can provide downloadable postage stamp videos to download to your PC over broadband for watching later on your phone. 2) A company can provide a DVD Ripper which produces videos made specifically for your phone, maybe even with longer shows divided in bite-size chunks for viewing over time or 3) A company can provide pre-recorded MMCs ready to be viewed by simply popping it into your phone. Whatever it is, I think the time is arriving for this stuff to become reality really soon.

Love playing with cool new stuff.


Later: Woohoo! It was David Heinemeier Hansson's original post that I had read before. It's very informative, so check it out. He loves his 3650 as much as I do... ;-)

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