Computers, Languages, Programming, Technology

Rapid progress with language learning

Thought I’d offer a quick status update regarding the language learning app. After a short break I’m back at it. Appart from enough Finnish content to generate ten 15-minute lessons the biggest progress is outputting MP3 files. My original plan was just to output M3U playlists but it seems iTunes and therefore iPods don’t support M3U files (as far as I can tell iTunes can only create playlists of files in it’s library – who wants hundres of files in their library consisting of a few words each?).

The sample MP3s should be available “soon”…

Computers, Entertainment, PHP, Programming, Technology

Transcoding DVDs

Following my post about ripping DVDs, here is a method for transcoding the DVDs into something more manageable. I should point out that is probably for the more technical amongst you – there are certainly easier ways to do it but this has the advantage of being very automatable.

Since MythTV (and Linux in general) seems to like ffmpeg for video encoding/decoding, I figured I’d use that. You can get a binary version for Windows and read the documentation.

The actual command line I use to transcode is:
ffmpeg -i $in_file -vcodec xvid -qscale 5 -acodec copy $out_file

That means to use $in_file as input (a VOB file in my case), use the Xvid codec for the video, set the “quality” to 5, copy the audio straight from the original and save as $out_file. The quality in this case is just simplification of lots of other settings that are available. 1 is perfect and 31 is the worst. 5 results in files that are about 500MB per hour with MPEG artifacts that are visible when I’m sat at y desk but not when I sit on my bed six feet away which is where I normally watch video from. It may be worth transcoding a short clip with a few different settings to see which your happy with.

I made the whole process semi-automatic by writing a CLI PHP script that checks for VOB files in a specifc folder and transcodes the ones it finds. That way I can have the transcoding going on in the background while I rip the DVDs (and then leave it running it overnight to finish). I could make it available to anyone who wants it, but a batch files doing the same thing would probably be more useful for people…

There is one last caveat. I originally encoded the movies with MP3 audio and then half way though decided I want to keep the 5.1 audio (which the above method does). However the version of ffmpeg I used at first had a problem such that AVIs with AC3 audio played back with no sound. If you have a similar problem make sure you have the latest version of ffmpeg you can get.