Sunday, February 6, 2011
The Incredible Shrinking DVD Catalyst
Friends and family keep asking me if I have gotten one of those huge flat screen TVs yet, but it hasn't happened so far. This is mostly because the Mrs. and I don't have the money for it right now and probably won't for some time to come. However, it is also due to the fact that when it comes to video playback equipment, I don't think big these days--instead, I think portable.
You see, I spend a lot of time on public transportation every day as part of my job, and it's been this way for the last few years. So when I heard a while back that software was available to compress video files from DVDs into smaller files that could be played back on my cell phone, I immediately picked up the software and started shrinking movies to pass the time while I travel. This was years before DVD and Blu-ray sets included smaller "Digital Copies" of movies, and before cell phone content providers started offering downloadable movie and TV shows. However, even with those options, many obstacles still exist: Pre-compressed downloadable video files only exist for certain phone brands such as iPhone and Windows Mobile devices--leaving other cell phones and compact video devices with nothing--and I’ve found the Digital Copies to be too weighed down with burdensome access control technologies to be usable for the cell phones I’ve had.
While compressed video content might become more available for a wider variety of small playback devices as time goes on, I'm still quite content with the set up I have had going for over five years now. Read on to see what I've learned about meeting the movie and TV needs for horror/sci-fi geeks on the go.
The video compression software package that has worked best for me is called DVD Catalyst 4. DVD Catalyst was first released in 2004 under the name Pocket DVD, and it has been modified regularly ever since to keep up with the latest cell phone technology and user needs. Such devotion to detail shows in the finished product: It's very flexible in terms of cell phone compatibility, and it has worked with just about every cell phone and cell phone-based video file playback software package I've had. As long as I have a set of headphones handy and a well-charged phone battery, I usually have something to watch no matter where I go. When I was just a wee lad, I would often fantasize about having a portable TV set with me to pass the time on long car trips. At such a young age, I couldn't have imagined anything like the portable video player that I have now; such a capability has made my cell phones the best toys I've ever owned.
Of course, this kind of a portable video playback format has its own particular set of requirements. After you get DVD Catalyst set up on your PC, each DVD you shrink requires time for the compression process to happen. I usually insert a DVD into my computer, set up DVD Catalyst, and then leave to do something else while the computer compresses the video file(s). Unfortunately, some video file formats (such as Amazon and iTunes movie downloads) include digital rights management (DRM) technology. Such formats require activation, which prevents them from use on non-supported devices and conversion with software such as DVD Catalyst.
The good news, though, is that DVD Catalyst allows you to shrink your movie and TV DVDs, as well as many kinds of digital video file formats such as DIVX and MKV. While some portable content providers only provide new and popular movies and TV shows, DVD Catalyst allows you to make just about any video that's available on DVD ready for portable viewing, including the extra features videos that are found on many deluxe DVD sets. I’ve found that very few things are too obscure or too old for DVD Catalyst: It works well with the many titles I’ve rented from Netflix, and I’ve even used it to compress video that I recorded from TV onto a recordable DVD. For any difficulties that I’ve encountered, DVD Catalyst’s customer support has always been very responsive to every question that I have sent to them so I’m never stuck with an unusable compressed video file.
Being a film buff with limited free time, this kind of portable viewing option has been a real treasure. It's the only way that I've been able to stay on top of the latest DVD releases and to see movies and TV shows that I missed during their initial run. In fact, many of the movies and TV shows that I've mentioned on this blog were those that I first saw (or saw for the second or third time) on my cell phone.
Click here to learn more about the DVD Catalyst software package and which options are right for you. Enjoy!