Video: How Difficult Can It Get?

With various digital media building up on my little hard drive, I thought I’d get one of those media streaming boxes so that I can watch or listen it all in my living room downstairs. TED talks, podcasts of various kinds, camcoder movies – ah lovely.

I knew video formats were going to be a bit problematic, but I had no real idea of the sheer jungle of codecs, containers, incompatabilities and various other weirdness that’s out there. It would be hard to imagine a more ridiculously arcane situation than we currently have with video. Here’s my experience with a Pinnacle ShowCenter 200 so far:

First up, a bunch of AVI files that I’d downloaded from my Canon IXUS 60. Rather than Dad cutting Xmas cake, the kid’s first ride on his bike without stabilizers, etc. I get UKNOWN VIDEO CODEC staring out at me from the TV screen. One of the reasons I bought the ShowCenter was that it’s been around for a couple of years, so after some Googling, it turns out somebody had had a similar problem. The solution is to transcode the files into a DivX format that the ShowCenter will read. For the curious, I’m running the following:

transcode -i input_file.avi -o output_file.avi -y xvid4 -f 0,5 -E 44100,16,2 -w 1000

At that point, I thought it prudent to familiarise myself with the formats the ShowCenter supports (and by the way it does so in hardware, so you have to live with that you get).

I wish I hadn’t. What kind of madness is this? Who in their right mind would choose to wade through this stuff to work it out? Don’t answer that question becuase here I am still Googling in order to get a bunch of TED talks (H.264/AVC (ffmpeg) with AAC 2.0 (libfaad) audio, just in case you’re wondering) to play. I can get the video working, and the audio, but not so they sync up. Perhaps I’m going to have to read the man page after all.