Shopping experiences: Stand-Alone DVD player for MKV/H.264/AAC/SSA?


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[post:498#4870]
Devil Doll

01/12/2011 02:15 PM

Reviews: 365
Posts: 1574

Today I was visiting an electronics shop for the first time in a while (in order to get a broken printer replaced within the defects liability period). I used this opportunity for an experiment: Would there be a stand-alone DVD player capable of playing the latest fansub formats?
For this purpose I had prepared a rewritable DVD: One file of 3,8 GB size (a Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu copy) in a MKV container with H.264 video stream, two AAC audio streams (5.1 resp. 2.0) and one SSA subtitle stream.

The media specialist of the shop in question read the video parameters on the paper cover of the DVD and decided that conventional DVD players wouldn't support all this but Blu-Ray players might do. So he took the time to play this disk on several devices.

We did try a conventional player at first but this one considered the DVD empty, i. e. didn't feel like bothering about a file with the extension *.MKV. The next device (a Blu-Ray player for 399 EUR == 515 USD) looked promising: It handled the MKV container correctly and in fact played both the video and one audio stream. But the video display was horribly broken with huge blocks visible, so the quality was too low to continue this experiment (thus we didn't even try to switch between the two audio streams or see whether the subtitles were interpreted). The third and fourth devices (both Blu-Ray players in the lower price range, i. e. 300-350 EUR == 400-450 USD) again didn't even accept MKV as container format.

That's where the employee decided to stop the test - and asked me to leave the DVD at his shop for further experiments. I offered him the disk in exchange for an empty replacement medium - which he didn't have at hand. Then I offered to give him the disk for free to which he replied "it's okay, I already kind of know what to test"; finally I gave him the paper with the video parameter specification and he promised to "look for such a file in the internet and try playing it on every device in the shop". He also suggested to wait until April of this year when the next generation of DVD players would come into the market.

So as a summary, it looks like it's too early to leave the conversion procedure to AVI containers behind but the availability of a stand-alone player that would support today's fansub format doesn't seem too far away in the future - maybe one or two years, depending on how much one would be willing to invest into such a device (when standard DVD players are available for no more than 50 USD here in Germany, I am using such a device currently).

For me this time span is long enough to do another research in the near future for a potential "bridge technology". Recent ads for mid-price DVD players (100-150 EUR = 130-200 USD) claim to support the HD format (but no MKV or H.264), and the perspective of watching the latest anime in "HD ready" 1280x720px on my 37" TV player (as compared to the current upscaling of 704x396px, i. e. 30,25% quality) sounds interesting if the price were acceptable. I'll see whether such a device will be available for below 100 USD in April.

But one thing is for sure: The next device I will purchase must have an USB slot allowing to attach an external harddisk and play videos from there. My current DVD player is less than 2 years old but requires at least 10 minutes of "warm-up period" before even reasonably trying to read media, and then still has read errors occasionally. I consider the DVD a dying technology now that external harddisks have become so cheap (2000 GB for 100 USD), and carrying an external harddisk between my PC and my TV set would not be that much more difficult than moving a DVD between these two rooms.

[post:498#4871]
Stretch

01/12/2011 03:32 PM

Reviews: 1918
Posts: 1313

As you probably have guessed, I'm one of the last to make technical changes. I am still equipped to watch VHS tapes. Might you be having problems with some of the new Winter series fansubs? Several times I have found audio, subtitles and/or video to be out of sync after using VirtualDub. My solution: download somebody else's fansub and start over.

[post:498#4872]
Devil Doll

01/12/2011 05:05 PM

Reviews: 365
Posts: 1574

Subtitles being out of sync to the video shouldn't be possible. If there's anything out of sync then it would be the audio stream, and that's because it can be inserted into the video container with an offset. So if it was inserted with an offset into the MKV container but is inserted without this offset into the AVI container it's natural that it would be out of sync.

If you convert the audio and then insert it with VirtualDubMod (!) you can additionally set this offset ("Streams" / "Stream List", select stream with right mouse click, "Interlace") and thus make the audio play a little earlier or later. (VirtualDub, while being released several years later, still doesn't have this setting so apparently we still rely on the ancient VirtualDubMod with its amazing features.)
You can even do this with VirtualDubMod applied to the encoding result, then processing the video in "Direct Stream Copy" mode (i. e. leave it as it is), so setting a different "Interlace" value will take only a few seconds as the operation is little more than a file copy with just one numeric value being modified. With a few attempts of try&error you can easily find an appropriate Interlace value.

But in general, if you have problems with any particular file just name the file and we can see what's causing the issue.

[post:498#4873]
Stretch

01/12/2011 07:18 PM

Reviews: 1918
Posts: 1313

(I'm moving my reply back to the 'Mencoder Has Encountered a Problem' page)...

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