Ripping movies for the N900 with Handbrake

a stunning mobile cOne of the best features of the Nokia N900 is its fabulous high-res screen and I was really looking forward to watching films on it. when the phone arrived, it was pre-loaded with a demo video and a film trailer, both encoded at native resolution (800×480) and playing back beautifully. I knew that I could put my own videos on and have them look as good, but it was not as smooth a ride as I expected.

I had immediate success putting an old .avi rip of a film on, the phone scales video well and it started playing almost instantly. I looked on the forum and googled a bit for a profile to use and started ripping DVDs with Handbrake. As soon as I got the first one onto my N900 I found a problem.

When I ripped a single chapter or a short special feature, no problems, but full films with the same Handbrake profile never loaded, but hung on the “five dots of doom” screen. Five dots flashed back and forward as a loading  screen, but the video never strted.

I began to doubt my sanity as I found the identical settings work for one clip but not a whole film. I re-ripped and changed settings to try to fix it (getting the resolution in the mean time) until a post on the maemo forum tipped me off to the problem – chapter markers. Turning them off in handbrake fixed the problem for the next film.

Fixing the films I’d already ripped was really easy too, using avidemux to convert to the same format with the identical settings strips out the chapter marks and all is well!

Because the screen on the N900 is not a true widescreen format there are  several options to how to crop/zoom the video as you rip.

  1. Stretch the video to fill the screen. Not an option, I have a low tolerance for distorted images.
  2. Zoom the video with big black bars at the top and bottom so you can see the full width and not stretch the height.
  3. Zoom to 100% so there are small black bars top and bottom and about 20 pixels cut from each side.

It’s number 3 that I do, but Handbrake seems not to properly save my settings, so I have to manually plug in the video size each time.

You can download the handbrake profiles from the wiki  page on video encoding, but make sure that you un-tick the box for chapter markers. Then go to the picture settings and sent anamorphic off and the stored resolution as 800 wide. Enjoy!