- Review Price: £25.00
I’ve often doubted the wisdom of adding video playback to MP3 players and mobile devices. Can you really enjoy watching video on a tiny screen that was designed to show album cover art, or which network provider you’re currently using? But as mobile devices have evolved, screen sizes and resolutions have improved, while screen quality has come on in leaps and bounds. As such, the idea of sitting on a train and catching up on your favourite TV show doesn’t seem so ludicrous anymore.
When Apple launched the iPhone and iPod touch last year it moved the game on, by building truly great screens into the devices, with proper widescreen aspect ratios that reflect the way film and TV is shot today. Yes, you could argue that Sony did this a long time ago with the PSP, which in itself is a superb mobile video playback device, but you’re unlikely to have your PSP in your pocket every day. By contrast, I have my iPhone with me at all times, so it’s perfect as a casual, mobile video player.
Of course Apple wants all iPod users to buy all their video from the iTunes store, which is all well and good, apart from the fact that if you watch a lot of video, you’ll end up with some pretty hefty bills. Take Lost for instance, if you want to download the latest Season Four episodes, you’re looking at a cost of £3.78 each, which is pretty steep no matter how you look at it.
The obvious answer is to convert your existing video library to your iPod or iPhone, but that’s not as simple as it should be. If you’re like me, you’ve probably got video files encoded in a plethora of codecs, and getting some of them into an iPod friendly format can be a bit of a headache. That’s where Roxio Crunch comes in, offering the end user a very quick and simple way to convert pretty much any video file into something that’s, well, Apple friendly.
Roxio has been smart enough to include both Mac OS and Windows versions of Crunch on the same disc, so if you happen to be running multiple hardware platforms, you can choose. Given the choice, I’d be running Mac OS, but unfortunately the machine sitting on my desk is running Vista, so I installed the Windows version. Installation is pretty painless, and once you’ve signed your life away agreeing to terms and conditions that almost no one will have the patience to read and entered the CD key, you’re ready to roll.
Once you fire up Crunch you’re faced with a simple two pane window – one side is labelled Source and the other Destination. Clicking the Add Movies button brings up a directory tree window so that you can browse your PC and find the video files that you wish to convert. You can cue up multiple files and leave Crunch, well, crunching away while you get on with something less akin to watching paint dry. Of course you can carry on working at your PC, but you probably wouldn’t want to do that if you’ve got a single core CPU, since Crunch will grab a hefty amount of your total CPU clock cycles.
Once you’ve selected all the files you wish to convert, it’s time to head over to the Destination pane. The most important bit here is the Format drop down, which is where you decide what the output format will be. Here you can choose from iPod, iPhone or Apple TV formats, while each format has a selection of differing quality settings – iPhone Fastest for instance, will take the least time to encode, but will use a far lower bit rate than iPhone High. That said, considering the small screen that you’ll be viewing on, high bit rate encodes just seem like overkill.
Also on the Destination pane are a couple of radio buttons that specify whether the encode is output as a file in a specific location, or whether it is imported directly into iTunes. If you choose the latter, you will then be prompted to decide which playlist you wish the video to be placed in, or if you’d like to create a new playlist specifically for it. Once you’ve made that decision, Crunch will happily run along and start converting your videos for you.
As already mentioned, Crunch will grab as much of your CPU as it can get – it maxed out all four threads on my dual core Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, although I was still able to carry on working, with the load balanced as I used other applications. How long conversions take will depend on the speed of your system, and you can expect a brand new Core 2 Quad to fly through your encodes, while older machine like the one I used, will give you time to go and make a cup of coffee, or two.
I found that the quality of the resulting video files was very good, even if I selected the fastest encode. Of course, much will depend on the quality of the source files, but most of the video files you have on your computer are likely to be far higher resolution than your iPod or even your iPhone, so Crunch will generally have a good starting point.
You can pickup Crunch for around £25 online, which seems reasonable enough, but then it’s also worth noting that there are a lot of video conversion utilities out there that cost nothing. However, what Roxio has created is a simple solution for the end user who doesn’t want to trawl the web for freeware, and then have to figure out how to use it. Crunch will convert pretty much all the major formats including DivX, Xvid and even DV. OK, so it drew the line at an MKV file, but considering that I’ve yet to find a dedicated video player that supports MKV, I’m hardly surprised by that.
Roxio Crunch may be a one trick pony, but it pulls off its single trick with aplomb. If you’ve got a hard disk full of video files that you’d like to watch on your iPod or iPhone, Crunch will make the laborious conversion process as painless as possible. Anyone who likes to get their hands dirty with their video encoding may find Crunch a little basic, but for me it’s that basic nature that makes it attractive. The majority of iPod users aren’t hardcore techies, and Crunch will be a very useful tool for all of them.
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