With falling Memory Stick prices, there is no better time to use your PSP as a portable video player than now. Read our concise guide on how to do so.
While it is primarily a gaming console, Sony has made the PlayStation Portable (PSP) powerful enough to allow not just playback of MP3s, but also to decode video files for viewing on-the-go. What's more, the large display on the PSP is a whopping 4.3 inches, as large or larger than some current dedicated PVPs -- even though the PSP has already been around for more than two years. Add to the fact that 2GB and 4GB Memory Stick Duo cards are now very affordable, and you've a very attractive proposition for a video player in the PSP.
Universal Media Disc
Of the two major handheld gaming devices (Sony PSP and Nintendo DS), only the PSP has video playback as one of its intended features. The media format used for games and videos is the Universal Media Disc (UMD) which, ironically, isn't very universal. So far, the PSP is the only device to use this format, with all commercial games and movies sold on this tiny disc.
Rumours hailing the death of UMD movies have come and gone, but these continue to exist, with studios occasionally releasing current movies in this format. One of the most recent releases is Casino Royale, which many will recognise to be the latest James Bond film. It is the simplest way to watch video on your PSP, but the range of titles is dependent on release dates by studios, similar to waiting for DVD releases.
Know your PSP
The display on the PSP has a resolution of 480 x 272 pixels. This is a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is ideal for wide-screen movies. The video codec supported on the PSP is h.264 and the files for playback bear the .MP4 extension.
To watch your own videos on the PSP, it is necessary to store them on a Memory Stick Duo. These have to be in a certain format with a certain way of naming them. So if you have a whole bunch of videos on your PC, there will be quite a bit of work. Don't worry about having to use complicated video-editing software to do the conversion. Free applications exist to help you convert videos into the proper format, and even rename the files so they will play on the PSP.
PSP Video 9
PSP Video 9 is one of those freeware applications meant to make watching videos on the PSP a simple task. It has a simple interface with detailed settings so you can have control over the quality and file sizes of videos that go onto your PSP's Memory Stick Duo. The initial download file for PSP Video 9 is only 4.54MB, but the installer will download more files required for the application to work. Once installed, the first launch of the application will ask to search for your PSP. You can skip this process if it is not connected to your computer, and manually specify the drive letter which corresponds to your PSP.
Click on the set-up option to see the range of settings that are available. Under the Profiles tab, there are already many quality profiles that can be used immediately. The two resolutions that videos will be converted to are 320 x 240 and 368 x 208. These are the maximum resolutions supported on the PSP, the former for 4:3 videos, and the latter for those in 16:9 aspect ratio. The rule is simple: The higher the frame rate and audio quality, the larger the file size. It will take a few tries to figure out which is the best profile for you. If you are not happy with the available profiles, new ones can also be created with your own settings.
To help choose the right profile for your needs, the Profile Picker can be used. This is a calculator which tells you the approximate file size for specific lengths of videos. Standard video lengths like 23 minutes (sitcom length) and 43 minutes (drama episode length) are displayed by default. There are even fields for you to calculate the file size according to your video's exact playback time. For certain profiles, all these fields are greyed out. These are the ones using variable bit rates for the audio, so the file sizes cannot be determined until the files have been converted.
The actual conversion is a simple process. Just pick the file on your computer, select the profile, and then click on "Transcode New Video". While one video is being converted, more can be selected to be put in the queue. The program will then carry on converting the next one after the first is done. There is even a checkbox to shut down the computer once the conversion is done. This is useful for those overnight jobs, and you'll have the files ready for your PSP the next morning before setting off for work.
Moving the files to the PSP is the easy part. Sony made it easy by having the Memory Stick Duo appear as a removable drive once a USB cable is attached. The PSP Video 9 program makes it even more convenient by creating the necessary folder and file names. Once you have specified which drive letter the PSP is using, PSP Video 9 will prompt you to create the folder if it doesn't already exist. The converted video would have already been properly named, and all that is left to do is to copy or move the video from the left pane (video folder on your computer) to the right pane (the PSP's video folder).
PSP Video 9 was one of the first third-party applications to do video conversion and transfers for the PSP. There are quite a number of applications that do the same. Visit our download site to try out the rest.
The PSP video format has also been embraced by many video sites. For example, in Google Video, the panel on the right allows you to download in MP4 format for use on either the PSP or Apple iPod. The only thing left to do will be renaming them for use on the PSP.
What about the other one, the Nintendo DS Lite? Well, things get a little hairy for that console because Nintendo didn't intend it to be anything more than a gaming device. Look out for part two of this article when we will do videos for the DS Lite.