PapaJohn Productions
Newsletter #121 - Oct 21, 2006
the iriver clix

clixLast week's newsletter was about a high definition camcorder, a gadget at the front end of the movie-making process. In this week's, I'll take a look at a gadget at the other end of the process, a small... tiny... iriver clix player.
New gadgets seem to be rolling out of development stages at in increasing frequency. On first impressions, this one's a winner.... even more so on second and third impressions. Click the image at the right for a 2-1/2 minute flick of the clix in action.
Features of the clix include:
... and more

This isn't a full review of the clix and its features. As usual, my focus is more narrowly on how to get movies and stories to it, how well they play there, and how the clix can help you with your movie and story projects. 
WMP does the syncing to get files to the clix. It'll automatically convert pictures to the right size and file type, but it doesn't convert video files. For those you need to download and use a software utility named iriviter. The Xvid format files produced are then copied by WMP to the clix. It works easily and quickly.
... before getting into it further, a few notes...

Vista Corner... I got my DVD burning issue resolved by slowing down the burning speed from the default of 'fast' to 'slow'. That leaves only the issue of being able to view 1080i files.
I've been studying chapter 3 of Learning VirtualDub... the book I co-authored. The chapter is about capturing video and doing 'pre-processing' enhancement as it comes into the computer. It might be a better approach than capturing my video with either MM2 or WinDV, at least for footage that needs more fixing than I can do with Movie Maker. 
The Europe 301 branch of the website got new wallpaper on each of its dozen pages this week. Take a look at the wallpaper before I cover it all up with content like text and pictures.
.... back to the main topic...

The iriver clix player
Video files on the clix need to be in Xvid encoded AVI format... a compression type we instinctively shy away from in Movie Maker when importing and using videos in a project. But this is at the other end of the process, viewing or showing your movies... where the file type only matters for the playing and viewing.
No setup is needed... plug it in and Windows XP or Vista takes care of installing the driver. In a few seconds it's ready to use.
It comes with an installation disc that has Windows Media Player 11 on it... my laptop was running v10, so I used the disc to upgrade it... no luck... it was still v10 after the install. That's OK, as the clix works with v10 also, and my Vista system has the latest of WMP to check how the clix works with it.
There's no power supply with the unit. When it's plugged into the computer via its USB cable, it recharges the battery from the computer's power... an hour for 1/2 a charge and about 2-1/2 hours for a fill up.
When plugged into the computer, it can be synced to manage files on it, or get new ones there. Or it can be charged. But it can't be used to listen to a radio station or view videos already on it.

It's a two step process to get videos to the clix...
  1. Use the iriverter utility to convert the input files to AVI compressed with the Xvid codec and aligned with the properties needed for the player... they are 320x240, 15 fps, about 375 kbps video, 128 kb/s audio
  2. Copy the AVI files to the clix using Windows Media Player's sync feature.  
Both steps are easy and fast... the ease of the conversions and transfers adds lots to enjoying the gadget.

iriverter conversion utility
File Formats
The list of input file types doesn't include the dvr-ms files for recorded TV shows on an XP MCE system or the imported high definition camcorder files from last week's newsletter... but it converted them anyway.
Yes, but the one from Vista didn't play on the clix... the message was 'the file format is not supported'. The one captured in XP by Vegas did play.
It converted a VOB file that was still on a DVD disc... no need to copy it first to the hard drive... but playback on the clix gave the same error message. The DVD had been burned on my Vista system... maybe there's something about files made in Vista resulting in videos not working on the clix.
Most of the conversions are fast and play fine... each usually much less than a minute
iriviter - conversionsYou can opt for a single file conversion, or point to a folder full of video files.
I did a number of individual ones, and then pointed to a folder with 134 video files I have on the website, a mix of movies and stories.
iriverter and mencoder, the encoder app that runs with it, used a combined 2/3 of my CPU and a minimal 37 K of memory as they did the conversions.
I timed the pack of 134 files... 47 minutes to convert them all to a new 642 MB pack of Xvid encoded AVI files. 
WMP in XP then took 4 minutes to copy them all to the clix. 

The Syncing Process with Windows Media Player - in XP
Sync OptionPlug the clix into the computer with the USB cable and the auto pop-up window includes the option of syncing. It then opens Windows Media Player with the sync list on one side and the clix folders on the other.
Drag files from Windows Explorer, Total Commander, or other file managers into the sync list and press the 'Start Sync' button. All that's needed is to copy the files because they're already the right format.
Here's WMP 10 as it gets ready to copy a set of 26 vacation still pictures to the clix, all 7 megapixels from the camera. The process happened so fast it was hard to believe the pictures had been resized and copied to the clix, but they were. It took much less than a minute, with all of them reduced in size to be appropriate for viewing on the small screen... the largest JPG image of 6.03 MB was 31 KB on the clix.
Start Sync
The speed that the video files got copied was equally impressive, but in this case no conversion is being made as it was already done by the iriverter utility.

WMP in Vista
Plugging the clix into my Vista system was similar... but not as good as WMP 10 in XP.
WMP10 showed all of the video files on the clix... Vista's WMP showed only 37 of them. The thumbnails were generic, and the properties for each said they are zero seconds long.
Vista - WMP
They all appear in MyComputer on Vista... and with the nice touch of being able to rename the files directly on the clix. In XP I have to do any file renaming before syncing them to the clix.
Vista - Explorer
To get new video files to the clix in Vista, you need to use the same iriviter utility for the conversions before loading them into WMP for syncing. 

Viewing on the clix
File Format not SupportedAll but a handful of the videos on the clix looked and sounded great.
Three had this file format not supported message, but the Xvid files played fine on the XP computer in WMP before syncing.
Using GSpot to look at the 3 files showed no info for the audio track... they play silently in WMP... the lack of audio, or a corruption of the audio track, seems somehow to correlate with the message in the clix.
Most of them played well, but a few had serious audio glitches introduced by the iriveter app during conversion. The AVI files had the same problems in WMP on the computer, but the wmv input files played well, so it's a conversion issue.
All of them played in appropriate shapes based on pixel dimensions... standard, widescreen, or custom-sized.
With such a small screen, 1-3/4" by 1-3/8", the 320x240 pixels are pin points and the pictures look extremely sharp. If your videos look pixilated on a big screen, put them on a clix to enhance the viewing experience. 

Conclusions and Closing
There are many things that mark the clix as a high quality product. It's often the little things all added up.
For example, there's a slider lock to keep it from changing when you don't want it to, like in your wife's pocket when she's jogging with it... that's one mark of quality, but it stood out to me when the lock was on and I tried to turn the clix on. The display goes on briefly with a note to unlock it, topped with an arrow on the screen pointing to the where the slider on the side is.
I give the clix two thumbs up.

Have a great week...