How to watch videos on a Nokia smartphone

The Nokia N96 smartphoneMy new Nokia N96 (yes, and then they immediately released the N97!) may not be as intuitive as the iPhone but is packed with far more features and is so much more open to exploration that it’s a keeper. Not only that but clever @LonelyBob gave me some help last night to fix a problem I’d been battling with – video conversion.

Like him, I tried MEncoder which (unusually) didn’t do the trick and then gave FFmpeg a go. As usual, it requires a load of options and arguments that I don’t fully understand but converts almost any format into any other format – in this case an MP4 file. Trouble was, everything I tried resulted in a playback error on the phone. After exhaustive searching it seems the MP4 needs to be in a mobile-friendly wrapper for which I used MP4Box, found in the “gpac” package on Linux. That worked nicely but the extra step is a hassle. Enter @LonelyBob and his magic one-liner. I edited it a bit for my version of FFmpeg (3:0.svn20090303-1) and this is what’s left:

ffmpeg -y -i input.mkv -vol 256 -acodec libfaac -ac 2 -ar 44100 -ab 64000 -f 3gp -vcodec mpeg4 -s 320x240 -r 25 -b 256000 output.mp4

Of course, input.mkv can be almost any type of video file. The resulting output file is small but not great quality so you could try changing the bitrates, etc. to something like:

  • -ab (audio bitrate): 96000
  • -b (video bitrate): 384000
  • -s (dimensions): 320×176 (for widescreen)

N.B. If you get an “Unknown encoder: libfaac” message, try using “-acodec aac” instead.

Oh, and it’s worth the effort – the N96′s screen is fantastic.

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