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Kinoma Player and Kinoma Producer Review
By Davy Fields
Kinoma Player arrived on the scene about a week ago, fulfilling a desire expressed by many Cliť owners all across the Internet, people wanting high-resolution video for their devices, and some even fantasizing about full screen videos on the new NR70ís. In this review, Iíll be covering Kinoma Player and Producer, with a special emphasis on creating and playing 320 by 480 videos.
Kinoma Producer ships with many different device presets, idealized settings for many different machines. It should be noted that Kinoma Player and Producer can do smaller, regular-res video clips, and since the Player itself is free, this is quite a nice prospect for video on all Palm handhelds.
Most of the videos you produce will be in "Cinepak Mobile" form, which appears to be a mode that can be viewed in every Palm OS device. It is based on the patented Cinepak video algorithm that helped launch the digital video era in the 1990's. More on Cinepak Mobileís quality later.
The Producer can make movies up to 320 by 480, but thereís a caveat. Appleís QuickTime 5 Pro is required to flip the movies 90 degrees so the movie fits on the NR70 series' screen. The lack of an internal converter on the handheld, or at least one in Kinoma Producer, is bothersome (as QuickTime 5 costs $30 by itself), but the company promised to fix it in the future.
Kinoma Producer can encode movies up to thirty frames a second, but as they say in Detroit, your mileage may vary. Much of the time setting it at 15 frames for a high-res movie is pushing the limit.
The audio can also be set in many different ways, from uncompressed, to disabling it, to my personal favorite "Cliť Audio". This encodes the movieís sound in a rate up to 66 kbps Stereo, and it sounds fantastic in headphones, but very quiet out of the NR70V's speaker. Interestingly enough, you can encode audio without a video picture, so if youíre every looking for a different way to store MP3ís, this is it. In fact, Kinoma Producer has convert from QuickTime, MPEG-1, AVI, MP3, WAVE, AIFF, Macromedia Flash, animated GIF, PNG, and JPEG.
You can select the background for the movie, although this is silly if you fill up the screen. I either left it as white or black, although you can select an image.
The conversion goes quickly enough, but the file size is definitely not a petite thing. A James Bond Trailer that Iíve used as my test subject takes up 5.1 MB, for a high-end 320x480 movie that is 1:00.9 seconds of length. At that rate, itís about twelve seconds a megabyte, which means a standard 22-minute converted show would take up about 110 MB on a memory card. Ouch.
Kinoma Producer is $20 as a competitive upgrade if you provide the code for another video program, or $30 otherwise. They offer Mac OS X, OS 9, and, of course, your Windows flavor of the application.
It can run videos directly off a VFS memory card, and it does it well, supporting either the Palm/Launcher or Palm/Programs/Kinoma directories. My Bond movie is moving about 80 kilobytes per second off the stick, but it handles admirably on the NR70V.
We know that it sounds great, and that the movies tend to be large, now on to the most important part of any video player, how does it look? In my own opinion, it looks pretty nice.
To call this a high-resolution player is by name alone, because as you can see in the screenshots, it is clearly not as high-res as, say, an image in a photo viewer. Iím going to refer to it as sort of a "medium-res", itís blocky, but it looks much better in motion. This is similar to the way a single frame of a VCR recording doesn't look all that great but the video in motion looks fine.
Scattered throughout this review are some freeze-frame images. I had a problem converting these images from my Cliť using the Macintosh program, but the developers of Screenshot 1.7 were nice enough to convert them for this review. In general, these look better in motion. If you want to see what Iím referring to, visit Kinomaís website and check out their samples.
Now, what do I think about the video quality? I think itís fantastic! Many people had set their expectations too high upon hearing of the player: A Palm, even the new Cliť, runs at tiny fractions of your computerís speed. That MPEG file will not look the same as it does on your computer; fortunately, it still looks fine on the Palm.
You can play gMovies with Kinoma player, since Kinoma Player is an extension of it, and in comparing the same clip on both, the Kinoma Player is a noticeable improvement. If you are wondering how this happened, a while back Generic Media decided to stop working on gMovie. Kinoma has licensed it and will keep developing it.
However, as the screen size shrinks, the usefulness does as well. 320 by 240 movies for a normal high res device definitely start to lose ground on their low-res competitors in video quality, compared to, say, a gMovie.
That being said, itís still easily the best movie player if youíve got a Cliť, and due to the fact that Kinoma Player is free, itís the best movie player out there, right now anyway. Someday with OS 5 devices weíll get true high-res players, but until that day comes this is the best thing available.
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