Video playback on Windows Phone 7: Nice and simple

I know that many of you are still questioning Windows Phone7′s video playback capabilities especially after I posted about the currently supported codecs list a couple of days ago. I was working on an app I’m currently building and things weren’t working as planned on the device so I had to check out the video capabilities of the hardware to make sure that the problem wasn’t on my side. So here’s some early impressions about the platform’s video experience. Nothing fancy at all, just basic stuff to see how things work and play. Also remember that this is all based on Beta software and OS and non retail hardware.

As you probably already know the only way to ad videos on your Windows Phone 7 handset will be through the Zune Desktop software when hooking it up via USB (automatic sync of images, music etc can also be done vide Wifi). This is when the fun begins, if you have and Zune HD  then you already know how it all works: Your device will automatically appear in the Zune Software and you will be able to drag and drop videos from you desktop collection directly into you device and you will be done. You won’t have any control over the resolution or bitrate of the video. If your file is over WVGA it will automatically be transcoded to the appropriate resolution (wvga in this case) when the file is being synced to the device. That operation was so fast that I thought that the video was directly copied to the device without any changes and thought that I was looking at a 720P video on the device (that’s how good the video quality is) it’s only when I decided to compare the file size of the video on the phone and on the desktop that I realised that transcoding took place. One thing I found interesting is that a 67Mb HD (720P) trailer became a 55Mb WVGA video on the device, this means that the bitrate of the resulting video is fairly high maybe even higher than the original but this is only speculation on my part here.

Once the video are syncing they will automatically appear in you Zune hub in the video section and be ready to play. You will then be presented with the same overlay UI we have seen in the UI Design and Interaction Guide before:

The only option you have on the phone is to delete the video file or pin it to your home screen. All in all I must say that things look really good and better/faster than I expected. The lack of HD playback support on the device has been traded for a more seamless experience for the end-user (like on the iPhone). So you don’t have to worry if the video will be played back or not by your device; everything will be handled automatically by the Zune software and in a much more elegant fashion than iTunes. The device will be able to playback 720P videos recorded by the camera but because Microsoft can’t guaranty that every 720P encoded video can be played they don’t want to take the risk of seeing end-users bitching about their videos not working on their devices (that’s my guess). That’s why, IMO, they are deciding that all external videos will be in WVGA and captured videos can go up to 720P (in capture mode, MS and the OEM have control of the codec and bitrate: MPEG-4 Part 2 – Simple Profile). As a reminder here’s what the Qualcomm SnapDragon chipset supports in HD:

MPEG-4 Simple Profile Up to 30fps @720p (1280×720), 10Mbps
H.264 High Profile v3.0 Up to 30fps @720p (1280×720), 10Mbps

Remember that nothing is set in stone, things are changing on a daily basis and Microsoft will continue to update the platform before and after the launch. This was just my short impressions and things are looking good…

  • arash

    so no hd play back is meaningless, since you trasnfer everything to phone and phone is wvga whats the difference between them

  • arash

    so no hd play back is meaningless, since you trasnfer everything to phone and phone is wvga whats the difference between them