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Converting Videos to Creative Zen X-Fi Style with Ubuntu

lähettänyt Jukka Niiranen 5.11.2011 klo 5.07
Well, I've been meaning to write this entry for a long time now, but for some reason I haven't seem to have time before. Last Christmas - yes full ten months ago - we purchased this small media player for our sons to play with. The specs seemed nice and the price was acceptable. And I do have to say that it has full filled it purpose rather perfectly; the back seat has stayed happy and dad's phone has been left alone, at least time to time, when cartoons have surpassed Angry Birds....

Creative is selling this device with vague mentions about how to convert video materials to it. And unfortunately after purchasing one really doesn't get any wiser. The retail package contains small start up guide and some Windows only software, which I naturally trashed immediately as we're happily living in a 100% Microsoft free zone.

As any modern USB devices, also Creative Zen X-Fi Style, can be seen as a standard external drive when connected to computer. So there is absolutely no need to install any unknown Creative-made software to any computer to be able to use this device.

Still I recommend choosing another brand

Even though Creative Zen X-Fi Style can perfectly be used in any computing environment (Windows, Linux, Apple), I still recommend everybody chooses another brand. I base this recommendation to the company's utter disregarding of the non-windows users. Creative does not offer you any kind of User's Manual in any generally used format. The User's Manual is only available in some cryptic .chm -format within their “starter pack”, which is a Windows-only software that requires installation. For some odd reason Creative's User's Manual is not available in PDF nor HTML formats.

Converting videos for Creative with Ubuntu

Creative's Customer Support's view to this is that it cannot be done. Of course that's not true and just Redmond talking. So here's a step-by-step guide how-to do it! See also picture below.

  1. Record, download, film, acquire, purchase (but do not steal) any video, show, film or movie you want.
  2. Launch video conversion software WinFF
  3. Either drag'n'drop the videos you want to convert to the WinFF window or click Add button and browse for the files. You can convert one or many files at the same time.
  4. From Output details area choose “Creative Zen” as a device to convert to and “Zen Fullscreen” as presets. Choose Fullscreen because X-Fi Style as 3:4 radio screen.
  5. Take a note about the “Output folder” where the converted files will be put. Naturally you can also change this if you want.
  6. Click “Convert” button and wait. Waiting time depends on your computer's computing power. Generally converting of a 10 minutes cartoon takes couple of minutes.
  7. When conversion is done. Close WinFF, turn Creative Zen off and connect it to the computer thru USB cable. Now just drag'n'drop the converted files to the Creative's video folder. That's it!
Video conversion to Creative Zen with Winff
Picture: Converting video files to Creative Zen with WinFF in Ubuntu Linux.

WinFF - conversion settings for Creative Zen

Creative says the player can play files with frame rate up to 30 fps (frames per second) when video bit rate is 1.0Mbps. But my testing has shown that again they just almost correct. The device can play videos with 30 fps, but the audio starts lagging badly. To make the videos play smoothly and in sync with audio, I recommend that you use frame rate 25 fps.

WinFF's default settings for Creative Zen use frame rate 30 fps. So this has to be changed before you do any conversions. Not to worry, it's very easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open WinFF and go to “Edit” menu. Open “Presets”.
  2. The Presets window opens (see below). Locate “Creative Zen” from Category/Presets list and click “Zen Fullscreen”.
  3. Now all you have to do is to change the frame rate value in the “Preset Command Line Parameters” dialog box. (see red arrow in the screen shot below) Change the value from “29.97” to “25.00”.
  4. To apply the change, click the “Add/Update” button
  5. And finally click the “Save” button.
  6. That's is. You're done and ready to do video conversions as illustrated above.

I recommend that you do the same change to “Zen Widescreen” option also.

Correcting the preset settings for Creative Zen in WinFF.
Picture: Here's how to correct the WinFF video conversion presets for Creative Zen.

Here's the WinFF “Preset Command Line Parameters” in full for the reference:

-f avi -r 29.97 -vcodec libxvid -vtag XVID -s 320x240 -aspect 4:3 -maxrate 1800k -b 1500k  -acodec libmp3lame -ar 48000 -ab 128k -ac 2
After the change:
-f avi -r 24.00 -vcodec libxvid -vtag XVID -s 320x240 -aspect 4:3 -maxrate 1800k -b 1500k  -acodec libmp3lame -ar 48000 -ab 128k -ac 2

More info on Creative Zen X-Fi Style's video capabilities can be found from here:

Installing WinFF to Ubuntu Linux

WinFF can be installed through both the Ubuntu Software Centre and the Synaptic Package Manager. Just search for "winff" and click "Install".