okay, i forgot in my last post to correct something that i've been misinformed about: colors. i was under the impression that each color had a personality. well now that i participated in a social yesterday, i know that not to be true. the black zune in the social was preloaded with the same videos, music, pictures as our brown ones. i stand corrected and apologies for any misleading.
okay, on to my video encoding. i've been trying to find a good solution to getting dvd content onto the zune. i was recommended to try three solutions: handbrake (now ported to windows), xilisoft, and cucusoft. below are my personal findings on a laptop hardware (duo core, 2GB RAM).
handbrake: this is a free dvd ripping tool originally made for the mac, but now someone ported to windows. it's GPL and free, but that doesn't mean better :-). my friend who told me about it used it on his intel mac and said it was < 1hr and worked fine (and transfered to zune). i tried it on my mac (non-intel) and it estimated 11 hours. needless to say i didn't wait. i used the windows version, and it was fast and worked. the resulting file played in windows media player and media center, but when adding it to zune, the zune rejected it (with an odd message). so handbrake is apparently using a encoding codec that isn't supported.
xilisoft: this is a commercial dvd ripping software. they have a program called dvd ripper platinum but also are marketing a dvd to zune program (which i think is just a skin, but good marketing tactic). this program has the most options and the best user interface of the ones i tried. it allowed tweaking of video/audio output and ripped direct to wmv (maybe not direct, but end result in wmv format). my experience though was that it was slow and that the resulting video was 'choppy' (best way i can describe it) like every few seconds the video stuttered. so for me, it wasn't usable. another friend is having better results so we're still comparing.
cucusoft: another commercial software package. they also are using good marketing to brand their like products as zune converters. the options and UI suck for cucusoft but it has produced the best results for me. you have to mess with the aspect "ration" (yeah, not spelled correctly) a few times to get it right. but it ripped in < 40 minutes for an average dvd and the audio was okay for my expectations. what bothered me though is the advertised "dvd to zune" ripping. when i added it to zune, it still went through a "converting" process which i don't understand -- it was MP4, but zune didn't like that direct format i guess. and that process took a while...
needless to say i'm messing with xilisoft and cucusoft to get the best results and determine which is best for me. i want to be able to say "rip dvd" and then sync with zune -- why is that so hard?