Ask anyone who’s still using their PSP, and the odds are they’re using it to play full length movies and short videos on, versus using it as a handheld gaming device. After all, the beautiful screen on the system is hard to ignore, and if you’re clever enough to hunt around, you can find large capacity memory sticks (for storing movies) fairly cheap, so you can carry around several videos at a time. The trick with the PSP has been getting movies on converted in a usable format easily. PSP Video 9, probably the premiere video conversion app, does an admirable job, but it has its shortcomings, not the least of which are slow conversion times and no way to edit the video before conversion. Although the newest firmware update allows you to play iPod-formatted videos on the PSP, you still were stuck with good, but not great, tools (Videora iPod Convertor being probably the best freeware alternative.) Magix, the German software company best known for its excellent Magic Movie Editor suite, has attempted to come to the rescue with Magix Moves2Go, and while the product has a few shortcomings, overall, it’s a great choice when you’re willing to spend a few bones on a product that actually gives you the features that the freeware alternatives lack. That said, however, the program does have issues which may cause some to think twice before using it.
Before getting too deep into this review, let’s look at the options out there. For the PSP, you have several, especially since Sony’s latest firmware update lets you use iPod’s excellent video format rather than Sony’s limited formats. One advantage of using the iPod video formats – you’re not forced into using those goofball, unintelligible PSP video naming conventions, so no more “maq12345” nonsense, now “Star Wars Episode III” is named exactly that on the PSP, and they all fit into one nice folder called “videos.” Bearing that convenience in mind, we did most of our conversions to iPod format for testing, then played them both on iPods with video and PSPs. Anyhow, back to the options – for freeware, our favorites have always been Videora iPod converter, PSP Video 9 and 3GP Convertor. While all these products are great, and pretty amazing for freeware, they are limited when it comes to tweaking your videos before conversions. While they certainly let you choose from a variety of bit rates, audio/video options, etc, they lack any editing tools to say, crop the dead content (ahem…credits and opening sequences) from DVD’s.
Being that Magix Movies2Go is based on their excellent video editing suite, it makes sense that they included trimming and cleanup tools in the package. Which is all well and good, unless you’re a video editing newbie, then, the Movies2Go interface looks like some sort of development nightmare. If you haven’t used a Magix product before, it can be especially daunting, and for newcomers, we recommend immediately jumping into the quick start documentation. If you’re not looking to edit the video at all, then it’s a fairly simple process of importing your current video file (though copying DVD content’s a total pain) and then clicking “export” and choosing the format. Ok, that makes it sound simpler than it is, because again, Magix’ products are so full of options, they are pretty daunting at first. When I loaded it up, the first thing I thought was, “I’m just looking for a convertor, what is with all these choices, and why do I have a video timeline.” Again, we can’t stress the need to jump into the tutorial.
Now, for the meat of the matter – the conversions. We tried conversions in two different paths, if you will. The first – we simply ripped a DVD with the provided tools, then had Movies2Go convert it to iPod format. Several hours later, we were finally seeing our finished film, and frankly, it was pretty awful. It was filled with skipping, framerate issues and popping audio. Not looking good, that’s for sure.
So we jumped into a more advanced method. First, we ripped the DVD to digital files (VOBs) with DVD Decrypter (freeware.) Once we had the VOBs, we fed them into another freeware product, AutoGK, which gave us a nice DiVX’d AVI file of about 600 MB and great quality for viewing on a PC, laptop or portable device. Of course, the PSP doesn’t deal with AVI’s, so we still had one step – feeding it into Movies2Go. Here’s where the product shined, taking our AVI file and scrunching it down to 350 MG, retaining the visual format (letterbox) and barely touching the overall visual quality. Time from start to finish (from ripping the DVD to processing in AutoGK to converting in Magix’ product) was about 3 hours, which is what the freeware out there typically takes if you want a very high quality conversion and not some half-baked artifact-laden (read: blocky) video.
In the end, it seemed that to get a good quality video from Movies2Go, we were using essentially the same process that we use with the freeware stuff out there, except with Movies2Go, you pay $39.99 instead of getting it for nothing. Sure, it’s mostly one-click ease, but so’s Videora and PSP Video 9 once you know what you’re doing. The advantages of Magix Movies2Go over the freeware stuff? You can cut garbage out of the films before converting them, you can make a final movie in just about any portable format you like from just one program, and you have all kinds of conversion options to tune the quality of your final video. Is it worth $39.99 for that convenience? That’s your call, frankly, we’re just fine with the freeware stuff.