A New View on the PSP

Teach your Personal PlayStation some new tricks.

Did you know that any video file can be converted and played on a Portable Sony PlayStation (PSP) console for minimal cost?

With just an inexpensive SanDisk Memory Stick Pro Duo and your home computer, you can store and view all kinds of video files. Convert those television shows and music videos you’ve recorded on TiVo; download from the ever-expanding array of online services such as Apple iTunes, where you can now get your favorite ABC series episodes; view movie trailers hosted on the Internet—but wait, there’s more.

New Web services exist that allow you to purchase and download movies without leaving the comfort of your computer screen (check out www.vongo.com and www.movieflix.com). Imagine how great it would be watching a movie on your next flight that you actually want to see. When visiting the relatives, take along home movies to show your nontechnical family members without the hassle of packing fragile DVDs—and your kids will already have their hands glued to the PSP so you won’t have to fit it in your luggage.

Want to amortize your PSP and use it for work? Then convert corporate training videos and product demonstration information for the convenience and portability of viewing on a PSP. And you thought the PSP was just for fun.

All this converting and downloading rigmarole—it’s all easier than you might think. In addition to the PSP console, you need the USB cable that came with your PSP, conversion software, and a memory stick with storage capacity of 512 MB or greater.

Sony has decided not to release a burner for Universal Media Disks (UMDs), Sony’s proprietary storage medium for the PSP, so a memory stick is required to store and host your converted video files. For maximum storage and lowest cost, a 1 GB memory stick can hold approximately three to five movies depending on the video length. You can find oodles of SanDisk 1 GB Pro Duos for under $20 on eBay. (You can get by with a 512 MB memory stick, but for a nominal additional cost, you can get twice the capacity.)

Your PSP uses a memory stick in the same manner a digital camera uses a memory stick. Simply open the memory stick storage area on your PSP, pull out the lower capacity memory stick, and replace it with the higher capacity one. The conversion software can be obtained for free—among the plethora of choices are PSP Video 9 (pspvideo9.com) and ImTOO PSP Video Converter v2.1 (www.imtoo.com/psp-video-converter/support.html), both for the PC, or ffmpegX (homepage.mac.com/major4) for the Mac.

The conversion process is really quite simple. Using the video conversion software loaded on your computer, convert the video file to the PSP mp4 format. Be aware that the actual conversion can be a lengthy process. (For example, it takes fortyfive minutes of conversion processing for a 30-minute TV show.) Using the PSP Settings option, set your PSP to USB mode. Connect your PSP to your computer using the USB cable. Your computer recognizes the PSP as a removable hard drive. Drag and drop the converted file from your computer to the MP_ROOT/100MNV01 folder on the memory stick. Don’t be confused that the converted file shows a somewhat cryptic file name; once stored on the memory stick, the video name will show correctly on the PSP menu. And that’s all there is to it.

If you prefer a less “DIY” approach, conversion software can be purchased in the $20 – $40 price range. A variety of programs exist and offer a more user-friendly conversion experience than the freeware described above. For example, ImTOO PSP Video Converter v.3.1 is a paid upgrade of the 2.1 version for $29—but you can download the freeware version from the same Web page, www.imtoo.com/psp-video-converter.html. For you Mac users, PSPWare is available at www.nullriver.com—free to try, $15 to buy.

Now there’s only one final step in converting video files to play on a PSP—getting the game console away from your kids.

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