August 16, 2002
Robert Basler is the president of Aurora Systems, Inc. and has been a dedicated OS/2 user since he tired of rebooting Windows 3.1 twenty times a day. He spends what free time he can manage travelling the world. Photo was taken at Franz Josef glacier, New Zealand.
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DVD Comes to OS/2
For a long time now I've been waiting for a DVD movie playback solution for OS/2. I've tried PowerDVD with
Odin, unfortunately I've never been able to find a
copy of the 2.55 version that supposedly works (newer versions don't.) Someone has demoed an
OS/2 DVD player at a couple of WarpStocks, but it has never been seen in the wild. I even wrote
about all the technologies available to support developers interested in porting Linux DVD players
to OS/2. Well, finally it appears that DVD playback on OS/2 has taken a step forward.
The WarpVision project's stated goal is to create an OS/2 multimedia player that supports the latest formats, as well as the latest hardware features. And they are certainly well on the way to their goal as the screenshot below taken from my "The Fifth Element" DVD attests.
So far Warpvision supports the key elements of a DVD player including MPEG2 video playback and support for AC3 audio decoding (no DTS.) For people with slower systems, it also supports hardware acceleration for YUV transformations using the Hardware EnDIVE driver if you have a supported video card. Two key things missing from the end-user point of view, are support for DVD menus and subtitles. While some might question the usefulness of subtitles, I find them particularly useful when watching movies in loud environments such as airplanes. Since this player is based on a number of Linux projects and some of the Linux players are just now adding DVD menu and subtitle support, hopefully these will follow some time in the future.
GUI vs. Command LineThere are two versions of WarpVision, the command line version, and the GUI version. The GUI version has the advantage of being quite pretty and skinnable, as well as offering a number of extra organizational features, however I have not been able to get the latest version (July 30, 2002) to play DVD's (it played DivX movie trailers fine.) With the command line version I was able to play segments from a number of DVD's.
WarpVision's playlist allows you to play single videos or sequence as many as you need. Plus it gives you all the info you might need about each file.
Making it WorkWhile there is some documentation for WarpVision, there could certainly be more. As an example, the first time I tried the command line player, it selected the Spanish soundtrack from the DVD I was watching. It took me some time to figure out that it lists the different available soundtracks with the AID (Audio ID) settings when it starts playing. You can then use the listed AID's with the -aid switch to select the soundtrack you want.
[DVD] audio stream: 0 audio format: ac3 (stereo) language: en aid: 128
So from the above, if you wanted the English stereo Dolby AC-3 soundtrack, you would add -aid128 to your command line to select the AC3 stereo soundtrack.
The basic command to play a DVD is
wvision -dvd1 d:
This selects the first title on the DVD in drive d: There are a number of other command line options that let you adjust the audio, video and aspect ratio settings to be used by the player.
If you're having problems getting WarpVision to work, have a close look at the output during startup for anything that looks funny, it is quite likely you can find the reason for your problems there. Also, make sure you read the README file, as there is an external DLL you need to download and install before it will work.
Audio and Video QualityAs you would expect from DVD's, both the audio and video quality are quite good, especially compared to DivX and other online video formats. I was very impressed at the AC3 decoding which sounded fantastic through my Monsoon audio system offering the expected crisp highs and deep bass. Hopefully some time in the future OS/2's audio drivers will offer true 4-channel audio so we can have nice surround channel effects.
Picture quality at a DVD's native resolution is very good, with no noticeable picture artifacts, jaggies, color banding, or obvious compression artifacts. People running slower PC's can expect a few dropped frames however. I did notice that it gets a little pixelicious when it is stretched to fullscreen (1280x1024). The screenshot below shows this as jagginess in diagonal lines. I have yet to see a software DVD player do as nice a job of stretching the video image as my Creative Labs Dxr3 hardware MPEG2 decoder.
At fullscreen resolution, the DVD player used about 50% of the available CPU on my test system. The test system for this article was a Pentium 4 1.8GHz with a GeForce 4 Ti 4400 video card.
ProblemsWhile it is impressive that it can play DVD's at all, WarpVision still shows that it is a project under development. I found about half of the disks I tried gave me this error:
libdvdread: Can't seek to block 256
Apparently this is a common problem with the library they use to access the encrypted content on the DVD disks, as a number of Linux products built on the same library have the same problem.
I also noticed that the audio is not necessarily in sync with the picture. Fortunately you can use the +/- keys to adjust the timing, and once adjusted, it seems to stay in sync quite well.
Fast forward or rewind, as well as chapter selection also seem to fail most of the time. In the past, these sorts of features have come later in development.
Unfortunately the biggest problem for me was that quite often it would simply quit after a while, claiming it had reached the end of the video stream, although there was lots of movie left. The most I had it play of a single DVD was about 20 minutes. I tried selecting different chapters, and adding multiple VOB files to the playlist in the GUI version, but still no luck. Perhaps I'm doing something wrong.
SummaryWarpVision has already shown its strengths as a DivX player, it is nice to see them adding DVD support as well. The lack of DVD support in OS/2 has been a long-time complaint of mine, as I own a whole lot of DVD's and would rather not have to boot Windows or Linux to view them on a plane. Keep up the good work!
WarpVision Version 2002-07-30
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