Getting a Movie
Before we can copy a movie to an Android device, we of course need to actually have a movie. You can download them or you can make a copy of your own DVD (MacOS X, Windows, Linux) or Blu-Ray disk with freely available tools. Next a few points to consider to get a proper video file that can be played on your Android.
A few considerations before we start
Before we start we will need to know what the capabilities of your phone or tablet are. For the average user most certainly not a “routine” task.
Supported Video Codecs
Build / Default video player of your Android:
Rule of thumb is that “old” Android devices can only handle h.263, an old format originally designed for video conferencing. Newer Android version should to be capable of h.264 playback. (reference)
I found through testing quite a few devices, that if you convert a video/DVD/Blu-Ray with HandBrake, setting the “Video Codec” to “MPEG-4 (FFmpeg)” results in videos that can be played on old and new Android devices with the standard video playback app without a problem.
Media Player App:
The Android market, or Google Play now a days, and the Amazon App Store, have plenty of free video play back apps that are capable doing other formats as well! I did find however, that transcoding (converting a video file from one codec to another) with HandBrake is typically quick and results in a surprisingly small file for your Android that can be played without the need for an additional app.
Some good choices:
- BSPlayer – only at Google Play, free, with ads and supports most subtitle formats and multiple audio tracks,
- MXPlayer – only at Google Play, free, with ads and supports most subtitle formats, might require additional codecs,
- VLC – only at Google Play, free, no ads, currently in beta (pick Joe VLC for now) and supports subtitles,
- MoboPlayer – free, no ads, available at Google Play and Amazon, supports multiple audio tracks and subtitles.
Personally I prefer VLC or the build-in app.
Maximum Screen Resolution
This is optional but when you’re tight on storage space on your Android device, it might be worth looking into.
The display of your device has a particular resolution (number of dots to create a picture). Playback of a movie with a higher resolution than your screen can display will not only take more space to store, and computer power to scale it down, but it also will not produce any better picture. So if you’re low on storage space and/or your phone or table is slow: consider downscaling the movie to a more adequate resolution.
In HandBrake this can be done through the “Picture Settings” option which brings up a window where you can enter values for width and height. You only have to enter (using the up and down buttons) the highest number of your video resolution in the “Width” field – height will automatically be adjust to maintain aspect ratio. The “highest” number can be found below, where I show you how to determine your screen resolution – in that example the “highest” number is 800.
HandBrake – Resize Video
Determining Screen Resolution
If you have read the “How to determine my Android version” article, then you might already have the “Android System Info” app installed which can also show you the native resolution of your Android device. If not, you can get the app at Google Play or at the Amazon App Store.
When you open Android System Info, tap the “System” tab, and find the “Screen” line. You’ll now see the native resolution of your phone or tablet.
For most DVD based movies, you’ll probably have no need for resizing. For 720p (1280 x 720) and 1080p (1920 x 1080) movies you might consider doing this though, specially when your screen has a low resolution like shown below.
Android System Info – Screen Resolution
Subtitles and additional audio tracks
Most of the video playback apps that come with your phone or tablet are not capable of handling subtitles and/or multiple audio tracks. Removing the unneeded tracks will save storage space so this might be something to look at when you have limited storage space on your Android.
To be honest, I don’t see the need for additional subtitles or audio tracks unless you want to share your movies with others. After all, you’ll be pretty much the only one watching the movie on your phone, so you already know if you need a particular language for audio and/or subtitles.
If you however want to use subtitles then you have 2 options:
– Have HandBrake “burn” the subtitles in (which means you cannot ever disable them),
– Use a 3rd party app for playback.
If the additional audio track is needed, you’ll have 2 options as well:
– Only include the audio track you want,
– Use a 3rd party app that supports multiple audio tracks.
Available Storage Space
To be able to play a movie on your Android device, you will need to have the video file stored on it. If you’ve done everything correct, then a video file doesn’t have to be super big, but do count on 500 Mb to 1.5 Gb (1500 Mb) of space that is needed per movie.
Typically video files are stored on the so called SD or micro-SD card – with most devices you can access this card and upgrade it if needed. With some devices however you cannot access the card and upgrading is not an option.
When you access your files: check first if you have enough room left for the movie. Some of the previously mentioned topics can contribute to a smaller file size.
Getting your Movies
As said before, there are plenty of options to get your hands on a movie, be it downloading, ripping a DVD or ripping a Blu-Ray or converting an existing video file.
We have some guides for you available to walk you through this.
When following these guides, I’ve found it most helpful to start with the “Android” preset in HandBrake.
For maximum compatibility in HandBrake, use the “MP4” file format and set “Video Codec” to “MPEG-4 (FFmpeg)” as this appears to result in the most compatible format for miscellaneous Android devices. More recent devices however, can handle “h.264” as well.
All other settings I typically leave as they are, which results in relatively small video files – consider changing the resolution if needed though.
Note : The DVD to MP4 guides are also suitable for converting existing video files – just pick the file as your video “Source” instead of the DVD.
At the end of this exercise you should have one (or more) MP4 video file suitable for your Android device.
Copying a movie to your Android device
I’ve written a relatively extensive article on several methods how you can connect your computer to your Android device. If you have never setup a connection between your computer and your Android device, then consider reading it.
Note : If you cannot find a “video” or “movie” folder on your Android device, then just make one on the SD card.
You can also optionally copy the movie in the DCIM folder.
It’s going to be difficult to explain here how to playback the video file since it appears that every Android device has it’s own video or movies playback app. Long live consistency. Anyhow … I’ll work through some examples, maybe one of them matches your Android device.
Samsung Galaxy S
File location I used:
Without SD card inserted, I created a folder “video” in the root, and it picked it up just fine.
With SD card inserted, I placed the movie in the “movie” folder that resides in the “media” folder, which worked as well.
Go to the “Gallery” app – your movie files should appear right away, possibly in a album called “video“.
If you tap the video, after opening the album, playback should start. If you however installed another video playback app, then you should, the first time at least, get a request what app to use:
Select what to use for Video playback
Asus Nexus 7
File location: I dropped the video file in the “Movies” folder.
Press the “Movie” icon, tap the menu button in the upper right corner and select “Personal videos“. Your movie should be selectable now, tap it and it will play. As with the Samsung Galaxy S, if you installed other media players, Android will ask you which one to use.
Nexus 7 – Play Movies
Kindle Fire HD
File location: I copied the movie in a folder called “Movies” that resides in the “sdcard” folder. If the folder “Movies” does not exist, simply create it.
Kindle most certainly is not your regular of the mill Android device – and personally I really do not like what Amazon has done with it. For the playback of personal videos you will need to go find the “Personal Videos” app – or an app like MoboPlayer.
Note that the audio of the Kindle Fire HD is very good compared to other tablets.
For the “Personal Videos” app you will have to go to the “Home” screen and type “Personal Videos” in the search field to go find it. Once found, tap it and you can watch your videos. If you have multiple media players installed, Kindle will also ask you which one to use.
Kindle Fire HD – Movie playback
HTC Glacier / T-Mobile MyTouch 4G
File location: I copied my file on the SD card in a folder that I created “media“, in which I created a sub-folder called “Movies“.
Like the Samsung Galaxy S, go to your “gallery” app, and you’ll find you video file there.