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An older Philips player i have would play "xvid" files, such as those commonly created by Handbrake & similar tools. This one won't play all those files i had lying around, nor using the standard recipes I'd previously used with ffmpeg.

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According to Philips DCP851 manual your device can play DIVX hence the following should apply

Taken out of ffmpeg examples

Convert to DivX

This creates a DivX file, 4:3 aspect ratio, 320x240 resolution, bit rate of 690k for video, 128k for audio. The right sort of size for my Archos AV420 player.

ffmpeg -i inputfile.mpg -vtag DIVX -f avi -vcodec mpeg4 -aspect 4:3 -s 320x240 -b 690000 -acodec mp3 -ab 128000 -ar 48000 -ac 2 outputfile.avi

and the same thing for 16:9 ratio.

ffmpeg -i inputfile.mpg -vtag DIVX -f avi -vcodec mpeg4 -aspect 16:9 -s 320x192 -b 690000 -acodec mp3 -ab 128000 -ar 48000 -ac 2 outputfile.avi

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Whoops, thanks - "answer to follow" meant I planned on answering myself. Took forever to find this. –  Dan Pritts Sep 6 '12 at 5:54
    
@DanPritts You should figure out the answer before you post the question if you plan on answering your own question. This is common practice here and beats everyone to the punch! –  Moab Sep 6 '12 at 6:00
    
I did know it, i just hadn't typed it in quickly enough. Darius was too quick :) Thanks. –  Dan Pritts Sep 6 '12 at 6:03
    
And I'm really tired since it has been really long day for me :) –  Darius Sep 6 '12 at 6:17
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These ffmpeg options worked for me. Took a while to figure out. This unit is less compatible than an older philips unit I have.

ffmpeg -i input.foo -acodec libmp3lame -ab ABITRATE -ac 2 -s WIDTHxHEIGHT -vcodec libxvid -b VBIT -vtag DIVX output.avi

DIVX is just the word DIVX and is required. I believe that this in particular is the magic parameter to make the DCP851 work. [EDIT] - MP4S also works. MP4S works with another hardware player I have that won't work with DIVX (Sony DVP-FX980). Perhaps it is more broadly compatible?

ABITRATE is audio bit rate - 64k is what i use

VBITRATE is video bit rate - 640k is what i use, but it's crappy; a higher number would give better video quality.

WIDTH and HEIGHT are the pixel size of the output video

The screen is 480x234 so i use that for WIDTHxHEIGHT with 16:9 material. If you had 4:3 material a good choice would be 304x234 or 320x234.

The video tags (vtag) that are being used for AVIs are called fourcc's. www.fourcc.org has a pretty large list of these codes.

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