Being able to enjoy video on the move - from home movies and TV programmes to film trailers and YouTube favourites - is becoming an increasingly popular pastime. Mobile phone handsets are increasingly pursuing this trend, and handheld games consoles really lend themselves to the concept, thanks to their decent screen sizes and resolutions.
Portable media players (PMPs), on the contrary, have slimmed down. Once the obvious device for viewing video on the move, PMPs were always picky about the video formats they supported. These days, most players will work with versions of Mpeg4, WMV, H.264 and QuickTime.
For YouTube and iPlayer fans, this is excellent news. Such has been the success of on-demand TV and radio services that portable devices are emerging that are able to work directly with them. You'll find a list of compatible devices at tinyurl.com/4ef3je.
Archos, Sony and Creative players have all been approved for use with iPlayer, and being able to watch TV programmes on these devices at your leisure is a more satisfactory and less expensive option than, for example, streaming content over a 3G network to a laptop in a hotel room.
We tried the BBC iPlayer service on Nokia's N96, but it works equally well with video MP3 players. And you need only download a programme once to enjoy it on any compatible portable device.
Some restrictions remain, however. Digital rights management (DRM) protects most of the TV programmes. Downloaded content expires after 30 days, but can be viewed as much as you like during this time period.
We'll also explain how to use free software to convert other types of video for use on your portable player.
Transfer video to a portable media player
1. Format compatibility is the main barrier to enjoying video on a portable player - many devices still insist on encoding it to a particular format. The free Any-Video Converter will allow you to convert content to a file type compatible with your device.
2. Once you've downloaded the file, double-click the Any Video Converter icon on your desktop and select ‘Run' to install the software. On launching the program you'll be prompted to pick a video clip to convert. Click Add Video in the top lefthand corner and browse to your chosen clip on your hard drive.
3. Your video will be listed in the main window. Double-click its filename to preview its content. Underneath the preview window there are buttons for pause, rewind and fast-forward, as well as functions for trimming the start and end of a clip. Use these to chop off the adverts or anything else you don't need.
4. When you're happy with your video, tick the box next to its filename and select the correct format for your portable device from the drop-down menu above the preview screen. We chose WMV for the Nokia N96. Note that some file formats are customisable in terms of resolution, codec and bitrate.
5. Now press the Encode button next to Add Video. A green bar will appear beside the video's file name in the main window, showing its status during the encoding process. When the process has finished, right-click the filename and select ‘Open file location'. This will display the location of the file in a window.
6. Connect your portable player or mobile handset to the PC using the USB cable that was bundled with it. Go to My Computer and open the device, then simply drag-and-drop the video file across. Disconnect the device and the video will be stored on it, ready to be viewed.
>> NEXT PAGE: Get BBC iPlayer content on your portable media player
Get BBC iPlayer content on your portable player
1. First, check your device is BBC iPlayer-compatible at tinyurl.com/4ef3je. We're using Nokia's N96 for this walkthrough. Browse to bbc.co.uk/iplayer on your computer. Here, you can choose from hundreds of BBC TV programmes to download.
2. Once you've selected the show you want to download, click Download on the righthand side of the screen. Select the ‘For media players' option from the drop-down menu. Choose Continue in the next screen and a spinning icon will appear, indicating that the content is being prepared for download.
3. When the programme is ready to download, a green tick and a Download button will appear. Click Download, Save file, ok to begin the process. The time it takes to download the file will vary depending on the length of the programme and the speed of your broadband connection.
4. Connect your mobile phone or portable media player to your PC. Go to My Computer and select the handset, then simply drag-and-drop the downloaded file on to it. You can also enjoy the content on your PC in Windows Media Player, or transfer it to a USB drive for use with other PCs.