alternatasha a site to catalog random projects

video brochure

hacking a video greeting card

Note: this is less of a hack and more of a ‘repurpose’, a true hack (possibly soon) might include real modification to the hardware/software.

Shown above is a brochure I got in the mail.  Although not totally new (see here), I was still very much surprised to see this tech sent to me for free.  Good marketing, I guess.  Naturally, I wanted to see what was inside, so first I attached an old the mini-usb to the bottom edge:

brochure front

Shown below are the files on the device, as well as the ‘properties’ of the video file:

     video file properties

“amv” is a proprietary video format meant for cheap s1mp3 devices (see wiki).  I wanted to create my own video file and upload it to the device to replace the marketing video.  Then I could design my own card around it and hang it on my wall or something.

For testing purposes, I decided to download a music video and see if I could convert it to .amv.  My first choice was Missy Elliott’s famous supa dupa fly ‘The Rain’ video, but, along with ‘Work It’, it seemed to defy youtube downloaders, so I went with ‘On & On’ instead.  Still a great music video, like most of Missy Elliott’s are.  Anyhoo, with amv-codec-tools and ffmpeg, I was able to convert the video to a working amv file using the command below:

ffmpeg -i Missy_Elliott_ft_Pharrell_ON_AND_ON.avi -s 320x240 -f avi -r 16 -mbd 2 -g 1 -ac 1 -ar 22050 -qmin 3 -qmax 3 missy_elliot-onandon.amv

However, the thing would NOT play on my greeting card device, blinking ‘format error!’ without stop.  Although mediainfo sounded promising, it failed to show any more information about the original video file’s properties.  Instead, I inspected the original file looking at the output of the same ffmpeg command (with the original file as the input file), finding:

Input #0, avi, from 'nyu-poly-grad_v4.amv':
  Duration: 00:00:00.00, start: 0.000000, bitrate: -2147483 kb/s
    Stream #0:0: Video: amv, yuvj420p, 320x240, 20 tbr, 20 tbn, 20 tbc
    Stream #0:1: Audio: adpcm_ima_amv ([1][0][0][0] / 0x0001), 22050 Hz, 1 channels, s16, 352 kb/s

This showed that the screen resolution was indeed 320×240 pixels, and the frame rate was 20 (not 16).  Changing those variables did not help playback on the device though.  One thing that irked me was that my computer recognized my created amv file as an “avi” file while the original was seen as a “riff audio” file.  However, if I removed the option ‘-f avi’ or if I used ‘-f amv’, both of which should work, from the command, I would get the error: “Unsupported codec (id=86018)”.   I have tried to recompile ffmpeg with extra libraries enabled, but I did not find a solution, so I had to go back to the source where the original video file likely was produced: Windows.

On my other partition, I downloaded the Youtube Downloader and the Tanbee Video Converter.  The first application downloads the youtube video (even “The Rain” video!) in a flash (.flv) format, while the second application converts it into amv.  The settings for the conversion had messed up screen resolution (they had 240×320 instead of 320×240) and did not include 20 fps.  This meant that the video was not filling up the screen space available on the device.  So I found those settings in the program files, and simply changed them to what I needed.

application settings folder
edit settings file

Now the settings can be set to the following: Tanbee app conversion settings

And the result?  A perfectly fitting video of my choice. :)


Next up:

  1. remove the nyu-poly start-up splash screen…where is it?
  2. make a cool frame (above is just a prototype)
  3. start looking into the hardware.  The website has a lot of information about these devices.  Still not sure this simple video module falls into the same category, but so far found that the board houses a AK2117 multimedia processor and a K9F2G08U0A 256mb x 8 bit NAND flash memory chip.
  4. I would like to check if the lipo battery (below, and here) is getting recharged when the device is plugged in.  If not, then that would be a nice addition, or to make the device hardwired, solar-powered, or other, instead.battery

8 Responses to hacking a video greeting card

  1. Bob says:

    How did you get to files on the device. When I connect /v USB my MC & PC is not seeing any new drives.

  2. Terry says:

    Did you ever figure out how to remove the start-up splash screen?

  3. Johne235 says:

    Admiring the hard work you put into your site and detailed information you offer. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material. Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account. gcedgbddcgef

  4. cristina says:

    i just wanted to ask you if you managed to remove the intro splash screen of your video greeting card? I am trying to remove it but unfortunately all the system files are hidden, looks like a USB drive to me .. no files are on it other then the video that runs when you open it.
    Can you please help me?

    Than you,

    • admin says:

      Hi Cristina,
      Sorry for the late reply — I have not been maintaining this site, unfortunately. No, I never got to remove the splash screen, and I haven’t had a chance to tinker more with the device :(
      I hope in the meantime you were able to figure it out.

  5. nolan says:

    Dear friend,

    this is nolan,sales manager of shenzhen videoinfolder technology co.,ltd which is a factory produce video greeting card/video brochure over 5 years.

    we started the international business 3 years ago and we cooperate with hundreds of clients,including big brands,such as Huawei,Maserati,BMW,Shell,Costa,Atlantis,Shangri-La and so on. we got to know that you are doing video greeting card business and we wonder if we have the honor cooperate with u and supply high quality video greeting card to u?

    should u have any question about our company feel free to contact us!

    looking forward to hear u!


  6. Alex says:

    I recently have been working on the same thing. I have replaced the original video with one of my own which has been formatted to match the file originally loaded onto the machine. My big issue is I cannot turn it back on. So I can plug it in, access the memory, load my own files, and charge it, but I cannot “flip a switch” to test it out. Any thoughts?

    When I took it apart, could I have messed up whatever switched it on and off?

    This is a VPP (Video Plus Print) hardware sent to me by ITT tech. It has all the same hardware features as pretty much every other one on any blog. There are no buttons though

    • admin says:

      How did it turn on before? Mine turns on by removing the magnet — this is the on/off ‘switch’ and should connect to the chip on/off pin or power supply. Do you have the spec sheet for the chip itself? From there you can find the pin, trace it back to wherever your on/off button or switch or magnet is, and either fix, or make your own switch. (checking of course your power supply and it’s connections to the circuit)

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