After much searching I’m unable to find a simple reliable method to get video into a format that the PS3 can recognise and play. But I do have a recipe that works in the majority of cases.
mencoder input.avi -o output.avi -ovc lavc -oac mp3lame -ffourcc DX50
-o sets the output file name
-ovc lavc sets the video encoder which defaults to producing DivX
-oac mp3lame sets the audio encoder to mp3
-ffourcc DX50 sets the 4 letter character code that the PS3 reads to identify the file
There are many other options to tweak the encoding process but this seems to be a minimal set of options that works most of the time.
Of course, I still need to get the files to the PS3. Serving files over the network with UPnP works some of the time. But I’ve had so many problems with that method that I’ve resorted to physically transferring the files on USB storage. And even here there are problems. To get the PS3 to recognise the files you must place them in a folder on the device called named VIDEO.