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Video Format Converters: One Of The Black Arts Of Digital Video Technology

by Tom Volotta on March 9, 2012

Comparing Video Converters FeaturesIf you thought choosing a video player for your computer or mobile device was a maze of comparing different features, interfaces, capabilities and personal preferences, finding the right video format converter may be and even more baffling experience. We’ll smooth out some of the rough edges here and provide some key pointers to help make the process less daunting.

FINDING THE RIGHT VIDEO FORMAT CONVERTER CAN BE HARD

Selecting a video player can be easier than finding the right video format converter. Players tend to be simpler, in that they are designed to recognize and playback particular formats and that’s it.

Have a video you can’t play? Use RealPlayer to watch just about any video. You can also use it to convert videos into different formats and then play it on multiple devices.

Converters, aka Transcoders, not only need to distinguish among input formats, but have the double duty of then changing that format into another. That can be tricky. There are many different container formats and compression codecs, and not all products support everything. It also depends upon your intended use. Do you want to transfer video to mobile devices, convert for streaming, burn to disc, just play a different format on your computer, or do a bit of everything? Each of these applications also comes with a raft of settings that must accommodate that particular use.

Don’t confuse these converters with “Online Video Converters.” Those are services that operate remotely, in the “Cloud,” if you will. They don’t run on your local machine. You send the files up; they are processed, and then sent back down to you in a different format. It depends on your needs, abilities and desire for control, which to choose. You’ll typically have more of everything running a video format converter on your own computer.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN VIDEO FORMAT CONVERTERS

The main reason for having a dedicated converter is so you have the largest number of input file formats as possible be supported, giving yourself maximum flexibility. All the usual suspects, and then some, should be included: AVI, MP4, WMV, 3GP, QuickTime, SWF, MPEG, M4V, RM, DVD, DVR-MS, MKV and FLV. Conversion of HD-video: M2TS, AVCHD, TOD, MOD and HDV also important as more and more content goes High Definition.

It’s the same story on the output side – many formats and maximum capability. Typically, input and output will be mirror images of each other, with an advantage to the number of input formats, as many people want to rip content or special file types from various disc and solid-state media. Be sure your converter supports the proper formats for smart phones; tablets, other mobile and even set top devices you require.

SPECIAL FEATURES YOU WANT CONVERTERS TO HAVE

This could be an extensive list, as each new format brings with it certain parameters that can and/or need to be adjusted during the conversion or transcoding process. Here’s a partial list of features:

  • Able to read and process many input and output file formats
  • Extract audio from the video source and convert to the format you require
  • Batch processing – let’s you convert several videos at once
  • Profiles to select format, codec, resolution and bitrate
  • High Definition support – able to handle 720p and 1080p
  • Trim head and tail of clips to select only the portions of a video
  • Crop video size and proportion
  • Make screen grabs of still images
  • Merge or join files into one
  • Adjust video brightness, contrast, color saturation, etc.
  • Preview video effects prior to conversion
  • Watermarking to insert an identification graphic or text during the video
  • Create subtitles
  • DVD ripping
  • Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) acceleration – e.g., NVIDIA-CUDA
  • Speed of conversion – depends greatly on your computer configuration
  • Multi-pass encoding capability to help insure a better quality conversion
  • Fixed or variable bitrate selection
  • Calculator to estimate output size
  • High quality – best video and audio, no sync problems or skipped frames
  • Easy upload to YouTube, Facebook, and other social media sites
  • Able to transfer to a wide range of mobile and other playback devices

Your favorite converter may or may not have each and every feature listed above, but a key factor in your decision is ease of use. That’s what pulls the available features together, making your workflow smooth and uncomplicated. Do you like the User Interface, is it easy to navigate, do extra feature windows make things more efficient, can you both easily access the library to select files, plus initiate other functions from there, etc.?

Like any other software tool, the more you use it, the better you’ll become at making it perform the way you need. So, don’t be unnecessarily put-off by what first appears to be a complicated product. If you have a good feeling about it, you’ll soon learn the ins and outs of making it work for you.

WHAT KINDS OF VIDEO CONVERTERS ARE AVAILABLE

Like the world of digital media players, there is an assortment of offerings, varying in quality and features, and of course, price, from free video format converters, to products upwards of $60. Keep in mind; many of the popular video media players typically include video converter software. However, most are limited in the formats they will convert from and to when compared to their specialized counterparts.

Dedicated video converters are built expressly for the job. They are more robust and flexible. As with media players, it’s hard to make a generalization that the free versions tend to be more limited in performance capabilities when compared to the products that must be purchased. There are some very good free converters such as Freemake, Handbrake, iWisoft and others, but several free software packages have constrained feature sets, only dealing with a few formats. They are not intended to be the Swiss Army Knife of video converters.

WHICH VIDEO CONVERTERS IS BEST FOR YOU

We can’t answer that. There’s the specific task to be done, features required and your personal preferences to consider. We have taken a closer look at several video converters to help you determine what works best for you. Those include products from Any, AVS, Eztoo, Movavi, Prism, RealPlayer and Total.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 michelle January 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm

i am looking for a video converter that can convert mp4, mkv and avi files into iso or similar so i can burn to disc to play in any cd player, t.v and pc

2 Tom Volotta January 29, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Michelle,

You’re asking for a lot of features, but RealPlayer 16 PLUS should do the job for you. Since you mentioned ISO files, I assume you are pretty versed in using this special format. MP4, MKV and AVI are more routine, but be aware of the codecs you’re converting, as they can be a stumbling block. Even with 16PLUS, you may need to install additional codec packs to round out your functionality. QuickTime, CCCP and K-lite are some of the most useful. One caution is that some of these codec packs don’t place nice with each, so you may need to experiment so things don’t blow-up on you.

Good Luck

…TV

3 Alacrity October 2, 2013 at 7:20 am

Please i cant download videos with flv avi and the likes on my mobile device i tried downloading the app above but i was told that it cant identify the file type which is exe please am confused

4 RealPlayer Team October 2, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Please provide us some more information about the problem and also send an email to help@real.com

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