10 free video converters for Windows
Okay, there are a swag of video converters on the web. Many of them are variations of the same thing. However, there are a number of apps out there that really do deserve your attention – some for good reasons, others not so good. (Click on the headings to head to the various websites.)
VirtualDub was one of the first free video converters on the internet and despite its age, it actually still is one of the best tools around. There are a couple of fork versions as well – VirtualDub-MPEG2 provides support for MPG files and VirtualDubMod can handle surround-sound/multi-track audio. The impressive thing about VirtualDub, apart from its small size, is its filters – it comes with one of the best deinterlace filters you’ll see, perfect for fixing up footage shot with a DV or Digital8 camera.
SUPER aims to be a one-size-fits-all do-everything converter – audio, video, you name it, it does it. The question I’d ask is does it do it well. Frankly, I’m not a fan of SUPER – not because of its feature list which has to be second-to-none, but for its interface. I find it too kludgy to use and it looks as though features have been bolted on to the design. SUPER is a front-end for FFMPEG, MenCoder, LAME and a number of other commandline/DLL encoding engines. That’s not a bad thing but I still think the interface could use some work. If you’re having trouble with other tools detecting your video files, this one is a good backstop.
MediaCoder takes on SUPER in the “all-you-can-eat” category of video converters. However, the interface here is a bit better and easier to move around in. It handles just about any video file type you can think off and has good control over specific features such as frame size, video bit rate, audio sample rate and the rest. If SUPER doesn’t do it for you, it’d be well worth taking a look at MediaCoder. There are specific versions of MediaCoder available however the main version should cover all the bases.
Videora takes a different approach to SUPER and MediaCoder – rather than creating an all-in-one converting tool, Videora’s approach is to create specific tools for specific jobs. So they have one for iPods, iPhones, PSPs and so on. Each of these however, is just a front-end for the FFMPEG command-line encoder but tweaked for specific devices. Again, that’s not bad and in many ways, the Videora software has a better interface than MediaCoder or SUPER. Definitely worth a look for iPod owners not willing to cough up for QuickTime Pro.
This relatively new tool isn’t so much a video converter as such as it is a video parser. TsMuxeR is one of the very few freeware tools that allows you to create AVCHD discs (which loosely stands for “Advanced Video Codec – High Definition”). AVCHD is basically a disc format that allows you to put 1080p video onto an ordinary DVD-recordable disc and play it back in your PlayStation 3 or Blu-ray players with AVCHD support such as Sony’s BDP-S350. TsMuxeR will also now specifically create AVCHD format structures. From here, you use ImgBurn with UDF2.5 formatting to burn your DVD and it should play on your Blu-ray player.
AVCHDCoder is aiming to become a one-stop shop for creating AVCHD-ready audio/video content, allowing you to convert M2TS and MKV files into AVCHD format. It’ll do everything from conversion to creating the ISO image of the final disc structure. You’d then use ImgBurn to burn it to disc. It’s early days for this one but it looks like it could be a very useful tool for anyone wanting to have a crack at creating their own low-cost 1080p video discs that will play in a PS3 or Blu-ray/AVCHD player.
Dr. DivX was originally a payware tool but has since been released as open-source/freeware. Because it’s been developed essentially by the company behind DivX, it also creates videos with DivX watermarking, which isn’t so wonderful. One interesting feature is its ability to handle multi-channel surround-sound MP3 audio. Whether or not that’s of use is somewhat debatable given that most players and encoders already support multi-channel AC3 audio. For ensuring playback in DivX-certified players, this could be worth a look.
This has become a hugely popular tool for creating videos playable on Sony’s PlayStation Portable gaming console. It again is a front-end for the FFMPEG encoder but it has a pretty decent user interface that’s easy to follow and understand. It can create both types of video for the PSP including new H.264 videos at the full 480×272-pixel resolution of the PSP screen as well as the old 76800-pixel limited resolution videos. Red Kawa, the developers of PSP Video 9, follow the Videora approach of specific tools for specific hardware platforms.
I have a soft spot for TMPGEnc. It has since evolved into a number of payware versions but this was the first video tool I used to create XVCDs or Video CDs that supported DVD-resolution MPEG1 video that played in budget DVD players. It’s not particularly quick at encoding (FFmpeg’s MPEG1/2 engine is considerably faster) but it does an amazing job making MPEG1 video look great with surprisingly low bit rate. If you think MPEG1 video is rubbish, try TMPGEnc first – you’ll definitely have your eyes opened.
Okay, this isn’t strictly a video converter but if you want to create AVCHD discs, you’ll need this. AVCHD requires that you burn the disc using version 2.5 of the Universal Disk Format (UDF) and at the moment, ImgBurn is one of the very few freeware tools that can do that. It’s a great general-purpose burning tool for creating all sorts of different discs but combine TsMuxeR with ImgBurn and you’ve got yourself a way to create 1080p discs but using cheap DVD media instead of expensive Blu-ray discs.
Now, yes, I know – these aren’t the only video converters for Windows around. There are probably better ones for specific applications. However, my point in choosing these ones was to either point out deficiencies in some of the more popular tools, look at how you can create your own HD discs or simply look at tools that still have it despite having been around a while.
Which are your favourite video converters? Tell us below.
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