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There are many different audio and video formats out there, and most devices (such as the iPod) and programs (such as Windows Media Player) are only compatible with a few specific formats. An AVI or WMV movie will not play on an iPod, for example, without being converted into an MP4 file first.
There are quite a few programs that will do this for free, with more popping up all the time. They tend to fall into a few general categories:
While some are better than others overall, which one is best for you will depend on what sort of program you need.
Note: If you want to rip video directly from a DVD, click here to view the Best Free DVD Ripper page..
Pazera Video Converters Suite is really a package of several separate device converters with a common launcher. Each converter is powerful, with several presets for device, custom tweaking/profiles, multiple-file support, all in a simple text-based interface. If you don't mind the launcher, you could effectively use it as a hybrid converter.
For even easier device conversion, there is Miro Video Converter. With just a dozen device presets and support for only one file at a time, it may not be the best choice for power users. However, its simple interface is 'newbie-proof', and conversion quality is on a par with other programs.
Freemake Video Converter is the new Top Pick. The interface is about as polished as it gets, and the code behind the interface is stable, flexible, and powerful. Using Freemake is a linear, seamless experience with no frustration.
What I do find frustrating, however, is that the developer has now added OpenCandy to their installer. For more information about this bundled software, I recommend you read this article. Please see the last paragraph of this review for information on how you can opt out of this.
Now, back to the awesome stuff. With Freemake, you can convert most any format of video or audio with this handy piece of freeware, along with DVD's, photos, and even web embedded media from sites like YouTube, Google, and Vimeo. There are lots of presets and quite a few options, giving the software best-in-class capabilities. The visual cues are easy to follow, pretty much guiding you from start to finish on any conversion task and providing a more user-friendly experience than most other software.
This software can make use of DXVA and CUDA (two methods of hardware accelerated encoding) to boost speeds. I was only able to use DXVA on my test computer, so you may get faster encodes with your machine. On my laptop, I had an NVidia card, and Freemake actually displayed a message recommending that I update my video card drivers to make use of CUDA acceleration. Freemake took 39 minutes to produce its output using an Auto Bitrate setting, with a two-pass encode. It took under 15 minutes to do a one-pass encode. Handbrake took 33 minutes using a Constant Quality RF:20 setting. The quality of all three test encodes was excellent, with no apparent difference from the original. You won't find advanced encoding settings anywhere in this interface, so if you're looking to fine-tune your output, I recommend moving on to something like Handbrake, Format Factory, or FFCoder.
I would have loved to give this software 10/10 stars, however there was one negative aspect to Freemake Video Converter: the bundled Freemake Toolbar and OpenCandy softwares. The toolbar is set to install by default unless you choose otherwise on the first page of the install wizard. To their credit, the Privacy Policies and/or EULA's are easily available for all bundled software. OpenCandy, on the other hand, does not have a checkbox to toggle its install. Instead, you'll have to roll up your sleeves and install from the command-line if you want to opt out of it. Here's how: Hit Start, then 'Run' the install file with the /nocandy switch. It will still show you the EULA for it, however there will be an option at the very end of the install to 'not install' the software OpenCandy recommends for you. Even without the /nocandy switch, you can still uncheck the box, but for some reason the switch will trade in the check-box for 2 separate radio button choices (Yes or No). It's a lot to worry about and go through, but this software really is top-notch in most other ways.
Although their website defaults to an "online installer", they do host offline installers, available here.
When iWisoft Free Video Converter starts, it automatically launches your browser for an upgrade check and displays a web page, which I found annoying. Aside from this, I didn't find much else to complain about. Its interface is extremely clean, well organized, and easy to use. It has a complete and well-organized collection of presets, and supports making and saving basic tweaks, too. It even has a few pleasant surprises, such as a basic built-in editing suite, with features like cropping, splitting, joining, and watermarking. In short, this program is an outstanding choice for most device conversions.
Another excellent choice (especially for old phones and DVD ripping) is Format Factory. It has presets for over 100 devices, converts to and from dozens of formats, and allows for advanced tweaking and custom profiles. On the downside, the sidebar-and-popup interface does not provide a linear experience. You'll find that you can not drag'n'drop into the windows that look like you should be able to, and you have to open & close a couple of windows in order to end up back at the starting screen, where you finally get to hit START. This being said, once you learn the interface, you'll find it responsive, stable, and easy to drill down to the exact settings you are looking for. Overall, this program is a good choice for power or device users who find iwiSoft lacking.
NOTE: When installing Format Factory, watch out for the bundled toolbar. It is installed by default if you don't uncheck the box on the first screen of the installer package.
A portable version of this software is also available at LiberKey, which is a superb portable application manager.
If you need to make complex, custom jobs, FFCoder is the standout choice for its coherence. Like most programs in this review, it has an excellent device preset list, the ability to convert multiple files at once, and a simple, sleek interface. Where FFCoder stands out is its support of highly advanced configuration for each of the dozens of video formats and codecs, down to lighting and rendering settings. Despite a few dependencies (listed below) and a steep learning curve for any tweaks past the presets, this is the best converter for almost any power user, device owner or not.
One of my favorite FFCoder features is the Directory Watch. You can setup FFCoder so that it monitors a folder for files matching a filename pattern, which will be automatically converted using the selected settings. It can be a bit confusing to set up, however I found I got the best results when setting the wildcard filename pattern to something other than *.* (such as *.avi).
There were two things I didn't like about FFCoder. The first is that is always creates Start Menu entries in the Administrator account, regardless of which non-admin account is being used to install it. This is fairly minor though, contrasted with all the powerful features. The second drawback is that it seems to be less stable on 64-bit Windows systems every now and again. I ran into .DLL errors and missing presets, which strangely were intermittent problems. I've spoken with the author and it looks like many of these bugs will be worked out in the next release.
Pazera Free Audio Extractor is the audio-only program in the above-mentioned Pazera Video Converters Suite. It supports both video and audio input and output to many formats, and is slightly simpler than some of its sibling programs. Otherwise, it is perfectly identical.
Video to Mp3 I was asked to checkout a web site converter for Youtube and Dailymotion videos. This site is set up to convert video to four set formats Mp3(128 kbt/s & 256 kbit/s ), flv, mp4 and 3gp.
This is a wonderful idea, but does it work lets see....
I started the test with an Mp3 convert and WOW finished in a matter of seconds and my result was ready to download. Ok lets check out some of these other bad boy options. Next I selected the Mp4 option and clicked the convert button and nothing. EMMM I thought well it is a video conversion so it will take more time. I waited until the next day nothing. After a full 24 hours still nothing. I reloaded the page and recopied the URL started a new convert. After 6 hours nothing and then my browser crashed ooops. I started a third again after 24 hours nothing. I am not saying it wont work for you as different configurations of bandwidth, browsers etc may be different but don't get your hopes up.
Next up the flv now I was thinking that a lot of Youtube video is in format flv so this should be quick but again after 3 days and 3 tests I had 0 results. At least this time my browser did not crash lol. So without much Enthusiasm I tried the 3gp option and hey what you know it worked first time and quite quickly about 30 minutes.
Having said all this if anyone wants a Youtube video in basic no frills mp3 audio from a Youtube video then this is a viable option and simple to use just copy and paste a Youtube URL into box, choice format and click convert and when it is ready download finished product, easy.
Zamzar is an excellent website when you're on the run. It doesn't allow you to customize the encoding settings, however it makes up for that somewhat with its portability and flexibility. If you have a browser with internet access, you have Zamzar. If you have any file, you can convert it to any other type of file in the same class. For example, you can convert video files, audio files, photos (ex: .JPG to .PNG), archives (ex: .RAR to .ZIP), documents (ex: .PDF to .DOC), and eBooks (ex: .LIT to .EPUB). You can even paste a URL (ex: YouTube) and it'll download the embedded video for you and convert it. Once the conversion is done, they email you a link to download the finished product.
This email-based file retrieval can be either a pro or a con depending on how you look at it. It's more fuss than there really needs to be in the process, however it gives you the flexibility of converting a Youtube video from a computer where you can't download the content, such as when at work behind a proxy or at a public library. When you get home, you can then download the finished conversion immediately using the email link. I first used Zamzar over a year ago, and to this day I have never received unsolicited email from them.
There is a 100MB file limit for free use, but you can upgrade that to 200MB and get about 5GB of online storage if you want to pay their fairly steep monthly prices. For most users, the free services are more than adequate.
Tested and not recommended:
To Be Reviewed:
- DVDVideoSoft (re-review)
- Miksoft Mobile Media Converter
- Motion Man by Blink Solution
Related Products and Links
You might want to check out these articles too:
Freemake Video Converter
Pazera Video Converters Suite
Miro Video Converter
iWisoft Free Video Converter
Pazera Free Audio Extractor
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