Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Video Converting for the Mac

Back when I was still on a Windows PC, the (in?)famous Super C (if you need me to point you to this link then you also need me to tell you that the download link is at the bottom of the page) converter solved all my video converting needs. It was old, it was clunky, and complicated, but to me, it represented a world of choices I guess even some of the best paid applications won't provide. And more importantly, it supported batch conversion, so that be it 2 files or 20, I could get the gears running with less than 10 mouse clicks, and go to sleep knowing everything will be nice and done in the morning (unless, you know, Windows crashes or something). And since then I'd always maintained that the ability to batch convert be one of the factors of my ideal video converter.

Thankfully, when I got onto my Mac, I was so busy making up for the time I'd lost in camp that video conversion was just about the last thing on my mind. Additionally I was getting really audiophilish, and the tracks in my Creative ZEN were mostly either MP3s at 320kbps, or WAVs at 1411kbps. You can just imagine the amount of space it took up, so that I had to be extremely picky about what music went into my player, much less videos. Later, I got my 16GB SDHC card, but the memory card expansion was so terrible on the Creative that I just gave up after awhile.

So now, after the 2009 Apple iPod keynote, I've gotten myself a 32GB iPod Touch! And yes in case you're wondering, it feels good to succumb to the dark side. Really really good.

We'll talk about that in another post.

It was after that that I started searching in earnest again for a good video converter for the Mac. But good unrestricted free software on Windows was hard to find, much less for Macs. By the way, I hear from my friends that they use Any Video Converter nowadays.

I did a Byte of the Week once with Tech65 on Handbrake, one of the leading free converters in the Mac world. And yes it's great, almost as great as Super. But it's missing my most important criterion.

Batch conversion.

Or rather, it's idea of batch conversion is adding files one by one by one configuring each conversion one by one by one, and then clicking the "Start Converting" button when you're done adding to the queue.

Seriously guys. WTF.

But no really. Other than that it's a great converting software. Probably the best.

Then I realise I've had it under my nose all along.

I have been using Vuze, or The Application Formerly Known as Azureus, for torrenting on my Mac. Sadly it seems that the best of these kind of free software are all cross-platform developments - both Vuze and Handbrake are such software. The best thing about the latest versions of Vuze is that you can format your files for sharing to other devices. Without Windows Media Center involved one inch, I have watched in amazement as full HD video streamed right out through my Xbox 360 (connected to my home network, as is my MBP) to my HDTV. Similarly, Vuze auto-converts videos to an Apple device of your choice, and copies it to iTunes after the conversion is done, where it will be ready for you to copy or sync with your device. If you are using a PS3, PSP, or TiVo, Vuze will also work for you. Best of all? Drag, drop, and select the device you want to format your videos for, and the rest will be done for you while you rest easy.

My only qualm about this converter is that all the settings are preset, with no noticeable option to change them. While this is best for the masses who aren't quite so familiar with conversion concepts and technologies, I find an audio bitrate of 64kbps appalling. It's like hearing people talk through a funnel. So if there was a file where I really wanted the audio quality preserved, or at least set at a compression I'm alright with, then I will use Handbrake for that one file. It has device presets too, so I for instance can click on the iPod Touch preset, then manually tweak the audio bitrate settings from there.

Alright, hope this helped.

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