Ever have someone send you a video that you want to see, but it’s in a file format your computer doesn’t recognize? Or worse – what if something happened to your hard drive (catastrophic failure), and the only way to retrieve the video was to download it from the Internet? You’d probably want a simple way to convert them so you can watch your favorite videos again, wouldn’t you? Fortunately, there are some free programs that make this process very easy. Here’s what you need to know about them and where to get some good programs.
Know which file formats you want to convert to.
Different converters have different specialties. Some converters work primarily for Apple/Mac media (i.e. iTunes) while other converters support primarily Windows-based media players. Your choice of format really depends on what video or media player you like to use most.
For example, Windows Media Player will play .asf, .asx, .avi, .wav, .wma, .wax, .wm, and .wvx. It can also play RealAudio and RealVideo files from version 4.0 and earlier. Likewise, this media player plays MPEG file formats.
iTunes only supports MPEG-4 formats (.mp4, .m4v, or .mov files) with H.264 compression. If you use iTunes mostly, then keep this in mind since many converters don’t work well with iTunes or, if they do, there are limited conversion options.
Know what bit rate you will convert to.
In general, the lower the bit rate, the less space it’s going to take up on your hard drive. However, this is a double-edged sword. Along with a smaller size comes a decrease in quality. When you’re choosing your bit rate, try to balance quality with video size.
Hard drive space is pretty cheap, so you shouldn’t go too small with your file sizes. In most instances, the default bit rate is a good balance between space and quality.
Choose a good video player.
While Windows Media Player and iTunes are the big players out there, they’re not the only ones. VLC player is a popular, free, third -party player that supports nearly every file format in the marketplace. It will play iTunes and Windows file formats.
When you convert file formats, it’s not a permanent decision. Try out several free media players and decide which one works best for you. When you’ve decided on a video player, associate all video files with this player so that you can click on the file and the video player will automatically start playing the video.
Where to get good free converters.
Free converters are everywhere, but there are a few that beat all of the rest. For online converters, nothing tops Zamzar (Zamzar.com). It’s free, simple to use, and you get your conversions usually later that day. Sometimes, it takes 24 hours though.
For downloadable converters, try Handbrake for Windows and Video Monkey for Mac. Handbrake allows you to convert videos to and from DVD formats. It also supports conversion to MPEG and Apple-supported formats.
Video Monkey is a simple drag-and-drop video converter for Mac. You simply drag the video files you want to convert onto the program interface. Then, confirm the file output and start converting.
Will Blackburn works for a video and music production studio. He enjoys blogging and sharing his insights on video tech issues in his spare time. Click to download a free video converter at KoyoteSoft.com.