What good is a super-compressed MPEG4 video if you can’t watch it on whatever device you choose? Sure, that movie may look absolutely phenomenal in high-def on your computer, the resolution popping with the visual crispness and fidelity of real life, but it can be a pain to watch on your home console, or — if you want to cut the cord entirely — on your tablet or smartphone. Luckily, quality video converters have been around for several years, allowing users to convert their precious video footage into a number of desirable formats. And they’re completely free.
Most video converters work in a similar way, requiring the user to upload their files and select an appropriate output setting before choosing a save location within their computer’s directory. However, some falter when it comes to speed and conversion quality, while others pave the way with intuitive features that go well beyond your typical video converter and push the software into an entirely different realm — one where video editing and multimedia players intersect.
Any Video Converter (Windows/MacOS)
The name says it all: Any Video Converter is a fantastic piece of freeware that can handle conversions to everything from DicX and MPEG4 to VOB and more than 60 other input formats, all within an attractive and minimalist interface that’s trouble-free and pleasing to navigate without being overly daunting. The software features user-defined video outputs, batch processing for converting multiple files simultaneously, and saves all converted video to a pre-designated folder for quick access and organization. Aside from the basic conversion features, AVC can also directly extract and convert audio from any given video into a limited number of formats such as MP3, AAC, and WAV. Plus, the program can download and convert YouTube and Google videos by simply pasting the specified video link into the download box and clicking a few buttons.
Although conversion speeds leave something to be desired, and the built-in DVD burner is a bit finicky, the resulting video quality is excellent, especially when paired with the barebones editor that allows you to trim, crop, and layer video effects for a more hands-on approach. AVC covers a good deal of format ground – offering conversions for mobile devices and consoles, among other machines – making it one of the most user-friendly and adoptable freemium products in our roundup.
Handbrake seemed on its last legs back in 2006 when the software’s initial creator, Eric Petit, dropped off the face of the Earth, but development carried on with the help of a few ambitious folk who were driven to update and revise the existing software for a changing world. The open-source video converter now boasts one of the most expansive software packages for ripping and converting video files for playback on number of popular devices such as iPods, AppleTV, and Android tablets. The interface is sleek and well-designed, yet intimidating, offering a variety of customizable, borderline-advanced features that take a bit of getting used to before you can really capitalize on their capabilities and intuitive uses. However, the HandBrake guide and forums are always available if you need help without having to spend ample time fumbling with the program.
Other noteworthy features include an abundance of video editing tools for splicing, adjusting framerate, adding subtitles, and assorted video effects, all of which can be viewed in a live preview window. Experienced users can even queue multiple encodes for quicker batch processing and expedited results sans tedious manual input. Handbrake simply can’t be topped when converting files to MP4 or MKV format, but it also isn’t for beginners unwilling to learn the software. In late 2016, a new version of the software, 1.0.0, was released with completely redone presets, including new presets for the latest mobile devices, new MKV presets, and VP9 video encoding.
MediaCoder is a capable program loaded with terrific conversion features. The interface, though bewildering at first glance, is relatively straightforward once you learn your way around, offering a boatload of customizable features for converting video to a specified output format of your choice. Whether you want to batch process a number of AVI files to MPEG or compress files for a reduced memory footprint, MediaCoder can handle it.
You’ll find additional settings for modifying the output –including the ability to convert video to grayscale, quarter-pixel, cartoon, or high-quality mode – as well as bitrate adjustments for both the audio and video components of your file. Speed and resulting quality are grade A, with quick conversions, and an emphasis on maintaining the original quality across formats.
MediaCoder is an exceptional piece of software, but it’s geared more towards the tech aficionado instead of the first-time user trying to make a zippy conversions. But if you prefer to focus on the details and your primary interest is in quality and low-loss transfers, MediaCoder is a safe bet (plus, it now comes in an iPad edition for mobile users).
With support for more than 200 devices and conversion options for 3GP, Mp4, WMV, FLV, M2TS, and much more, Hamster has done an excellent job of evolving in the past couple years. The current version, technically Hamster 2.0, now works with all Apple products while still providing simple, mobile-friendly conversion options that are ideal for those on the go.
However, Hamster also provides a few tools for those who have more time, including options to adjust bitrate or frame rate, and to edit clips as you convert to optimize for various purposes. The interface is easy to understand and tinker with, while still allowing for easy batch projects or expanding conversion to multiple video files as needed. Formats and conversion tools are primarily offered via an icon-based setup, another feature that’s particularly friendly for touchscreens and mobile devices. If you can’t make it to a desktop, consider Hamster (but it works fine on desktops, too).
It’s important to note that this is, indeed, a paid product that requires some investment to use. You can use it for a year for $40, or you can buy a single lifetime license for around $60. That’s not exactly cheap, but you get a full video conversion app in return, and we mean full. The software offers support for more than 150 formats, with free, continual access to updates for any future formats as well. Online video support includes YouTube, Facebook Video, Vimeo, and VEVO, while devices range from HTC and LG support to Apple TV and Xbox.
Editing tools, as you may expect, are both far ranging and competent. You can add whatever metadata you wish, crop video, trim edges, merge videos, rotate shots, and more. If you don’t like the look, you can also change brightness, contrast, and saturation. If you’re working on a truly impressive production, you can also change the volume, add effects, and put in subtitles – all with powerful acceleration and lossless techniques designed to speed up conversions without losing any data. On the professional side—and for a price—this is one of the best converters for high-quality production available.