In my blogging life, I’ve had the good fortune of having access to tools such as TechSmith’s Snagit and Camtasia Studio. The video output from these two utilities can be manageable i.e. low file sizes depending on video length and the output is compressed & ready for uploading to file sharing site like Youtube, Blip.TV, Vimeo, etc. However, you will have scenarios where you have no control over the initial video generated i.e. files straight from the video camera, etc. These files are usually several hundred megabytes and unfit for Youtube/Blip.TV as they are.
Thankfully, there are tools (free and paid) are available to perform these tasks of compressing the raw video date. Some of these tools include: (Quicktime 7 Pro, Windows Media Encoder 9 Series, Microsoft Expression 2 Encoder, Handbrake, etc). I have actually used all 4 programs listed for a variety of tasks mostly compression (using MS Expression 2 Encoder to compress large .wmv files generated from screen captures), conversion (Quicktime 7 Pro, Windows Media 9 Encoder and Handbrake). They work great out-of-the-box, but I had some trouble dealing with a .mpg video file that 2 popular tools were unable to assist me with.
Last week, I recorded some videos using Sony’s HD HandyCam and the file sizes ranged from 300MBs to 900MBs in size. At first, I did not think I would run into any problems because the file format was mpg. I was dead wrong. Right off the bat, Microsoft Expression 2 Encoder and Quicktime 7 Pro did not help me because they could not open/convert mpg files. I guess I should have read the manual because Quicktime Pro does have the capability, but needs a separate add-on (MPEG-2 Playback Component) to be purchased (for $19.99).
Microsoft Expression Encoder failed with error code 0x80131537 and was generally a little unhelpful in deciphering if it just couldn’t open mpg files or if my file was corrupt (which it wasn’t). I’m not even going to pretend that I’m knowledgeable about the powerful abilities of Microsoft Expression Encoder 2, but this article by Ben Waggoner did justice to the power of this tool. (Back to my story), I knew I was in trouble, but I didn’t despair yet. I turned to Handbrake which I’d used to handle smaller files. I started the conversion and let it run. I came back after ~ 1 hr and found that my laptop had the dreaded blue screen of death (BSOD). Wow. This simple task of compressing my large video files was rapidly turning into a huge pain in the butt.
Then, I tried Windows Media Encoder 9 Series. It did a good job of converting the files to the format(s) I’d specified, but little to no compression was present. However, this was most likely due to my compression options which I have yet to nail down. Below are some screenshots of the process to encode a file using Windows Media Encoder 9 Series:
- This page allows you to select your source file and designate a destination folder (and name) for your output file.
- The supported file types (for the source file section) are: asf, avi, bmp, jpg, mpg, wmv, mp3, wav, wma
- The supported file types (for the output file section) are: wma and wmv.
- You are asked the question of how your content needs to be distributed because “using a distribution method that is different from what you specify may negatively affect playback quality.”
The first option that is automatically selected when choosing to convert a file in Windows Media Encoder 9 Series is for high definition. This could have been because my source file was a high-definition file in mpg format.
As you will see also, the output for this first set of encoding options is 1280 x 720. That is huge and on my first try, my encoded file ended up being the same size (relatively speaking) as the original file. While high quality is a good thing, clearly the size of the generated file is going to be a problem and may make watching the streaming video a futile (or exasperating) experience. Thankfully, there are other options when you click the black arrow pointing downwards (under Video) as shown in the picture below:
For my purposes (hat tip to the IT guy at my place of work), I selected “DVD quality video (CBR)” and the obvious ‘menu’ changes are changes to the bit rate and the output size. See below:
Another option that may be of interest is the VHS option, but be aware that the video quality drastically goes down. 🙂 And that’s that for now. I’ll leave you with the last screenshot of the changes.
Just in case you selected wrong encoding options, there is an option to start encoding your file immediately or not. Obviously, you should opt NOT to start encoding your file whereupon you will be taken to Windows Media Encoder 9 interface which gives even more encoding options. Enjoy!!