How to Make Video Size Smaller for Free

Thanks to hard drive size increasing at a rapid pace, digital video is beginning to find its way to direct download distributors and consumers are becoming less reliant on those thin round discs that seem to scratch and become useless fairly easily. Even with hard drive space becoming more abundant, you may find yourself running out of space when you need it the most. This is one problem that can be solved with the right encoder and understanding of how digital video works.

Container
It’s important to know the two biggest components of a modern digital video. The first and most recognizable is the container. The container can go by several names the most common of which are AVI, MP4, MOV, FLV, etc. In addition to holding the video data, it also contains the audio and extra information such as chapters and other advanced features.

If the video file were an actual physical file full of data, the container would be the manilla envelope the pages of data are contained within. Some players are only able to deal with certain containers, so it’s important to find out which container format is best considering where and how you intend to play the file.

Some containers are flexible and can work with multiple codecs while others are more specialized. The MP4 container doesn’t just work with MPEG-4, which seems like an exact match due to their similar names. It also works very well with H.264

Codec
The second major component of a digital video file is the codec. If the container is the folder the data is located in, the codec is most certainly the data. This is the chief determiner of file size within a video file and, in general, is the most important to consider when converting a file from one format to another. Some codecs offer better compression than others, giving you a quality image with as little space taken up as possible. The most popular lossy codecs include H.264, WMV, DivX, FFmpeg, VP8, MPEG-4, etc.

Of these, my personal favorite is H.264 due to its adoption rate among mobile devices and usability with HTML5 video embedding. There are several adaptations of the codec out there, but to keep things simple just look for H.264 in the video encoder to simplify the process.

One drawback to converting any video file for a smaller file size is you have to deal with lossy formatting that will degrade your video quality to some degree. No matter how good the codec and compression settings you choose, encoding video degrades the quality each time  you do it, like making a copy of a copy on the office copier.

Finding the Right Software
Now that you have an idea of exactly what impact your codec and container selections have on a video file, it’s important to take a look at which program you’d like to use to achieve solid video compression. You may want to keep in mind that video compression utilities of professional quality doesn’t come cheap. The suggested options below are simply some of the better known and reliable programs currently being distributed at no charge.

Handbrake is a popular option that allows you to take video off a DVD or even load up a video file currently on your drive. In addition to being free, it offers you a wide range of options including the ability to set a goal file size. This means that it will determine how much it needs to compress the file to reach your goal, or something close to it. Handbrake sends video out in two primary container formats, MP4 and MKV. Both of these formats are widely accepted by a broad range of media playback devices. The MP4 file comes out as an M4V which allows it a more complete compatibility with the Apple TV, but it is still an MP4 file.

Miro Video Converter is free for the Mac and gives users the ability to take one video file and convert it depending on which device you prefer to play it back on. While it is more of a converter than a utility targeted at compressing files, it does a fair job of making videos optimized for specific devices and formats without leaving them too bulky.

VirtualDub is a great free program that also assists with video formatting and compression. Though it doesn’t give you much in terms of video editing, it does give you a suite of features for post-production processing allowing you to make sure the file you get is what you want.

If you want something a bit more professional and aren’t afraid to spend some cash, some of the best compression utilities include Compressor for the Mac and Adobe Media Encoder for Windows. These utilities come with Final Cut and Adobe Premiere, respectively, and offer a multitude of rendering and encoding options with professional quality. Quicktime Pro / Quicktime paired with iMovie can be a powerful solution at a very low cost.

Stay away from changing frame rates, as that can result in jerky movement or very long processing times. The more you shrink the files, the less reliable the results will be.

No matter what you decide on, what’s important is that the files you are compressing end up looking and sounding the way you want them to. The fight between encoding systems has waged on for years and will continue to do so as long as audiophiles and video enthusiasts have anything to say about it. Fact is, if you can’t tell the difference between before and after, you’ve probably landed on a great solution.

Mozilla Releases An Update For Firefox – Stops Plugin Crashes

Mozilla has released a new update for their popular Firefox browser to version 3.6.4. The folks at Mozilla state that the new release will help stop crashes caused by third party plugins. Over on their blog site Mozilla folks stated:

Mozilla recognizes that third-party plugins provide important functionality in many of today’s websites. At the same time, plugins can lead to problems for users as they browse. With the ability to automatically alert users when they have out of date plugins, and now crash protection, Firefox 3.6.4 allows users to experience all the content they love without any of the hassles.

At this time Firefox offers crash protection for Adobe Flash, Apple Quicktime and Microsoft Silverlight on Windows and Linux computers. Support for other plugins and operating systems will become available in a future Firefox release.

To get the updates go to Help – Check For Updates.

I would recommend you get the update ASAP.

Comments welcome.

Source – Mozilla Blog

Screencast-O-Matic

Have you ever tried to explain how to do something on the computer to someone remotely and wished that you could just show them what they needed to do? There are solutions that exist to actually connect you to someone else’s computer so that you can literally perform the procedure yourself, but another way in which things can be explained and demonstrated is through screencasts. You’ve surely seen a few of these computer video presentations online, but you can also easily create them yourself. I’ve used expensive software to do this in the past, however, all that you need to get started is provided on the Internet for free through Screencast-O-Matic.

This online service enables you to create a screencast straight from your browser, and for anyone with basic needs, Screencast-O-Matic will prove to be sufficient. Just select the size of the area that you want to record, include some real-time narration, add notes of interest to specific parts of the recorded screencast in order to assist with navigation, and then either download the screencast as a QuickTime movie or upload it to the site so that it can be seen and shared by everyone.

Freespire 2.0.3 With CNR Available

It seems that we have been waiting for CNR [Click-N-Run] to be incorporated into Freespire for well over six months. Well it has finally arrived. CNR is being offered as a freebie by the Linspire folks and will make your installing of free open source software easier than every. CNR contains a repository of thousands of free open source programs that you can select from and the installation is done automatically for you. On their web site it states:

Freespire is a community-driven, Debian-based Linux distribution which legally supports (or has one-click access to support): MP3, DVD, Windows Media, QuickTime, Java, Flash, Real, ATI drivers, nVidia drivers, Adobe Acrobat Reader, proprietary WiFi drivers, fonts, and more. In addition to the CNR service, Freespire provides free access to the entire Freespire open source application pool using apt-get.

If you have tried other distributions and had trouble installing software, give Freespire a try. You will be pleasantly surprised how simple the process can be using CNR.

Comments welcome.

Download Freespire 2.0.3 from here.

[tags]freespire, linux, open source, cnr, free, download, drivers, fonts, nvidia, apt-get, support, quicktime, access, [/tags]

Lockergnome Problem With Google AdSense And QuickTime?

Back on Sept. 6th I received a comment from Steve Hobberstad in which he described a problem he was having when he clicked on the links in the Lockergnome newsletter that Chris does. He stated:

Thanks for the heads-up, Ron, but do you know why I’m getting the browser message (paraphrasing) “This Web site wants to run… ‘QuickTimeCheck Scriptable Object’ add-on” when I come to this page? What’s different about this link from the other links I clicked on in today’s newsletter?

Thanks again,

Steve

After doing some research I responded to Steve’s problem with the following:

Hi Steve,

First of all it is not the links nor the site that is causing this. The error message you are getting appears to have something to do with Quicktime itself. If you have this on your system, I would uninstall and try a reinstall.

From what I have read this AM, it appears that the Google AdSense ads may be triggering this message.

I hope this helps. Get back to me and let us know what you find. It should be interesting to see if we can solve this, since I am sure you are not the only one who is experiencing this problem.

Curious. Are you using IE 7 by any chance?

Regards, Ron

It seems that Steve is still having a problem which now prohibits him from leaving any comment on the Lockergnome site. In his email he sent me he stated:

Yes, I do have QuickTime on my system — and the Pro version, at that! I’m a little pissed with Apple, though: after taking Windows Secrets’ advice in their recent newsletter article “Media players more dangerous than Windows” and using Software Inspector to look for updates for everything from Flash Player to Adobe Reader to QuickTime, QT’s the only one you can’t update for free…or even (as a registered user) for a discount. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of user reviews for the latest version are highly negative so I intend NOT to bite on that Apple.

Oddly enough…

1. The Windows Fanatics/Lockergnome newsletters are the only ones containing links which yield this result; and,

2. I’d swear it only began happening for those links after I’d already clicked on some of them WITHOUT that result earlier the same day (which is why I thought the link to your page was the only one doing it); i.e., it seems I’d clicked on several of the other links that morning WITHOUT receiving the pop-up/add-on message — then later that day when I clicked on your link I received it for the first time. After posting my first reply (above) I thought it was “just you”… but then, after RETURNING to some of the links I’d visited earlier that day, suddenly I was receiving the message for them, too.

Is there QT content on these Windows Fanatics webpages? — or are you saying that Google AdSense ads alone are the culprits? If the latter is the case that’d really suck: to have to install an add-on in order to view advertising content OR continue to be annoyed by this pop-up message…complete with beep.

Yes, BTW: I am running IE7. A vast improvement over 6, imho — for the fact that it defaults to saving pages in the .mht format instead of .htm …if not for the advanced security features as well.

I have my doubts that reinstallating QT would fix the problem since otherwise the application seems to be working okay. If Apple’s done something surreptitiously to require users to add on an add-on in order not to be annoyed by a recurring pop-up I suspect it’s buried in a registry entry that either wouldn’t get flushed by uninstalling the program or else would get added right back in the first time I visited one of these pages.

Thanks, Ron. Say hi to Jackie for me.

My first thought is this. We need to isolate the problem, which is easier said than done. I would recommend that Steve try another browser such as Firefox or Opera do see if he still has the same problem. If the problem doesn’t happen in one of these browsers, than a uninstall of QT Pro would be the next step. If there is a concern about registry entries being left behind I would use CCleaner just to clean the registry — nothing else. Make sure the Backup option in CCleaner is used and I would also make a Restore Point as well. Reinstall QT Pro and see what happens.

I could only find reference to QT having a problem with Google AdSense I personally have not experienced this problem myself.

Has anyone else encountered the same problem that Steve is having? If so, how did you correct it?

As always, comments are welcome. Lets see if we can help Steve with this.

[tags]google, adsense, quicktime, apple, pro[/tags]