There are three types of format I typically want to convert files to:
- DivX: to play on my (aging, but still great) Archos 420
- Smaller MP4: to play on my Nokia E63 phone
- MPEG2: to burn to DVD
The easiest solution for the first two is to use Handbrake. The latest version also requires you to have VLC installed.
Converting iPlayer video to DivX
To convert to DivX, I create an AVI file with MPEG-4 (FFmpeg) as the video codec, as shown in the settings below.
To watch on the built-in screen of my Archos 420, I set the picture size to 320×240 with an average bitrate of 700kbps. This has also worked well on previous phones I’ve own such as a Nokia N93 and an HTC S620, after installing the DivX mobile player.
The Archos can also play back through the TV. For this, I set the picture size to 640×480. For cartoons for the children, I find 1000kbps is a good bitrate. For other things, 1500kbps is better. It’s very much a matter of taste though. I’m not obsessive about video quality, but I don’t like seeing lots of pixellation in the picture.
Converting iPlayer for a Nokia phone
I recently changed my phone to a Nokia E63, and it’s probably the best phone I’ve ever had. But unfortunately, it can’t handle 25 frames-per-second video in the same way as my N93 used to be able to. My brother had a quite high-end Samsung phone and had the same problem.
So, to play video on a mobile, the safest thing to do is reduce the frame rate to 15 fps. I find that this is good enough for watching stuff on planes, trains, etc. I create an MP4 file with the x264 codec as shown in the settings below.
MPEGStreamClip can also convert video to DivX and lower framerate MP4, but doesn’t appear to have a 2-pass option for better encoding. On the other hand, it can edit the video, so if you only want part of the video you downloaded, this is a good option.
If you want very precise control over the conversions, or want to write batch scripts to do it, then using ffmpeg directly from the command line is a good option. It’s hard to learn though, and there are few really good examples of it. I’ve tried to document some examples elsewhere on this site.
next: Writing iPlayer to DVD