There’s a plethora of video formats out there, but things get even more confusing when you consider how many devices you might want to play back those same videos on. You could watch on your phone, on a handheld games machine, on a tablet, on a notebook, PC, TV”¦ the list seems endless, but not every single screen you’re going to want to play back a file on may natively support that file.
There are ways to work around many of these problems on most laptops and desktop computers; I’m still a big fan of VLC — www.videolan.org — which will play almost anything you throw at it — but once you move beyond the PC sphere things get a little more challenging.
Luckily, there’s an easy fix for your video woes, and it’s one that won’t cost you a cent either. HandBrake is an Open Source, multi-platform video encoding application that can take most unprotected video files and convert them into other formats more suitable for your devices at hand. There’s a focus on Apple device output formats, mainly because Apple’s iDevices are natively restricted in what they’ll play, but this isn’t just of use for someone with an iPad.
You can grab HandBrake — http://handbrake.fr/ — as a free download, and it’s a relatively simple operation to convert a single file. After you’ve installed it, run the application and select your source video file. Once again, it can’t directly work with any kind of protected media; the idea is giving you access to your own files, rather than easy piracy. HandBrake comes with a variety of presets for a number of devices; it’s well worth checking if the device you want to output to is natively supported, as that will give you the best results. You can queue up multiple files for conversion, and then it’s a matter of hitting the start button and waiting. Video conversion can be a slow task, especially if you’re using an older PC or you’ve got other programs running. Ideally you should shut other applications down while using HandBrake, if only to speed things up a little.
Once it’s finished you’ll be left with a file suitable for your device (or devices) that you can then transfer across and watch to your heart’s content, and the original source file is left untouched as well, although this does mean you’ll use up an extra chunk of hard drive space along the way.