Free video tools

vbimport

#1

This thread is intended as a resource for our readers. I will list free video tools in here as they become available or are updated. Many of these programs will be familiar to you and I, others will be slightly out of the mainstream.

Be sure to check back in as new programs are added.

Oh, and by the way, if you have any questions about the programs listed, feel free to start a thread about them here in the Video Editing forum. I’ll be happy to answer anything I can, and provide confusion on the rest.


#2

[B]MKVToolnix[/B] This is a very useful tool for anyone working with .mkv files. You may also want to download MKVExtractGUI-2 to work with this program to demux .mkv files.

The authors of MKVToolnix describe the program as [I]“a set of tools to create, alter and inspect Matroska files under Linux, other Unices and Windows.”[/I]

The latest version is 5.8.0, and you can download it at the developers site: http://www.bunkus.org/videotools/mkvtoolnix/downloads.html If you are using Windows, you can download as a zip file or as an installation executable file.

You can download MKVExtractGUI at Sourceforge: http://sourceforge.net/projects/mkvextractgui-2/ The latest version as of this post is 2.2.2.2.9.


#3

[B]Icaros[/B] allows selection of thumbnail offset and adds MKV properties to Windows Explorer - Icaros is a Windows Shell Extension, which is capable of providing Windows Explorer thumbnails for essentially any video media filetype. Upon installation, and with 1st use of the application, if you simple click ‘Activate Icaros’, it will default to thumbnailing MKV’s (10bit files too) and OGM files. It is capable of thumbnailing just about any file by adding its extension(s) to the optional filetypes box and re-activating Icaros.

The developers site is here: http://shark007.net/tools.html

And the 2.1.1 beta download is here: http://www.mediafire.com/?zxpxk6t4g42sbgw


#4

[B]AviDemux[/B] Yes, I know, this editing program has been around for a while, and is an excellent alternative to Virtualdub. You can make cuts, use filters and even change formats using AviDemux, but the reason I’m including it in this list of free tools is the improved handling of H264 encoded files when using the 2.6 beta versions of the program.

If you have ever been frustrated using AviDemux on H264 in the past, and have used the mainstream 2.5 versions, I highly recommend changing to the 2.6 beta. The latest release is 2.6 (r8171) and can be found here: http://avidemux.razorbyte.com.au/

I recently cut some sections out of a poorly decrypted blu ray movie using this beta version, and cutting on I frames, the process was very quick and produced flawless results. The only drawback for using AviDemux for this purpose is its lack of an m2ts output. I had to save as another format and rewrap the video in an m2ts file to put back into the blu ray structure.

Edit: Sept. 10, 2012 AviDemux has been updated, and the 2.6 version is no longer in beta status. The download is here: http://avidemux.sourceforge.net/download.html


#5

[B]ClownBD [/B] Speaking of rewrapping video files made me remember this fine tool. It is a GUI for tsMuxeR, eac3to and Aften. It will allow you to extract the main movie, audio streams and subtitles from a decrypted blu ray movie. It can output as transport streams, or an ISO and can convert certain types of problematic audio formats like DTS HD MA into the core DTS or AC3.

You can find the program here: http://clownbd.com/ The latest version is 0.79.

ClownBD was only intended as a stopgap, till Slysoft came out with an equivalent program, but they have not done so even after several years. They are working on a new program called Slyce, which will be able to do most anything that ClownBD can, and a bit more, but for now, ClownBD is an excellent tool for working with streams within blu ray structure. And it will have one advantage over Slyce, in that it is free.

The only downside is that you have to have Java installed. You can get the latest version of Java here: http://www.java.com/en/


#6

On to conversion programs! Yay! (I have to be my own cheering squad around here)

Virtually everyone and their pet monkey is using [B]Handbrake[/B] these days for conversion of dvds and blu ray to mp4 or mkv files using the H264 codec. I even use it for this purpose on occasion, though I like to experiment with other tools. The GUI in Handbrake is pretty straightforward, and they cater to newcomers with their preset encoding options for specific types of mobile hardware. If you are in the market for such a conversion program and don’t know which one to choose, I highly recommend Handbrake for anyone new to the process. You can download Handbrake here: http://handbrake.fr/ The latest version is 0.9.8.

Now those developers at Handbrake definitely have their own agenda, which doesn’t always mesh with that of their users. They dropped avi support…too much trouble. Xvid?..Old news. And setting a specific output target size? Not going to happen anymore.

But there are some other choices for conversions. We’ll get to them soon.


#7

Soon is now. One of my favorite programs has had an update today, a significant one at that.

[B]BD Rebuilder[/B] is a program that was originally designed for compression of blu ray movies to fit smaller targets, like 25gb blank blu ray discs, or even double or single layer dvds. The original output was still in blu ray or AVCHD format. But the author, jdobbs, continued to develop the program and added output to mkv, mp4 and even dvd-video.

The update today gives even more options. Now, you can start with something other than blu ray video. Input formats now include blu ray, mkv or mp4 files using mpeg, VC-1 or H264 encoded video, and you can also import dvd-video (movie only) into BD Rebuilder now.

BD Rebuilder requires several different free auxiliary programs, ffdshow, AviSynth, and Haali Matroska Splitter. I wrote a couple of guides for the program; one is for basic setup and the second for making alternate output, like mkv, mp4 and dvd video. You can find them here, and here

Thisis the page for downloading BD Rebuilder. Make certain to get the versions of the auxiliary programs from that page.

I like this program quite a lot, but even I will admit that it doesn’t have as many presets as Handbrake. If you want to make your own output parameters, it is possible to do that with BD Rebuilder, though not as simply as in Handbrake.


#8

Here’s another conversion tool that I have just become aware of. It is called [B]Hybrid[/B], and is a front end for many, many free tools used in video conversions.

The interface is a bit daunting, even for those used to working with the free tools this program can access. You can find it here: http://www.selur.de/

I will download and be at guinea pig test subject with it. :slight_smile: Normally I’d suggest Ripbot264 or Xvid4PSP as alternatives to Handbrake, but it can be interesting to try new tools from time to time.


#9

There is a new version of [B]VidCoder[/B] out today. I’ve seen this program recommended before, but haven’t had much time to work with it. VidCoder is a program for converting various types of video, including blu ray and dvds to mkv or mp4 files. It uses Handbrake as the encoding engine. You can find VidCoder here: http://vidcoder.codeplex.com/

Some may ask, why not just use Handbrake? The answer is that VidCoder retains some of the options that have been dropped from Handbrake, including using a set output size as the main encoding constraint. Also, if you go into the Advanced settings within VidCoder, the authors have provided some very useful pop up tips, showing exactly what the various controls for X264 do, and why some options will produce better quality results. It is usually a trade off in X264, between speed and quality, so knowing how to produce better quality will help any newcomer to the process if they are not particularly interested in top speed encodes.

My test encode, using a dvd folder as input, has turned out quite well, and not all that slow, even though I did a bit of tweaking to the standard settings of a CQ 20 encode. I also like the preview window in VidCoder, and the ability to make a small clip for testing your settings.


#10

For the most part, I’ve been talking about video in newer formats in this thread. MP4 and MKV using the H264 codec have been the focus for video conversions for a few years now. But occasionally you might need to convert something to dvd-video. The program I use for this is free, so can be included in this list. It is [B]AVStoDVD[/B], and a new version, 2.5.1, has been released today (Sept. 22, 2012).
You can find it here: https://sites.google.com/site/avstodvdmain/

AVStoDVD has two encoders included with it, but I almost always choose a two pass encode using HCenc. Once you have it set up, it is very easy to use, and produces excellent results…but of course that depends in large part on the quality of the input.

Over the past few years, I’ve only found a couple of weaknesses in the program. The first is its limited capabilities in menu creation. You won’t find elaborate controls for menus in this program. And the second is a bit more unpredictable. AVStoDVD sometimes has trouble converting DTS HD MA audio to formats that will work in dvd-video. And since this type of DTS audio is becoming common in blu ray sources, I’ve switched to BD Rebuilder whenever I want to convert those to dvd-video.

But working with other sources, AVStoDVD has been a workhorse. The only other program like it that I would recommend wholeheartedly is ConvertX, but it is not free.


#11

All right. After a week of blissful silence where you didn’t have to read anything in this thread, I’m back…yes sir, back to annoy you once more.

Today’s tool is one that I have not tried in a long time. Normally I despise working with subtitles, and no subtitle editor has ever been fun to work with, but they are occasionally a necessary evil. This program is called [B]Aegisub[/B] and it has been completely overhauled by the author with a new release today (Oct. 1, 2012).
You can find the download here: http://www.aegisub.org/

The list of improvements takes up a few pages, so I’m not going to include it here, but you can find the changelog at their website.

I’ve used this program in the past to edit .ass subtitles (yes that is the actual format). And while it worked reasonably well in the past, I’ve always wound up going back to Subtitle Workshop for most other subtitle formats. If any of you would like to take the plunge and experiment with this program after this major revision, please report back in.


#12

Here’s one that is a little off the beaten path. I rarely work with .wmv files, but every now and again you might run into one. [B]Asfbin[/B] is an editing program designed to work with .wmv and .asf files, and is probably the most recommended free editor for these formats. It will fix corrupted files, allow you to cut and merge video in these formats, and it has single frame accuracy in cuts and lossless processing around them.
You can find the program here: http://www.radioactivepages.com/asfbin.aspx


#13

And…I’m back. I’m fudging a little on this next tool, as it is free only while it remains in beta status. Of course, it has remained in beta status for years now, but there is no guarantee.

This program is called [B]MakeMKV[/B]. One of the great strengths of this program is that it can decrypt and rip both dvds and blu ray. The ripping section for dvds will be free forever according to the author, but the blu ray section might not. We’ll see.

When ripping dvds, MakeMKV will always rip the main movie only, and it will output as an .mkv file. This can be turned back into a dvd-video if necessary, but that cannot be done within MakeMKV.

When ripping blu ray, MakeMKV can output as an .mkv file using just the main movie, or you can have the entire blu ray ripped to the hard drive in blu ray file format when using the Backup option.

One thing you should be aware of when making mkv files with this program is that it does not compress anything. You get the full quality of the original disc, but you also get the large file sizes. Another point to take into consideration is that the program does not change the video and audio codecs from the original disc. If your equipment is expecting H264 video in an mkv file, and the original blu ray was encoded in VC-1 or Mpeg2, then you’re still a long way off. Make certain you know what your players need as far as input.

In order to use the program, you’ll need a new beta key each month. You can find it in their forum in this thread: http://www.makemkv.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1053

And you can download the program here: http://www.makemkv.com/

If you are using Vista or Win 7 or Win 8, you may need to run the program as Administrator.


#14

Next up is a tool that I use quite often. It is called [B]MediaInfo[/B], and is used to examine video and audio files to find out details of those files. It will show audio and video codecs that are used, duration of playing time, bitrate used, encoding program that was used to make it and many other specifications.

I find the Tree view most helpful, and I always enable MediaInfo as a Windows Explorer shell, so that you can right click on a media file and display the information quickly.

A new version of MediaInfo was released today, Oct. 22, 2012.

The only downside is the installer. It will try to put in extras…today it was a toolbar and installation of AVG anti-virus. Just make sure to opt out of these “extras” by removing the check marks in the boxes.

You can download MediaInfo here: http://mediainfo.sourceforge.net/en


#15

Things have been hectic this holiday season and I’ve not been trying many new programs. But here is a free media player that I’ve recently tested, with very few issues to report. It is called [B]SMPlayer[/B] and is a front-end for MPlayer (which is mainly seen in Linux). SMPlayer is compatible with both Windows and Linux.

A new version of SMPLayer was released this week (Nov. 21, 2012). So far, I’m enjoying using the player, as I haven’t run into any problems in playback of m2ts files, dvds, or other media files I’ve tried. And I’m doing this in Windows 8, which has proved to be a troublesome operating system for many of the free media players.

I like the interface a little better than the relatively crude one seen in MPC-HC.

SMPlayer can be used as a stand-alone program. It doesn’t have to be installed.

You can find it here: http://smplayer.sourceforge.net/


#16

I’ve been experimenting with a few new tools the last week or so. One of them is an all-in one conversion program called [B]TEncoder[/B]. This is actually a gui for two well known encoding programs, Mencoder and FFmpg, both of which produce good quality for many different formats.

TEncoder is really quite straightforward, with good controls over encoding parameters. I don’t think I’d use it for conversion to H264 or mpeg2, since there are better encoders available for those two formats, but for xvid, wmv, or flv it should be fine. It even offers VP8 encoding (the format Google has been pushing), but not VP9 yet.

TEncoder was able to open, and process a corrupt mkv file I had, which nothing else would touch up to that point. I was able to save in huffyuv avi format (HUGE size by the way) and then compress again in a new file. So, it has already proved useful.


#17

And here is another handy tool: [B]MkvToMp4[/B]. This will take mkv files and convert them to mp4 format for use on those devices that do not have mkv support. It will not re-encode the video if it is already encoded with H264 and is compliant to mp4 specifications, so for those, it is a very fast conversion.

This program will convert other video formats to H264 however.

MkvToMp4 does not install into your programs list. It will run from whichever directory you unzip it. And it is self contained. It doesn’t rely on any outside programs.

There is support for multiple audio tracks, tagging, various subtitle formats, and artwork. Compatibility for Apple devices seems to be a major concern in this program.

One thing to note, the default output is to an .m4v file, so if you need .mp4, change this in the Program Setup.


#18

Another tool caught my eye when I was looking at TEncoder. This is audio only, but it can extract audio from video files and either copy it or convert to other formats. It can take audio files directly as input of course.

The name is [B]TAudioConverter[/B] and it is obviously made by the author of TEncoder. Even the GUI is quite similar.

TAudioConverter has some interesting quirks in its layout. For one thing, you don’t choose an output by file type. Rather, you choose the encoder that you want to use. So if you want an AC3 output, it is assumed that you know that Aften is the encoder that you need. TAudioConverter has a couple of good AAC encoders QAAC and FHG AAC, so there is no need to use FAAC that is also included. Lame is available for mp3 output. And there are quite a few other options, including Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, Opus, Monkey’s Audio, WAV, etc.

My tests included straight conversion from mp4 audio files to mp3, which went very well and quickly. I also tried extraction from vob files into mp3, which was again successful.

One of the last tests I tried was extracting the AAC audio from an mp4 video file and converting to AC3. This last test converted properly and plays correctly but the tag showing duration of the file is incorrect. The original audio is 42 minutes, but the AC3 file shows to be over 3 hrs. But as I said, it plays correctly and isn’t actually any longer than the original.

One common task in audio conversions is changing the sampling rate. CD audio is 44100, but audio found in dvds is 48000khz. To change this setting, go into Effects Filters, put a check mark in the box to enable this function then you can change sampling rate. There are some other options there as well, such as Normalization and changing channels.

All in all, a handy little audio converter.


#19

Came across a relatively new little tool the other day. This one is for lossless conversion of video from one container format to another. In other words, if you have an mkv or avi file that won’t play on your portable device because you need mp4 format, this tool can shift everything into a new file type for you without causing any loss of visual or audio quality.

The name of the tool is [B]Video Container Changer[/B] and it is free to download and use, of course, or it wouldn’t be in this list. VCC uses ffmpeg to do all the heavy lifting in this process, and it works very quickly.

The program does not install into your programs list, but rather works from whichever folder you install it. It does have some quirks. I tried to designate a destination folder for my output when testing, and though it seems to have controls that allow this, I couldn’t get it to output anywhere but in the folder that holds the input file.

One other thing you should be aware of. It claims to be able to change the level of an H264 encoded video, so that it will play on equipment that doesn’t support the higher levels. Many portables, for example, need level 3 or lower, while most blu ray you see is encoded at 4.1. Since this program does not re-encode, the video will still have attributes of the higher levels, (CABAC, higher numbers of reference frames and so forth). So while you might change the level number, the video still might not play on slower equipment very well.


#20

And add one more tool to your format changing toolbox. This one is called [B]Rebox.net[/B].

It is specifically designed to convert mkv to mp4 without loss. It can also convert mkv to AVCHD (if the original video fits this format) or to a .ts format file.

This tool requires NET framework 4.

It was initially designed to make files compatible for the Xbox 360 and PS3, but may also come in handy for various types of portable devices, especially Apple products, since they seem to prefer the mp4 format.

You can find it here: http://www.clonead.co.uk/