iTunes only supports MP4 and QuickTime format video files, so many of the videos you come across on the web can’t be added directly to iTunes or transferred to an iPod, iPhone, or iPad. Luckily, this problem is easy to solve — all you have to do is convert the videos to MP4 files using one of the tools below. Once yo have, you can add them to iTunes and use them like any other file i Tunes supports.
The web is full of poor-quality video converters that try to install adware and other junk when you download them. Unlike these other questionable programs, the below options are free, open-source, and won’t try to trick you into installing adware or spyware. They’re also both cross-platform, so they work on both Windows and Mac OS X.
Which Format Should You Convert To?
You should ideally convert videos to the H.264 MP4 video format, which is the most widely supported video format at this point. You could convert the videos to older QuickTime formats instead, but they’d be larger in file size and offer worse image quality.
Because H.264 is the most widely supported format, you’ll also be able to play back the MP4 files using a wide variety of other devices and software including the Roku and Android devices. Note that these files usually have the .mp4 file extension, but they may also have the .m4v file extension — either way, it’s an MP4 file.
Unfortunately, there will be some quality loss involved. This is the nature of video compression. We’re taking an existing video and re-encoding it with another codec. This is like taking a photocopy of a photocopy — some information is lost each time. But, as long as you use a fairly high-quality original file, you shouldn’t really notice the quality loss.
If you really care about having the highest-quality file, you should re-rip the source media — for example, instead of converting a DVD to AVI and converting that AVI to MP4, convert the original DVD straight to MP4 with no other format in between.
HandBrake – Windows and Mac
We like HandBrake for converting video files. AVI and MKV are both easy to convert with HandBrake, but HandBrake can also convert DVD videos and a wide variety of other video formats you might come across. You can select your conversion settings in just a few seconds or spend a while tweaking them in detail, whichever you prefer.
The interface can look a bit confusing at first, but it’s actually very easy to use. After installing and launching HandBrake, click the Source button on the toolbar, select Open File, and open your AVI or MKV file.
Next, click the Browse button under Destination, choose the folder the new MP4 file will be saved to, and enter a name for it.
Under Output Settings, the MP4 container format should be selected by default. HandBrake can also create MKV files, but iTunes doesn’t support those.
If you don’t want to do anything extra, you can now just click the Start button and HandBrake will convert your video to an MP4 file. You can then import the resulting MP4 file into iTunes and move it to your mobile device; everything should work normally.
If you’d like to set more quality settings, you can click around using the tabs at the bottom before clicking the Start button. You’re free to set a new height and width for the video, crop it, add filters, change the video quality setting, choose a video codec (but you should probably use the default H.264 (x264) codec), choose codec profiles, import SRT subtitle files, and customize audio tracks.
VLC – Windows and Mac
You probably already have the free and open-source VLC media player installed, so why bother downloading another application? VLC is packed with hidden features, and a video converter is one of them. Yes, you can use VLC to convert videos.
To get started on Windows, click the Media menu and select Convert / Save. On a Mac, click the File menu and select Convert / Stream.
Add the media file you want to convert, ensure the profile is set to Video – H.264 + MP3 (MP4), and save the output to a file. You can also customize the conversion profile settings if you like, but this isn’t necessary.
This wizard looks a bit different on Windows, but it’s the same basic process — add a file, choose a codec, select a destination, and start the process. Once VLC is done transcoding the video, you’ll get an MP4 or M4V file you can import to iTunes and transfer to your mobile devices.
Of course, you can use almost any video converter to convert a video file to MP4 format and add it to iTunes. The above options are some of the best, but any video converter will do.
Do you prefer another video converter we didn’t cover here? Leave a comment and share your preferred tool!
Image Credit: Intel Free Press on Flickr