I was recently searching my hard disk drive looking for a specific video clip recorded at a Christmas party a few years ago. While browsing the resulting clips, I noticed that some wouldn’t play back; others were at the wrong orientation for viewing on a computer, while others needed some serious editing.
Over the course of our digital lives we use many mobile phones. Often we might stick with the same manufacturer of OS, but casting our minds back to the days before smartphones went mainstream will reveal a concerning lack of interest by mobile phone operating system designers into what users actually wanted from their handheld video cameras. The result is a hotchpotch of different video formats and orientations, leaving videos difficult to view and edit.
Fortunately there are many tools available online that can help you overcome these problems, bringing your mobile phone clips – old or new – back to life.
Converting Old Video Clips
There are many video formats that were in use on mobile phones up until very recently (when the more flexible MPEG-4 seems to have become more widely used). These include:
- Flash Lite
In order to use some of the more obscure options in a video editing program or simply to view a clip recorded in such a format, you’ll either need to watch the clip on the device that it was recorded on, or convert it.
There are various ways in which you might do this. Online converters such as Zamzar can be used to switch your video output from 3GP to MPEG-4 or AVI (or another popular desktop video format) or you might take advantage of tools on your own system.
One popular option is the insanely flexible VLC Media Player. With the software running, open Media > Convert/Save, and click Add… to browse for the clip in question. Use the Convert/Save button and select a filename, file location and format. Click Save and then Start to convert the file.
You’ll be able to play the clip back once converted – not that you may find the quality is reduced and even a lack of sound. If this is the case, choose a different format and use the various options in the Form menu to find the right option. This isn’t an exact science as there are many versions of, for example, the 3GP format; getting the right output will require some trial and error, so you might keep a note of what you have done so far.
Rotating Video Clips
It isn’t uncommon to record a video clip with your mobile phone at the “wrong” orientation for playback on a computer. Fortunately there are a couple of very simple ways to deal with this – methods that don’t require you to tilt your head or rotate your monitor!
To rotate a clip in VLC Media Player, begin by opening the file in question. Next, select Tools > Effects and Filters and in the resulting window go to the Video Effects tab.
On the Geometry tab, select the Transform checkbox and use the drop-down menu to select the correct rotation to view your clip in the best orientation, perhaps also choosing to flip horizontal or vertical. You can also use the Rotate checkbox to apply a manual rotation using the clock. Click close when done; to retain this orientation in other media players, use the Convert/Save feature described above.
It is also possible to use Windows Live Movie Maker to rotate a clip; arguably this is a simpler process. After using Add videos and photos to populate your project with material to edit together, select the clip in question and use the rotate options in Home > Editing. Open File and select Save Movie to save the change.
Editing Mobile Phone Video Clips
There are various ways in which you might edit your mobile phone clips using software such as Windows Live Movie Maker or any other desktop tools that are suitable for video editing on your chosen operating system.
Alternatively, you might take advantage of online video editing tools such as the YouTube video editor, or employ a device-based app. Several are available on iTunes and Google Play, so you should be able to crop your clips and even edit them together without too much difficulty.
Right Tools, Right Job!
Using a modern smartphone should enable you to avoid problems with unusual (and in some cases unusable) file formats – converting clips is something that you will really only need to bother with when dealing with older recordings.
Meanwhile, if you have recorded a clip on your phone in portrait mode, a tool such as VLC Media Player can be used to rotate the video into something viewable in landscape mode. Ultimately, it’s about choosing the right tools for the job!
Do you know of a better tool for the job? We’re all ears in the comments section below.