Movie files are generally not optimized for the smartphone. They often take up too much space and may be encoded in a format that the smartphone can’t play back very easily. If the movie in question is on a physical DVD, it will need to be “ripped” into a standard video file before you can play it.
Video conversion isn’t as essential as it used to be when playing videos on a modern smartphone. With apps like VLC for Android, you can play videos of almost any type or size directly on your smartphone. However, you may still want to convert a movie before viewing it to save precious storage space on your smartphone and get more battery-efficient playback.
HandBrake is one of the more popular video conversion tools. These apps are referred to as “transcoding” tools, because they can convert videos from one encoded format to another encoded format. We’ll be focusing on the Windows version here, but HandBrake also runs on Mac OS and Linux. You can download Handbrake for any platform from its website.
HandBrake also offers DVD-ripping capabilities, so you can convert a movie from a physical DVD to a file you can watch on your phone. To do this, you’ll need to install the DVD43 software for Windows, which bypasses the DRM included with DVDs to allow this ripping. Depending on the country you’re in, this may technically be illegal.
After installing and launching HandBrake, click the Source menu and choose the type of video you want to convert. Select Video File for a single file or Folder to convert all video files in a single folder. If you want to convert a DVD, insert the disc into your computer and it will appear in the Source drop-down box.
Once the file is added, you can start tweaking your conversion settings. If you added a DVD, click the Title box and select the appropriate section of the DVD.
Whatever you’re converting, you’ll need to specify a destination. You can enter a destination for this conversion using the Destination box. If you’d like HandBrake to take care of this automatically in the future, you can open its options window (Tools -> Options), select the Output Files tab, and enter a default location in the Default Path box. For example, you can have HandBrake automatically save all converted video files to your desktop or another easy-to-access location.
To quickly select appropriate transcoding settings for your device, click an option in the Preset column. There are options for the iPhone and different types of Android phones, as well as other devices like the iPod Touch, iPad, and Apple TV. You can also select one of the normal profiles.
You can optionally modify the conversion settings after selecting a preset. For example, the Picture tab allows you to set a custom width and height for your video file. However, you’ll probably be fine if you stick to the default settings.
Once you’re ready to perform the conversion, click the Start button. HandBrake will convert your selected source video and create a new video in the destination folder you specified.
You can now copy your video file to your phone by connecting it to your computer with a USB cable or, if it’s an Android phone, using the excellent AirDroid app to transfer the video file to your phone over Wi-Fi.
If you’re converting a lot of videos on a regular basis, you could use DropFolders along with Handbrake to automatically convert video files you add to a specific folder on your computer.
SUPER is a Windows application with its own cult following. Kannon recently dubbed it a “HandBrake killer”, noting that “no free (or paid) video software in its class matches the versatility and broad file-type compatibility of SUPER.” SUPER offers more power and options than HandBrake. It’s also more compatible with different video formats. HandBrake has removed support for AVI, XviD, and OGG/OGM codecs, but SUPER still supports these formats.
However, SUPER is a much more complicated application with a user interface that isn’t nearly as user-friendly. It also installs adware during the installation process, which you must immediately uninstall after installing SUPER if you want to keep your Windows system clean. And it’s Windows only, so Mac and Linux users are out-of-luck.
If you’re interested in SUPER, head on over to Kannon’s guide to using SUPER, where he’ll walk you through dodging the adware and getting to grips with SUPER’s interface.
These are our 2 favorite tools for converting videos, whether you need a slick, easy-to-use interface optimized for the most popular formats or you need the most flexible video-conversion tool out there.
What’s your favorite tool for converting videos before watching them on your smartphone? Do you prefer one of the above tools, or have you found a better one? Leave a comment below and share your favorite one!
Image Credit: Smartphone mobile video via Shutterstock