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Don't buy any video converter before trying this freebie

First INQpressions "Super" interface for ffmpeg and other open source encoders
Mon Jul 31 2006, 18:24
THERE IS open source software to perform almost every task. But Windows users always expect a fancy graphical interface.

"SUPER" provides just that, allowing you to effortlessly convert video files between every format, for free.

The open source ffmpeg converter is awesome, supporting almost every video and audio codec on Earth. But like every other linux program it's a command line application -also known as "text mode" back in the old DOS days. Command line applications are very powerful, giving programmers and code hackers plenty of simplicity - you can pipe the output from one program to another in the traditional Unix fashion, run it as a web server task via CGI, you name it.

But for the end user, it also means that the current generation of windows "button clickers" feel left out. Not anymore. I found a nice windows graphical user interface dubbed "Super" which includes compiled windows executables of ffmpeg, MPLAYER, ffmpeg2theora along with other related open source libraries into a simple installer for it. The result is "Super", described, pardon the redundancy, as "A simple GUI to ffmpeg, mencoder, mplayer, x264, mppenc, ffmpeg2theora & the theora/vorbis RealProducer plugIn".

Point-and-click access to ffmpeg, mencoder and ffmpeg2theora, from Windows

Translated to English, this means you to convert back and forth between AVI, WMV, ASF, Realvideo, Quicktime, OGG Theora, even the latest video file formats like .3gp used on mobile phones from Nokia/NEC/Siemens/Sony Ericsson etc. All is done with just a few clicks, as the gui launches the requested open sauce in the background. And everything for free, to boot. Before my surprise encounter with "Super" I was testing several shareware trials, and almost settled on the commercial program "WinAVI video converter", which while promising, now feels expensive and limited in comparison. Of course, with the freeware GUI for the open source encoders, you get no support, so keep that in mind.

Windows builds of the command-line executables are in there, of course.
Those are just called in the backgroun

I have successfully used this GUI to convert -using ffmpeg- from the proprietary "Flash Video" format -FLV- to MPEG4 AVIs using the open source XVid codec, a binary of which you can download over here, it worked very well. Conversion from the proprietary ASF and WMV formats to the open MPEG1 to play back on my Prismiq Media Player on the telly, also worked well.

Drop-down menu listing the container formats supported

It should be noted that I preferred to use the "ffmpeg" encoder and others options were not thoroughly tested. As the author of this nice GUI points out "the quality of the rendered files or the played files DOES NOT depend on SUPER © The speed, rendered quality or the variety of the codec selection are the result of the great work achieved by the respective authors of ffmpeg, mencoder, mplayer, x264, ffmpeg2theora, MusePack (mpc), libavcodec library & the theora/vorbis RealProducer's plugIn. The whole credit SHOULD go to these authors for their great ongoing projects".

Drop-down menu showing the codecs supported

The only drawbacks? When you start using it you wonder where your converted files went. Well, it's easy, move the mouse pointer over the "Super" program window and right click, there's a pop-up menu, and one of its options is "Specify the Output Folder Destination". Also, selecting "Mencoder" as the conversion engine did not provide good results in one of my tests, so I switched to ffmpeg for the rest of the testing. And finally, this program will try to access the internet to find out if there are newer versions, you can simply block that request with your personal firewall application and make it a permanent rule, if you wish so. The program will work just fine, even without internet access.

Playing back a FLV video converted to a Xvid AVI in VLC Media Player

Now that I'm speaking about video formats, I highly encourage everyone to have the VLC media player from installed into every system (it's open source, and of course free 'as in free beer', and available for Windows, for Linux, and for MacOS-X) as well. It includes support for formats like H.264, FLV, Quicktime, Vorbis and Theora, and also relies heavily on ffmpeg. If you're comfortable without formal paid support, with the VLC Media Player plus the free "Super" grphical front end for ffmpeg installed, there's really little reason to buy a video format converter application.µ

See also:
Blip.TV becomes an open-standards YouTube alternative
Why OGG Theora matters for Internet TV
Ten video sharing sites compared
AOL releases YouTube clone
DRM is a complete lie a role model for digital music purchases
Ten things I hate about Flash
Super GUI home page


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