The team behind the Miro project has released a new video converter tool that makes it dead easy to publish videos on the web that work in all browsers.
The tool can convert just about any video format to Ogg Theora or H.264/MP4. It works with Flash video files (.flv) which is a huge bonus. It also works with DivX/AVI, MOV, Windows Media and MKV, among others. It uses ffmpeg and ffmpeg2theora to handle the conversions.
The experience is incredibly simple — just drag and drop a video onto the application window and choose an output format. You can get a file that will play in a web browser with native video support, or you can choose to resize your video for portable devices like the iPhone and iPod, Droid, Nexus One and PSP (There’s no iPad preset, but we should expect one soon).
Miro Video Converter is available for free from Miro’s website in Mac and Windows versions. There is no Linux version yet. Like the Miro player, it’s an open source project.
Given the state of video publishing on the web, tools like Miro’s are becoming increasingly important. If you’re putting your own videos on your website using HTML5 to embed the files directly into the page, you have to publish in several different formats. Safari and Chrome users can view H.264 — same with iPad, iPhone and iPod users. But Firefox and Opera can only handle Ogg Theora video. IE users, for now at least, can’t view natively embedded video, so you’ll need Flash as well.
Most people going the HTML5 self-publishing route are serving one of the two prevailing formats (Ogg or H.264) and offering Flash as a fallback. It’s not ideal, but it’s the way the winds are blowing right now, and site builders will be stuck dual-publishing with HTML5 and Flash until the messiness of web video is sorted out.
But cross-converting files can be challenging, especially if all you have is a Flash .flv file, so Miro’s tool is a welcome addition to any site builder’s quiver. It offers similar speed and quality to Handbrake’s popular conversion tool (there are also a gaggle of commercial video converters available for around $20 or $30). But Miro’s no-nonsense drag and drop user experience is much simpler and easier to use than anything else out there.
It’s also fast. I tested the app by converting a couple of MOV files I downloaded from Vimeo — one music documentary trailer from Medeski, Martin and Wood, and one short DSLR film shot around Maui by Helene Park. Both were in HD, and both took about five minutes to convert to Ogg Theora. The quality was better than I expected — not quite as good as the Flash/H.264 originals, but I had to lean in pretty close to the screen to notice anything more than simple motion artifacts. I also dropped a couple of FLVs into Miro and converted them to both Ogg and MP4 with equally satisfactory results.
Minor quality quibbles aside, the Miro Video Converter solves many of the headaches around dual-format video publishing. And, it’s free and open source, making it worth a download.