Convert video with ffmpegX

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Video encoding is a bit of a black art, and it seems that only those who do it for a living really understand it. Capture formats vary widely between cameras, with many companies wrapping standard formats in proprietary envelopes just to make life difficult for the user. Following are some instructions for using ffmpegX, which includes over 100 codecs for encoding video. These instructions have worked to convert files from the cameras listed below to a file format that plays on the machines in the clusters in Meyer library.  You may need to try other settings to get the product to work on other systems, but realistically, the machines in Meyer are about as far as you/we can guarantee anything.

Please keep in mind that this software and this process is not, shall we say, competely consumer ready, so you may encounter errors in this process. Often you can just simply ignore them, but you should use your best judgment. In short, this whole thing is a bit ad hoc, so you may need to play around with the settings to make it work for you.

pdf version (with screenshots)

ffmpegX is installed on the MacPros in the Multimedia Studio on the second floor of Meyer.

  • Open the Applications folder.
  • Open ffmpegX.
  • Drag your video file to the left Source column in the top From box. Note: Often, you can do this directly from the video camera, if it is plugged in to the USB or Firewire port. However, if ffmpegX does not recognize your file, you might try converting it with the software that came with the camera. Keep in mind that ffmpegX does not necessarily need to recognize a file in order to convert it.


  • Click on the Video menu item (next to the Summary).
  • You may have to experiment to find the right Video Codec. For Canon cameras, I have had good luck with H264 [ .MP4 ] (x264), but for Samsung cameras,MPEG4 [ .MOV ] (ffmpeg) has worked better. Choose one, convert a file, and always try the result to make sure it works.
  • In the Video parameters, change the first box in Video Size to 320. Then change the Autosize to 4:3.
  • In the Bitrate calculator, set it to 1 min and 1 MB, then click Best. . If you get error messages, you may be able to ignore them – use your best judgment. Usually, setting the Video Bitrate to about 269 kbit/s works.


  • Click on the Audio menu item (next to Video).
  • Select the AAC (MOV/MP4/3GP) Audio Codec. Change the Sampling to 44100 Hz (or lower) and the Channels to Mono.
  • Click on Save As ... (below Open ...).
  • Choose your USB drive or the Temporary Storage of the machine.
  • Enter a title for the file.
  • Click on Encode.
  • ffmpegX Progress will appear. This may go beyond 100% but it will say Finished (and give an annoying "ding!") when it is done.
  • You can set up to convert more files while this is running. Just click on the Summary menu item and change the Save As … file name. Most (but not all) settings will be retained unless you change them.


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