Converting QuickTime MOV Files to AVI / WMV Formats

(Posted 8/2/2009) - Everyone has a digital camera or digicam these days. Many of these devices store their digital movies in QuickTime Movie format (MOV file wrapper) containing an embedded H.264 AVC (MPEG 4) packet stream recorded at anywhere from 8 to 24 megabits / second.

If you have a PC running at less than 2.2 GHZ and try to play these movie files you may find that the processing is too much of a load - symptoms of this are stuttering frames, motion speed changes as buffers under / overflow, lost audio, etc. One solution is to transcode the original high definition (720p or 1080p) signal stream to a lower rate which still looks great on your PC monitor but doesn't overload you PC processor during playback. Here are some things you can do on a PC to tune-up your movie editing / playing experience.

  • Unload your MOV files onto your PC using a USB cable, with your camera vendor's USB driver directed to the XP / Vista Digital Camera Wizard. An example tutorial I found for my camera (the Kodak Easyshare Z-1085IS) is here .

    The advantage of not using your vendor's USB application is speed of transfer. The Microsoft Camera Wizard will load your huge movie files more quickly than the picture editing application provided by your camera vendor.

    Alternatively, you can use an SDHC card-reader with USB cable and dispense with any special driver / usb application. They are both equally fast in my experience.

  • To successfully play your AVI (H.264 encoded) movies you should download the GNU licensed freeware codec pack called FDDShow here .

    Install the package and select VFW option with recommended defaults. This will allow all your Video for Windows applications eg. Movie Maker and Windows Media Player (versions 10, 11) to properly decode the H264 stream contained in your AVI file wrappers.

  • Use the Pazera freeware application MOV2AVI to convert each MOV high-rate file to an AVI lower-rate file. A link to one source for the download can be found here .

    This MOV2AVI program doesn't write anything into your MS registry so just unzip it into a directory of your choice and link to the executable on your desktop or start-menu to invoke.

    I selected the following parameters for conversion:

    • Convert to AVI
    • Select 2000 KB/s at 30 fps
    • Use H.264 encoding
    • Select output video size as 852 x 480p HD (assumes 1080p or 720p input stream)
    • Check the box if you want the audio channel suppressed.

    Convert your files (default is to place them in the same directory holding the original MOV files, with the same names but AVI extension).

  • Open XP / Vista Movie Maker and import the AVI files and any mix-down audio files you want for your edits. Use Movie Maker properties-options to set the video format to 16:9 to avoid squishing (default is 4:3). Remember we're using 852 x 480 HD here.
  • When you render to a movie, choose the movie maker option for highest quality - the movie data will indicate the 852 x 480 custom format is being used.
  • Your rendered movie will use the edited H.264 decoded stream and will create a Windows Media Video file type which can be played on virtually any Microsoft based PC.

OK, Enjoy your movies!

Post-Script added 8/23: You can also use Source-Forge GNU licensed MP4Cam2AVI to convert native camera movies for PC editing (especially useful for MP4 wrapped file extension). Click here to download the utility.

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