Convert one video format to another

April 17, 2009


I downloaded some TED Talk videos from the internet. They were in MPEG-4 format, with an MP4 file extension. According to the Creative website, my Creative Zen Vision:M MP3 player should have no problem with this format. So I copied one over to the Videos folder on the Zen Vision:M and tried to open it. It came back with a message that the file format was not supported.

I noticed that there were some default AVI format videos in the Videos folder, so I thought I could convert these videos into AVI. I decided to see what software I had on my computer that could convert a video from one format to another, and then to test that the conversion worked and could play on my player.


I tried a couple of pieces of software I already had — Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Captivate, Audacity (yes, I was clutching at straws by now…). None did this sort of conversion — at least not that I could find in the Help.

Off to the internet… I remembered some audio conversion software I’d tested once before and vaguely recalled that the company made all sorts of conversion software. Funnily enough, I even remembered the name of the audio conversion software — Switch. So armed with that information, Google came up trumps with the name of the company (NCH Software) and its website (http://www.nchsoftware.com/index.html) and from there I was on my way.

I downloaded the free (lite) version of Prism, their video conversion software and tested it on one of the TED Talk videos. Prism is a very small piece of software and takes no time at all to download and install.

My initial test was to convert a 32 MB MPEG-4 file to AVI. I kept all the default settings and got a result — but it was over 1 GB in size! This was not a viable option.

Next I tried converting into MPG format — this time the file size was  more than double the original, but was nowhere near as big as 1 GB. I tweaked some of the settings too — for a tiny screen on an MP3 player and with ear buds and listening to a speech not a concert, I really didn’t need full quality sound. Tweaking the settings dropped the file size a little more.

I loaded up my test file onto my MP3 player and it worked! The sound is fine, the video is fine. The file sizes are still quite large, but I’ll be deleting these off the player once I’ve finished watching them, so for me it’s only a temporary thing.

I was impressed with Prism’s conversion speed, download size, and ability to convert all sorts of video formats into all sorts of other video formats — and this is just the free version. Prism Plus, the professional version with more conversion format options (but not MPEG-2), retails at US$39; if you want MPEG-2 conversion capabilities you pay a little more (US$57). And NCH seem to have deals on fairly regularly, so you may get the software for even less.

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