MediaCoder Review

Written by rob on October 15, 2006 – 11:25 am -

I saw a program Friday on Lifehacker called MediaCoder. When Lifehacker raves about a program, it is usually a very good thing. I was hoping MediaCoder would be no exception. This is a program that aims to allow someone to convert any type of video or audio to pretty much any other type of video or audio. But, you may say, there are hundreds of programs that do that. While you are correct, not all of them are free. More importantly, not all of them are easy to use. One program I have used before is River Past’s Video Cleaner. While it works, it requires a lot of messing around to actually produce working video. I used it mainly to convert XVid to Premiere-importable video, and it took a long time to get it working. The point is that Video Cleaner is both hard to use and costs money, in contrast to MediaCoder’s free and easy-to-use interface. (I do want to add that River Past’s Audio Convertor is probably the best around and I highly recommend it.)

Claims are all well and good, but how does MediaCoder actually perform? I put it to the test by performing a task that I do often, and one that I cover on this site often: iPod Video conversion. While Videora is free, it is lacking that “easy-to-use” aspect. While I debunked most of the difficulty, there are still a lot of difficult settings to work with in an interface that makes you jump from screen to screen. MediaCoder claims to make the process very easy, so I put it to the test by converted the movie Fearless with Jet Li.

I installed MediaCoder using all of the default installation settings. I noticed Mplayer was installed with the program, which is how I suspect the program does the actual transcoding. Anyway, I opened up the program. The first thing that I noticed that was particularly strange is that it opens up in your web browser, showing a window that is basically asking you to donate. That’s nice. I scrolled down and pressed the button to “Start MediaCoder”. The actual program then started. I right-clicked on the open white area and was presented with a large context menu. The only thing I did was press “Change Output Directory”, and then set it to my Desktop. I recommend you do the same. After that, I simply drug my AVI file into the white area, and an entry appeared. I clicked once on the entry to select it, and then went over to the Devices menu. I chose plug-ins from the drop-down, and finally “Digital Media Player”. Why they call it Digital media player as opposed to iPod Video, I have no idea, considering they have a picture of an iPod in the screen that comes up.

In that screen, I changed the bitrate to 384 kbps just because this was a test and not a real important video for me. The default values would be appropriate for most situations, which is something I like a lot. Then I simply pressed the “Start” button, which I feel was much too small. Despite this, the transcoding process then began. I waited.

About thirty-six minutes later, it was done. I don’t know about you, but 36 minutes of transcoding for a 100 minute movie is pretty good. It’s about the same as Videora with comparable settings. I haven’t tried doing the same movie with both, so I can’t tell for sure if either one is faster than the other. It definitely isn’t slower, though. Anyway, I drug the video into iTunes. Or at least I tried to. It wasn’t working. I then tried to play it in VLC Player and it also did not work. Hmm.

So, I tried to redo everything, and this time I chose to use the H264 encoding as opposed to the MP4. This took longer, at 74 minutes, but still did not work. For now, I have given up on using it for iPod converting. I already know how to use Videora, and at least Videora works. I will try to convert my next Premiere video file with MediaCoder and will update this review. However, right now it seems like the program is a lot more dificult to use than originally stated. I really don’t feel like messing with it now simply because I have other programs that do the same thing and work (Video Cleaner and Videora).

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