Sunday, January 18, 2015

AVI video files in 2014 on the Mac -- you should probably convert them while you can.

In the process of slogging through an unexpected iMovie migration, I came across some old AVI files that iMovie 2013 basically swallows and hides. 

I dug them out of the Package and started searching for AVI conversion tools (bear with me, I’m out of video practice). Google returned pages of spammy looking hits marketing suspiciously “free” third party tools. 

That’s a clue folks. It typically means a market segment has died because Apple has made it part of OS X. Sure enough, FaceTime in Mavericks and later now converts most AVI files (AVI is a container, the real problem is the funky video compression standards inside the container) to .mov.

I experimented with one old AVI file — the original (low res) 40MB camera clip becomes a 64MB quicktime .mov file with H.264 compression and Microsoft ADPCM audio (I wonder if that was unchanged from the AVI file). The 50% growth is typical of migrating from one lossy format to another lossy format — it would be quite bad news if .mov file were the same size as the AVI file. That would indicate too aggressive compression.

I played the converted file back in QuickTime (Mavericks) and the original in QuickTime 7 and they didn’t look too different. Not bad. (As noted below I actually have Quicktime Pro 7. I’m not sure AVI files play in QT7 without the now defunct Perian plugin).

You can’t control the codec or parameters QuickTime Mavericks/Yosemite uses for conversion, for that you can try QuickTime 7 Pro ($30, I suspect part of that is for licensing codecs). Yes, it’s on the App store! First you download the Snow Leopard installer (works on Mavericks/Yosemite) then you pay. I was about to buy it, but then I thought I should check I didn’t already own it. I bought it in 2008 (!). I really should use it a bit more often.

You can also use Handbrake to convert AVI files, or VLC to view them.

I really need to convert those old files; conversion is only going to get harder. However, it’s weirdly good that QT Pro from Snow Leopard still works and is still sold on the Apple store. So we have a bit of time.

See also

General refs on AVI  

Older posts of mine on the horrors of video codecs and compression — there’s been limited progress since 2008

No comments: