Widespread variety of video formats often make the general users very confused – which format might be suitable for playback across all their devices e.g. computers, smartphones, handheld consoles, TVs, and anything else with a video playback capability. MP4 format has been here for a while and with newer codecs that make video sizes smaller while still keeping the near-original video quality, makes MP4 ever-popular. Since Apple’s adaptation of MP4 format for the videos sold through Apple iTunes, the acceptability of MP4 has increased more than ever. Although the iTunes MP4 also comes in M4V format sometimes, both are the same format underneath. With this increasing popularity of MP4 videos, many might wonder, how do they convert a video to some other format into MP4 videos?
We intend to provide our readers with a thorough walk-through of conversion into MP4 format via three very popular methods. Alongside, this article also provides a brief overview of the MP4 video format and how it came to be what it is today.
Brief Overview of MP4 Video Format
MP4 was initially unveiled to the general consumers in 2001, with ISO standard number 14496-1:2001, later changed into 14496-1:2003. The detailed title of the .mp4 extension is known as MPEG-4 Part 14, however, the standardization is based on the name MPEG-4. MP4 is a digital video container format which can embed audio, subtitle, still images, and also stream-able over the internet as a standard option.
The MP4 format provides the artists with more control over their intellectual property rights because this format allows the implementation of DRM technology effortlessly. Apple Quick Time popularized the format initially, now pretty much any media player hardware and software is able to play the MPEG-4 formats.
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Few Highlights of the MP4 Format
- Ease of use makes MP4 popular worldwide, for users of all platforms.
- Despite being introduced by Apple, MP4 is compatible with all current OS platforms.
- The newer codecs offer very high-resolution support (up to 8k) with compact file sizes, allowing users to store more of their favorite content in portable devices e.g. smartphones.
- MP4 is the best video container format for online distribution. Today’s world relies highly on social media marketing and MP4 helps the purpose by offering small size, yet high-resolution scalable video and audio clips.
- Because MP4 format has a higher growth rate over others, developers are more interested in making codecs for this container. In the coming years, MP4 is more likely to have higher resolution and bitrate support with a smaller file size.
How to Convert Videos to MP4 Format
There are few easy ways of converting a video of any generic format (e.g. AVI, MPG, FLV, WMV, MOV etc.) into the MP4 format. Tools for converting videos into MP4 comes in both online and offline variants and in freeware, shareware, and paid licenses. Video conversion is generally a less-complicated task to accomplish and does not require high-end paid software unless the user wants to compress or decompress a video and edit the clips.
- Online Video Conversion Tools
Online video conversion tools are very useful on the go, also on devices that don’t quite have the processing power to effortlessly convert a video to the MP4 format. There are a good number of online video conversion tools available online, of which, two seemed pretty straightforward and easy to use during our testing. Online-Convert.com and AConvert.com are two popular online video conversion tools that support conversion of videos into the MP4 container format using any of the available MP4 codecs.
Both Online-Convert and AConvert have options for directly uploading a video file to their server and an URL field in case the user wants these tools to grab the video file from a separate source. However, Online-Convert.com users can import a video clip from Dropbox or Google Drive directly without any additional procedures in-between which might be a huge convenience for many users.
Online-Convert.com has a more advanced approach while AConvert.com keeps things simple on the initial UI, although it can be changed into an advanced interface by simply selecting ‘Change size, bitrate or frame rate’ under the ‘Options’ drop-down menu. Options to tweak the video resolution, bitrate, frame rate, and aspect ratio are common in both, but Online-Convert.com offers additional options to make changes to the audio bitrate, codec, and quality.
Depending on the file size, the conversion might take a while. There are plenty other online tools that serve the same purpose.
- Only an internet-enabled device is required for the conversion.
- All common codecs, aspect ratios, bitrates, and frame rates are available.
- The best get-go solution for hassle-free MP4 conversion.
- No guarantee of data safety. The service provider could re-use the video without notifying the user.
- Depending on the internet speed, the conversion process might be longer than expected.
- A lot of online tools restrict the video file-size within a specified limit.
Freeware MP4 Conversion Tools
As a general computer user, most people would go for a freeware video conversion tool. Apart from just converting videos between formats, they often offer some ground-level basic video editing options like trimming, adding filters, combining video clips etc. Most of the freeware video conversion tools offer a wide range of formats to convert between, unlike the few numbers of formats offered in the online video conversion tools. Some tools restrict the video conversion file limit to a certain size, e.g. 1 GB per clip, but that’s unlikely with the two we would prefer – Freemake and Handbrake.
Freemake claims to be the #1 video conversion software by 93 million of its users which we couldn’t instantly verify but turns out, their claim might be true. The software comes with an impressive user interface with video playback features, one could even use Freemake as a full-fledged video player if not as a video converter. Over 500 formats and a countless number of codecs are included within the software, that includes even the most modern MP4 codecs like H265. Freemake does not only convert videos from a local storage, but also from online media streaming websites like YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, Vevo etc. Using the resolution and bitrate presets, the users are at liberty to convert their videos for any handheld portable gadgets and gaming consoles at one go.
Handbrake does pretty everything that Freemake does, but Handbrake supports a wider range of operating systems including Mac and Linux which makes Handbrake a more feasible option for advanced users. The interface can playback videos but does not quite look like a video player itself so you can’t replace your ordinary video player with Handbrake. There is very little chance of that actually happening, so this won’t even be an issue. The user can add videos from any local or online source. Multiple video files can be added to a queue and each file can have its own preference. Once the ‘Start’ button is clicked on, Handbrake starts converting the videos one-by-one according to the given configurations. Using the Preview and Activity Log options, users can take a look at the pre and post versions of the output.
- Freeware programs are free, which means a wide range of advanced features for no price!
- Instantaneous download and installation at one go, no need for filling up license forms and payment details.
- Unlike trials, the freeware programs don’t usually come with a size or time restriction.
- Freeware video converters often come with adware bundles which are indeed very annoying.
- Freeware can cause data breach and infringement of privacy, always check the developer’s reputation before downloading.
- Unnecessary bundle software might often be included within the download package.
Shareware Video Conversion Tools
Generally, shareware license is a license that allows the users to own and use a software for free for a given period of time and to continue using the software after its expiry date the user might need to pay for a license key. These are often distributed bundled with other programs for marketing purpose, although, shareware video converters are very popular for providing advanced video conversion features like high-end codecs. Shareware is often confused with freeware since the first few days of usage are totally free but unlike freeware, the shareware developer retains all the rights over their software. Firecoresoft and Wondershare Video Converter ultimate are two great shareware video converters.
People picky about video quality should choose Firecoresoft Video Converter instead of some freeware. There is practically zero loss of quality and the conversion happens in a lot lesser time than many popular freeware tools available on the internet. Videos can be imported from local storage and online sources in any resolution could be converted into any high-resolution format as well. Basic level 2D to 3D video conversion works like a charm! The user can trim video clips, add/remove new ones, add filters and effects, put images and texts on video clips before conversion. Since this is a paid product; lifetime customer support and 30-days money refund guarantee come as standard.
Being the more expensive counterpart here, Wondershare Video Converter certainly has more to offer. There are more than 1000 formats and codecs in this software. Most programs can only import videos from a few specific popular video sharing sites, while the Wondershare Video Converter can do the same from more than 10,000 websites. From cellphone quality 3GP to movie-theatre-like 4K videos, anything is doable within this interface. The pricing for a whole year is $59.95, there are separate pricing options like Family License and Business License. Wondershare supports Mac OS, unlike Firecoresoft which only runs on the Windows OS platform, therefore the extra pricing is justified.
- Top of the line features; pretty much any feature one can name are available in these variants.
- Video quality is a major concern. Shareware converters usually produce lossless MP4 video files.
- Customer support through email, live chat, and telephone is available for most shareware converters.
- Some shareware extends their license for mobile platforms like Android and iOS as well.
- Shareware is costly, many of them come with a seemingly absurd price tag.
- The license might be for a specific time frame e.g. a year, not a lifetime.
- Finding a shareware video converter for any platform other than Windows and Mac OS could be troublesome.
If you are confused already, we would suggest installing a freeware and converting your videos to MP4 format using a preset defined in the software. Online video conversion tools are great alternatives to freeware tools, but the number of sacrifices that are to be made is way too many. Users who care about video quality and need functional video editing options embedded within the video conversion software should definitely pick a shareware. The summary is, if you are unsure and don’t want to spend on a video conversion software then just pick a freeware but if budget is no issue, then purchase a shareware license. If the quality does not matter and your internet bandwidth is decently high, using an online MP4 conversion tool is the best on-the-go solution one could instantly avail.