App Showdown #2: Linux Media Converters (Part 2: The Results)

On the first part of this article, I have broken down the interfaces of three converters: Curlew, FF Multi Converter, and dmMediaConverter. But how good are they really in converting and editing videos? To find out, I’ve created two tasks. Let’s see how the converters handled them.

Test 1: Converting video and change its volume level

Last year, I decided to test CamStudio, a screencasting app for Windows, and recorded a 52-second long video of my entire desktop. The result came as a 472 MB .avi file, and I decided to convert it to smaller, more web-friendly .mp4 without changing the size. The original video also has an almost inaudible recording of the music I’m playing on my desktop at the time, which I would like to adjust to a normal level.

On Curlew, I set the conversion type to .mp4 (neither widescreen nor fullscreen) and set the volume percentage on the audio tab into 500%.
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But the result came out in 4:3 aspect ratio, so I redo the conversion after picking 16:9 from the aspect ratio list on the Video tab.

On FF Multi Converter, I could set .mp4 as the conversion type, but I can’t find any audio settings. But I still could set the volume percentage by adding -af "volume=3.0" on the custom command.

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On dmMediaConverter, the process is a little different.

On this test, I unticked the ‘Copy’ checkbox on both streams, then set the audio stream’s gain to 20 (automatically set). Then click ‘Add Job, where it would ask you where to save it (unlike on other converters, you’ll need to give the filename AND the file type) and from the Job Queue tab, click ‘Start’.

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The conversion results of FF Multi Converter and dmMediaConverter looks as great as the original. Sadly, it’s not the case with Curlew. The sections of the video that has text looks grainy. Compare Curlew’s result with dmMediaConverter’s:
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Here’s an conversion time and size comparison of all three converters:

App Name Conversion Time(seconds) Size (MB) Quality
Curlew 14 7.3 Poor
FF Multi Converter 31 4.3 Good
dmMediaConverter 37 3 Good

Test 2: Resizing and Removing Audio

I have a 1280×720 pixels .mp4 video, and I’m going to resize it into 640×360 pixels and remove its audio.

Curlew has a long list of predefined video sizes; it doesn’t let you set your own. To remove the audio, I only need to check the ‘Video Only’ checkbox.

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I need to input the size manually on FF Multi Converter, and once again I have to input a custom command (-an to remove audio).

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On dmMediaConverter, I made use of its picture settings, where I could rotate, crop, and scale/resize videos, among other things. Using the Scale option, I didn’t have to input both the height and width of a video; type ‘-1’ in one of them and it’ll use the aspect ratio to scale the video proportionally. To remove audio, I simply unticked the ‘Enable’ checkbox of the audio stream.

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Again, here’s an conversion time and size comparison of all three converters:

App Name Conversion Time(seconds) Size (MB)
Curlew 10 5.6
FF Multi Converter 19 0.92
dmMediaConverter 19 0.94

Conclusion

Among the three, Curlew has the best interface, with the settings options neatly categorized. It’s also the easiest to use. But I’m not very impressed of the conversion results.

The first thing you must do when using Curlew is to make sure the settings – especially the Audio/Video tab – are correct; although you don’t touch them, Curlew will override your video/audio file’s properties using its own default settings. It’s also the fastest converter among the three, but it produced files larger than the ones created by the other two converters while not so different in quality. In the first test, the quality of the video it generated is even worse. This might has something to do with the codecs it used (when converting to .mp4, it used ffodivx, while FF Multi Converter and dmMediaConverter used ffh264).

FF Multi Converter’s interface is also pretty good, if you don’t mind the uneven position of some of its input bars. I really like how the presets and formats are separated (however, if you use one of the presets, make sure you remove the -acodec libfaac command first, or they won’t work).

FF Multi Converter compensates its lack of settings by putting a prominent input bar for commands, and I’m pretty much okay with it. In fact, testing this app lets me learn some ffmpeg commands (open your terminal and type ffmpeg -h for list of available commands). However, I still think that it should offer the Video Size settings from a list instead of asking the users to manually type it in.

While I believe that you’ll be used to dmMediaConverter’s interface, it’s not exactly user-friendly. When I tested this app, I needed to look at the official documentation several times while wondering what did I do wrong.

But I love the Picture Settings. It offered a preview of the adjustments I’m about to do to the video, although in still frames. The Streams, although confusing at first, can be pretty useful. It can join the streams from multiple files into one file, which lets you do, for example, video dubbing. Also keep in mind that dmMediaConverter has a bulk mode, which lets you convert/edit multiple files at once.

If you only want to convert between two formats without any changes, use FF Multi Converter. If you need to do more specific adjustments, or want to convert more than one file, use dmMediaConverter.

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2 thoughts on “App Showdown #2: Linux Media Converters (Part 2: The Results)

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