YouTube is a great website. Do you have funny, amazing, shocking or even meaningful content you want to share with the world? Simply upload it to YouTube and instantly, your content is available to anyone with a web browser and an Internet connection. One of the things that – in my opinion – makes YouTube not quite as good as it could be is that all the videos are formatted as Flash Video files, which means that while you can view them in your browser, and some players (such as MPlayer and VLC), can play them, they’re typically not viewable outside of their intended environment.
Thankfully, a free program, called FLV2iTunes exists. Don’t be fooled, however… FLV2iTunes does more than the name might suggest. Not only does FLV2iTunes convert Flash Video files to a format that iTunes (and the iPod and iPhone and Apple TV), can understand, but it can convert pretty much every format ffmpeg plays! (ffmpeg, for those unfamiliar with it, is a standard encoding program available for all major computing platforms. It can play and encode a wide variety of formats, including AVI, Divx, WMA and more) And unlike other conversion programs, there aren’t very many settings to FLV2iTunes, which means that it’s incredibly simple to convert all your favorite YouTube videos (as well as those from other video sites).
So, what exactly does FLV2iTunes do, and how do you use it? For starters, simply drag a video file, or a folder of videos, onto the FLV2iTunes icon, or (if you’ve already started it up), onto the program window itself. The program window is simple, containing only three tabs, named Video, Audio, and Others. Each tab is the preferences for each area.
For your Video options, you can choose between encoding your videos with either the H.264 or MPEG4 codecs. Either is fully compatible with iTunes, but H.264 (while it may take a bit longer to encode), is much more efficient, so you’ll get equally good encodes with it, but the file size will be smaller, compared to what you’ll get from using standard MPEG4. From this same tab, you also have the option to resize the video (either to 640×480 or 320×240 pixels), or to leave it alone. You will want to tell FLV2iTunes whether the original video is in 4:3 aspect ratio (standard “square” television), or 16:9 (the aspect ratio most common for widescreen television sets and a lot of laptop screens). Finally, you are able to pick the quality of the converted file.
That was simple enough, but your Audio options are even more sparse! Just as you could select the quality of the video (low, medium or high), so too can you select the same options for the final audio of your converted file. And that’s it for audio options!
The Others tab contains four other options for you. First is whether to use Quick Time to Decode the video. This is something I typically leave unchecked, as it will tend to slow down the encoding process, but if you have a file that just won’t encode correctly (but that typically plays fine in Quicktime Player), you may want to give this a try. The second option is whether or not to use multiple threads. This only comes in handy if your computer has a dual core processor (or two processors). If not, leave this unchecked. Since the name of this program implies that the encoding is intended to make these videos playable in iTunes, the third option allows the user to decide if the file, once encoded, should be automatically added to the local iTunes library. And finally, there is an option of whether or not to show the preferences each time the program is started up. If you uncheck this box, FLV2iTunes will start to encode a file automatically when it is started up, simply using your last settings.
I think FLV2iTunes is great. What’s so nice about it is that even if I don’t really have a large need to convert Flash Video files to a standard format (which is true… I don’t have that need), the encoding is simple enough, and the features meet my needs, that I can see myself using this for other encoding projects as well!