If you’ve used the Miro video application before, you know how fantastic it is. Not only can it play pretty much any video you throw at it, but it has thousands of podcasts (audio and video), to browse through, as well as Internet video and more. And now Windows and Mac users can add to the functionality, by converting videos they’ve downloaded from Miro for playback on dozens of different devices. Called simply Miro Video Converter, this project makes converting videos for your portable device about as easy as it gets.
Seriously, it’s really simple. How simple? This is how you use it.
Step 1 – Open the program
Step 2 – Drag the video you want to convert onto its window
Step 3 – Choose the device to convert for or the format you want to use
Step 4 – Click the Convert! button
Step 5 – Wait as Miro Video Converter does its thing
That’s it! There is no Step 6. Miro Video Converter only has one other option (beyond the format or device you’re converting for), and that is if you want the converted video sent to your iTunes library or not. For many devices you won’t need this, but if you’re converting for an iPod, iPhone or iPad, then you’ll need it there eventually, in order to send it to that device.
Now, every program has good points and bad points, and Miro Video Converter is no exception. The way I see it, these are the good points:
Ease of use has to come first. Except for some programs designed to convert videos to only one format, it doesn’t get much simpler than this. One thing I really like is that Miro Video Converter doesn’t bother the user with questions about codecs, containers, bitrates or resolution. It asks you what device you’re converting for instead, which actually answers many of those questions (even if the user doesn’t realize it).
The other benefit of using Miro Video Converter is that a lot of formats and devices are supported with really good presets. If you use a Droid, Nexus One, G1, Magic/myTouch, Droid Eris, HTC Hero, Cliq, Behold, iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad, iPod Classic, iPod Nano or PSP, then you are using a supported device. Miro Video Converter is able to convert to both MP4 and Ogg Theora video (as well as converting to MP3 audio), and can convert from AVI, H264, MOV, WMV, XVID, Theora, MKV and FLV, so if you’ve purchased something from the iTunes Store and want to move it to your PSP, or downloaded a video from YouTube, Miro Video Converter can make that happen.
But there are bad points, as I see them, but for many people they won’t be an issue. The biggest is that Miro Video Converter gives you no device flexibility. Sure, if you own a supported device, you’re good to go, but what about someone who has something else? The technology underneath Miro Video Converter is very likely either FFmpeg or Mencoder, which means it can convert to dozens of formats using dozens of codecs. And yes, Miro Video Converter strips away the complexity of using FFmpeg or Mencoder, but it also removes a lot of the power. So while you would be able to convert for a non-supported device with those commandline tools, you can’t with Miro Video Converter.
Another negative is in customization. Take the iPod Touch or iPhone, for example. They have a native screen resolution, but they can also output to a television, so while having a high resolution video might not make sense for viewing strictly on the device, there’s a very good reason for having the ability to convert to high resolution video. And while Miro Video Converter does allow you to choose a specific format (MP4, Theora, WebM or MP3), it doesn’t allow you to customize the specs, which means you’re at the mercy of the developers.
What I’d like to see in programs like this is a super-restrictive interface that only gives you options X, Y and Z, and nothing more. For converting to specific devices that would be great. “You have this device? Use this preset.” Period. However, there should also be, almost hidden away in one corner of the interface, a little button that when clicked warns the user that clicking will show a complicated interface that reveals the full power of the program beneath. That is the one way to have it both ways, and I think Miro Video Converter, and other programs like it, would benefit greatly.
Still, I can only look at a program and see what it is, and to that end… Miro Video Converter is still pretty good. If you have one of the supported devices and are happy with the quality you get from the conversions, then Miro Video Converter might be all you want or need. If, however, you want a little more control or are using an unsupported device, then you’d best look elsewhere.