Making a Start in MediaCoder (esp Novices)

Discuss about generic usage of MediaCoder.

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Making a Start in MediaCoder (esp Novices)

Post by meRobs » Mon Apr 19, 2010 10:02 pm

[updated 15 Oct 2011]

MediaCoder must seem very daunting, especially for the novice, because it can handle almost any type of media file and offers to convert it to many, if not most, formats with virtually an infinite number of options/choices!

MediaCoder is intended as a 'user-friendly' GUI (Graphical User Interface), but this is relative! What it offers is access to numerous utilities 'under its hood', each of which is a command-line tool that is most definitely not user-friendly! Another complication is that the choice you need to make depends on what you want to do with the output. In other words, where will it be played? Only on a PC, on DVD or a hand-held player, etc?

A further complication is that there are no HELP files associated with MediaCoder – it is changing and advancing too fast. Much of this change is because of newer devices and Codecs and the adoption of feature requests by the users. Hence, MediaCoder is suited only for those people who wish to experiment and find out for themselves. To this end, the Forum is a convenient 'meeting' place for people to share their experiences. It is not a one-way street!

So, the first thing you need to do is determine what your application (player, editing program, etc) requires. For this, you will need to search the web for that device or application.

1. In General
Once you have a rough idea of what you want, MediaCoder can then set you on your way by offering three alternatives for establishing a starting point for further tuning:
(1) use the Setup Wizard (under the Options menu)
(2) Use the UI Plugins (under Features) for some devices, such as Mobile phones, Digital Media Players (iPod, etc) and Game Consoles
(3) Use the Media Transcoding Platform (also under Features), which is more or less a web-based version of the UI Plugins. See: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8245. Whereas this feature was available in builds up to and including 4640, it is not present in builds 4730, 4740 and maybe beyond!
(4) Failing the above, be bold and start fiddling with the Video, Audio, Picture and Container tabs. A possible start for Video could be to set the Source at MEncoder and the Encoder at FFmpeg. For Audio, maybe set the Encoder at FFmpeg, Format as MP2 and the Source at Auto Select. See also, Section 3 in viewtopic.php?f=17&t=9643&p=29342#p29342.

Once this is done, try a conversion using a small file and check to see if it suits. If not, change appropriate settings, especially on the Video, Audio and Picture tabs, and repeat the conversion, etc, until happy. I repeat: you need to experiment!

Note that, by default, the output file will appear in the same folder as the source file (see comments below, in Section 4).

Finally, once you have a satisfactory set of settings, it is a good idea to save them as a Preset for future use (see: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8131).

2. Setup Wizard (via the Options menu)
This feature opens with the recommendation that you check the box: “Revert all Settings to default”. Do so, unless you have your own Starter Preset (see: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8131) -- 'Revert All Settings' is under the File menu. Then, proceed through the other pages, answering all the questions. If you have no clue, just hit the defaults, or what appears to be the default. However, there are three pages where you need definite decisions:
I. Video Format (page 6), i.e., the Codec to be used for converting the source video, with 11 choices. None might be suitable, after all there are 22 Codecs available on the Video tab of MediaCoder. But, have a go! You can change it later.
II. Container (page 7), which is a format for 'wrapping' the various streams together in a suitable package yet doesn't dictate how the content was encoded. It sets the file extension. For example, the most common is the AVI container and the file would have a name like: 'media.avi'.
III. Audio Format (page 8 ), i.e., the Codec to be used to convert the audio in the source file. There are 14 choices, whereas, there are 23 options on the Audio tab of MediaCoder. Do your best and, again, you can change it later!

Then, on closing the Wizard, your answers will be translated into settings on the various tabs, especially the Video, Audio, Container and Picture tabs. Have a look at these values, make a note and make changes if necessary or if merely curious to see what happens. As suggested before, using MediaCoder involves experimenting! Sorry about that, but, for many users, this is part of the fun.

Try a conversion on a small file, examine the result and try changing the various settings, each time playing the file in the intended device to look for any resultant changes. Remember that the Wizard just gives you a possibly-useful starting point for your fiddling and that it relied on the answers you gave. Also, your choices on pages 6 to 8 of the Wizard, above, may not be optimum. Once, again: experiment!

3. UI Plugins (Features menu)
Selecting UI Plugins will offer limited choices for Mobile Phones, Digital Media Players, Game Consoles, Home Players and GPS/PDA. The GPS/PDA category was empty for builds up to 5191, at least, although there may be some offering in a future build. Moreover, ‘Other Devices’ under UI Plugins merely gives detailed system info for your PC. Your particular device may not be listed here, but it should give you ideas as to how to start experimenting. Note that builds 5190 and 5191 fail to show any of the options for UI Plugins. This is because six 7z files, which lie in the Extensions folder, were missing in the installation and, if desired, they may be copied from an earlier build. Fortunately, the situation was rectified in build 5196.

When choosing a UI Plugin, a Popup will recommend that you allow MediaCoder to begin by reverting all settings to their defaults, by clicking 'Yes'. This is advisable unless you are in the habit, as I am, of using a Starter Preset, etc, as described in viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8131. On the next window various parameters are set. Note that on making a selection or any changes to what is offered on this window, the values are immediately reflected on the various tabs on the GUI, such as on the Video and Audio tabs.

In build 4788, for example, there are UI Plugins for:
A. Mobile phones > Generic and the Nokia N70,
B. Digital Media Players > iPhones/iPods/iPads/Apple TV and MP3/MP4 players,
C. Game Consoles > PSP,
D. Home Players > Video Disc Players (DVD, SVCD and VCD).
E. GPS/PDA (empty in 4788, see above)

Once you have made some choices on the UI Plugins window, click on Start. Alternatively, you may close the Plugins window and continue to work with the standard tabs. You are likely to need some experimenting here, although MediaCoder will have made most of the choices for you. Initially, just try what MediaCoder had set up and then fine tune as required. If this doesn't work try a few drastic changes like changing the video 'Source' (the Decoder) and/or Encoder, etc.

4. Other Settings
When you first install a new build of MediaCoder and then open it, your browser will be accessed to open a Welcome screen. You then need to press the "Start Now" button, but before doing so, check the box “Skip this page”, placed nearby. This should avoid the screen on subsequent openings until another build of MediaCoder is installed. Otherwise, click on the Advanced Settings button of the MediaCoder interface (3rd from the right on the Toolbar), then: go to Overall > User Interface > Do not show Welcome screen and enter the current Build number.
Moreover, if you wish to avoid having MediaCoder routinely opening your Browser to point out that a newer build is available, when there is, click on the Advanced Settings button (see above), then: Overall > Generic > Ignored build and enter: 9999.

Then again, you may not be able to access Advanced Settings because it needs either Firefox or XULrunner. If you don't use Firefox, you should include XULrunner as part of the MediaCoder installation. Sometimes, even with Firefox, an error message, like “Platinum version is not compatible with 1.8 to 1.9.2”, or similar. The first value refers to Firefox and the others to a range set in the file 'application.ini' in the MediaCoder > xulapp folder. In that case, open the file in NotePad and change the value for 'Max Version' under 'Gecko' from 1.9.2, in this case, to a value greater than, such as 1.9.9.

There are also needs that are not met or helped by the above features, such as, when you wish MediaCoder to convert files to a format suitable for playing in a device not covered above or for editing in a particular Video Editor, for example. In this case, you need to find out what video format that device or application works best with, and set up MediaCoder accordingly. Once again, this will require some trial and error in order to get the most suitable result (speed of conversion, file size and quality).

As an example of what to do for editing in Windows Move Maker, see viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8429&p=25736#p25736, or editing in Adobe Premiere, viewtopic.php?f=17&t=9488&p=28837#p28837.

Destination Folder
Don't forget to set the destination for your output files! When MediaCoder is initially set up, the Output Folder is the same as the folder containing the source file. Obviously, if the source is a DVD the conversion won't work since MediaCoder cannot burn to disc. Hence, it is best to create and use a suitable 'Output folder' (for each type of conversion or Preset – see below). This is set via the Generic tab or the small panel at top right on the main interface.

5. Other Features
MediaCoder offers many features, some of which are not noticed by the casual observer or, if noticed, their functions may not be obvious. I shall mention five.
1. there is the ability to save your settings (from the tabs, etc) for future use, saved as a Preset, discussed here: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8131.
2. a number of files loaded into MediaCoder (listed on the main panel) may be joined together during transcoding via the Group function (select the group of files to be joined and R-click > Group). The files need to have the same characteristics (frame size, frame rate, etc) and be careful to arrange them in the right order (to re-order, select a file and move with Ctrl-arrow keys).
3. the video in a file may be cropped to a different frame size, etc (see: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8188&start=0 )
4. a file may be Trimmed at either end (see: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8912&start=0)
5. the video from a DVD, disc or present on the HDD, may be accessed via the Add Track function. This is explained in viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8082&start=0.

Note that some of these functions (trimming, cropping, etc) may not work in some builds of MediaCoder. For a report on how well various builds perform see: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=9611.

6. Change the Build?
Changes are made to MediaCoder quite frequently, each appearing with a different build number. Since they are all beta versions (likely to have bugs) your aim should be to find a build that does all you want of the program and stick to it! Make sure the build number is correctly entered for “Do not show welcome screen” and that 9999 appears for “ignored build”, as mentioned under 'Other Settings', above.

Changing to a newer build may offer you new features, which you may not need, and remove bugs, which may not have affected you. However, on gaining these benefits some bits and pieces may have fallen off and the Presets you have been using may no longer work (see: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8521&start=0)!

Despite this, some of us continue to update because we enjoy (probably not the best word for it) experimenting and fiddling. It is your choice!

7. More Advice
You may also find some helpful articles in our Tips & Guides section (see: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8061), which is an expanding feature. So, check it from time to time.
Good luck!
Have you checked out the Tips & Guides for MediaCoder? Try:
Also, get older builds at: