It's not one for beginners, but this is an undeniably powerful tool that can handle just about any video you care to throw at it.
Excellent format support
Can be used to rip DVDs
Support for batch processing
Not very approachable looking
Something of a learning curve
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Originally a Mac-only title, HandBrake ultimately made its way to PC users where it found an audience eager to lap up its capabilities.
As its heart, this is a video encoding tool, and this includes the ability to rip DVDs – a great addition to the program. In fact, this is the best free DVD ripper right now. However, it's the video conversion side of things that we're interested in. If your needs are more complex take a look at our guide to the best free video editing software.
You can get quick results with HandBrake by simply loading up a video into the program and then using one of the many presets in the side panel to convert to different formats with various settings in place. Better, however, is to work through the numerous tabs in the Output Setting section, customizing precise encoding settings, apply effects, cropping overly large videos, tweaking frame rates, changing codecs and much more.
This is where HandBrake separates the beginners from the experts. There's little attempt to explain the video encoding terminology, so if you are unfamiliar with the jargon, you're going to have to do a little research.
But before long you'll be adding subtitles and editing sound settings in addition to the main video-related options. As video encoding can be a time-consuming process, it's good to see that there's a queuing feature, and the batch conversion tool can be used to encode a folder full of videos in one fell swoop.
There's no getting away from the fact that HandBrake will look somewhat intimidating to many people. While some video tools take steps to guide you through the conversion process, HandBrake isn't ashamed of the fact that it is hugely powerful and packed with features, and this mean sacrificing user-friendliness to some extent – although there are a handful of presets available for many options.
With a little perseverance, you can squeeze a lot from HandBrake, but you'll need to work for it. In order to get the very best output, you'll need to manually work through quite a number of settings, but the results mean that it really is worthwhile.
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Sofia is a tech journalist who's been writing about software, hardware and the web for nearly 25 years – but still looks as youthful as ever! After years writing for magazines, her life moved online and remains fueled by technology, music and nature.
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