Tools for converting multimedia files

Multimedia files are easy to convert – if you have the right tools. This month we look at some useful applications that convert video and audio files.

Tutorials, screencasts, or even training videos are becoming increasingly important in everyday life. Multimedia is particularly useful in the home office and for homeschooling. But not every device can handle every file format, and not every screen displays all resolutions. Conversion programs help to adjust the formats and modify the image resolutions for the best possible results. Linux offers a great variety of multimedia conversion tools. We decided to investigate a few of the top contenders. Note that we focused on active projects for this report and did not consider some of the alternatives that are still widely known but not in active development (see the box entitled “Out of the Running”).


Audiovisual content can be stored with different parameters and image resolutions. Audio files can be saved in lossless or lossy formats with different bit rates. Container formats, such as MP4, MKV, and AVI are popular for video files. A single container can hold multiple files. For instance, a movie container can store several audio files in different languages. Since the codecs vary, the container format alone does not allow any conclusions about the quality of the contents.

Linux supports most free multimedia formats and codecs out of the box. Commercial packages also make proprietary codecs available; Linux can clearly score points in direct comparison with other operating systems as a platform for converting and playing multimedia content.


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