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Converting digital files: methods & software

Stilly River Sage 25 Aug 19 - 01:21 PM
Stilly River Sage 25 Aug 19 - 01:32 PM
GUEST,Grishka 25 Aug 19 - 07:03 PM
Bill D 25 Aug 19 - 07:51 PM
Stilly River Sage 25 Aug 19 - 11:27 PM
Stilly River Sage 26 Aug 19 - 12:07 AM
DaveRo 26 Aug 19 - 03:22 AM
Nick 26 Aug 19 - 07:36 AM
Bill D 26 Aug 19 - 10:46 AM
GUEST,Grishka 26 Aug 19 - 10:48 AM
Stilly River Sage 26 Aug 19 - 02:26 PM
DaveRo 27 Aug 19 - 04:28 AM
Stilly River Sage 27 Aug 19 - 09:38 AM
DaveRo 27 Aug 19 - 11:16 AM
DaveRo 27 Aug 19 - 11:17 AM
Stilly River Sage 29 Aug 19 - 11:35 AM
Stilly River Sage 31 Aug 19 - 09:58 AM
Bill D 31 Aug 19 - 02:59 PM
Stilly River Sage 31 Aug 19 - 03:23 PM
Bill D 31 Aug 19 - 05:20 PM
Bill D 31 Aug 19 - 05:25 PM
Stilly River Sage 31 Aug 19 - 05:54 PM
Bill D 31 Aug 19 - 08:04 PM
Bill D 01 Sep 19 - 12:03 PM
Stilly River Sage 01 Sep 19 - 02:12 PM
Bill D 01 Sep 19 - 04:51 PM
Stilly River Sage 18 Sep 19 - 11:47 AM
Stilly River Sage 19 Sep 19 - 11:19 AM
Stilly River Sage 20 Nov 19 - 11:56 AM
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Subject: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 25 Aug 19 - 01:21 PM

I have an old computer that works, it just won't communicate with the network or the Internet any more. I have a new computer with external drives and internal drives with much of the content from the old computer. Some of the software in the old computer can't be added to the new one (Windows no longer shares Windows Movie Maker, for example, a simple-to-use program that does a lot of heavy lifting). And I have a desire to not take up huge amounts of space with recorded programs (mostly from television) with dedicated file types that play in only one type of player.

A number of years ago Windows killed off it's old Windows Media Center software and some of of my files are from there. I looked at ways to cobble together something that would work and ended up instead buying a new software program called JRiver Media Center, it handled the old WMC files. I buy an update every year or two, but it works pretty well and it played nicely with the Hauppauge receiver that HP put in that 2010 computer. This was my DVR since I didn't have cable or any other type of digital video recorder in place.

I also have a lot of one-off recordings on old VHS tapes, so those need to be converted and it takes a couple of steps.

I'm getting back to working on these projects between the two computers and I thought I'd share information about some of the software (most of it free) that I'm using to do this work, in case someone else has been thinking about it, or for those who have already started and have their own methods they'd like to share. The keyword for most of my work is that the small downloaded programs are open source or free to use.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 25 Aug 19 - 01:32 PM

Today's work is two-fold; some of the wtv files (from Windows Media Center) convert to mp4 using the free program called Handbrake. It's quite powerful and in the past at work in the university library I used it as one way to rip foreign language DVDs and burn in the English language subtitles for use in classrooms. The videos were web optimized and shared in Blackboard (one of the content management classroom packages of software used in education).

The other project is converting programs that were recorded in JRiver to mp4 files so they take up less space and can be used in various players (VLC, etc.). VideoLAN (VLC) can also do a lot of converting tasks, but I found in the past that it does so many things that it takes more steps to accomplish some things. Anyway, on the old computer I have JRiver converting one of the files it recorded into an mp4 format.

Both computers are running their fans and processing away. It isn't instant but it is the kind of task that you can set running in the background as long as you're not running any other processor hogs (Adobe software, in particular).

MP4 isn't the best format perhaps for archival copies of things, or at least, most standard mp4 settings, but none of this is precious, it's just stuff I want to keep but not have it buried in dedicated files and only playable on one program.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 25 Aug 19 - 07:03 PM

Converting audio or video files from one compressed format to another one usually further reduces the quality. If conserving space is not the issue, the better idea is to install a "codec" that recognizes the old format. As a rule, if a converter is available so is a codec.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Bill D
Date: 25 Aug 19 - 07:51 PM

A couple of others someone might find useful

fre:ac is a free audio converter and CD ripper for various formats and encoders.
"It features MP3, MP4/M4A, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, AAC, and Bonk format support, integrates freedb/CDDB, CDText and ID3v2 tagging and is available in several languages.

Features
Converts between MP3, MP4/M4A, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, AAC and Bonk formats
Integrated audio CD ripper with freedb/CDDB support
Easy to learn and use, still offering expert options when you need them
Portable application to install on a USB drive and run everywhere
Completely free and open source without any ads or other malware"

----------------------------------------------

T-encoder

"TEncoder Video Converter enables you to you converter both audio and video into a large number of formats. This detailed suite allows large batch renders and many customization options. As an added bonus you can overlay and edit subtitle files on...etc."


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 25 Aug 19 - 11:27 PM

Handbrake has codecs, I'll have to look and see if I had it set to automatically use them.

One of the files I played with today (testing the JRiver ability to convert its own files) ended up out of sync voices to moving mouths on the video.

I have a version of Nero installed in both computers, Nero 11 came with the whole package (they have since tended to split it up to make you buy more than one if you want all of the functionality). I thought it might refuse to let me install it a second time, but it went in fine. I work with ftp files and use their Wave Editor to crop off dead air at the beginning of some broadcasts that I turn into podcasts for a local radio program. I don't do anything else, keeping it as simple as possible.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 26 Aug 19 - 12:07 AM

Bill D, is that Softonic site (where your T-encoder) comes from a good site? I see they offer a download of Windows Movie Maker, but Windows won't allow a download from any of their sites any more. Do you think that's a safe version? (i.e., - you try it first, and if it doesn't fry your computer I'll give it a try.)


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: DaveRo
Date: 26 Aug 19 - 03:22 AM

WTV is a container format. It may contain MPEG standard data:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WTV_(Windows_Recorded_TV_Show)

So you may be able to convert a video from WTV to MPEG-4 (or MPEG-2) without recoding it. The converter just needs to 'unpack' the streams within the file and re-package them in the new container format like MPEG-4. Some content - usually metadata - may be converted or discarded.

I don't do much with video but as an example I download radio programs as m4a files, which is an audio container format. I snip parts into aac files which I keep. This does not involve transcoding because the aac stream within the m4a file is unaltered. Compared with converting to mp3 it's almost instant. (An image which is usually in the m4a file is discarded.)

WTV is clearly obsolete, so it's certainly a good idea to convert those files to something standard and open. I would find out what the stream format within the WTV file is and see if it's possible to repackage it in a standard container without transcoding it. If your WTV files contain MPEG-2 you might consider leaving them as that rather than transcoding to MPEG-4, though I think the latter is smaller.

I don't know how you would do this on Windows. On Linux I would use ffprobe, which is a command line utility, to analyse the container stream content and ffmpeg (with a -c:a copy parameter) to convert it without transcoding.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Nick
Date: 26 Aug 19 - 07:36 AM

Did you consider setting up a virtual machine on the new machine and running any legacy software within it? Saving you the bother of all the conversion work.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Bill D
Date: 26 Aug 19 - 10:46 AM

Softonic has been around quite awhile, and I don't know of any problems.
Is which a 'safe' version? T-encoder or MovieMaker? I have no use for moviemaker, so I ain't gonna even put the frying pan on the stove.. ;>)

T-encoder was listed at alt.comp.freeware a couple of times, and it is pretty well accepted, though some payware programs are probably better.

I seldom need to convert or edit videos, but have Avidemux as a standard, just in case.
I have ummm... hmmm... about a dozen video players of various sorts, of which I use maybe 2-3 regularly. Potplayer and VLC mostly. My camera (not a phone) takes videos, and I can play or edit any of those... though I seldom do.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 26 Aug 19 - 10:48 AM

Good point, DaveRo, for those who can read the "small print".


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 26 Aug 19 - 02:26 PM

DaveRo, I understand what you're saying about the "container," and when I open these old Windows Media Center files in JRiver it shows me a lot of that kind of stuff in there, but it's fragmented in that view.

Codecs are all through Handbrake and it seems to identify that container when a folder is dropped into the initial screen to run the program.

I have various tools with Nero, and in the old computer I have the last version of Adobe Premier Pro before the Cloud versions. It's just such a steep learning curve to use that, but it might dispatch these also. When I convert VHS tapes I use a Canopus box to digitize it then use DVD Flick to turn those files into VOB files to burn to a DVD. I can use those VOB files to make mp4s in Handbrake or could do it with VLC (though that one isn't as easy and isn't dedicated like Handbrake).

The video work is something I've been meaning to do, but using some of these tools now is a way to familiarize myself with stuff I'll be using later when I start converting audio files from magnetic tape to digital files. I don't know how much editing and cleanup I'll have to do with those, but the more I have my hands on these conversion programs, the better I'll be equipped to use the others later. (I have Audible on the old computer, and have used it in the last few months but I can't remember now what I was doing with it.) Some of these programs do all sorts of conversions, video and audio.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: DaveRo
Date: 27 Aug 19 - 04:28 AM

I found a sample WTV file on the web and experimented. It was a 40-second extract of a US TV program called 'House', in HD.

Using ffprobe I found it contained:
  Duration: 00:00:41.74, start: 27.330567, bitrate: 5225 kb/s
    Stream #0:0[0x19](eng): Audio: ac3, 48000 Hz, 5.1(side), fltp, 384 kb/s
    Stream #0:1[0x1a](spa): Audio: ac3, 48000 Hz, stereo, fltp, 192 kb/s
    Stream #0:2[0x1b]: Video: h264 (High), yuv420p(tv, bt709, top first), 1920x1080 [SAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], 29.97 fps, 59.94 tbr, 10000k tbn, 59.94 tbc
    Stream #0:3[0x1c]: Subtitle: eia_608
    Stream #0:4[0xffffffff]: Video: mjpeg, yuvj420p(pc, bt470bg/unknown/unknown), 200x113 [SAR 96:96 DAR 200:113], 90k tbr, 90k tbn, 90k tbc

That's some audio in English and Spanish, the h264-encoded video, some subtitles, and a mjpeg-encoded video stream: I'm not sure what that is.

If GUI converters have 'media info' pages, or produce reports you can probably find the same information.

I tried converting that to an MPEG-4 (mp4 container) with the command
ffmpeg -i filename.wtv -c:v copy filename.mp4
I think that worked - it was playable in VLC - but not as smooth as the original. The clip might have been faulty - there were a lot of errors.

The resulting mp4 file, which was about 10% smaller, contained:
  Duration: 00:00:41.78, start: 0.000000, bitrate: 4613 kb/s
    Stream #0:0(und): Video: h264 (High) (avc1 / 0x31637661), yuv420p(tv, bt709), 1920x1080 [SAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], 4399 kb/s, 59.94 fps, 59.94 tbr, 10000k tbn, 59.94 tbc (default)
    Metadata:
      handler_name    : VideoHandler
    Stream #0:1(eng): Audio: aac (LC) (mp4a / 0x6134706D), 48000 Hz, 5.1, fltp, 341 kb/s (default
)

From what I read yesterday, older Standard Definition (SD) programmes are more likely to be MPEG-2 video, rather than MPEG-4. I suspect you could still encapsulate them in an mp4 file - but that's a guess.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 27 Aug 19 - 09:38 AM

This is the line that I pay attention to in that House stream you posted:

Stream #0:2[0x1b]: Video: h264 (High), yuv420p(tv, bt709, top first), 1920x1080 [SAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], 29.97 fps, 59.94 tbr, 10000k tbn, 59.94 tbc

The h264 is the standard that Handbrake works with, and the 1920x1080 says it is a full screen image. If you web optimize or do other things to reduce the file size it comes out for a smaller screen or for a YouTube screen.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: DaveRo
Date: 27 Aug 19 - 11:16 AM

h264 is the encoding used in MPEG-4. Seeing that I knew that I should be able to just re-encapsulate it in an mp4 file.

The ffmpeg command I used should have simply copied that stream into the output, without recoding - and I think it did. But comparing the video steams in the input and output, there appear to be differences. How can 29.97 fps (frames per second) become have become 59.94 fps? Or is that an error in the reporting - there are a lot of '59.94' values in there?

And I just noticed that the audio has been recoded - from 'Audio: ac3' (which is Dolby) to 'Audio: aac'. If I add -c:v copy I can avoid that and the process becomes instantaneous.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: DaveRo
Date: 27 Aug 19 - 11:17 AM

That should have been -c:a copy (codec, audio, copy)


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 29 Aug 19 - 11:35 AM

Handbrake seems to be most efficient at converting those wtv files; it isn't fast, but except for one, they're in sync and the mp4 files are reduced by half in size (generally) from the wtf files.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 31 Aug 19 - 09:58 AM

I've identified a handful of cassette tapes to start digitizing. I have the Nero software and will look at Audible. Are there other programs people recommend for this task?


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Bill D
Date: 31 Aug 19 - 02:59 PM

We have a combination cassette deck/player digitizer which will turn LPs and cassettes into MP3s..There are programs which will extract audio from various media, (such as Exact Audio Copy for CDs) but this suggests just a physical connection to a computer.
https://m.wikihow.com/Transfer-Cassette-Tape-to-Computer


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 31 Aug 19 - 03:23 PM

I have the computer and cables to connect to the combination LP/Cassette/Radio receiver. I wasn't able to get the RCA cables to work but the stereo miniplug cable does.

What is a "balanced" versus an "unbalanced" line output (see section four of you linked page)
    Connect an adapter to your computer if necessary.
    If you're connecting a balanced line output from your cassette deck to your computer, you'll need to plug the 3.5mm end of the adapter into your computer's line-in jack.[3]

    Skip this step if you're connecting either a 3.5mm cassette deck or an unbalanced cassette deck.


The current setup is an AIWA system but I have to use the headphone jack with an adapter for the 3.5mm stereo cable that plugs into the line-in on the computer. The computer I'm using was set up for Media Center use so there are lots of plugs, but like I said, the RCA plugs don't seem to register a signal. I have a couple of other receivers I picked up inexpensively at estate sales to test for this also.

The headphone jack is stereo, and the mini-plug cable is stereo, about 10 feet long.

This is helpful, a 2015 New York Times article.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Bill D
Date: 31 Aug 19 - 05:20 PM

It refers to the type of cables used. Cables without a ground wire are likely to add noise to the output.
"An unbalanced cable consists of two connectors with two conductors each, connected by two wires inside the cable—a signal wire and a ground wire. You can quickly (in most cases) identify a cable designed to carry an unbalanced signal by its connectors: because each wire has to terminate at the connector with its own contact point, an unbalanced cable requires only two conductors at the connector. A standard TS (or “tip-sleeve”) guitar cable is the unbalanced cable you’ll run into on stage most. Standard RCA cables used for many AV components are also unbalanced cables."


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Bill D
Date: 31 Aug 19 - 05:25 PM

Have you tested the RCA plugs in some other setup? I've had some old ones develop a short or loose wire. I have some audio cables that are just simply old & tired... switched to newer ones and got much better sound.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 31 Aug 19 - 05:54 PM

There are still quite a few RCA cables around here, and I can try the old computer again in this current setup as well as the new one (though my plan is to dedicate the old computer to doing this work in the background). My goal with setting up the office after construction was to have all of the various cables and plug lines generally out of the way, but the backs of the computers and other devices easy to reach if I need to change things out. This will be the first major test.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Bill D
Date: 31 Aug 19 - 08:04 PM

Sounds like a plan


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Bill D
Date: 01 Sep 19 - 12:03 PM

Here's an excellent freeware site someone on alt.comp.freeware just discovered, although they say it's been there for 10 years. An amazing assortment with clear descriptions.

the link to audio/video Utilities, Codecs, Converters and Players

They have a cute humor section too....


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 01 Sep 19 - 02:12 PM

Nice site, stating that they don't have all of the fake download links you see on so many of the download sites. It reminds me of one you shared years ago called "Last Freeware Version" but when I clicked on it today Malwarebytes stepped up and said "Nope. There's a Trojan" and though it offered to let me go there anyway, this is what I pay for Malwarebytes for.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Bill D
Date: 01 Sep 19 - 04:51 PM

??The Last Freeware Version site or the Old Geeks site? Last freeware may not be as careful as we'd wish.

Malwarebyes **does** sometimes give a false positive... but it's best to be careful.
(Some of Nir Sopher's programs give malware warnings, but he is scrupulously careful. Antivirus scans for various series of characters... which may be similar to malware.)


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 18 Sep 19 - 11:47 AM

Posting these here because they're topical: Good results with old equipment

Transferring tape or vinyl to CD


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 19 Sep 19 - 11:19 AM

I set up the VHS and copied over a 90 minute tape, saving it on the old computer. The version of DVD Flick over there isn't working now (I think it needs an update or it connects with the mothership to work and that computer isn't on the Internet any more). I set it up in the new computer but decided not to let it keep going overnight so aborted the conversion after 4 hours at 40% complete. That's way longer than I remember it taking in the past. They do offer an "Entertain me" button that gives a rudimentary game of Tetris while you wait if you're not doing something else and letting this run in the background.


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Subject: RE: Converting digital files: methods & software
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 20 Nov 19 - 11:56 AM

Since I last posted here one of my VHS players failed so I hunted around thrift stores and found a couple more that work when tested. I found a lovely one that it turned out someone had pushed one particular button so hard that they broke the printed circuit board behind it. I'm not going to start trying to solder those things together, though it might be an interesting exercise.

Anyway, I'm now using the VHS player, a Canopus digital converter box, and Nero software to capture the video. The old non-Internet computer is now dedicated for this task, and for digitizing cassette tapes. Deciding what cassette player is my next challenge in this process.


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