(In this section, I’m going to use “H.264 video” as a shorthand for “H.264 Baseline profile video and AAC low-complexity profile audio in an MPEG-4 container.” This is the combination of codecs+container that works natively in Safari, in Adobe Flash, on the iPhone, and on Google Android devices.)
Licensing issues aside (see Licensing Issues with H.264 Video), the easiest way to encode H.264 video is using HandBrake. HandBrake is an open source, GPL-licensed application for encoding H.264 video. (It used to do other video formats too, but in the latest version the developers have dropped support for most other formats and focused all their efforts on H.264 video.) Prebuilt binaries are available for Windows, Mac OS X, and modern Linux distributions.
HandBrake comes in two flavors: graphical and command line. I’ll walk you through the graphical interface first, then we’ll see how my recommended settings translate into the command-line version.
After you open the HandBrake application, the first thing to do is select your source video (Figure 5-13). Click “Source” and choose “Video File” from the drop-down menu to select a file. HandBrake can take virtually any video file as input, including DV video produced by many consumer-level camcorders.
Figure 5-13. Select your source video
HandBrake will complain that you haven’t set a default directory to save ...