We are constantly on the lookout for new tools to keep in our litigation support toolbox and Shutter Encoder is quickly becoming one of our new favorites. It’s a publicly available (a.k.a. “free”) media converter program that is based on standards and functions within the open-source FFmpeg software project. Currently there are both PC and Mac versions available for download from their website: https://www.shutterencoder.com/en/.
Here are a few of our favorite things we like to do with Shutter Encoder:
Convert file formats
Media files come in lots of different formats (ex: .asf, .avi, .mpg, .mov, .wmv, .amr, .m4a, .wav, .wma, etc…). It can sometimes be a struggle to consistently get them all to play. Some files are only compatible with specific programs, operating systems, and devices while others may also require that special “codec” packages be installed. Shutter Encoder can be used to convert media files using “standard” output codecs that work with a wide variety of environments.
For most video files the output codec standard we recommend is an MP4 file using the H.264 standard. This format is compatible with many modern devices, operating systems and video playback applications.
For example, we might have some .ASF video files that play in VLC Media Player, but will not work in Trial Director. When we add these files to Shutter Encoder, choose the H.264 output codec, then select the “Start Function” button, we produce new MP4 copies of the files that will play in both programs.
With audio files, we like to use the MP3 standard when converting as it works seamlessly with most media players. When choosing an MP3 output, you can further select from a list of different audio “bitrates” (in kb/s), which will affect the quality and file size. In most situations, we choose the 128 bitrate as that offers a nice balance between the two.
Cut, Remove and Split
There are many times when only a portion of a media file is needed. To produce a clip, or remove an unwanted section, Shutter Encoder includes Cut, Remove and Split options. We can access these features from a playback screen when converting file formats (ex: after adding a video file and choosing the H.264 Output codec).
The playback screen includes a timeline band (with a waveform graphic overlay), a play control button set, and a Mode selector. To select a portion of the media being converted, click and drag from the left and/or right sides of the timeline band. Alternatively, there are Begin and End buttons within the playback button set that can be used. The Mode dropdown in the lower right includes the following options:
- Cut converts the selected portion of the media (and ignores unselected parts).
- Remove takes out the selected portion (and converts unselected parts).
- Split (less commonly used) divides media into separate files based on a user defined number of seconds.
We can preview a Cut or Remove section in a separate window by using the “Preview” button located to the right of the Mode dropdown. The actual Cut, Remove or Split will begin once the “Start Function” button is pressed and will only affect the output file (not the original).
Reduce video file size
Larger video files can often be difficult to work with. They can take a long time to open, use up valuable drive space, and prove challenging to share with others.
In addition to the Cut, Remove and Split features listed above, there are “bitrate” adjustments that can be made to video files that affect the size of the output file during conversion. Bitrate settings affect things like the video smoothness and sound clarity. Though the default options work well in most scenarios, it is possible to adjust these settings to create a smaller sized output file. Generally speaking, the following settings allow for a more compact output file size without any noticeable quality losses:
- Video bitrate: 2500 kb/s
- Audio bitrate: 128 kb/s
Adjust video rotation
If certain videos (especially those recorded on mobile devices) are not playing back in the correct orientation, we can re-orient them within Shutter by 90 degree increments. When the conversion function is chosen, Image Rotation options appear above the bitrate adjustments on the right panel. The preview window shows how the new orientation will appear in the output file when adjusting these settings.
Download web video(s)
Another useful function within Shutter is Download Web Video. This will attempt to download available videos from specified webpage addresses (URLs). Though it may not work with all videos on all webpages (due to page design or video protection protocols), it seems to work well with many common sources including Youtube, Vimeo and FaceBook video posts. We can copy and paste one or more URLs and the program will attempt to download the videos to the desktop. We can even point it to a Youtube channel page and to attempt to download multiple videos (if there are a lot of videos on the channel, be mindful that it might take a long time and a lot of hard drive space).
Below is a brief video demonstrating some of the functions mentioned in this post: