Free open-source video transcoder for Windows
Handbrake for Windows is a free and open-source program that allows you to convert video files to a wide range of formats using several post-production tools and presets. With Handbrake, you can encode video files and convert them to work on your smartphone, home media player, or upload to a video hosting site like Vimeo and YouTube.
The program works with the vast majority of commonly-used files and formats, along with more obscure formats like the ones used by professional video cameras. Handbrake can do this by integrating a wide range of libraries like Libav, x264, and x265 behind the scenes so you can easily create a new MP4 or MKV file. Its closest competitor in terms of functionality is Media Encoder HQ.
Handbrake main features and uses
For a free program, Handbrake offers many valuable features for video post-production. Amateur users won’t need or know how to use many of the tools, and there are little to no tutorials available apart from the documentation, which is quite technical. However, anyone with minimal experience with video conversion or editing software will have no program exploring all of Handbrake’s options.
Here’s a breakdown of what Handbrake can do:
- Convert videos to MP4 or MKV to watch on most devices
- Resize the video resolution or crop the video size
- Increase the sharpness of low-quality videos by converting to a higher resolution or restoring old videos
- Remove combing artifacts that are caused by telecine and interlacing
- Transcode and customize the video output by changing the bit rate and maximum file size
- Work with batches of videos to save time
- Pass-through audio without conversion for specific audio types
- Adjust the volume levels and dynamic range for specific audio types
- Keep subtitles that already exist, and add or remove subtitles stored as text
- Compress video files, so they take up less space
What Handbrake cannot do
It’s important to note the limitations of Handbrake as well, as there are specific tasks it can’t perform due to recent updates or misinformation. Handbrake can no longer rip videos by circumventing or defeating copy protection. This means you can’t copy video forms that have Digital Rights Management (DRM). In the past, you may have been able to use Handbrake to copy content from places like Netflix and iTunes, but currently, it no longer works.
Handbrake also can’t combine multiple video clips into one, create DVDs, Blue-ray, AVCHD, or make cocktails (yet).
Getting started with Handbrake
To start using Handbrake, first, download the setup file to your computer and open the .exe program to start the installation wizard. You’ll need at least 40 MB of space on your hard drive, and possibly more, depending on the type and volume of videos you want to work with.
Once installed, open Handbrake and select your video source. You can drag a file into the window or choose one manually using the file explorer. If the video file has more than one clip, you can use the Title control to select the video clip you want to use.
Handbrake comes with a long list of presets to ensure your video works well on specific platforms. For example, if you want to upload a video to Vimeo or YouTube, there are a number of presets available with different resolutions. If you prefer to take matters into your own hands, you can set your own encoding preferences using the tools available, each located under its own tab. There are options for dimensions, filters, video settings, audio settings, subtitles, and chapters.
Hovering with your mouse over a feature causes a helpful tooltip to appear with a short explanation of what the feature is and how to use it.
When finished, choose a destination to save the new video and then start encoding. Handbrake shows you a progress bar during the process, including a time estimation of how long is left.
Handbrake is a powerful, free video conversion tool. You can use it to convert video files to a large number of formats using the customization tools or simply select from one of the presets. If you have a large number of files, you can use batch processing.
Should you download it?
Suppose you’re looking for a free video conversion tool? In that case, yes. If you’re looking for a DVD-ripper, then no.
- Fast encoding and supports batch processing
- Customizable settings and a wide range of presets
- Can crop videos
- Not beginner-friendly
- Cannot rip videos
- Cannot combine multiple video clips into one