Review: Prism Video Converter

I came across an application called the Prism Video Converter made by NCH Software. Apparently, they have a freeware version that is suppose to be sufficient for converting different video formats to WMV format for the Zune. I decided to download and test the freeware software, and here are my comments:

The software seemed easy to use, and was very promising considering it could convert formats such as AVI, WMV, ASF, MPG, MP4, divX, and VOB. The freeware version is limited to convert to either AVI, ASF, or WMV format, which fine since the Zune accepts the WMV format. The commercial version can convert to many other formats.

The Prism software has an encoder settings option which allows the user to set the video and audio codec values. Fortunately, everything you need to create a WMV file for the Zune (with no transcoding) is available. The only shortcoming, is the fact that you can’t define an exact video bit rate value (as you can with Windows Media Encoder 9). For example, I like to use 700 kbps for the video bit rate, but with the Prism software you can only select from the following settings: 32, 64, 128, 512, 1024, 2048, and 4096 kbps. Not a big deal, as using 1024 kbps is probably ok. You also can’t specify if the video bit rate is Variable or Constant (VBR or CBR), which again isn’t a big deal but using VBR seems to produce better quality videos.

As a test, I attempted to convert an AVI file, MP4 file, and video on a DVD to WMV format for the Zune. Much like the Windows Media Batch Encoder, you can easily queue up several video files for conversion. Both the AVI and MP4 files seemed to convert over well, but the resultant WMV videos looked blurry to what I could create using WME9.

prism.png

For the DVD conversion, the Prism software will list all the individual VOB files that it finds on the DVD disk. It will also group together multiple VOBs that it determines is part of a single video clip. This is handy, as it resolves the problem of having a large movie broken up on multiple VOB files and having to merge them together. There’s also a preview option to view each selected VOB file (using the right click context menu) which is nice to see what you’re converting beforehand. Again, the resultant WMV file looked somewhat burry to what I’ve created in the past using WME9.

Conclusion

I’ll have to give the Prism Video Converter software one thumb up for ease of use and the ability to convert MP4, AVI, and DVDs to WMV format for the Zune, however, all three of my attempts at creating a WMV file resulted in blurry output. I will definitely still use the Windows Media Batch Encoder as my main application for video conversions (since it does have more features such as 2-pass conversion, etc.). Note, that I tested the Prism software on both my WinXP laptop and Vista Desktop PC, but both create the same blurry output.

I still think you should give Prism a shot and see if it works better for you. I might be missing a video codec or have something conflicting which is causing this problem, but it wasn’t worth my time to investigate since I already have a good, viable solution to my video conversion needs.

One thing to note, is that the Prism Video Converter does not have any decryption capability for protected DVDs, so it probably won’t work for converting your normal store-bought DVD movies. There are ways around this, (by running a special DVD decryption software running in the background or using the DVD Decrypter/DVD Shrink ripper applications), so it’s still a useful program for processing DVD video data.

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7 thoughts on “Review: Prism Video Converter

  1. max adler says:

    hey what sound settings should you use for the prism software? for the 30 gig 1st gen zune if it makes a difference?

  2. zunetips says:

    max: From the Zune Specs that I came across for the Zune 30, I suggest the following:

    Windows Media Audio 9.x – 128 Kbps, 44 kHz, CBR (constant Bit Rate)

    Using those settings should prevent transcoding for the audio. If you test out the Prism software, let me know if the converted video file looks ok or is a bit blurry.

  3. Jim Banks says:

    I actually bought prism converter but after using it for about the 5th time, it said there was an update available, asked me if wanted to install it, and when I did it then promptly informed me that my license was no more good. I contacted customer support and they basically said “too bad, you should have kept a copy of the version you paid for”

    I was too mad to pay for it again but actually ended up finding a better FREE program called any video converter.

    http://www.any-video-converter.com/products/for_video_free/

    unhappy registered user of prism converter version 1.27 Jim Banks

  4. JP says:

    I converted a 550mb VOB file to a MOV, but the file came out much smaller in size, but strangely enough the visual quality looks the same and almost a bit better. Is that normal? Is there a way to increase the quality for conversion?

  5. zunetips says:

    A VOB file is usually what you get off a DVD, and they are fairly high quality videos from the start. So if you go from the VOB file (which is essentially an MPEG2 video) and convert it down to a smaller resolution for your Zune or iPod Touch/iPhone, then the file size would certainly be smaller. The quality of the converted video will only be as good as the video source, so you won’t be able to make the video “better” than what you see in the VOB file. One thing you might try is setting a “2-pass” option which is an option for a lot of converters. This allows the converter to run through the video once to determine optimum settings and then runs through the video a second time to do the actual conversion. It takes twice as long to convert videos, but you’ll get the best quality images. I’m not sure of the Prism Video Converter can do this, but I do know that other converters can.

    Also, if you haven’t tried using the program called “HandBrake” for video conversion, I suggest you do check it out. There’s a version for both the PC and Mac, and I’m using it on my Mac to convert AVI files over to MP4 files for my iPod Touch. Works really well and is easy to use. For a Zune, I suggest using HandBrake to convert your videos to MP4 format. I’m not positive it can convert VOB files, however, if Handbrake doesn’t recognize the VOB file when you try to select it for conversion, try renaming the VOB file to MPEG2 and see if that works.

  6. Brandon says:

    I recently bought the Prism Video Converter to convert MPEG files to FLV for a website I’m working on. Since I’m using a Mac, I downloaded the Mac PPC version of the program. After converting my file, the colors turned out looking all off. The blues had changed to black, and the basic color of the entire project had a yellow tint to it. Did I just pay $60 for a program that compresses my videos and makes them yellow? I think I did.

  7. zunetips says:

    A lot of the video converters like the one you bought often use the Mencoder or FFMPeg freeware software as the backend to do the actual video conversions. So, you’re basically paying for the front-end user interface. I often use FFMPeg to convert FLV files to AVI or MPEG format successfully. As a test, you should try downloading FFMPeg from the web and try converting one of your MPEG files to FLV format and see what you get.

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