One of the main reasons I purchased a Zune is for watching video files. I’m currently using it for watching video podcasts (which I subscribe to from the Zune Software), but I also want to watch movies and TV Shows that I have in video file format. All of my existing video files are in AVI format (because I use to watch them on my Pocket PC device), but that format isn’t viewable on the Zune. So, I did Google searches, visited different forums, and read tons of blog sites. In my search, I discovered that many, many other Zune users also are trying to convert their videos for Zune playback and are having issues with conversion speed, syncing speed, “transcoding”, quality, etc. If you visit forums at ZuneScene.com or ZuneBoards.com there are dedicated forum threads that specifically talk about video conversions.
If you do your own search, you’ll find dozens and dozens of different video converter programs. Most of them will convert various formats to mp4 format (which is what the iPod uses), but in most cases these converted video files will undergo the “transcoding” process when you try to sync them to your Zune. (Note, that transcoding is basically re-converting the video file to meet the required format specifications of the Zune player, and can take several hours to process one video file). If you convert your video file properly, there shouldn’t be any transcoding and they should sync in 1 to 2 minutes.
Of the various video converters there are freeware and commercial programs. Most of the commercial applications are simply repackaged iPod converters, so you might have some transcoding issues with them. All of the converters have different interfaces, so some might appear easy to use (but with very little control over settings) and others might appear to be too complicated (where the user must make all the settings manually). Of all the converters that I’ve loaded and tested on my Desktop PC, the only one that I’ve kept is a freeware called WM Converter 2.0 which is easy to use, but allows for customize settings for the Zune. If you’re looking for a simple and free converter, I would recommend that one.
If you visit the Zune.net site’s support page, they recommend using the Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9 to convert video files to WMV format for the Zune. They also provide you with some basic recommended settings that I can confirm works well. This software is provided free by Microsoft, and I personally have chosen to use it to do all my video conversions. If you want to read how I do my conversions, please visit my “Video Conversion” Page on this blog site.