All About MPEG Streamclip: Compressing and Exporting Videos

Two young siblings using laptops on floor

Donald Iain Smith / Getty Images

MPEG Streamclip is a program with all of the features you need to compress and convert your video projects. It's a versatile program with tools to change the appearance, file type, and compression of your videos. Although MPEG Streamclip is engineered specifically for MPEG video, this program excellently handles Quicktime and transport streams too, making it a great tool for preparing your video for sharing on DVDs or on video sharing websites like Vimeo and YouTube. MPEG Streamclip is a free program and is compatible with both Mac and Windows, so go ahead and take it for a spin.

Compressing Videos With MPEG Streamclip

Perhaps the most useful function of MPEG Streamclip is its compression capabilities. Sometimes you want to share a video with a friend using Dropbox, a data DVD, or a video sharing website, but the file is too large and not compressed for the sharing method you prefer. MPEG Streamclip lets you adjust the codec, frame rate, bitrate, and aspect ratio.

Before you begin, you'll need to download MPEG Streamclip to your computer. This is a painless process as it's free, and a relatively small program. Open up the program, and locate the video you want to compress in your file browser. Then, simply drag the video file into the MPEG Streamclip player, and look under the program's File menu. You'll see the option to export your video to a variety of formats, including Quicktime, MPEG-4, DV, AVI and 'Other Formats". Choose the desired end format for your video, and you'll be taken to an export dialogue with all of the compression controls for that specific format.

The Exporter Window

The compression options you have will depend on the file type you're compressing to. The Quicktime, MPEG-4, and AVI compressors have similar exporting controls aside from the Compression types at the top of the exporter box. The MPEG-4 exporter only allows for H.264 and Apple MPEG4 compressor because these are the only compressors accommodated by this file type. Quicktime, MPEG-4, and AVI include a wide range of compressors, both open source, and proprietary, so you'll most likely find what you're looking for when working in these formats. If you're compressing your video to make it smaller for sharing purposes, we recommend using H.264 for compression, regardless of the file format you choose.

After you choose the compressor for your video, you'll be able to adjust the Quality with a simple toggle interface that ranges from 0-100%. Right below this slider, you'll see a box that allows you to limit the data rate of your video. This feature is very useful as MPEG Streamclip will calculate the estimated size of your output file once you choose a bit rate. Standard bit rates for SD video are 2,000-5,000 kbps, and standard bit rates for HD video are 5,000-10,000 kbps, depending on the frame rate of your video. After you enter a value, you'll see an estimated file size appear to the right. This will let you know if your exported file will be small enough for your sharing method — keep in mind that DVDs commonly hold 4.3GB of space, and video uploads for sharing website max out around 500MB.

Frame Rate, Blending, Downscaling, and More

Next, choose a frame rate for your video. Match this to the frame rate of your original file unless you shot at a very high frame rate, in which case dividing this number will make your file size smaller. Then, choose frame blending and better downscaling if there's an inconsistency between your chosen frame rate and the frame rate of your original video — this will maximize the quality of your exported file. If your video is interlaced, i.e. the frame rate is 29.97 or 59.94 fps, choose Interlaced Scaling. If you shot progressive i.e. 24, 30 or 60 fps, un-check this box. Hit the Make button at the bottom of the Exporter window, and you'll see a preview window with a time bar that shows you the progress of your export. Be sure to save the export somewhere that's easy to find, and choose a filename that differs from the original video, like video.1 or video.small.

Although compressing videos is a super useful skill, MPEG Streamclip has even more great features to check out.