A friend has a Canon still camera (the PowerShot G9) that has a movie mode. My research shows that the camera produces 30 fps VGA-sized AVI files (probably uncompressed). She wants to send the footage via iDisk or Dropbox to someone else to be edited (in iMovie or some flavor of Final Cut), but is being frustrated by the large AVI file sizes (more than a MB/sec). I know that she'll want to convert the raw movies in Handbrake before sending, and I've seen with my own movies that converting AVI to some version of MPEG4 can result in significant size reduction.

Two parts to this question:

  1. What is the optimal Handbrake setting (preset preferred; this is a non-technical user) to convert AVI to an editable format?

  2. If there is more than one editable format, which one will produce the smaller files? Since the source material is only VGA quality, I don't think that resolution will be a major issue, though of course we don't want to degrade video quality.

2 Answers 2


Don't forget the built-in Automator actions for encoding. The video plugin is very nice and has pre-sets starting with 480p (VGA size) and up.

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The Encode for: Greater compatibility toggle keeps the audio and video at a lower bit rate. Depending on what your tolerance for "less degradation" is, you might experiment with Higher quality if you see too many H.264 artifacts on the default setting. It's unlikely as the encoder has a lot of room with 1.5 Mbps as the ceiling for the video data rate.

You could set up a few services to test the various settings and then make a folder action to apply your favorite encode setting to anything you drop in that folder.

Automation is fun—you might even be able to set up a folder action to do your uploading as part of this process.

  • I've decided to award the answer to the best solution to the question, rather than the answer that specifically answered my question. Thanks to @kevin9794 for his correct answer (which I upvoted), but this answer has the benefit of elegance.
    – Negrino
    Sep 6, 2011 at 20:53
  • Additional comment and caveat: the Encode Media Automator action is available under Lion, but not Snow Leopard. The more-or-less equivalent actions under SL were unreliable in testing. I ended up teaching my friend to use Handbrake.
    – Negrino
    Sep 9, 2011 at 3:50

I would suggest you convert it to MP4 with the H.264 Codec. Handbreak is a pretty straight-forward applicaiton in terms of video conversion; in the video tab you can see the input and output size in pixels (so your video getting reduced in size should be avoided in a single glance), the framerate, which is best to keep on "same as source" and your target quality. Here is where the quality/size question arises.

As explained in the Handbrake wiki:

With the average bitrate or target size methods, you control the size of the output file but give up control over the video's quality.

Constant quality mode does the opposite; you specify a quality level and HandBrake adjusts the bitrate (that is, the size) to meet it.


So basically you can select a target size, and your video will be squeezed to that, at the expense of quality, you can choose an average bit rate, and all your video will be set those many kilobytes per second, or you can select a Constant Quality and handbreak will make sure your video looks as you want it, regardless of size.

Its a tough decision, and depends greatly on your source video. If youre uploading to the internet I's suggest you select "2 pass encoding" and set the bit-rate to arround 1MB. Because this depends a lot on your video (eg. vids with lots of grain and movement usually need a higher bit rate) this might be enough or might not (I'm pretty sure it will though :))

Good luck!

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