Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Convert And Encode Video Files From And To Any Format: HeyWatch

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Online video encoding and video formats conversion are some of the most time consuming tasks an online video publisher has to confront himself with. But a new online service from Europe puts an end to this huge time waster once and for all. Small online video publishers can rejoice at one of the most interesting and valuable 2.0 tools to pop-up in recent times and one that I personally believe will find immediate acceptance, success and growth.


First scooped on our Sunday Sharewood Picnic two weeks ago, the new Hey!Watch online video conversion and encoding platform is truly a video production bonanza especially for those small to medium-sized online publishers who, without having a large stuff, struggle everyday with the many video production chores.

The newly launched web-based service, which requires no software downloads or lengthy registrations, allows you to immediately start transcoding your preferred video files into just about any video file format you may need, from Quicktime .mov to Windows .wmv and to the increasingly popular Adobe Flash .flv video format.

All of the video encoding and conversion is done online without utilizing any of the local processing power or physical storage space of your local computer (be that a Linux, Mac or PC machine). You simply upload your video clips (with no limitations in size - the only limit is in video duration - 25 mins.) and then decide to which video format you want the clip to be converted to. You also have the option of selecting the specific video codec that will be using for video encoding.

HeyWatch hosts for you both the original and the newly transcoded video files for a limited time: between 6 and 24 hrs depending on whether the file is the original video file submitted or a converted copy and depending on whether you have signed up for a free account or for the moderately priced, professional one.

As Hey!Watch has not been designed to be a video hosting or sharing service but an online video encoding and video conversion platform, its use and application is again focused on streamlining the frustrating job of easily converting video material in one of the dozen video file formats available today. Period.

Released in the last few days of 2006, HeyWatch is the fruit of one year of hard work by a small company in Marseille, France, called Particles. To them goes a real big applause from all those, like us, increasingly involved and working with online video.

Video encoding in any format you want

HeyWatch can convert video files in a great number of video formats. The raw number of video standards and codecs is quite impressive and it will certainly satisfy most of the users for which this service has been designed for.

Here the most popular video formats already supported:

  • .flv (Adobe Flash)

  • .asf (Microsoft)

  • .mov (Quicktime)

  • .rm (Real Media)

  • .avi (Uncompressed standard)

  • .mp4 (mpeg4)

  • 3g2 (3G)

  • 3gp

  • psp

  • mpeg

  • mjpeg

  • mpeg2video

  • mpegts

  • dvd (DVD)

  • svcd

  • vcd

  • vob


The codecs supported also include all the best and most popular one a video publisher may want. These are:

HeyWatch is well aware of today's growing number of multimedia devices on which video clips may be played, and intelligently integrates wide support for converting your video files also to the most popular video formats supported by such portable media players. iPod, Zune, Zen, iRiver, Archos? HeyWatch supports all those and more (the Wii and the portable console GPX32 are also supported).


What this means is that you can easily convert any video file you may have on your computer into any other video format while delegating the hardware-intensive processing to the HeyWatch server while you keep working on more creative matters on your local machine.

HeyWatch only mission is to swiftly convert your submitted video clips so that they can be properly viewed, at the best quality and resolution possible, on any among your favourite video playback devices, portable media players, PDAs or mobile phones.

Once you've got your videos up and converted, HeyWatch provides you with a download link from which you can immediately download the converted video file. Both versions of the video file (the original and the re-encoded) are temporarily hosted through HeyWatch for 6 and 12 hours respectively.

You can also encode multiple video clips simultaneously (up to three at one time) as well as convert a video clip to multiple video formats.

Grabbing Video Clips from Web Sites (even when there is no download link)

Another key strength of HeyWatch is the fact that it allows you to grab and download just about any video clip you can find online. HeyWatch does not limit itself to work with a few of the popular video sharing sites like other tools and services allow you to do. HeyWatch works with a much larger number of video sharing and social bookmarking sites out there, including:

  • YouTube

  • MySpace

  • Google Video

  • DailymMotion

  • Metacafe

  • iFilm

  • Grouper

  • Revver

  • Apple trailer



  • Stage6.divx

  • Kewego


  • Wideo

You simply give HeyWatch the URL of the page where is the video clip you want to download and HeyWatch does the rest for you.

Wondering how HeyWatch would perform when you give it a URL that contains more than one clip?
HeyWatch sees them all and lists them for you. You can check one, a few or all of the videos available from any URL.


In fact, it gets even easier than that. HeyWatch in fact supports both a "bookmarklet" which when clicked grabs the video of the page you are watching, and a nifty FireFox plugin which sitting in the bottom right corner of your browser does the same one-click video grabbing job.

So, whether the video clip you need to convert is already on your hard disk, is inside a podcast feed,or still online on a site that does not provide a video download link, do not fret: HeyWatch manages it all without a cinch.

Smart notification - RSS and Ping

HeyWatch has thought it all out for you. If you are a serious and engaged online video publisher and your team needs to upload multiple videos on a pretty frequent schedule, from now on you need not stress yourself asking them when the conversions are ready. Just subscribe to the RSS feed that HeyWatch provides with each account and you will get notified (with a video enclosure) each time a new video has been encoded.

That's right: Subscribe to your converted video outputs feed and by using your favourite podcast / video player / reader you can get all of the converted videos to you effortlessly.

For the more tech-savvy, it should be noted that HeyWatch also integrates a ping function which notifies you by HTTP when a video conversion job has been completed.

Customizable video encoding and file format conversion


If you, like me, decide to pay for a "watcher" account ($5/month or $40/year), you get a few very useful extra features. Among these, the most important one is the ability for you to create your custom conversion and encoding "presets" just like most video editing and conversion software programs allow you to do.


With the above set of features, you can easily preset specific input and output formats into new templates as well as specifying unique codecs, resolution and frame rates, saving yourself lots of extra time.

Video encoding platform - API

HeyWatch provides also a complete API that allow developers to easily tap into the full power of its video conversion and encoding engine to create custom applications and services. This means that software programmers can access programmatically any of the features available inside the online video service in order to create new tools or complement other existing services.

Usability, interface and ease of use

HeyWatch spartan interface is actually a perfect example of how visual simplicity can indeed facilitate our ability to immediately learn and out to good use a new tool we have never seen.

In fact, I would dare to say, that like similar services (see Related tools and services section further below), HeyWatch can be used right out of box by simply filling in the input field that appear in front you as you proceed. In an age of fancy and often very visually rich interfaces, it is a breath of fresh air to see the effectiveness of such essential user interfaces as the one adopted here.

Once you are logged in, HeyWatch lets you see all of your work files and processing status from one web page.


The cherry on the cake on this front is HeyWatch unique feature labeled "slot availability". With it, HeyWatch lets you see at all times how much "engaged" are their hardware processing units, providing the means for you to anticipate the extra wait time you may have to incur (at least for now) during some peak processing hours. The "slot availability" in fact indicates "the encode capacity handled by HeyWatch servers in real-time".

It is also good to know that you don't need to stay logged on HeyWatch during a conversion or video encoding job. You may as well switch off your computer and come back later if you are under pressure to drive somewhere, only to find your video files completed the next time you log on.

Accessible from everywhere and from any device

HeyWatch is easily accessible both from your standard Web browser as well as from any mobile device. In fact you may very well want to upload and convert some video clips you have just shot with your mobile phone. Just as likely you may like to download a video clip from a specific URL and being able to watch it on your portable media device without having to wait until you get back to your office.

HeyWatch on a mobile screen - Photo credit: Particle-s

Yes indeed. With HeyWatch it is possible to upload most any video via your mobile phone as well as subscribing to your RSS video feed on all those devices that support RSS with enclosures. Mobile devices can simply access the same web url that you would use from your computer to access all of HeyWatch services.

HeyWatch versions - Free and Paid - Differences

HeyWatch comes into two different versions: a) free, and b) paid. The free version does just about anything I have described above with the following limitations:

a) you can convert a maximum of 30 videos per month.

b) you can upload and convert only one video at a time.

With the paid "Watcher" account you can convert up to 100 video clips per month and convert up to three clips simultaneously.

Here's the detail:

For $40 a year (!) I really couldn't ask for more. Video conversions and encoding takes my team a very considerable amount of time and having at our disposal such a simplified and efficient service is really a godsend. While I have read on a CNet review that this fee is a bit pricey, I assume the reviewer is a casual video user and not someone that day in, day out needs to publish video clips on the web. For many small online publishers HeyWatch is a killer service that is worth every penny of its already unbeatable price.

The overall limit on a maximum duration of 25 minutes for each video clip to be converted, which applies also to premium users (Watchers), is a limit that doesn't bother me and which I think will not affect most online video publishers. Those being most affected by this limitation are casual video users who may want to grab a film and convert it for their portable media player or burn it to a DVD. There may possibly be a tad of legal strategy in this, as this limitation may greatly limit use directed at pirating and freely redistributing copyrighted material which is not the target audience at which this service is directed to. The online small video publisher universe is made up of short clips, music videos, excerpts from longer shows and under 10 minutes interviews.


HeyWatch is an outstanding service for small video publishers who do not have the latest and fastest hardware, and who have often found themselves waiting for their computers to encode or convert a video clip. Delegating to HeyWatch servers to take over those CPU-intensive video conversion jobs really saves lots of valuable time.

Conversion and encoding times on the HeyWatch server are really fantastic when the users are not too many and even with some large and heavy files HeyWatch has a consistent "zippy" response.

HeyWatch is also recommended to casual video users who have a slow computer with a fast Internet connection. HeyWatch gives them the opportunity to convert and easily download their favourite videos with no need to spend money on expensive video applications or having to wait never-ending hours to get a video clip from one format to another.

Even for those wanting to create a DVD compilation of their favorite online video clips, HeyWatch may come to the rescue. By using the HeyWatch "bookmarklet" anyone can download in one-click any video she runs into online and easily save them to her hard disk.

The essence remains the same: HeyWatch is a cool, timely, video conversion and encoding platform that makes it easy and inexpensive the task of video formats conversion for anyone involved in online video publishing.

More information:

  • Frequently Asked Questions about HeyWatch: HeyWatch FAQ
  • Read about the latest information about the development of HeyWatch on the authors' blog.
  • For support questions contact the HeyWatch support team.

  • Other online video conversion services

    Zamzar is a file conversion service capable of doing video conversions as well. It does not have nearly as many video formats and codecs supported but it works also with documents and image files. Here is the complete list of all video formats supported by Zamzar. Zamzar allows up to five simultaneous files for conversion and emails a link to the converted files when the process is complete. Maximum video file size is 100 MB. No limits on the number of files converted. Requires for the video files to have been already downloaded to your computer. Requires online registration.

    Media Convert
    Supports the following video formats: # 3GP (in/out) AMV (out) ASF (in) AVI (in/out) DV (in) FLI (in) FLV (in) GVI (in) MKV (in) MOV (in/out) MP4 (in/out) MP4 (out) MP4 (out) MPG (in/out) OGM (in) SWF (out) VOB (in) WMV (in/out) Movie conversion to AVI (DivX MPEG4), 3GP, SWF (Flash), AMV (for Chinese MP4/S1 MP3 players), MPEG2, MOV, MP4 (IPOD and PSP), MP3 (sound track extraction) and JPEG (frame extraction). Options supported include: resize, fps, codec, bitrate, fourcc, etc. (depends on the format). Media Convert allows to convert video files that are either stored on your computer or for which you can provide a public web URL. Maximum file size 50 MB. Media Convert converts video clips and displays a download link when the process is completed. Requires no registration.

    Riva is a free software based solution which allows you to convert, on your Windows PC, video clips among many different video formats.
    Riva Encoder

    Super is another free, software based Windows encoder, player and renderer that acts as a front end to ffmpeg, MEncoder, mplayer, x264, mppenc, ffmpeg2theora and the theora/vorbis RealProducer plugIn.

    Uploading video clips to multiple sites

    Another interesting service, for small online video publishers, is Traffic-Geyser which allows you to upload more than a video per day (excluding weekends) to the top 15 video sharing sites automatically at $47/month. If you have more, a premium version ups the limit to 100 video clips and 30 video sharing sites for $97/month. Both options have a one-time setup fee of $200. The service is paid monthly and you can cancel anytime.
    N.B.: Unfortunately the way this tool is marketed makes most serious users refrain from adoption, as it uses heavy marketing tactics, provides no detailed info about the specific video sharing services it uploads to, offers no free trial and provides no means to contact the company behind it.

    If you are hoping to find a free Web 2.0 that does the same, you will need to wait some more. The one that comes closest is Vidmirror which allows you to manually upload your videos to a great number of video sharing sites. Unfortunately, while Vidmirror helps out by organizing access and the data input in a neat and simplified way within your browser, the process is all manual and you need to fill out the minimum required information for each video sharing site you want to upload to.

Read what other blogs had to say about Heywatch:

Disclosure: I have no affiliation with this company, I receive no money or compensation from them, and I have never spoken or exchanged communications with anyone working for it. Before writing this review I have subscribed and paid for the fee-based, premium "watchers" account type, in order to be able to access all of the service advanced functions.

The enthusiasm expressed in this review is the consequence of genuine excitement for a technology that breaks ground on several fronts showcasing to many start-ups what it really takes to deliver a killer service. It may be niche, but this is really a killer.

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Readers' Comments    
2008-06-21 05:35:24


Great information here regarding some available software out there for converting and coding and placing streaming videos on your website. Another software from wasn't mentioned in the available tools. At this website there is also a free converter available together with ,ultitrack video presentation software and batch convertion software all making the job of adding videos to websites and blogs a doddle. Check it out yourself at


2008-01-25 12:55:22


Contrary to your comments a rel=nofolow href=""Zamzara requires no registration to use their service.

2007-02-20 07:21:50

Rajesh Prasad

Great Job, it truly helped me.

posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, January 17 2007, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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