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Thursday, June 12, 2008

How To Convert .MOD Video Files To MPEG-2 On Mac And PCs

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Need to play back and edit .MOD video files? If you have just got a new camcorder and are killing yourself to understand how to read, convert and import properly those damn .MOD video files, I think have got some solutions for you.


I myself have just bought a small little jewel of a camcorder, the Canon FS-100, (for which I have just written an in-depth review). This is a truly dream video-camera for the buddying video blogger and grassroot video reporter. Nonetheless its many great features and its super-affordable price, the Canon FS and HF series, alongside some other existing video cameras, such as the JVC Everio, and the Panasonic D-Snap SD-card camcorders, suffer from a frustrating disease: difficult to manage and incompatible MOD video files.

The Canon FS series creates video files with a MOD extension. MOD video files are nothing but MPEG-2 files with AC3 audio.

Apparently, and I have tested this out personally, MOD video files can be easily renamed into AVI or MPG files and can then be read easily by most video editing or playback tools.

There are also several other ways to convert MOD video files and easily make these video files usable, but for the novice or the non-technical user, this type of issues may just become a nightmare.

As a matter of fact, I have discovered that when you try to playback, import or edit such renamed MOD video files, these may look horrible, with aliasing effects, distortion and images squeezed due to a wrong aspect ratio setup.

Indeed, though apparently simple, you need to know a few things for the whole process to work smoothly.

This is why I have taken the time to put together this simple mini-guide on how to convert MOD video files and turn them into standard compatible video files that can be read and edited by most any popular video software.


MOD Video Files Conversion Issues

How To Make MOD Files Read By Any Software

  • Basic solution: the most basic solution is to rename the MOD files manually into MPG files and then to make sure that the video program you import these files into is set properly relative to the video standard used (PAL or NTSC), the aspect ratio used, and the interlacing.
  • If your MOD files were recorded in 4:3 format then just rename them to MPG. If they are 16:9 widescreen, then you could use sdcopy.exe to convert them.
  • To correctly edit MPG video files it is recommended that you utilize software that supports "smart-rendering" otherwise the resulting video quality may degrade too much.
  • Recommended MPEG-2 video editing tools can be found in these two guides I have published: video editing tools under $100 and professional video editing tools.
  • SDCopy converts your MOD files, renames them to MPG and fixes the widescreen tags issue.
  • The problem with these tags stems from the fact that they are being stored in associated small text files with the extension MOI. Once you separate the MOD file from its companion MOI file, the video software you use to open the video file doesn't know anymore what aspect ratio and video file format is being used and tries to guess automatically.
  • Another solution is to utilize DVD Patcher (which is free) to fix the file header and read 16:9 and 720x480.

Also keep in mind that most new camcorders come equipped with some software which generally provides the capability to convert MOD files into other formats in a simple way. Canon provides ImageMixer which can do this, and JVC camcorders owners can use for example Cyberlink PowerDirector which comes free with their video-cameras.


Play Back MOD Video Files Using VLC

When using VLC, which is an open-source video player, you can change a few settings and get the best results. Check these:

  • Video -> Aspect Ratio -> 16:9 (or 4:3 depending on the clip)
  • Video -> Deinterlace -> Blend


Edit MOD Video Files Using Adobe Premiere

If you are using Adobe Premiere and are having problems seeing the clips in the correct aspect ratio, use MPEG StreamClip or a similar tool to transcode the clips into another video format and then import them into Premiere.

Also, I have read somebody saying that whenever you import the clip into Premiere, by default the widescreen flag is not correct. The sugestion is simply to right-click on the imported video file, and to select "Reinterpret Footage" and make the selection from there. It should work fine.

Check also this DIY guide on how to use MOD files with Adobe Premiere Pro.


Convert MOD Video Files: Specific Platform Solutions

1) Windows PCs - Windows Movie Maker

  1. Launch Windows Movie Maker
  2. Go inside Tools -> Options Menu
  3. Make sure that the encoding setting is set appropriately. If you are in the US or Japan it should be NTSC, but everywhere else it should be set to PAL.
  4. Set the aspect ratio to 16:9 if that is the format you have been recording in.
  5. Click OK and you are set.
  6. Select "Import..." and bring in your original Canon video file (renamed in MPG) and the video file will look great.

If missing, you may want also to download and install an updated AC3 Codec.


2) Mac - iMovie

If you just want to play back MOD video files on your Mac, simply rename them as MPG or MV2 and you should have no problem in opening and viewing your video clips in VLC or QuickTime.

Unfortunately, it appears that to edit or work with these files Mac users have a little more trouble to go through to get their MOD files into their favorite video player.

MOD files are modified MPEG-2 files with audio in a non-standard Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound setup which Final Cut Pro, iMovie and most other Mac video editing software cannot import natively.

"...the MOD files produced by the camera are muxed MPEG-2 files with the audio mixed in a non-standard Dolby Digital Stereo setup. This causes the video to be played (when renamed to MPG) correctly in QT (and QT Pro) but no audio is played (although present.)

The video has to be converted into a format Final Cut Pro (or iMovie) can use natively. The ideal solution would be to edit the native MPEG-2 file without conversion - but this isn't possible with the present form of QuickTime (this may change in the future.)"
Source: CamcorderInfo

For these reasons, Mac users will need in fact to purchase, albeit at a small price, something that will allow them to read properly native MPEG-2 video files.

I have found several alternative solutions on this front.

Mac users can take advantage of MPEG StreamClip software which will convert the original MOD files to just about any video file format you may want (but for MPEG-2 support you may be in need to buy the $20 MPEG-2 plug-in for QuickTime from Apple).

Alternatively you can try:

Whichever solution you select, you need then to:

  1. Change MOD file extensions to MPG and then you can delete the MOI files (and maybe use Xiafunge to batch this process for many files).
  2. Get MPEG StreamClip (free on the net) or equivalent software and open the MOD files.
  3. Output to DV format for hassle-free iMovie and Final Cut Pro editing. For top video quality, try using the DVCPRO codec.
  4. Import files in DV format to iMovie for editing...

By converting the files using MPEG StreamClip, you'll end up with a 100% DV conversion at the cost of a slight quality loss - nothing too bad maybe 3-5% quality loss.

Another approach I have found goes like this:

  1. Convert all the MOD files in DV format (and save them somewhere.)
  2. Open iMovie, create a new DV project, pay attention to choose 4:3 or 16:9, then save it and close iMovie.
  3. Go into the saved project folder and open it (see contents). Inside you'll find a folder called "Media". Just drop in all your converted files, close all and reopen iMovie. You'll see that iMovie prompts you that there are some files in your Trash folder...
  4. Just recover them and... it's done. You can now edit and use your files on your Mac with iMovie.

For those more technically skilled there is also another free road: FFMPEGX. Not intuitive, but positively workable if you know where to put your fingers. FFMPEGX is great for transcoding the original MOD / MPEG-2 video clips into other video formats.

Those having access to mastering software Toast Titanium can also easily convert MOD files to just about any video format they want.

On a positive note, for those wanting to simply upload their MOD video files to a video sharing site, Google Video accepts MOD files directly for upload and publication, without the need to convert the files into any other format.

By the way... this is a great market opportunity right now, as the number of camcorders and users generating MOD files will probably increase rapidly, until camcorder producers will decide to standardize on an easier to use video format. Therefore video conversion and encoding services like HeyWatch or video-sharing and uploading tools like TubeMogul have an interesting window of opportunity in integrating support for MOD files into their services sooner rather than later and make it another strong marketing point and an opportunity for extra visibility on major search engines.

If you know of other solutions, please suggests them here below in the comments section.

Originally written by for MasterNewMedia and first published on June 12th, 2008 as "How To Convert .MOD Video Files To MPEG-2 On Mac And PCs".

Robin Good -
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posted by Robin Good on Thursday, June 12 2008, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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