While working on a recent personal video project, I was importing about two dozen short video clips created by various friends into iMovie. Most of them imported without any trouble at all, but a few of them were WMV files that just won’t play on a Mac. It seems that WMV is a proprietary windows format that does not work on OS X.
I started Googling around for free converters from WMV to MP4, but what I kept finding were free trials that would leave a watermark or limit the files to just a few minutes. I also found some open source tools, but I kept finding that they were discontinued or gave strange errors when trying to process the WMV files.
A couple of key caveats here: first, you can’t just upload any random WMV video file to Vimeo. They have very strict guidelines about what you can upload, and first and foremost among them is that you must have the right to post them. If your video is in any way commercial or generally not owned by you, this is not the method. Second, while certainly not difficult, it is too cumbersome if you have a lot of videos to convert. Only do this is you have just a few and don’t feel that buying a commercial tool is worth the investment.
Step 1: Upload the video to Vimeo
You can create an account for free
, and they give you a 500MB per week limit. This doesn’t work for long files, but if you are just trying to convert a handful of short ones, this is more than enough. For $10 a month, you can go with Vimeo Plus, which will give you 5GB per week (you can cancel at any time),.
Uploading will take a just a minute or two (depending on the size), but then Vimeo will need to process it before you can access it. This can take a while; in my experience it was a half hour to get to the “front of the line” of files to be converted, although apparently if you have a Vimeo Plus account, you automatically get to go first. However, you can do other things while you are waiting. Vimeo will email you when the file is ready.
Step 2: Download the MP4
There are a variety of web tools that will allow you to take any live stream video like YouTube or Vimeo and save it as a video file. I found one that works for Vimeo at http://savevideo.me/
. You just take the URL of your Vimeo video and hit the “Download” button (the one next to the text box – don’t get fooled by the big one at the bottom, which is and trying to get you to buy some piece of software).
It will access the source video and give you a download link. If you are doing this from a Mac, it offers you an MP4 version of the file. Just right-click to save the file, and voila. One truly free WMV to MP4 conversion.
Once you have your file downloaded, you can delete the Vimeo file.