Convert multimedia files with MystiQ

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Article from Issue 237/2020
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Working with multimedia files usually involves converting from one format to another. With MystiQ you can handle this task in next to no time.

Multimedia content is available on the web and on data carriers in many formats. Often, your chosen media player doesn't understand all of them. This means that you will find numerous tools on Linux that convert audio or video formats. Although these tools offer a great deal of flexibility through numerous options, they are often confusing, especially to newcomers.

MystiQ [1] follows a different strategy. The program converts multimedia files, no matter whether you need to change the format of an audio file or a movie, but it keeps to the essentials. That makes it possible to convert any content with just a few mouse clicks and without extensive training. The numerous presets that you can apply to frequently used video and audio formats make the program easier to use.

Find It

The program can already be found in the repositories of several distributions, including OpenMandriva, Arch Linux, KaOS, and Slackware. You install it there with the respective package management tools.

In addition, Pling.com [2] provides packages for RPM and DEB-based distributions, and the project's GitHub site also maintains detailed installation documentation [3] for several branches of Debian. Last but not least, there is a package for Arch Linux and derivatives and a tarball with the source code. For distributions that do not support any of the precompiled formats, the project provides an AppImage.

However, all of the packages are only usable on 64-bit hardware, not on older 32-bit systems.

Try It

After installation, open the program via the starter in the menu tree. The simple input window looks pretty spartan for a multimedia application (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The MystiQ main window completely does without gimmicks.

Besides a simple menubar and buttonbar, the program window is just a large area where the tool displays the contents to be converted in the form of a list. Pressing Add files in the top left corner lets you select the files in question. To do this, the program pops up a small file manager in an overlapping window.

MystiQ is based on the FFmpeg program collection and the associated libraries and uses their extensive functions. The program supports all common formats for files and containers.

When you select a file to convert, MystiQ transfers it to another dialog that shows you all the selected files. In this wizard, press the Next button, bottom right; you can then configure various settings for the output in another window (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The wizard guides you through the program in a few steps.

Under Output Settings, select the desired format in the Convert to selection field. (For an example of choosing the format, see the box "Videos for the Raspberry Pi.") In the area below Default Settings, you will find options for the codec to be used. Under Output Path, select an existing folder or place the files in a subfolder in the source directory that the software creates.

Videos for the Raspberry Pi

The conversion wizard in MystiQ lets you convert media files to many formats, but it does not support the user in choosing the right format. To prepare videos for the Raspberry Pi, for example, the MKV container format is the best choice. The first three generations of the Rasp Pi have a hardware decoder for MPEG4/H.264 encoded videos. For these Rasp Pis, you would want to use the default MKV MPEG4 setting. The hardware of the current Raspberry Pi 4, on the other hand, is now also capable of decoding H.265/HEVC. For best possible quality in combination with small file sizes, select MKV H265 in this case.

If you want to configure more detailed options for the target file's format, press the Edit button to the right of the Preset selection field. MystiQ opens a new dialog in which you can tweak various parameters for audio and video tracks in several tabs.

Among other things, you can disable video or audio tracks, change the dimensions, or insert subtitles. There are also functions for rotating and mirroring the videos and – in a separate tab – a simple editing function (Figure 3). For audio files, most formats offer the possibility to adjust the bit rate.

Figure 3: MystiQ even comes with a simple editing function.

Please note that the software shows all options regardless of the source file format used, but by default incompatible options are grayed.

After you have adjusted the settings, press OK at bottom right in the window and then press the Finish button at bottom right in the Add Tasks parent window. The software then transfers the selected files to the list in the main window.

A bar appears to the right in the Progress column. It initially stays at zero; you need to press Convert, top left, to tell MystiQ to convert the files to the target format. On modern CPUs, the program will use multiple threads if necessary, helping it to convert even large files very quickly. The progress bar is individually adjusted for each file.

Considerations

MystiQ can convert several audio and video files of different formats simultaneously in a single operation. For each file, you can make individual adjustments in the wizard and the associated dialogs, including the paths for the output.

When capturing the source files, however, make sure that the program handles files with the same attributes as a group when adding them via the Add Tasks option. In cases where you want to convert content to different output formats, you will only want to group files for which the same target format is intended. To view the individual settings again, mouse over the files in the list before converting. The tool shows you the important data for each file.

MystiQ can handle both lossy and lossless audio formats. It is important here to keep in mind that converting to a lossless format such as FLAC can result in very large files.

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