You would think that finding a good video encoding app would be easy. Solid command line tools like transcode, FFmpeg, and MEncoder do exist, but readily available graphical apps are hard to come by. Frustrated with the dedicated alternatives, I turned to Avidemux. It's known best as an easy to use video editor, but the controls also make it very easy to just transcode video.
Before I continue, let me address some of the specialized graphical alternatives and why I didn't choose them. gtranscode is exactly what it sounds like, a front-end to transcode. Unfortunately I couldn't get it to work and its ugly interface is still stuck using Gtk 1.2. You can find it in the Ubuntu and Marillat repositories, but it's not in Debian.
Konverter is a front-end to MEncoder that looks interesting, but it isn't in any of the major repositories. Next I tried another MEncoder front-end called Kmenc15. It is in the Marillat repository, so I tried to install it, but met with dependancy problems in conjunction with Kubuntu 6.10 (Edgy). Debian users should have an easier time getting it installed.
After unsuccessfully fiddling around with dedicated video encoding apps I thought to try a video editor, and Avidemux was calling my name. I had heard good things about the program, but hadn't given it a try yet. After Avidemux loaded for the first time I quickly realized that it was exactly what I was looking for.
The first step, of course, is to pick the video that you want to transcode. Click the Open button from the toolbar and select the appropriate file.
Next, you'll notice that the video, audio, and format settings are readily apparent and easily adjustable on the left side of the window. Because Avidemux is first and foremost an editor, the defaults are Copy. We want to change that.
My source file was a clip from a digital camera in the MJPEG format. The audio was 8-bit PCM so I decided not to mess with it and left the audio setting on Copy. For video I chose xvid4. Once you select it from the drop down box, the Configure button will enable itself. Click on it to pick your settings. I decided to go with Single Pass and a target bitrate of 1500kb/s. Once you've made your selections, hit OK.
Back on the main screen, you are now ready to start the encode. Select Save from the toolbar, pick your filename and location, and voila! Now all you have to do is sit back and wait until it finishes.
I only recently started using Avidemux, but I love it. Video encoding is a piece of cake. I spent a little time yesterday going through all of my videos and shrinking them. Even at a high bitrate like 1500kb/s, the files were still one tenth the size of the MJPEG originals. If you are looking for a video encoding app, I highly recommend Avidemux.