Converting, or encoding, video is a tricky business. Often, you'll want to watch a particular video on a handheld device, but the device doesn't support the format your video is in. There are plenty of free applications that can convert it, but many are hard to use or produce poor results.
One of our favourites is Freemake Video Converter. A relatively new program, Freemake is very easy to use as it has a clear interface and many presets for common devices. To convert a video, simply drag and drop it from its folder into Freemake and click the appropriate output button at the bottom.
For example, if you have an iPad and you want to watch a home video from your AVCHD camcorder, click the 'to Apple' button, then select your iPad model from the drop-down menu. Freemake can also burn video files to DVD and Blu-ray discs if your computer has a DVD or Blu-ray writer installed. It includes basic editing tools for trimming your video or cutting portions out. It's no substitute for a proper video editing application such as Adobe Premiere Elements, but it's useful if you don't need to do anything fancy.
The program even supports nVidia CUDA so if your graphics card is CUDA-capable, you'll benefit from very fast encoding by using the power of your GPU.
Freemake doesn't limit you to video: you can burn a photo slideshow to DVD, convert audio files to MP3, or convert a home-made DVD to a format suitable for YouTube. It supports all the latest video formats including MKV and HTML 5.