March 1, 2002

Window Manager, Brian Livingston

Your flicks for free

I DEVOTED MY column a few weeks ago to AutoProducer, a program that automatically edits your video clips into a slick-looking music video (see "Muvee makes movies," Feb. 11).

I mentioned in passing that I'd paid 30 bucks to upgrade Apple's QuickTime freeware to its QuickTime Pro program. The latter has the ability to convert .mov files -- the kind produced by some digital cameras -- into .avi files. Many Windows programs, including AutoProducer, won't work with .mov but require .avi or other formats.

The moment I wrote that I'd laid out cold cash, I knew someone would inform me where I could have downloaded such a tool for free. Sure enough, two of my readers did pipe up. Best of all, Bill Valvo and Jerry McLain both recommended the same program: RAD Video Tools by RAD Game Tools in Kirkland, Wash.

Without spending a dime, you can copy .mov files from your digicam to your PC, then use RAD Video Tools to make .avi files that your Windows-friendly buddies can play whether or not they have QuickTime installed. This way -- with apologies to an old Dire Straits song -- "You get your movies for nothin' and your flicks for free."

I tested this, and it works great. But there are some tricks you should know, so follow along.

Step 1. Go to Click RAD Video Tools to download a 1.2MB self-extracting file. This includes both Bink, the company's video compressor, and Smacker, a separate program. Run the resulting .exe file to install the suite. If you don't have QuickTime support, it must be installed, too. It's free at

Step 2. Run RAD Video Tools and select the .mov file you'd like to convert. Click the Convert a File button. You can convert a .mov file by default into an .avi file, or click the Output Type button to convert the frames of a .mov into separate bitmaps in .jpg, .gif, or other formats.

Step 3. If you want to preserve the audio of your masterpiece (unnecessary with AutoProducer, as it adds a music clip of your choice to your videos), select the Convert Audio check box.

Step 4. Click the Convert button. You'll see a list of compression options. If you aren't sure, select Full Frames (Uncompressed). Some good advice about this is at

That's it. You should now be able to enjoy your movies in Windows and (after compression, please) on your Web site or as e-mail attachments.

One complaint: A dialog box opened with its title bar off the top of my screen. If this happens to you, press Alt+Spacebar, then M, press your arrow keys to move the dialog box, then press Enter to finish.

Readers Valvo and McLain will receive a gift certificate for a free book, CD, or DVD of their choice for being the first to send me a tip I printed.