How to convert video to MPEG 422 HD format for import in Lightworks Free

The best freely available video editing software for Windows is Lightworks (version 11.0.1). While it is free (as in beer), it has very restricted selection of import video formats at the moment. My camera (Canon EOS D550) delivers H.264 encoded MOV files, which—without other software—would require a 50 €/year codec license if you want to import them directly. Fortunately, I found a way to import my videos…

It is possible to simply convert the original video files using the command line tool FFmpeg. Thanks to this post of user khaver in the official Lightworks forum I could puzzle together a command line that converts my camera’s recordings into a Lightworks compatible format:

ffmpeg -i input.mov -acodec pcm_s16le -vcodec mpeg2video -pix_fmt yuv422p -sameq -intra -tag:v M701 output.avi

For those who don’t like to execute commands they don’t understand, here is a breakdown of the (all necessary) options:

  • -i input.mov defines the input video file.
  • -acodec pcm_s16le suppresses the use of mp3 for the audio stream, which Lightworks could not import.
  • -vcodec mpeg2video and -pix_fmt yuv422p set the video output format to MPEG 422, which is one of the few formats the free version can handle.
  • -sameq is a convenient way to automatically set the bitrate to a sane value in order to preserve the quality of the original video file.
  • -tag:v M701 somehow defines how audio and video stream are synchronised. When left out, Lightworks shows choppy playback and ugly blocks appearing in the video.
  • -intra seems to be a (deprecated) shorthand for -g 1 which specifies the size of the picture group, whatever that means. Like before: when left out, Lightworks complains/does not play nice.
  • output.avi defines the output filename.

And here is a small batch script to convert all *.MOV files in the current directory to this format. It requires ffmpeg to be in your path or the same directory:

for %%f in (*.MOV) do (
    ffmpeg -i %%f -acodec pcm_s16le -vcodec mpeg2video -pix_fmt yuv422p -sameq -intra -tag:v M701 %%~nf.AVI
)

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