Free “Must-Have” Applications for Video Engineers

Here are the free “must-have” apps I install on every Windows computer (and three for-fee tools for deeper analysis). 

I just received a new Dell Precision 7820 server and had to prepare it for video transcoding and analysis. Here are the tools I installed to get up and running. I present the list and links first and then a list with screens. If you’re new to the space, you should check them all out.

At the bottom, I present three for-fee tools worth considering for deeper analysis or visualization.

Video Applications

  • MediaInfo – Free, Multiple OS supported. “MediaInfo is a convenient unified display of the most relevant technical and tag data for video and audio files.” YouTube video here. The essential tool you can’t work without.
  • BitrateViewer – Free, Windows only. View files encoded with H.264 (but not HEVC, AV1, or other more recent codecs) in an graphical output window. Windows only. A Mac alternative here.  YouTube video here. Oldie but goodie for H.264 analysis.
  • Moscow State University Video Quality Measurement Tool  $995, free version available, GUI is Windows only, Windows/Linux command line; Mac command line coming.  My go-to tool for measuring VMAF, SSIM, PSNR, and other quality metrics and (most importantly) viewing the frames in the video. There is a free version but you don’t get the command line analysis, which is incredibly useful. Reviews here and here; YouTube video here.
  • FFmpeg – Free, Windows, Mac, Linux. I do all of my test encodes with FFmpeg, plus a ton of related jobs (file splitting, concatenation, changing container, converting to raw). See article here, book here, course here.
  • FFBitrateViewer -Free, Windows-only. FFBitrateViewer is an open-source tool that can display the bitrate of more than one file at a time and can input files encoded with H.264, HEVC, AV1, VP9, and other codecs supported by FFProbe. Useful adjunct to BitrateViewer, though file visualization could be better. Check out what it does, how it works, and where to get it in my review.
  • FFMetrics – Free, Windows-only. FFmetrics is a tool that computes VMAF, SSIM, and PSNR displays the scores in a graph. You can’t view the underlying frames like you can with the Moscow State Tool, but there is a Windows command line version for free. You can read my review here.

Other Required Installs

  • Notepad++ – Free, Windows. “Notepad++ is a free (as in “free speech” and also as in “free beer”) source code editor and Notepad replacement that supports several languages. Running in the MS Windows environment, its use is governed by GNU General Public License.” I’m not much of a scripter, but I do much better in Notepad++ than Notepad.
  • Python – I have several Python apps developed for me over time that collect metric results from CSV output from VQMT and use FFProbe to retrieve the file bitrate and resolution and post the results to a CSV file. Obviously, they need Python to run.
  • TeamViewer -Windows/Mac. Free version available though I’ve licensed. This application lets me access my computers from on-the-road, particularly useful for encoding files on my servers from afar. A pain to install but a joy to use once it’s up and running.

Here’s more on the video tools with screenshots.

Video Tools with Screenshots

MediaInfo

This is MediaInfo, a great and free analysis tool that reveals configuration basics of your encoded files.

Bitrate Viewer

A fabulous tool for viewing the bitrate of H.264 files, but not VP9, HEVC, AV1 or similar.

Moscow State University Video Quality Measurement Tool

This is the Result Plot view. Click the Show frame button on the lower right and you can view sample frames from the source and all the comparison videos, so you can gauge frame quality for yourself. You can also exclude videos from the graph if you want to compare fewer versions. All this available in the free Windows tool.

FFBitrateViewer

A valuable tool for analyzing files, but I find the graph suboptimal. Still, if you need to analyze HEVC, AV1 and newer codecs that BitrateViewer can’t handle, it’s your only free choice.

With four files, FFBitrateViewer's plot gets a bit jumbled.

FFMetrics

Produces the scores you see below for multiple files. The UI also shows the bitrate of each video to ensure that you’re comparing apples-to-apples.

Here’s the graph view which is also useful. Hard to believe this graph is from the same programmer who produced the FFBitrateViewer graph shown above.

For Fee Tools

I only list free tools (or tools with free versions) above. Other tools that I have on a single machine due to licensing issues and cost include:

Elocard StreamEye – Windows, Mac, Linux. No price listed. “Analysis of the stream structure and down to macroblock structure for inspection of codec parameters. Video quality test software.” Really deep file analysis for video engineers developing codecs and encoders.

Telestream Switch Pro – $1,059, Windows and Mac. “Play, inspect, QC and correct all your media. The most powerful, multiformat video player & encoder with inspection and correction.” Cheaper Switch versions available, but you need the Pro tool for the cool visualizations shown below that are so useful.

Zond 265 – $1,390. Windows, Linux, Mac, but check OS-related features here. “Visual in-depth analysis of HEVC, AVC, AV1, EVC, and MPEG-2 bitstreams.” A really handy tool, but pricey.

About Jan Ozer

Avatar photo
I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks and evaluate new encoders and codecs. I am a contributing editor to Streaming Media Magazine, writing about codecs and encoding tools. I have written multiple authoritative books on video encoding, including Video Encoding by the Numbers: Eliminate the Guesswork from your Streaming Video (https://amzn.to/3kV6R1j) and Learn to Produce Video with FFmpeg: In Thirty Minutes or Less (https://amzn.to/3ZJih7e). I have multiple courses relating to streaming media production, all available at https://bit.ly/slc_courses. I currently work as www.netint.com as a Senior Director in Marketing.

Check Also

JPEG AI Is Coming: What You Need to Know

This article provides an overview of JPEG AI, which delivers superior compression efficiency and improved …

From SEO to AI Overviews for Content Marketers

This post describes Google’s transition from SEO to AI Overviews for content marketers and offers …

Zond 265 is a very useful file analysis tool.

Solveig Offers Free Tier for Zond 265 File Analysis Tool

Zond 265 is a very useful file analysis tool, but like all such tools, it’s …

2 comments

  1. Great tools. I mostly work on Live streams UDP MPEG-TS, HLS and Dash. Do you have any picture quality software recommendations ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *