How to Convert Video Formats on Linux

There are a few ways to convert video files on Linux. If you’re a fan of command line tools, check out our FFMPEG video conversion guide. This guide is going to focus on HandBrake, a powerful graphical video conversion tool to covert video from and to many formats such as MP4, AVI, WebM and many more.

In this tutorial you will learn:

  • How to Install HandBrake
  • How to Use Video Conversion Profiles
  • How to Convert a Video

HandBrake Converting a Video

HandBrake Converting a Video.

Software Requirements and Conventions Used

Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and Arch Linux
Software HandBrake
Other Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the sudo command.
Conventions # – requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
$ – requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

Install HandBrake

HandBrake is a popular open source application that’s available for most distirbutions. The way you can get a current version of HandBrake differs by distribution, though.


If you’re running the latest version of Ubuntu, there’s a good chance you’ll also have the latest version of HandBrake in your repositories. You can check for yourself or just install it with Apt.

$ sudo apt install handbrake

For anyone running Mint or an LTS version of Ubuntu, you may want to use the HandBrake PPA instead. It has newer builds of HandBrake for older Ubuntu releases.

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:stebbins/handbrake-releases
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install handbrake


There is a version of HandBrake in the default Debian repositories, but it’s probably outdated. You can get the latest version of HandBrake from the deb-multimedia repository. Check out our Debian multimedia guide for the complete instructions to get set up.


As with a lot of multimedia tools, HandBrake is available through the RPMFusion repository on Fedora. To start, enable the repository on your system.

$ sudo dnf install$(rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm$(rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm

When that’s finished, you can install Fedora with its graphical front end.

$ sudo dnf install handbrake-gui

Arch Linux/Manjaro

Arch and Manjaro have the latest releases of HandBrake in their repositories. Just install it.

$ sudo pacman -S handbrake

How to Use Video Conversion Profiles

When HandBrake opens up, you’ll be greeted by a window with what looks like a lot of controls. Even though HandBrake does offer a lot of controls, it’s not complicated to usle, unless you want it to be.

HandBrake Running on Linux

HandBrake Running on Linux.

To start with HandBrake, press Open Source in the upper left corner of the screen. This will allow you to browse to the source location of your original video. You can use a DVD as the source as well, to create backups of something that you’ve already burned.

HandBrake With Video Loaded

HandBrake With Video Loaded.

Once you have your video loaded, you can choose a preset to work with. HandBrake has a ton of convenient presets that will automatically set the application up to convert your video for a certiant resoluton, framerare, or device.

HandBrake Video Presets

HandBrake Video Presets.

Open the Preset menu. There, you can choose which preset you want to use. HandBrake has presets for various mobile devices and the Web as well as various resolutions and refresh rates.

HandBrake Set Video Format

HandBrake Set Video Format.

Once you have a preset, selected, you can choose the Format under the Summary tab. There are only two options, but that’s all you’ll need for most situations.

How to Convert a Video

Once you have everything selt up the way you want it. Choose an output location and file name at the bottom of the window.

If you want to convert multiple videos using the same settings, press Add To Queue at the top, and repeat the steps to get set up. Otherwise, just press Start to begin converting the file. When HandBrake finishes, it will display a message letting you know that it’s done.


Those are just the basics of what HandBrake can really do. Once you’re comfortable, don’t hesitate to play around and see what other settings it has to offer. You can even make your own presets. You also don’t need to worry about destroying your files because, unless you tell it to, HandBrake won’t overwrite the original.

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