For a novice, the idea of converting video files and movies on a PC to fit on his or her iPod can seem like a daunting task. And such terms as “codec,” “bitrate,” and “transcode” likely aren’t in the average consumer’s vocabulary. Fortunately, Badaboom ($29.99) is a no-fuss application that virtually makes video conversion a one-step process. Utilizing an architecture Nvidia calls CUDA, the program offloads much of the work from the processor to the graphics chip. This dramatically speeds up the conversion process, but only for those who own a notebook with a recent Nvidia graphics card. While more advanced users might prefer a more versatile app, newbies will appreciate Badaboom’s intuitive interface, and that they can actually use their computer for other tasks at the same time.
Badaboom’s user interface is practically foolproof. Simply select Source from the left side of the application, which can be a file stored on your hard drive, or on a DVD (in accordance with the law, you can’t burn copyright-protected DVDs). Then, select the device that you wish to play your video file on. Badaboom neatly lists the available device formats under the Output section on the right side of the application—it even has pictures of the different media players. A slider bar lets you set the video quality. If you click Advanced on the main menu page, you can adjust the resolution of the file, or change Dolby Digital Channel settings from six- to two-channel sound, and tweak audio bitrates.
Badaboom lets you convert videos and DVDs into formats that are specifically designed for different video-playback devices, such as your Apple TV, BlackBerry Bold, iPhone, or iPod. There’s even an option to create YouTube-formatted videos, or custom resolution sizes for your home media center.
Badaboom supports AVC/H.264, AVCHD, DivX, FRAPS, HDV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, RAW, VC-1, WMV, and Xvid video formats. However, it can only output to H.264 (MP4) video files, something that more advanced users may find limiting. It requires at least a 1.6-GHz Intel or AMD dual-core system, but Badaboom recommends you use a 2.4-GHz processor or better. A trial version of the software provides you with 30 free file conversions or 30 days of use (whichever comes first), but embeds a logo in the bottom left side corner of every video.
In order to test Badaboom’s effectiveness, we converted a 1.27GB AVI file into an iPhone 3G-ready MP4 format using an ASUS G51Vx (RX05), which has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M graphics card with 1GB of dedicated video memory. While Badaboom was the only CUDA app we’ve recently tested that provided the correct iPhone 3G resolution of 480 x 320, to keep things fair, we set it to a resolution of 480 x 272 (and a 1 MBps bitrate), which is as close to the 480 x 270 resolution that both CyberLink Espresso and Nero Move it offer. Audio encoding was set to AAC at a bitrate of 128 kbps.
Converting the file took 20 minutes and 56 seconds, which was about 2 minutes slower than CyberLink Espresso, but about 20 seconds faster than Nero Move it. We were able to surf the Web in the background and even stream videos clips from Hulu without noticing a performance drop; our computer performed as if we weren’t doing anything straining on it at all. We also performed the transcoding test with a freeware application called Handbrake that is not CUDA-enabled; this time, it took 61:32.
Badaboom has an affordable price tag and offers excellent performance. The application’s clean user interface makes it easy to use, meaning even younger kids can convert their own files and load up their iPods with videos before road trips. While multimedia pros might want a little more control when it comes to output formats, Badaboom’s low price of $29.99 and fairly fast conversion speeds make it ideal for the casual user.