NOTE: These guides are for any kind of source video, except from AVCHD cameras. Look here for AVCHD conversion which requires a special decoding in order to be handled correctly by these freeware tools.
To export in 720p with Avidemux2, download the latest preview3 version (or which ever version is the latest), install it, load your HD footage on it, do some basic clip editing (Avidemux2 is not a full video editor, but a clip editor), and when you are done, export like this. Avidemux2 is supported on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X (under X11). It is not recommended to export in mpeg-4 using Avidemux2 and instead use the suggested XViD export, because their h.264 files are not compatible with Quicktime (and they don’t care to fix it, I tried telling them). Finally, not use “yadif” if your footage is not interlaced.
The second way of exporting is using the command line version of FFmpeg. Follow the tutorial here to a degree on how to install ffmpeg on Windows, while use the ffmpeg version that comes with your distribution if you are under Linux. Please note that Ubuntu does not compile ffmpeg with AAC support for legal reasons, so you will have to edit the templates and export using XViD instead of h.264/AAC. Here are the 720p templates you need, pick the one with the right frame rate and edit in the filename of the video you are trying to convert. If your footage is not interlaced, edit the ffmpeg templates, and remove the “-deinterlace” attribute.
Regarding Mac OS X and ffmpeg, you can use the graphical tool called FFmpegX (also install mpeg2enc and mplayer, as their download page suggests), and then use it like this. However, disable de-interlacing on the above method if your footage is not interlaced. For Mac OS X, another good utility (not free), is VisualHub.
Another way to export is using the MediaCoder “full pack” under Windows. Load your HD/HDV file(s) on the application and then export like this. Disable the “linear blend” de-interlacing if your footage is not interlaced. The file is compatible with XboX360, AppleTV, PS3 and Vimeo HD.
If you want to use Mencoder/Mplayer instead, use this:
mencoder INPUT.m2t -aspect 16:9 -of lavf -lavfopts format=psp -oac lavc -ovc lavc -lavcopts
aglobal=1:vglobal=1:coder=0:vcodec=libx264:acodec=libfaac:vbitrate=4500:abitrate=128 -vf scale=1280:720 -ofps 30000/1001 -o OUTPUT.mp4
Use “25″ frame rate for 25p PAL, or “24000/1001″ for 24p (without quotes), instead of the suggested NTSC 30000/1001 if required. Also modify the input filename, of course.
Finally, on Windows you can use HDVSplit to capture the footage, and then use the “SUPER” application (alternative download server here) like this in XViD format to encode for Vimeo HD. The “SUPER” application can also create h.264 videos too if that’s what you prefer: here’s how.