To encode your video in a free codec (ie not proprietary), use Theora from Xiph.org. This codec is still in ALPHA stage (as in, not even beta!) so don’t use it for mission critical stuff just yet. However, xine and mplayer already play the codec. If you try to convert an avi to theora (using ffmpeg2theora) the audio will be out of sync with the video. So either encode the original video as an mpeg or type in the following:
ffmpeg -i iPodvid.avi -target ntsc-vcd iPodvcd.mpg
where iPodvid.avi should standin for the file you want to convert to mpeg. vcd could also be dvd or other options, check ffmpeg’s manfile. Once you have the mpeg, use ffmpeg2theora to convert it and it will not only now be in a free format, but it will also bein sync. It will now play on purely free systems like Debian. In fact, I have just confirmed that it will play in Totem.
Over the next few days I would like to examine how the size of the file compares to the mpeg (to judge compression), experiment with tagging the file and seeing if any of the media players do anything with this. I would also like to try and encode directly from the DVD to Theora, bypassing the re-encoding process, which semi-doubles the time needed.