I fooled around with ffmpeg for a while trying to convert a few videos for use on my iPod Video, and managed to get something working after using using this description of video conversion. While the music download and video download were better than expected, this part is what one could call “unpolished”. I ended up needing to use the ffmpeg out of CVS, compiled locally against local compiled versions of libfaac and xvid. The important thing is, I got videos converted. Here’s the command line I used:

ffmpeg -i the_scene_xvid_episode_1.avi -f mov -b 1800 -maxrate 2500 -vcodec xvid -qmin 3 -qmax 5 -s 320x240 -acodec aac -ab 128 ~/the_scene_1.m4v

I found a few other descriptions, but they had left out the mov format specification (-f mov). All the videos I tried like that just kicked right back to the menu when I tried to play them on the iPod. I haven’t verified all the options to make sure that it’s really the -f mov that makes the difference, but I’m definite that line above works for me. Maybe it’ll help someone else.