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Video File Formats 101

Video File Formats 101
By
Formats Explained
When Internet file formats for images first came along, users developed a rule of thumb: use GIF files for computer-generated images, such as illustrations, and JPG files for real-life images such as photographs. Unfortunately, when it comes to video, there is no similar rule. There are many available file formats, and numerous codecs that exist within many of the formats. And the destination of your video can produce special formatting needs – file size may be of little concern if you make a DVD, but could be the biggest concern if you post to YouTube. Here, I take a look at the most common video formats, and their advantages and disadvantages. I’ll strive to offer information on common formats and terms, since covering every format and term would require a book instead of an article.
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  • -1 Hide
    randomizer , September 11, 2008 9:03 AM
    So the main difference between MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 is that MPEG-4 is more flexible?
  • 1 Hide
    liemfukliang , September 11, 2008 9:58 AM
    MPEG-4 is more effisien. It can make the same MPEG2 quality with lower bit rate. But as the "side effect" MPEG4 also require more power to proses.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 11, 2008 3:29 PM
    "Picture 12 of 10" lol. Anyways, I think you failed to mention x264. You mentioned H.264 but not the free, opensource x264 and how it's becoming very popular.
  • 0 Hide
    ram1009 , September 11, 2008 4:05 PM
    I vote for much more of this topic and in greated detail.
  • 0 Hide
    blazer_123 , September 11, 2008 5:10 PM
    "QuickTime is my preferred video format – I use the Sorenson 3 codec when my audience may have an older computer and H.264 when I’m comfortable that my audience uses relatively new computers."

    You make it sound as if quicktime is its own format. H.264 was not developed and is not owned by apple. They simply use it in there program, like other companies do, to encode/decode video.

    I only bring this up because its seems plausible that by mixing codecs with popular programs using these codecs would confuse people.
  • 0 Hide
    blazer_123 , September 11, 2008 5:12 PM
    oops, I meant format as in H.264. Should have said codec. .mov is a format but that is not what i was talking about.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 11, 2008 7:17 PM
    What nothing on .MKV???
  • 0 Hide
    saturn77 , September 11, 2008 10:24 PM
    How do you read .dat files? They are windows media streamed files. I can play everything on Windows Media Player except for .dat files and have yet to find a program that will read them. When you look in your IE temp folder, the file name has 0s and 1s seperated by commas. Is this a configuration for the file? When I copy the file from the temp folder to a new folder it removes that long file name.
  • 1 Hide
    falchard , September 11, 2008 10:26 PM
    Personally, I have trouble picking the right codecs. I want to pick a codec that a person can use without downloading much of anything, or searching for a codec pack. I used to use Sorenson 3, but I found out that it can be too large a file format in some cases.

    After much searching windows media codec has gotten me. The options are very easy to set and tweak. I am also capable of getting at some elusively small file sizes, and still having my video render to a good enough quality. That and you know its gonna run on every single windows machine.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 11, 2008 10:39 PM
    Quick-Time is one of a select few pieces of software that I won't allow on any of my systems. Why it must be installed in order to install I-Tunes (no I-Tunes for Flash) and/or why anyone would favour it as their default format is beyond me.

    I can only assume that things have improved since the early days of "you need this flavour of Quick-Time VR in order to run this app. - oh and did we mention that it's incompatible with every other flavour of Quick-Time or Quick-Time VR we ever have or will produce?" I guess the old saying "A half-dozen or so times bitten, forever shy" still has relevance for me. I hope Quick-Time goes away and never comes back, along with any of the "Real" audio or video formats. It hasn't, they almost have, when my browser tells me it wants to install a Quick-Time active-x control to play a video I move on quickly without ever feeling as though I missed something worth seeing.

    /flash
  • 1 Hide
    ram1009 , September 11, 2008 11:08 PM
    Flash BazboQuick-Time is one of a select few pieces of software that I won't allow on any of my systems. Why it must be installed in order to install I-Tunes (no I-Tunes for Flash) and/or why anyone would favour it as their default format is beyond me.I can only assume that things have improved since the early days of "you need this flavour of Quick-Time VR in order to run this app. - oh and did we mention that it's incompatible with every other flavour of Quick-Time or Quick-Time VR we ever have or will produce?" I guess the old saying "A half-dozen or so times bitten, forever shy" still has relevance for me. I hope Quick-Time goes away and never comes back, along with any of the "Real" audio or video formats. It hasn't, they almost have, when my browser tells me it wants to install a Quick-Time active-x control to play a video I move on quickly without ever feeling as though I missed something worth seeing./flash


    I remember having the same problems using QT but haven't for some time. I always felt they were playing both ends against the middle. They were struggling for market share and trying to remain proprietary at the same time. Never works.
  • 1 Hide
    saturn77 , September 11, 2008 11:28 PM
    Flash BazboQuick-Time is one of a select few pieces of software that I won't allow on any of my systems. Why it must be installed in order to install I-Tunes (no I-Tunes for Flash) and/or why anyone would favour it as their default format is beyond me.I can only assume that things have improved since the early days of "you need this flavour of Quick-Time VR in order to run this app. - oh and did we mention that it's incompatible with every other flavour of Quick-Time or Quick-Time VR we ever have or will produce?" I guess the old saying "A half-dozen or so times bitten, forever shy" still has relevance for me. I hope Quick-Time goes away and never comes back, along with any of the "Real" audio or video formats. It hasn't, they almost have, when my browser tells me it wants to install a Quick-Time active-x control to play a video I move on quickly without ever feeling as though I missed something worth seeing./flash



    LOL! I too do not allow Quicktime a sliver of space on my hard drive for the same reason. The player also crashes constantly. I love how Quicktime highjacks your computer and changes file associations without asking or tries to update every 5 minutes. The ONLY program worse than Quicktime is Realplayer.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 12, 2008 2:18 AM
    quicktime and real.. lol.. i consider them trojans.. kill onsight. i have tried divx xvid wmv h.264 of them i like divx but require heavy processing power if i need good quality and low bitrate settings. my amd64 x2 2g is still slow when i tried to get greedy on bitrate but maintain quality waiting for my new intel core2 quad. hopes it going better with it.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 12, 2008 10:21 AM
    This article is poorly written, as there are many errors and misconceptions.
    XviD, DivX and WMA are all MPEG4 based codecs. Quicktime is just a video container format (as much as AVI).
    MPEG2 is designed to use high bitrate and for high quality video but performs very bad with low bitrate.
    MPEG4, on the other hand, is designed to output good quality video with low/very low bitrate (making it suitable for the Internet). However it is NOT best than MPEG2 with high bitrate. It just wasn't designed for that.
    I am seriously disappointed of the unprofessionality of this article.
    If the readers want to read some good review of the various codecs they should better visit doom9.org
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 12, 2008 6:32 PM
    the most dominant video streaming format is VP6 for Flash or VP7 for move networks (Espn/ABC/Fox...)

    Soon VP8 will come out wich is said to beat H264 by up to 40%
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 12, 2008 7:10 PM
    "I consider them trojans.. kill onsight."

    Perfectly said. Couldn't agree more. I will only install Quicktime on a virtual machine in VMWare and will not allow it to infect my real workstation.
  • 0 Hide
    TCeleste , September 13, 2008 9:33 AM
    I'm really surprised at all of the QuickTime anger. I can't remember the last time that I had version specific issues or file extension hijacking. The program really has improved a lot over the years.

    On the other hand, I share the concern over Real Media. The last time I checked, the player was still spamming me, and the format was still producing awful quality video.

    In a nutshell, I feel that QuickTime's most serious issues have been addressed. I can't comfortably say the same about Real Media's issues.
  • 0 Hide
    TCeleste , September 13, 2008 9:51 AM
    Lestat2005This article is poorly written, as there are many errors and misconceptions.


    I'm not certain that any of the items which you mentioned are "errors and misconceptions", versus issues that I just was not able to cover (I pointed out in the first paragraph that I would not be able to cover everything).

    Lestat2005MPEG4, on the other hand, is designed to output good quality video with low/very low bitrate (making it suitable for the Internet). However it is NOT best than MPEG2 with high bitrate. It just wasn't designed for that.


    A statement that MPEG-4 is not good at high bitrates is debatable. One example I'd cite of MPEG-4 being used for high bitrate is DirecTV's recent adoption of MPEG-4 for all HD broadcasting.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 15, 2008 3:57 PM
    mkv??
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 15, 2008 4:16 PM
    "QuickTime video is highly compatible with both Mac and Windows."

    QuickTime files are NOT compatible with Windows. To play Quicktime files you must install the Quicktime software.
    (I won't beat the dead horse by elaborating more on how horrible that software is....hmmm, though, a brilliant ad for Macs might be not making horrible PC software for Windows...I've seen Mac software..why would I want their operating system?)
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