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Video codecs explained


Category: Tuning your PC

Did you ever try to play a video file, but failed to open it? This might happen because you don't have the right video codecs installed.

What is a codec?

  One of the great problems when using video files in a digital format is the large amount of storage space these files require. This is what a codec is used for. The name is an acronym for compressor/decompressor, and that is exactly what this little piece of software does: compresses the information when the file is created, and then decompresses it to be displayed.

  Unfortunately, there are many compressing algorithms available, and so, many codecs were created, each with it's advantages and disadvantages. You have to install the right one to view a particular video.

How do I know what codecs I need?

So, you have the file, and can't open it. But you have no idea what codec is missing.

   It's simple to find out. A small free utility called GSpot that you can download from the internet will tell you what codecs you need to play the file, if they are installed and lots of other informations about the video.

 GSpot printscreen

    Right now, the most used formats are DivX and XVid, so you should have the latest versions of these two installed. There are also a number of codec packs available, which will automatically install a number of codecs on your system. Though these are easier to use, since by installing a codec pack you'll probably have all you need installed, I still recommend that you manually install only the ones you really use.

You will also need an audio codec, the most used one right now is AC3.

  Where do I find it?

  Most codecs are available for free on the internet and you can find them by doing a simple search on Google. At the bottom of the article, you'll find links to the official DivX and XVid sites.

  Once you have a codec installed, you can use any video player to watch a movie that uses that codec. But some video players come with a few codecs included. So, you should also look for a player that matches your needs.

  Related Links:

Divx official site
XVid official site

Posted by: Quarc on April 9, 2006 at 15:01.

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