Video streaming is becoming extremely popular. More and more websites are starting to stream video online, and many video sharing scripts such as ClipShare, ClipBucket and PHPMotion are on the rise.
With so many video scripts and video formats, users are confused as to which one’s the right for them. Not many people out there know what the difference is between MP4 and AVI: What are containers? What are codecs? Users see these words, “codecs” and “containers” everywhere on the Internet but don’t know what they actually mean. We’ll start by explaining the basics.
A video file in a digital format is made up of two parts, a “container” and a “codec.”
What is a “codec”?
A codec is used to compress and decompress a digital file. Now you probably are thinking, “Why in the world do you need to compress a file and loose quality?” Think of it this way: A normal two-hour long movie on a Blu-ray disk would take up 20GB to 40GB of space. Such a large video file will take too long if downloaded over the Internet. Hence, video files are compressed so that they can be handled easily. A codec is used to do this task. The codec determines the player on your computer and the file type to see if it able to play the video on your screen. There are many codecs available and a few containers, so each container holds more than 100 codecs within them. A few popular types of codecs are FFMpeg, DivX, XviD, and x264.
What is a “container”?
A container is a collection of files that stores information about the digital file; it consists of the video and audio codecs along with other information, such as subtitles and chapters. You have control over the type of codec you wish to choose for audio and video separately. The popular types of containers are AVI, MP4 and MOV. A new open source container that’s gaining popularity recently is MKV, the reason being that it can support nearly any video codec known.
Types of Video File Formats:
The last three or four digits of a file after the period indicate the type file format it is or the file container. Similarly, for a Word document, .doc indicates that it is a Word file. We will list here some of the popular types of video file formats used over the Internet.
. AVI (Audio Video Interlaced)
.AVI files comply to a standard developed by Microsoft and are a very popular video file
format. An uncompressed .AVI file is too huge and will be difficult to be transferred over the Internet. .AVI files are mainly used for editing, as they are compatible with almost any application; however, they are not much of a video sharing format. Most popular video players can open .AVI files without any issue, and a .AVI file can be coded using a variety of codecs. Due to this, one .AVI file will differ completely from another.
.FLV (Flash Video Format)
A Flash video file format is the most common and popular video sharing file format used over the Internet. Almost all browsers are compatible with Flash and can the play the video with ease. Most online video games are also done in a Flash video format. Many video-sharing sites will let you upload a video in a different format, after which they will convert the files to .FLV on the fly. An example of such a site is YouTube. Videos in the .FLV format are high quality even after compression, and that is one of the major reasons for the popularity of .FLV.
.WMV (Windows Media Video)
The tiniest video files over the Internet are mostly .WMV files. Their file size after compression is very small, which results in poor quality. As a result of this, .WMV files are used for streaming as well as downloading content over the Internet. Windows Media Player is the main application that is used to play .WMV files
.MOV (Apple Quick Time Movie)
.MOV is a popular type of video format amongst MAC users. .MOV files are of high quality and usually big in size. However, being a popular MAC format, .MOV files can still be opened with a variety of players available on PC.
.MPEG (Motions Picture Experts Group)
The Motion Picture Experts Group is an international group that was created to develop standards for audio and video file formats.
MP4 is a video format mainly used by camcorders and cameras that is gaining popularity. The quality of a video coded using .MP4 is very high and the file size relatively small. .MP4 standard is becoming more popular than .FLV for online video sharing, as it compatible with both online and mobile browsers and also supported by the new HTML5.
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