Digital Video Bible
| by Siddharth Bhatia
I was planning to call this feature 'Digital Video for Dummies', but I decided against it and named it 'Digital Video Bible' instead – after all, there's already a brilliant Dummies digital video book. This feature deals with file types, their associated extensions, codecs, players, plugins... to achieve a common goal: rip, compress and playback files.
A lot of it could border on theft and piracy, but that issue is a cat-and-mouse game between the studios and the pirates, or maybe a greyhound-and-hare chase. We have no views on those matters and I personally feel the more constraints are put on something like digital video, the more it'll be cracked, ripped, distributed and then deleted.
Nevertheless we’ve planned a resourceful feature ahead, for you guys to simply play any video (and associated audio) files on your PC or media player, and also some tips and tricks to back up, convert, transcode etc. This article is meant for users of all levels, so all the 'B-frame' czars may kindly skip the noob sections. The end of the article I’ve dedicated to HD files, as their treatment is a little different.
First up is the issue of file containers. You must be familiar with AVI files – one of the most popular container formats. So what does it contain? An AVI file stores audio/video data: digital 1s and 0s that represent sound and picture info when played by the hardware. Simply put, it can contain any video file that might have previously been copied, converted, compressed, whatever. Other container formats are Quicktime (.mov), MPEG4 (.MP4) and Matroska (.mkv).
Then come the codecs. Their job is to manipulate the video file, generally to make it smaller in size, so we can upload, backup or distribute them easily. So a container format like AVI might have a file coded by any of the codecs (DivX etc.), which I will discuss further.
This is where we encounter MPEG (full form quite unnecessary), an organization of people that made – and still makes – standards for AV data compression. I'm sounding like Wiki now, so let me put it another way: it comprises engineers who devised and formalized many techniques to handle and compress video data, and set them as different standards along the way, which are named after the organization itself.
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