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Codecs and Containers - TreetWiki

Codecs and Containers

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m (Reverted edits by Homecare4 (Talk) to last version by Wiznord)
 
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== Acai Berry - How To Avoid An Acai Berry Diet Scam ==
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=== The Facts ===
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Video delivery, whether by streaming media or through a regular file (such as an MP4) file involves two distinct, and very different technology concepts: [[codec|codecs]] and [[container|containers]] (sometimes called wrappers).
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* A [[container]] is used to package the video and is identified (usually) by a file extension such as .AVI, .MP4 or .MOV.
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* A [[codec]] is the method used to encode the video and is the chief determiner of quality.   Codecs sometimes have trademark names, such as Cinepak.  At other times, they are named after standards, such as H.264.  Still at other times, they are referred to by specific references to specifications, such as "MPEG-4 Layer-10".  Codecs are the most important and least understood element of digital video.
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Think of the container as the file itself.   Think of the codec as its contents.     The important thing to realize is that most good container formats can hold many codecs.  For example a .MOV container can hold almost any kind of codec data.  The same goes for .MP4 and even .AVI files (an antiquated format) can hold a wide variety of codecs as their contents.  In no way does the container decide the quality or features of the video itself.  That is up to the codec.
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The proper way to describe video is to indicate both: A .MOV file containing H.264 data.  An .AVI file containing DivX data.  Professionals use shorthands for this, saying things like "Give me an H.264 Quicktime file (.mov)".
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=== The Problem ===
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At first this seems straightforward, but it's not.  The problem lies in the confusion and imprecision in the common use of these terms. To make matters worse, software companies try to simplify their documentation and instructions by ignoring the difference altogether.  The result is that people believe that phrases like "I'll give you an AVI file," or "An MP4 file will be fine" are legitimate ways to talk about video.  In reality, such statements are meaningless, and if you learn some of the basics described here you will be well on your way to becoming a video guru.
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As an example of the kind of headaches you can have over this, consider H.264.  It is a codec.  It is also, quite correctly called "MPEG-4 Layer 10".  More properly it is an implementation of the ISO/IEC 14496-10 standard.  Informally, it is sometimes called an AVC codec, also correct but less precise.  Often, but by no means always, this codec is used packaged inside an .MP4 file, but an MP4 file can also contain other codecs, not all of them as good as H.264 and some quite outdated.    But, almost without thinking, even professionals say "Send me an MP4 file", or "YouTube accepts MP4 files" which is only true if your MP4 file uses a supported codec.
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Ouch.  Isn't this a pain?
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=== Codecs and Containers at Treet TV ===
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We use two codecs mainly at Treet TV, but only one that you really need to know about: H.264.    We have used H.264 from the very start back when we began SLCN in 2007.  We believe H.264 is the most versatile, most widely supported, and handles both online as well as high quality home video.  Luckly, we were right to choose this codec.  Flash has recently converted their player to support H.264 as the primary codec.  BluRay disks use H.264, and almost all companies except Microsoft (bless their souls) have adopted H.264 as the codec of choice.
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::'''Treet uses H.264 for all encoded media distributed to the public, and is the preferred codec for video we receive.'''
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The other codec we use is Apple ProRes 422.  However, this is for internal use and is the codec we use to store master copies of all recorded shows.  Generally, you won't want to touch this, as the files created using this codec are enormous and far higher in quality than most people care about.
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Our favorite container format is Quicktime .MOV files.  But, this is a double-edged sword.  Quicktime is probably one of the most advanced container formats in the world, but it is poorly supported under Windows.  This means that unless you are using MacIntosh equipment, your implementation of Quicktime is inferior, and PC applications from companies like Adobe and Pinnacle do not implement Quicktime in the magical and amazing way that MacIntosh systems do.  Therefore, if you use a Mac, you really will marvel at the versatility and speed and uniformity of Quicktime video formats.  If you are on a PC you will hate them.
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::'''Treet uses .MOV container files for all internal stored video, and as the format for files which are streamed into Second Life on our channels'''
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Because Quicktime is only useful on Macs, we have standardized on the MP4 container format for all public uses.  All our archive files are MP4 files, and we prefer to get MP4 files (using the H.264 codec) as source material for shows.  Even Microsoft has been forced to provide support for MP4 and it is now the most widely supported video container format.  MP4 files are sometimes called M4V files by Apple, but they are the same.
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::'''Treet uses .MP4 files for all public video distributions and prefers it for all video submitted to us'''
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=== Finding Out More ===
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For specifics of how Treet TV distributes video, see [[Video Filenames]].
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If you really want to know the technical details, Wikipedia contains some of the most extensive information about container and codec formats, and here are some useful starting points:
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* To read about the MP4 format: [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MPEG-4_Part_14 MPEG-4 Part 14]
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* To read about the H.264 codec in all of its technical glory. Have a fresh supply of Excedrin:  [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.264 H.264/MPEG-4 AVC]
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* A very, very useful matrix of container formats and supported codecs is at [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_container_formats Comparison of Container Formats]

Current revision as of 23:47, 25 February 2011

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