Video Formats, Players and Distribution
Videomaker By Kyle Cassidy
A look at some popular video formats, viewing platforms and distribution methods to help you figure out how best to get your video from a camcorder to your audience.

In the not-too-distant past, VHS was the de facto standard in video viewing. Oh sure, some people might have had 8mm or Hi8 players too, but everybody had a VHS machine. If you wanted people to be able to see your latest creation, you'd just put it on VHS, stick it in an envelope and drop it in the mail. No brains required. Ah, but then digital came along. Suddenly, there was a plethora of formats, all of which did different things, and not all of which worked with everything else. People are now not just watching video on televisions, but on iPods, computers, portable devices, and even wireless phones

This month, we're going to look at some popular video formats, viewing platforms and distribution methods to help you figure out the best method to get your video from a camcorder to your audience.

Popular Video Formats

Windows Media Video (.wmv): WMV was developed by Microsoft, and a player (Windows Media Player) ships with Microsoft's Windows operating system. Because of the near ubiquity of Windows, WMV is often a very good format for making your video readable by a large number of people. WMV players also exist (for free) for the Macintosh operating system.

QuickTime (.mov): This format was developed by Apple, and a player began shipping with OS 7. A free version is available for Microsoft Windows.

DivX (.avi, .divx): DivX is a very popular codec for compressing MPEG-4 videos. The size difference between DivX and an MPEG-2 encoded DVD is a factor of about ten, which makes it a very popular way of encoding large videos that need to be transferred over the internet. The codec can work as a plug-in for existing players such as Windows Media Player.

Moving Picture Experts Group (.mpeg, .mpg, .m4p): MPEG was designed for compressing video frames along with audio. It's able to get excellent compression by grouping frames together. DVDs use a form of MPEG compression called MPEG-2. Another format developed by MPEG (MPEG-4) is capable of producing better compression and supports digital rights management, making it a popular format for computer viewing. Apple's iPod players use a version of MPEG-4.

Audio Video Interleave (.avi): Developed by Microsoft in the early 1990s as part of the Windows Video format, AVI is still very popular today, especially when partnered with a compression codec like DivX. read more...

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