I've published a lot of gameplay videos here. I think that I owe it to my fans to teach them about videos and codecs and junk to avoid irate riots and confusion. First of all, when raw video is captured (this is an entire other subject that I won't go into), it is saved as some enormous, lossless format, usually AVI (MOV on a Macintosh). You don't see lossless AVIs running around, because they really are HUGE. 30 seconds of lossless AVI can be over a GB in size easily. So, compression formats, known as codecs, have been introduced. Here are some of the most well-known ones:
DivX - DivX is a corporation of sorts that doesn't really make much money. It is easily the most common type of AVI compression (although it actually converts the way the AVI is coded to look more like an MPEG-4 file). DivX was actually used in Rogue Squadron III for the Nintendo Gamecube to bring in footage from the original films for use in the game. The DivX codec is available at DivX's official website (www.divx.com) but DON'T GET DIVX PRO. You can't utilize the codec or the player (see below) unless you leave the spyware it installs on your computer. If you poke around in the Downloads section enough, you can find just the player and just the codec separately, which is what you want to do.
XviD - XviD is some kind of offshoot of DivX that is open source. I don't know its history, but
WMV - WMV is its own file type made by Microsoft. It is streamable (meaning you can open it off a website and it will be loaded gradually, and you can view any section that has been loaded), and has very good compression. However, Microsoft owns the patents for both .WMV and .WMA, so audio filetype converters can't touch them without breaking the law. WMV files cannot be viewed on Macs, either. Plus, with Microsoft releasing new versions of Windows Media Player all the time, compatibility issues with WMV may arise. I'm going to try to stop using this filetype myself, although for the recent Gradius Galaxies Omake, we had to use it because Adobe Premiere Pro suddenly stopped working.
MOV - MOV is a completely evil and subversive filetype that could only be spawned from the needle jammed in the legs that advance computer technology, the Macintosh. I used to think Macs were alright (because the Mac OS X kernel is based on BSD) until I started hearing about the problems it caused. My friend tried viewing a low-quality compressed .mov file with mplayer, the king of video players (see below), and not even it could play the video properly. There was no sound. MOV's lowest compression setting in iMovie has a horribly small resolution with blocky quality (probably due to a low bitrate), fuzzy sound, and the video footage becomes darker, too. MOV files don't really work well on web servers, either. The file size might be miniscule, and yes you can stream them, but you get what you pay for. Avoid them at all costs, whether you're capturing to this file type or trying to view one. You're setting an example, which is NOT what you want to do.
MPEG - The good side of Mac video compression, I'm sure you've all heard of these. MPEGs are the classic streamable video file. Most of them still aren't much for resolution, but most are of good quality. They're also typically used for shorter videos, usually of lengths between 30 seconds and 3 minutes. There are three types of MPEG files: MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4 (Guess what MPEG-3 is only used for? ;)). MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 are similar, but MPEG-2 is used on DVDs. MPEG-4 is more similar to AVI, and is used for higher-quality settings, although like MOV, it is hard to utilize on a web server. Believe me, we've tried.
Cinepak - OH GOD IT'S HORRIBLE. A friend of mine named Demyen found a page describing it:
|Cinepak was originally developed to play small movies on '386 and '030 systems, from a single- speed CD-ROM drive. Its greatest strength is its extremely low CPU requirements...Cinepak's quality/datarate was amazing when it was first released, but does not compare well with newer codecs available today. There are higher-quality (and lower-datarate) solutions for almost any application.|
So, there's a rather large slough of video players out there with which to watch all these movies out there. Here are the ones I know about:
Windows Media Player 9 (I think 10 is out now) - Microsoft keeps making newer, RAM-hogging, ad-spitting versions of this every year. I, personally, am fed up with it, because of the long loading times, especially when it comes to loading DivX movies. Since I'm using XviD, I have to wait about 40 seconds for the thing to tell me "Error downloading codec" as the video plays with perfect quality.
Windows Media Player Classic - This is the closest thing to mplayer on Windows, except maybe for the Windows version of mplayer. It can play just about anything. Remember what Media Player used to be like? Small, compact, efficient, and functional. It has no problem at all with most codecs out there. I should get me one of these.
QuickTime - The Mac's media player. Windows has been introduced to it for years now, and it's meant to be used as a plugin for web browsers. I don't like the look, feel, and interface of this program on its own, however, although I have to use it for MPEG-4 files. It's alright, I suppose, although it has lots of annoying popups/alerts, and it's a little slow.
RealPlayer - The BANE of video players. It's slower than a slug being eaten by a sloth being eaten by a snake. And even if you DO get it to load, it will probably just freeze. And in recent day, the program often comes with a load of spyware just for you. What a treat. It shames me that this player has its own file type, too. I think it's called .RPV or something. I don't care.
DivX Player - For some reason, the DivX Corporation made their own player, too. It looks nice, and from what I can remember, it's a bit different from Windows Media Player, but it's alright. I'm so desperate for a new player, I might use this.
Winamp - The modern high-seas pirates of today are the 14 year old losers sitting in their basement pirating music, and they're probably listening to their playist of over 300 songs in this classic program, Winamp. This thing is one of the most versatile anything players of all time, as it can even listen to ShoutCast servers (sort of like radio stations online). I don't use it, so I just recently found out it can play movies. Therefore, I couldn't tell you if it's any good.
XMMS - The Linux/BSD counterpart to Winamp. Oh wait...this only does the playlist/ShoutCast server stuff that Winamp does. So we move on to...
XINE - I watched one movie in this while I was booted into Knoppix one day. It takes a while to load, but it is one nice player. It plays stuff with wonderful, high resolution, and I didn't think I needed to download the DivX codec patch either. I'll test this one out some more some time. Speaking of Linux players...
Mplayer - The KING of video players, on any OS. mplayer has been an ongoing project based in Hungary for quite some time now, and it has totaled over 10,000 lines now. It is open source, and is still being built on to. It can play ANYTHING. Except low-quality .mov files; apparently sound doesn't work with those. I'm sure it will be patched eventually. For curious Windows users, there is a Windows version that's still in beta.
That's about all, guys. I'll keep updating this from time to time. FADE IN!