Codec grumble

August 28, 2009

As part of my work I’m occasionally required to convert video to flash and downloadable video files.

Creating Flash .flv’s are easy enough using Flash (or Free FLV Converter for those who cant afford Adobe’s premium).

But creating a downloadable video file can be a real pain. Let me explain why.

When it comes to computers, many of our clients are “old school” and dont know what a video codec is let alone how to upgrade/download/install the latest ones. This means we can’t expect them to have anything beyond the codecs that come with XP and Media Player 9 or (maybe) Vista+MP10.

Therefore, when I want to convert a video to something they can download and view on their “vanilla” XP machines, I have to stick with XP’s standard codecs. Unfortunately, XP’s (SP2) built in codec selection is pretty out of date and most of them produce results that even the oldest of the old-school find unpleasant to view.

This leaves me in a bit of a conundrum. I can either try to educate each client and their members to update their codecs or media player software, or find a “good enough” solution with what’s available. Educating them is a big job and will only work sometimes meaning we’ll still get people with issues. So I’m left with MPEG-1 or WMV encoding. MPEG-1 is long in the tooth and generates huge files, whereas WMV generates smaller files but leaves Mac users out in the cold.

In the end, we’ve settled on MPEG-1 for its broader compatibility, it’s a solution but not one I’m happy with.

Here’s some links to useful software I found while researching this issue:

Free FLV Converterhttp://www.koyotesoft.com/indexEn.html

FLV playerhttp://download.cnet.com/FLV-Player/3000-13632_4-10467081.html?tag=mncol;pop

Download Helper (Firefox plugin, download .flv) – http://www.downloadhelper.net/

Handbrakehttp://handbrake.fr/

Pocket DivX Encoderhttp://www.pocketdivxencoder.net/EN_index.htm

DivX codechttp://www.divx.com/en/win

VideoLANhttp://www.videolan.org/

MediaPlayer Classichttp://mpc-hc.sourceforge.net/