Deciphering The DivX Codec / File Format – The Dummies Guide

Author Administrator 7.4.2010. | 13:44

Divx puzzle copy

By Michael Wong

A long time ago, in a different decade, we put together a guide on Video file formats and Audio file formats all was well and good until many people started to ask this question….

What’s DivX and why is it important?

DIVX can be a file format or a codec but before your brain explodes take a look at the handy definition box below…

Michael’s Jargon Buster

  • File Format: The structure by which data is organized in a file, it is also sometimes called the container.
  • Codec: Codec stands for compression/decompression. It refers to how video and audio files are squeezed down into a size which can be transported/carried in some way in the the container (or file format).

To properly understand Divx, first we must look at downloading videos from the Internet. Like most people you probably do. But have you ever stopped to think of where those files come from? Who put them there? Why anyone would spend their free time doing that?

The fact is most videos you download come from a DVD.

The problem is that DVD’s are huge! Quite often the file contents of a DVD take up several gigabytes of size.

While that’s great for file quality this has several drawbacks namely uploading and downloading from the Internet takes forever given most people’s Internet connections.

That’s where DivX comes in handy. Using DivX software, you can rip the contents of a DVD and shrink the file size at the same time (officially known as compression) so it’s much smaller and yet at the same time not lose too much in terms of quality.

How does DivX do it?

While the exact way Divx is compressed is a trade secret the way it is generally done by:

  • reducing the frame rate (how many different images you see)
  • reducing the resolution (how clear the picture is)
  • Removing some of the colors from the graphics (making pictures grayer)

While this may all sound terrible, the quality is generally protected as much as possible and the end result is that a DVD quality movie over 1GB in file size gets compressed to just under 700 MB with pretty decent picture quality.

You need a DIVX compatible player to play this file on your computer or media player but, besides DivX there are a number of players like Videolan (VLC) and Media Player Classic that can easily play DivX files.

While this may all sound clear and easy the internet has come along and messed things up. Remember before when we talked about containers/file formats and codecs?

These days when you’re looking for movies on the Internet, you may find one of two types of DivX files:

  1. native DivX files (those that end in .divx)
  2. DixX compressions in other files (files that end in .AVI or another file format)

When you’re downloading a DivX video with the .divx extension you’re actually downloading a DivX container containing a DivX compressed DVD file inside.

Whereas when you download a DivX video with the .avi extension you’re really downloading an AVI container containing a DivX compressed DVD file inside.

Depending on the MP4 player, China cell phone or HDD enclosure you use it is likely to have a varying amount of difference depending on the files it supports.

However, you should be able to make sure you are never bothered by problems by taking the following steps.

  • Knowing what file formats (and if possible what codecs) your player supports and only getting material in that file source
  • Installing a good sturdy player like VLC or media player classic on your computer

And that’s it! With a little bit of research you will be free of DivX problems for all time.
The choice of container is mostly irrelevant these days but there was a time when some players were more comfortable playing AVI containers.

Author Administrator 7.4.2010. | 13:44
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