Video uses some uncommon words to describe common practices, some common words to describe uncommon practices, and some just plain indecipherable jargon. Let’s start defining some of these terms. Once the jargon is demystified, video becomes a much friendlier medium.


Codec is a contraction of compress/decompress

Video files are very large. A 30 minute DVD quality file with CD quality audio can easily grow to over 2 GB in size. This is clearly much too large a file to be streamed over the internet, even with a broadband connection. So the file needs to be compressed for transmission and then decompressed for playback.

There are a dizzying number of codecs, each with partisans who say this one is the best of all. Indeed, some codecs are better for certain jobs than others.

If a video is compressed using a particular codec, you will need to have that same codec on your computer to decompress it. Lack of a particular codec or having an outdated version of a codec leads to error messages and munged videos. It’s a source of frustration for many viewers. Because of this, if you plan to make your video available over the web, it is a good idea to encode it with a widely available, commonly installed codec. Windows Media codecs, whch are supplied with Windows Media Player, Quicktime codecs, and DivX are all good choices.

Which one is right for you video? Experiment! If you like the way your video looks, you’ve probably found the right codec.