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What is Difference Between Codec and Container

You may feel that it is hard to understand video formats, so it’s important for you to only know what you need to know. The first thing you need to know is that a video format is not just its filename extension. Extensions are containers, not video codecs, just like AVI. What a container do is to compress a type of standard of video respectively, such as MPEG-4 and H.264 (avi to mp4 mac), into a hard-drive friendly amount of space by using various codecs, such as DivX and x264. Next I’ll tell you something about codecs and containers, and what do they mean for your self-made videos.

What Is a Codec?

When the video you see is compressed, it means that it has been done to occupy less space than before in your computer. Let’s take an example to explain it. It is hard for a normal person to download or store a regular Blu-Ray disc in his hard drive for it usually occupies about 30 or 50GB of space. Therefore, even if there will be loss in the quality of the video, we condense videos to make them more administrable.

Codecs are often used to condense data or reduce the pressure of it. People use it to recognize the video file and decide how to play it in your computer. Although you can set codec packs(which is preferred by most people), VLC or PotPlayer for more support, your computer  usually pre-installs many codecs.

What Is a Container?

Basically speaking, a container is a plenty of files. A container can contains lot of things, such as a video codec, an audio codec, subtitles and so on. You are allowed to chose codec respectively for your video and audio. In this way, it is nice because you have the choice to use the high-qualified DTS audio and to condense it to something like MP3 in order to keep more space savings. The only restriction it gives you is on your recording your videos and ripping them.

So Which Should You Use?

Do there any differences between all these video formats? I wonder which one I should choose? Nowadays, when you go through the websites for videos, you can only find a few kinds of codecs and containers. For standard-definition videos, such as ripped DVDs, it is popular to use DivX and XviD (DivX’s open source counterpart, see: Rip DVD to AVI Mac OS X). However, most of them are out of date, therefore I won’t use them to rip my own DVDs. As our favorite DVD ripper and video encoder, Handbrake is able to both stand by three video codecs which you can find under the “Video” tab and two containers which you can find under “Output Settings”. As a software acquiescent by Handbrake, H.264 is able to produce you the highest quality. If the quality is not in your consideration, MPEG-4 will make compression quicker. Although both MKV and MP4 can support high-quality H.264 videos, people prefer MKV because it is open source, it contains a few more extra specialties, and stands by higher qualified audio. On the other side, it has the weakness that it cannot be sustained by some programs and devices. Therefore, you’ll need to suit for more widely sustained MP4 when you’re setting these videos in your iPad, Apple TV, or Xbox 360. So MKV is your choice when you’re watching them through VLC, PotPlayer, XBMC, or other video players that sustain MKV.

In spite of a wide range of information of videos, what you really need to do is to concentrate yourself on a few since plenty of those codecs are out of date. Wikipedia will give you more information about detailed comparison of Video Codecs, Container Formats, and more information on all the different types of video compression done by MPEG standards.

More Reading: How to convert MOV to MP4 Format on Mac

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