Where Can I Get Video Codecs?

All video data that you play on your DVD player or computer is encoded with a compression algorithm to minimize file space. Since there are numerous different compression algorithms available, it can be difficult to have the right decompressor installed on your PC system to play a particular video file. These “decompressors” are called Codecs, and each video file utilizes a separate video and audio codec. If you don’t have a required video or audio codec installed and you try play a video, your media player will often display a warning message stating you’re missing a plugin or media component.

The good thing, is that there are just a handful of codecs that are commonly used for video compression. If you’re using WinXP or Windows Vista on your PC, most of the common codecs come pre-installed with the OS. Lately, some people are using 3rd-party video codecs (such as DivX and XviD) to encode their videos since they believe it offers better quality than the mainstream codecs. In this case, you’ll need to search and install an appropriate video codec to process these compressed video files.

Note, that nearly all DVDs use an industry-standard MPEG2 video codec for compression. So to play a DVD on your PC, you’ll definitely need to have an MPEG2 video codec installed. For the Windows Vista Home OS, Microsoft provides an MPEG2 codec with the system. This is not true for WinXP, so you’ll need to have an MPEG2 codec installed to play and process DVD video data. In most cases, computer vendors (e.g., Dell, HP, Toshiba, etc) that sell systems with a DVD-ROM reader will install a MPEG2 codec on their system so the customer can play DVDs with their new computer.

Because codecs are required to decompress video data for playback on a computer, they are also required to decompress video data for conversions. Thus, to convert video data on a DVD to WMV format for your Zune (using a program such as Windows Media Encoder 9), you’ll need to have an MPEG2 video codec installed on your system. The sames goes for converting AVI files that used the DivX codec, etc. That is why I would always suspect a video codec problem if the video convert program couldn’t convert a video file.

Note, that not all video codecs are the same. Some are faster than others, and some may produce better quality videos. So if you think you’re having trouble with a particular installed video codec, I would suggest uninstalling it and installing a codec created by a different company.

Since most people want to convert DVD video data to WMV format for the Zune, you’ll definitely need a good MPEG2 video codec. The most popular (and frequently updated) video codec pack is FFDShow. I normally don’t like to recommend “video packs” since they can cause more problems than they fix. The reason being, these video packs contain many different codecs, and blindly installing all of them can cause conflicts with your system.

Although FFDShow is a video pack that contains various codecs, you can easily unselect all of them except the ones you really want. Below are links for two reliable sources for the FFDShow codec pack:

www.free-codecs.com
www.afreecodec.com

The FFDShow Pack contains codecs for not only MPEG2, but also Xvid, DivX 4, DivX 5, XviD, Divx 3 compatible, MSMPEG4v2, MSMPEG4v1,WMV1/7, WMV2/8,H263, H263+, H264, HuffYUV, MPEG 1.

Final Comments:

  1. If you’ve installed and tested out several trialware versions of different video converters, make sure you uninstall the ones you don’t plan to use. The reason being, some of these converters may install their own video codecs, and they could be causing conflicts and problems.
  2. Only install the video codecs that you are missing for video playback and conversion. Don’t use a “shotgun” approach and install everything in a video codec pack.
  3. Don’t install more than one flavor of a particular video codec. For example, don’t have two or more MPEG2 video codecs installed, as they may conflict with each other.
  4. If you don’t know what codec you are missing to play a specific video file, use the program called GSpot to open that video file and identify the required video and audio codec.
  5. Not all codecs are the same, so if you’re having trouble with one flavor of the MPEG2 video codec, I would recommend uninstalling it and trying a different one.
  6. Lastly, make sure you do a system reboot after you remove and install codecs just to make sure they are completely installed and working on your system.

Note, that people usually have trouble with video codecs during video file conversions, but sometimes the problem is with a missing audio codec. If your converted video doesn’t have sound or if the sound seems to be out of sync, it may be due to a missing or bad audio codec.

Updated : 22 August 2009

If you’re having issues with finding the right video and audio codecs for your video conversions, you might try out AntiPack by Andy Babgvant. Check out this posting for more details.

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