Detemining Video Attributes

Video files can come from many sources, and sometimes you may have trouble converting them to MP4 or WMV format for your Zune. The first thing I do with a troublesome video file is determine what video and audio codec was used to create it. The best tool for this is GSpot, which will give you the basic attributes of a selected video file. For example, if I open a VOB file that was extracted from a DVD, I see the following information:

gspot1.png

Here you can see that the video codec for this VOB file is MPEG-2, the audio codec used is AC3, and the frame rate is 29.97 fps (which are common for most DVDs). Also, the image resolution is shown to be 720 x 480. So to convert this file using Windows Media Encoder (or any converter program), you need to have the MPEG-2 and AC3 codecs installed on your system to decode this video data.

For another example, I’ll open a DivX video file that I downloaded from http://www.stage6.com with the attributes displayed below:

gspot2.png

Here the video codec is DivX 5.x/6.x and the audio codec is MPEG-1, so to convert this file you’ll need both of those codecs installed on your system.

So, what are the video attributes for a file converted to WMV format? The image below shows what you should see for a Zune-ready WMV file:

gspot3.png

For this file, the video codec is Windows Media Video (WMV) v9 and the audio codec is Windows Media Audio (WMA) v2. Note, that both codecs are shown as “Status Undetermined” for my Desktop PC, which I’m not sure why (even though the WMV file plays fine on my PC and Zune).

GSpot also has an option to show all video and audio codecs installed on your system. By selecting System->List Codecs and Other Filters you will see a screen similar to that below:

gspot4.png

On this screen you can see that one of the codecs (AC3Filter) is missing a file for proper operation. Without this audio codec, a converted video file may not have any audio (if the original file used the AC3Filter codec). So the solution to this problem is to uninstall this particular codec (from the “Remove Programs” application) and search for a valid codec on the Internet for download.

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Summary

If you have trouble converting a particular video file, try using the GSpot program to examine it’s attributes, specifically what video and audio codecs were used to create it. Then, make sure you have those codecs installed on your PC. In some cases, you might have several codecs installed to do the same thing (e.g., two different MPEG-2 codecs), in which case you’ll need to remove one of them for the conversion software to work properly. Also, not all codecs are the same (or as efficient), so you might need to remove a “bad” codec and search for a better one to use.

If you need a codec, I suggest you try one codec pack called ffdshow which contains several different codecs (such as AVI, DivX, XviD, WMV, MPG, MPEG2(SVCD, DVD), H264, AC3, DTS, AAC ). Instead of using a shotgun approach and installing everything from that pack, just select the ones you need during the installation process. You can also visit www.videohelp.com for help with video conversions, tools, codecs, etc.

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