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I have to make a video that will need to be watched on different operating systems. Is there a "universal" video codec that can be played on Windows, OS X and Linux without requiring additional plugins or player other than those that comes on a default clean install of each of those systems? Compression is not an issue, I'm merely looking for compatibility (e.g. for audio, I would use WAV as a universal codec).

Note : I must assume that the video will be distributed in countries where software patents are enforced, and therefore can't rely on the user to install non-free codecs on Linux.


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up vote 2 down vote accepted

You should look into the mjpeg family of codecs. They're fairly simple, and it worked when I had to share movies between all three OS'es a few months back.

mencoder in linux supports this, and it did play out of the box on the few Mac and Windows systems I tested in.

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I forgot to add, but I think most point-and-shoot digital cameras shoot video in this format as well. – Ryan Apr 7 '10 at 7:06
you can edit your post to add missing information. use the gray "edit" link between the post and these comments. – quack quixote Apr 7 '10 at 7:20

Nope. But you can distribute Theora installers for OS X and Windows for it to work with their default media player.

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MPEG2 coded videos should work on any system that can play movie-DVDs.

edit: list of codecs that come bundled with windows ->

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