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Say I use VirtualDub to combine a bunch of video clips from my digicam and re-encode to AVI using a high-compression codec like H.264/x.264. I am sure it will play fine on the PC where I do the encoding because it has the codec installed. But when I email/upload/etc the AVI file to someplace else, would it just play or would the recipient need to have that codec installed on their computer?

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3 Answers

AVI is only a container format. The recipient definitely needs to have the codec installed on their computer. H.264 is supported on all modern Apple computers out-of-the box. Windows 7 supports it too without external codecs, Windows XP doesn't, I have no idea what Vista can or cannot do, and Linux doesn't (except maybe some multimedia-oriented distros like Mint).

So if you are going with a modern format like H.264, you can easily pick a modern container too, like Matroska (.mkv). Don't worry that if you get a new computer it won't play, because installation of codecs is easy and most people do it, just because there is so much video material floating around. You should only worry about the compatibility if the recipient is an old lady afraid to let you install third-party software on her PC, or somebody on a company machine where it is against corporate rules to install a codec. But then, you'd need some very old codec for compression (I don't know if divX is supported on Windows XP without codecs, maybe you'll have to go back to MPEG-2) and there still isn't a codec which is supported by both Linux and Windows out-of-the-box.

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Thanks! The reason I am considering VirtualDub is that it is the only tool I found that lets me easily combine AVI file even automatically if there are multiple sequentially named files. Are there any other tools that do this? Since VirtualDub only works with VFW codecs, I am considering using the x.264 codec mentioned on videohelp.com/tools/x264_Encoder specifically sourceforge.net/projects/x264vfw Thoughts? –  VANJ Jul 26 '10 at 17:39
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AVI is a container format, meaning that it can contain one or more video and audio streams. H.264 video streams are usually embedded into .MP4 (MPEG-4 container format) or .MKV (Matroska container) containers since they are newer formats and provide more functionality.

Windows includes support to open AVI containers to split out the audio and video, but the user still must have the proper codec to decode the audio and video streams. If the video is put into a .MP4 or .MKV container then the user must also have a program installed capable of recognizing the container and splitting out the audio/video/subtitle streams.

Handbrake is a great program for converting videos into H.264 video with AAC audio into .MP4 or .MKV files. If you are going to give those out, you should recommend to people receiving them that they install a compatible video player such as Media Player Classic or VLC.

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It will work with: (Source)

  • OGMRip
  • Avidemux
  • ffdshow
  • FFmpeg
  • MEncoder
  • VLC media player
  • MPlayer
  • VirtualDub Linphone
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