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Is one of the defining characteristics of any computer media file that it has a total play length tag embedded somewhere in its encoding? And if so, one that can be read by any machine?

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It depends on the format. Some formats include a record for this (possibly at the beginning or at the end of the file). Which format(s) are you interested in?

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Thank you for replying, Randolph. The formats are .ts, .mpg, .mov, .mp4, and .vob. –  user33666 Mar 1 '11 at 14:51
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