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Codec Hell

April 4, 2007

Steve Makofsky correctly points out in the comments below (and on his blog) that the plethora of codecs makes life difficult for those of us who try to keep a central stash of media played on multiple devices.

I’m not quite sure how a keeping everything on an iPod would solve that problem (Although maybe he’s just saying if he could plug an iPod into any device we would standardize around those codecs.). But the larger point that the plethora of codecs in existence is a royal pain is certainly true.

In my case, the formats I store media in has been driven by what my networked devices will play and my choices of networked devices have been limited by what types of files already exist in my library. For example:

  • My extensive collection of music ripped in WMA means that I need audio players that support that format– and is an additional reason I have never purchased an iPod.
  • Before I started listening to podcasts while commuting I seldom listened to music on my smartphones because high bitrate rips were too inconvenient to rip, and memory cards were too expensive.
  • I have not ripped but a handful of DVDs because the Xbox 360 won’t natively play VOB files. Those that I have ripped for use in MyMovies have either been converted to MPEG2 using VideoRedo or played and transcoded concurrently using Transcode 360.
  • My photos are all organized in J River Media Center which (in addition to its library) uses a form of embedded XML in JPEGs that no one else seems to use. If I want to convert everything to be used in the XML used by the new Vista Media Center (and Adobe Photoshop Elements) I’m going to have a major project on my hands.

At least all my media is stored locally, I suspect having it only accessible via certain web applications and their APIs would add yet another layer of complexity.

Tangentially related to this topic, I’ve come across, which will do video transcoding for you. I believe you can even give it an RSS feed URL and get transcoded videos from another Heywatch RSS feed. One of these days I want to try using this as an alternative to Transcode360 to allow me to watch a variety of QuickTime encoded video podcasts.


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