I had lunch with my father the other day, and I explained this series as well as I could to someone who didn't start programming when he was 11. His immediate reaction was, "Why are there so many different formats? Why can't everybody just agree on a single format? It is political, or technical, or both?" The short answer is, it's both. The history of video in any medium — and especially since the explosion of amateur digital video — has been marred by a string of companies who wanted to use container formats and video codecs as tools to lock content producers and content consumers into their little fiefdoms. Own the format, own the future. And when I say "history" — well, it's still going on. Read more – ‘Mark Pilgrim – A Gentle Introduction to Video Encoding: Constraints’.
Unless you're going to stick to films made before 1927 or so, you're going to want an audio track. A future article will talk about how to pick the audio codec that's right for you, but for now I just want to introduce the concept and describe the playing field. (This information is likely to go out of date quickly; future readers, be aware that this was written in December 2008.) Read more – ‘Mark Pilgrim – A Gentle Introduction to Video Encoding: Lossy Audio Codecs’.