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 (This information is likely to go out of date quickly; future readers, be aware that this was written in December 2008.)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’.
You may think of video files as “AVI files” or “MP4 files.” In reality, “AVI” and “MP4″ are just container formats. Just like a ZIP file can contain any sort of file within it, video container formats only define how to store things within them, not what kinds of data are stored. (It’s a little more complicated than that, because not all video streams are compatible with all container formats, but never mind that for now.) A video file usually contains multiple tracks — a video track (without audio), one or more audio tracks (without video), one or more subtitle/caption tracks, and so forth. Tracks are usually interrelated; an audio track contains markers within it to help synchronize the audio with the video, and a subtitle track contains time codes marking when each phrase should be displayed. Individual tracks can have metadata, such as the aspect ratio of a video track, or the language of an audio or subtitle track. Containers can also have metadata, such as the title of the video itself, cover art for the video, episode numbers (for television shows), and so on. Read more – ‘Mark Pilgrim – A Gentle Introduction to Video Encoding: Container Formats’.