Video Players, Containers, Codecs, how many times have we heard these terms in the field of content audio or video?

In this little tutorial we will try to shed some light on them

A Video Player is a software application or hardware device that plays video files. We can imagine a Video Player as an “expert chef ” working in the kitchen. The “container” is similar to a recipe book that contains various recipes for different dishes (the video and audio data). Each recipe has its specific ingredients and preparation steps, which are like “codecs”. The “expert chef” knows how to read each recipe and prepare each dish using the right ingredients and techniques (decompressing the data). In the end, the finished dish (the played video and audio) is served for you to enjoy (watch and listen). This can be a credible metaphor for how a Video Player actually works “behind the scenes” as the user watches or listens to his or her favorite content.

Colored audio trace codecs

Using the same examples, let us analyze in simple terms the difference between Container, Audio Codec and Video Codec.

Container: is like the recipe book in the chef’s kitchen. This book may contain several recipes for various dishes, including appetizers, main dishes, and desserts. In a video context, the container is the file itself which contains both video and audio tracks, and possibly other things like subtitles.

Video Codec: This is like the specific recipe for a main dish in the recipe book. The recipe tells you what ingredients you need and how to prepare them to create the dish. Similarly, the video codec is the method used to compress and decompress the video track within the container. It determines how the video data is stored so that it takes up as little space as possible, but can also be decompressed to be viewed.

Audio Codec: It is like the recipe for a dessert or appetizer in the recipe book. As with the main dish, the dessert recipe specifies what ingredients are needed and how they should be prepared. In the world of video, the audio codec is the method of compressing and decompressing the audio track included in the container. It determines how efficiently the sound is stored and how it can be played back in clearly.

Getting more into the technical, what correlation do we then have between Video Player, Container and Codecs?

First of all, Compatibility. A Video Player must be compatible with various types of containers and codecs to be truly useful. Some more advanced players can download additional codecs if necessary, with others it is necessary to use third-party software (K-Lite Codec Pack is a clear example).

Secondarily, but no less important, is Efficiency. The quality of reproduction can depend on the efficiency of the codecs used. More modern codecs may provide better quality with smaller file sizes, but may require more processing power for decompression.

Also important is the level of Functionality present in the Video Player we choose. Some containers have special features such as support for multiple audio tracks or subtitles. The Video Player must be able to handle these features to take full advantage of the container’s capabilities.

In the digital age in which we live, understanding these concepts is not only useful, but almost indispensable for anyone who frequently interacts with audio and video content or makes it a profession. So the next time you click “play” on a video, you will have a new appreciation for all the “behind-the-scenes” work that makes your multimedia experience possible.


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