By: Geetesh Bajaj
Last Updated: February 23rd 2009
We all know that audio and video files can be huge in terms of size - there has always been a need for some technology that could squeeze the size of such files without deteriorating the quality. This entails both coding and decoding - let's look at this example:
I just recorded a two minute sound using my microphone - it's size leaves a lot to be desired - so I use a coding algorithm to reduce its size. Later, when I want to play it back, I used a similar decoding algorithm. Now, what I am essentially doing is coding and decoding - in other words I am using a 'codec' - this is actually an abbreviation for coder/decoder.
You can use codecs for sound (audio) and video (includes animation) - video codecs are more well known than their sound counterparts, since the compression attained in video is more dramatic than sound.
Nevertheless, sound codecs are significant too - in the Internet age, it is important to achieve reduction in every byte.
There are efficient and inefficient codecs - and new codecs are created on a regular basis.
To decide which codec is best for you, look into some important factors before arriving at a decision. If you are using the resultant sound file for your own personal use, you could tryout any codec installed in your system. To view the codecs installed on your machine, go to the Multimedia option in Windows Control Panel and choose the Devices tab.
If you are going to distribute the sound file, then you have to consider other implications. Not all codecs are installed on all systems - thankfully, there are a few standard codecs which come pre-installed with operating systems like Windows. These include:
- CCCITT G.711 A-Law and u-Law
- DSP Group TrueSpeech
- Microsoft ADPCM
- Microsoft IMA ADPCM
- Microsoft GSM 6.10
These are the basics which have been included since Windows 95 - other common codecs are 'Indeo Audio' and 'Windows Media Audio'. If you install Windows Media Player (version 7 and above - included with newer Windows versions and available separately as a free download), then you get a great new arsenal of cutting edge codecs like MPEG-4, MP3, WMA, WMV and ASF.
Changing a codec is a simple procedure. If you need to change the codecs in a large number of files, you may consider investing in a specialized option like Awave Studio.
Otherwise, even the basic Sound Recorder (sndrec32.exe) in your Windows folder can do the job perfectly.
You'll need to have Windows Media Player (version 7 and above - included with newer Windows versions and available separately as a free download) installed to use the codecs mentioned on the links listed below.
There is an excellent Codec FAQ available at the abmefaq.net site.
afreeCodec is a codec site that helps you locate missing codecs.
The CodecZone site has downloads and tutorials.
MovieCodec is another codec related site.
DivX Digest discusses codecs among other things.
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