Thursday, January 3, 2008

A cool audio-video library for Linux (ffmpeg)

Happy New Year, folks. It's nice to be back at the keyboard after a hectic week with family. Fun, but hectic.

Recently I was looking to upgrade the movie playback capabilities of my home machine, which currently runs Ubuntu Linux, OpenSolaris, and Windows XP as a guest OS under VMware. Specifically, I was looking to make movies play well on the Ubuntu Linux OS and there are several software packages to help out. The movie player I was using is called "Totem", but there are others.

While I was looking at what software packages to get, I ran across "ffmpeg", which is a nice collection of software for doing the common things you would want to do with continuous media (like movies, as opposed to static media like photos): encode, decode, and transcode (or "convert", as the Wikipedia entry on FFmpeg says).

This is a nicely fleshed-out version of what the Transcode company used to do: take movies in one format, convert them to a different file format, and if you wish, also transcode the content into a different encoding.

There are tons of codecs in the FFmpeg package; if you look at the Wikipedia page, you'll see the mention of something called "FourCC", which is a Microsoft term for specifying the kind of encoding scheme used in a movie. It's a four-alphanumeric word (e.g., "MPEG", "DIVX"), and movie players look at the FourCC near the beginning of a movie file to determine what decoder to use to playback the movie content.

Anyway, check out the package if you're looking for good software for dealing with movie-type media on Linux machines. It's pretty good stuff.

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