Culture

Understanding digital video files

CNET's Donald Bell walks you through the basics of how digital video files work, including information on codecs, video containers, and bit rate.

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Once a song is turned into an MP3, you can almost guarantee it will play on your mobile phone, iPod, or computer. But if you're looking for one universal video format that will work with all of your devices, you may as well forget about it.

On the surface, there's nothing about a digital video file that looks any more complicated than an MP3. But anyone who's tried to play a YouTube FLV file in iTunes, or a BitTorrented DivX movie on their Zune, has probably experienced the brain-melting frustration of working with digital video formats.

There are dozens of video conversion applications out there designed to magically convert any given video format for your particular device. But if you really want to understand the root causes that make video files so fickle to work with, I've put together a video and slide show tutorial to shed some light on things.

Have your own digital video nightmare to share? Feel free to vent in the comments section.