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To simplify things,
how will I know when a file is a format, a codec or a wrapper?
1. Video Architecture is the software installed on a computer that allows for playback and editing of video.
Common architectures are Video For Windows (VFW) created by Microsoft which discontinued support in 1998. A few vendors continue to use this. Common are Divx and Xvid. The file extension is .avi.
DirectShow is Microsoft's support for DV. The file extension is also .avi
Windows Media Video= .wmv
MPEG is another architecture with many different file extensions all beginning with "M".
and on and on.
2. Most architectures support many codecs which are the mathematical logarithmic formulas to compress video. DirectShow has 2, and the others have many.
3. A wrapper or header file is the data that describes the architecture and what codec is used in any video file. The player or editing software reads this info.
If you are serious about shooting video and editing, get a camera that uses Mini-DV tape.
SD Mini-DV camcorders record raw data to the tape...with no header. When the video data is transfered to the computer, the editing software assign the architecture and codec. Premiere does DirectShow type 2 on a PC.
Also many High Definition (HDV) cameras use mini-dv tapes and write video data to the tape. Sony cams write Mpeg raw data which when captured to the computer, Premiere will add the .m2t file extension.
Keeping it simple, the codec is the algorithm used to compress the video, like DivX, H.264, DV, etc.
The wrapper is the type of file it's in, like .MOV or AVI or VOB. Not all media files have a wrapper, like MPEG. A file with an .mpeg extension needs to use some varation of the MPEG codec, or it won't play. Whereas video compressed with DV can have the .dv, .avi or .mov wrapper and work perfectly fine.
The format refers to the original source media, like DV or HDV or NTSC or PAL, etc.