Working with DivX

DivX has been called “the MP3 of video” and it shares several common features with that popular audio format. Like MP3 (short for MPEG-1 layer 3 or MPEG-2 layer 3), DivX began life as an MPEG format, using MPEG-4 as the base for its development under the trademark of Project Mayo.

Just like the audio-based MP3, the DivX video compression format provides both high quality and low bitrate, a perfect combination for sharing video on the Web. Unfortunately, MP3 and DivX also share a controversial beginning, as the formats are associated with pirated content openly shared on the Internet.

Despite DivX’s shady past — or may­be because of it — a large part of the Web community has embraced the format. It seems inevitable that hardware manufacturers will soon introduce widespread hardware support for the format in DVD players and portable devices, in much the same way that MP3 moved from its perception as an underground format to gain legitimacy.

Why use DivX?

Aside from downloading movies, DivX has some strong features that will appeal to anyone working with video, particularly if they have a CD burner.

DivX video can be a fraction of the size of a standard DVD, even at 640x480 resolutions, making it an ideal home video format. DivX also converts well from AVI, the most common video format on the PC, with a 650MB VideoCD comfortably storing around an hour and a half of video at 640x480.

Creating a DivX

Using the following applications, freely available on the Web, you can quickly and easily convert your existing video to DivX. Before you convert your AVI to DivX, you need:

  • DivX 5.02 (www.divx.com) which allows you to play back your finished DivX video.

  • VirtualDub (www.virtualdub.org), a handy free video capture tool and video editor.

  • The Advanced Bitrate Calculator, which can also be downloaded from www.divx.com, lets you calculate the bitrate needed to burn your movie onto a VideoCD, or, from the bitrate given, to work out how much space is needed.

Then follow these steps:

1. In VirtualDub, open the AVI file you wish to convert (FIGURE 1).

2. Next, select Video-Com­pression. A menu pops up asking you to choose a video compression format (FIGURE 2). Select DivX 5.02 codec and click the Configure button at the bottom right of the menu. Note: If the Compression selection is greyed out and non-selectable for Video, make sure Full processing is selected at the bottom of the Video menu. The same applies to the Audio compression selection later.

3. The DivX 5.02 settings screen pops up, providing you with several choices. To start, we will go with the defaults.

4. To ensure that your video will fit on to a Video CD, open the Advanced Bitrate Calculator (FIGURE 3) and input your preferred parameters and video length. Alter the settings until your DivX video fits your preferred storage media (one CD, two CDs, etc.) and enter the figure into your DivX bitrate setting. If you want to use a lower resolution than 640x480, such as 352x240, you can set a high bitrate setting.

5. Next, prepare the audio in the same way by going to Audio-Compression. The audio compression menu will be displayed and you can select MPEG Layer 3 and select an audio level depending on the quality you want. Click OK to make the selection.

6. Finally, simply go to File-Save As AVI, choose a name for your AVI (remembering where you saved it) and you are done. Note: Some users of VirtualDub may receive the error screen shown in FIGURE 4. The probable cause for this problem is that you use either MediaStudio Pro or VideoStudio, causing a conflict in the codec.

Two solutions to this problem would be to save your video file using your video editing program in a format such as MPEG-2, or to use a third-party codec compatible with both programs such as the DV codec from Main Concept (www.mainconcept.com). I suggest trialling the demo version to see if it solves the problem before purchasing.

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