Free Video Codecs

Video Compression (Coders) and Decoders

Free Video Codecs

Video files distributed either free on the internet or sold through various channels are often encoded and compressed to save space. As such, you may on occasion come across video files that you cannot play in your media / video player. To play them, you will need the appropriate video codec for that particular file. A video codec, or a video coder/decoder, allows your media player to decode the compressed format and display it on your monitor. The same video codec often also allows you to create your own files in those compressed formats. This may be useful if you are capturing video from your camcorder or TV and don't have a huge hard disk to contain all your home videos. Or, you may wish to archive your DVDs on your own computer in a compressed format for easy viewing.

Most of the video codecs listed are lossy video codecs, which means that when you encode with them, some video information is lost in order to compress the file. This is unlike data compression programs where no data is lost. As such, sometimes compressed videos don't look as sharp as the original, or they contain various video artifacts (like pixelation). Lossless video codecs on the other hand, preserve all the information in the original video file, which means that when you use the same codec to decompress the file, you get an exact copy of the original. Unfortunately, lossless video codecs at this point in time do not compress as well as the lossless ones.

Note that some of the free media players listed on the Free Video / DVD / Media Players page also have built-in facilities to decode numerous formats without the need to install additional codecs.

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Free Video Codecs

FFDShow Video Decoder

FFDShow is a DirectShow decoding filter that, in spite of its name, is able to decode a large variety of video compression schemes. When you install this filter, you will be able to watch shows in any of your video or media playing software whether or not they originally supported that format/codec. It is able to decompress DivX, XviD, DivX 3, H.264, H.263, H263+, FLV 1, WMV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MSMPEG-4v1, MSMPEG-4v2, MJPEG, HuffYUV in YV 12 colour space, and all WMV 9 (whether it is in ASF, WMV or AVI formats). The source code for this program is also available. Note, if you want the latest version under development, you will have to go directly to the Sourceforge download page for FFDShow Tryouts to test the nightly builds.


The XviD codec is an open source codec that handles the same format as the DivX codec. In fact, "XviD" is just "DivX" spelt (or "spelled" in US English) backwards. It is able to compress video files to a very small size yet with high quality.

DivX Video Codec

The DivX codec allows you to view files encoded using DivX and XviD. DivX compresses video files remarkably well — the audio/video is compressed to a very small size yet has high quality.

Ogg Theora

Ogg Theora is a free and open video compression format. It's target audience are those who need low bitrate compression schemes. There are implementations available for a wide variety of operating systems, and it is already integrated into many video players.


Apple's QuickTime is available for both Mac OS X and Windows. It handles highly compressed files in its own proprietary format and is sometimes used by movie companies to release trailers and the like.

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