I’m convinced that the number of audio and video formats avaiilable for a Mac or PC these days is some kind of extra terrrestrial plot to overthrow mankind in waves of frustration.
QuickTime is the player of choice for Macs because it plays nearly every decent audio and video format. DivX finally matures for Mac OS X but is it too little too late?
Personally, I’ve always like DivX. On Windows. Until the latest version, DivX on Mac was something of a step child. Version 6 of the player (and codec, and converter) is worthy of consideration, but will provie itself to be too little and too late.
If you stick with QuickTime you may not know much about DivX. That’s not a bad thing, either.
DivX is a video codec which compresses lengthy video into smaller sizes while retaining relatively high visual quality. Think of it as a nice looking video at much smaller file sizes than is typical for QuickTime. Mostly.
DivX uses lossy MPEG-4 Part 2 compression. For the less geeky among us, that means video can be ripped and saved as smaller files but still look decent on your Mac or Windows PC.
There are some DivX Certified DVD players available, which can play DivX encoded movies, though DivX has never gained the popularity of plain old MPEG 2 on DVDs.
Should you care about DivX? That’s the question. Using DivX 6 you can encode movies that you shot on your video camera to DivX format. The files are MUCH smaller than the DV files created by your camera or stored as iMovie projects.
The DivX file sizes are sufficiently small that you can get some TV shows, movies, etc., to fit on a CD, instead of a DVD. Quality is still decent, and perfect for a collection, or toting around with an iBook or PowerBook that still has a small hard drive.
DivX 6 for the Mac has a number of very Mac-like features that help you convert movies to DivX, or watch movies created in DivX on your Mac.
Simply drag and drop your video to DivX and convert. It’s simple, easy, relatively fast, and creates quality movies and videos in much smaller file sizes.
Even better is the ‘batch encode’ capability where you can encode three, four, or five movies to DivX and sleep through the night while your Mac chugs away, converting bit after bit to the smaller size.
Customizing file sizes and encoding settings is also available on Divx 6, so you can vary the quality of video playback according to your needs.
Nothing wrong with any of that, right? For 19.99 you get something that even QuickTime Pro won’t give you. Even better, DivX works on older Macs quite well; down to 500mhz Macs running Panther or Tiger, and QuickTime 6.0 (or 7.x).
DivX codec plugs into QuickTime (6 or 7) and lets you play back earlier versions of DivX movies, too. The Mac version of DivX stills gets the short end of the stick as the Windows version gets advanced features like menus and subtitles.
Sounds good, right? That’s where the fun ends. Why? DivX, like Ogg Vorbis for audio, will remain a niche format.
iPod with video is creating a new size format for portability. The key to this is ‘seamless’ end-to-end functionality.
For example, to download a music video or TV show (soon, movies) or video Podcast from the iTunes Music Store is simply a ‘click click’ process. The download begins, and the resulting video shows up automatically in iTunes.
Once the video is in iTunes, it automagically get’s synchronized with your iPod, Mac or PC. That’s the wonderful ‘ecosystem’ that Steve Jobs talks about.
To deal with the DivX file, you’ll have to get your movie in whatever native format it’s in, drag and drop to the DivX application on your Mac. Once it’s converted, import it into iTunes.
That’s too many steps, takes too much time, and most Mac (and Windows) users won’t bother. Seamless content is king.
Future Macs are likely to have a few proprietary chips onboard that convert formats on the fly, including resource intensive High Definition, and so so very fast; especially when compared to today’s conversion tools.
If you need DivX and the small file sizes, it’s well worth $20. I predict that next year, fewer Mac users (Windows, too) will be using DivX. Why?
Apple wants to wrap up the ‘standard’ for the living room, and I’m betting it’ll be the same standard that’s already inside each new iPod. HD. 320×240 pixels.
For now, converting video to the iPod’s 320×240 pixel format takes longer than real-time, even on a dual CPU PowerMac. What a pain.
Look for an Apple DVR (digital video recorder) in the Mac mini form factor but sporting a nifty new chip that converts incoming video to the same format used on the new iPods.
Tera Jean Patricks
You’ve secured a comfortable place out there on that limb, huh? We’ll know in a month.
Jack D. Miller
I don’t know anyone, anywhere, Mac or PC that uses DivX and I’ve never seen a DVD player for under $100 that could handle playback.
I tried converting some TV shows from Elgato’s EyeTV to the new iPod video format? It took freakin’ forever. If you’re right, Apple gets us to buy more hardware.