DivX the Most Playable Format

A while ago, I spent a bit of time trying to figure out what codec I should use to encode videos that I was creating of my son and the random other stuff I’d been capturing with my digital camera.  It came down to DivX, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Windows Media Video (WMV), or QuickTime

The AVI files that my camera generates are MJPEG which the 360 can’t handle, so I can’t even preview videos until I do some work on them to convert them (which I would want to do anyway, to edit and combine the clips into something interesting to watch). 

The main criteria were:

  • It has to be good quality at a reasonable bitrate.
  • I have to be able to play it on the Xbox 360.
  • It has to be reasonably future proof.

That second requirement makes things difficult since it ruled out a few good formats that fit the third, more important criteria.  I need to feel confident that I can view these videos in 20 years, and frankly I don’t know that I trust that to any of the proprietary codecs (which rules out WMV, and maybe QuickTime).

MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 aren’t going anywhere, since they’re part of the various DVD and HD-DVD formats, but MPEG-2 isn’t all that efficient, and until a couple of dashboard updates ago you couldn’t stream MPEG-4 to the 360.

DivX didn’t used to be supported on the 360, but with the Fall 2007 Dashboard Update, the 360 supports DivX playback.  It’s suddenly become the format to go with.

There are some quirks – I can’t leave the files named *.divx because the Xbox 360 dashboard won’t see them shared from Windows Home Server under that extension – but I can take a DivX file and play it directly on the Mac, PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.

So my planned workflow is to use Premiere Pro on the Mac to edit files and then encode them to DivX and rename them to *.avi so the Xbox will see them.  (A DivX file still uses an AVI container, so this works, but makes it harder to distinguish the processed clips from the unprocessed MJPEG ones, since they’ll have the same extension).

So, what happened that made both Microsoft and Sony support DivX?  It seems out of character for both of them to suddenly support a codec that they don’t control, and that is commonly used for pirated movie downloads.  I’m not complaining, of course.  Just curious. 

(Can’t post about video editing without a link to a video.. here’s one:  Walking is Hard).