Sunday, September 19, 2004

How do I play the movie clips I find online?

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Because the Real Media format (files with an .rm or .ram extension) offers such a favourable compression ratio you will find that the majority of web movie clips are encoded in this way. To play them I'd recommend using the alternative Real Player rather than the official, bloated, spamware tool.

One thing you should know before jumping in with both feet is that the quality of the Real Media format is nowhere near as good as most of the competing formats or your TV. It is this diminution of quality that enables the files to be so small, and therefore convenient to download. The same files encoded using the mpg or avi codec could be up to ten times the size, so at least this is some consolation.

Pay close attention to the file sizes of these clips before downloading them. If they are very small you can expect the video to be played back in a microscopic window (at a 'low resolution' if you want to get technical). Often these will be completely unwatchable so are best avoided.

In my experience I've found that an acceptable file size/resolution trade off comes at about 200 megabytes per hour of video. In this scenario, the video would still be played back in quite a small window, but could be expanded without reducing the picture quality too significantly.

Only attempt to 'stream' (watch as you download) large movie clips if you have a fast internet connection - 56k just won't cut it. Dial-up users should instead download the whole thing first and watch it later. In any case, this will ensure your viewing pleasure isn't interrupted due to server congestion or downtime etc, and also you get to keep the file forever so you can watch it as many times as you like.


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