Sunday, May 4, 2008

MP4 Technology

Most people have heard of MP3s, however, there may still be some confusion over MP4 technology, how it’s used and what it does.

MP4 is a shortened name for MPEG-4. Sometimes otherwise known as MPEG-4 AVC, the AVC standing for Advanced Video Coding. As this name suggests, it is a format used for encoding digital video files. It was created in 1998 and is now gaining ever more popularity in the mainstream market. The ‘MPEG’ part of the name is an abbreviation of Motion Pictures Expert Group, who are the body involved in setting industry standards for digital video and audio.

MP4 technology works by compressing the files, making the overall size much smaller, in a similar way to that of MP3 technology, although much more advanced and complex. The introduction of MP3s made music and audio files more accessible to the consumer and MP4s are set to do the same for the video market.

MP4s are made up of several types of media in what is known as a container format. They allow for video, audio, still images and subtitles to be stored together in a single file and have the capability of including advanced content, including menus, user interaction and 3D graphics.

Earlier forms of video files were large, making them difficult to work with, but compression and decompression techniques, known as codecs, used in the MP4 format, decrease the size of the files considerably. These work by removing all unnecessary information from each frame of the video, without losing any of the quality.

MP4s make video much more accessible and files can be downloaded quickly from the internet. The format has streaming capabilities, meaning the video can be viewed as it downloads and doesn’t need to be saved to the hard drive of your computer first.

Playback too is simple, not only can the video be watched in real time as it streams, it can be saved, stored and watched later on a variety of players. Portable MP4 players are one such option as are some DVD players and of course a desktop computer or laptop.

MP3 audio files can also be listened to using an MP4 player as can the older video format MPEG-2. Files associated with MP4s have the extension .mp4 or sometimes .mp4a or .mp4v, the a and v standing for audio and video respectively.

The output of the MP4 format is extremely high quality, as crisp and clear as that of a DVD. Movies can be downloaded quickly via the internet using the high-speed broadband connections currently available, and watched in the comfort of your own home. Movies and clips can be shared easily via email and other formats.

The MP4 technology is widely used by the business sector on the internet. Advertising and product promotion is easily incorporated in short videos on websites. With the ability to integrate future technology, the MPEG-4 format is a valuable addition to the digital age. Whether for fun or as a business tool, MP4 is a versatile format.


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