What digital video format is best for the technologically impaired?
August 11, 2009 5:09 AM   Subscribe

I am pre-loading some flash drives with promotional material to give away to students. I want to put three videos on the drives, and I want them to be immediately viewable by anyone, regardless of their level of technical ability. What's the best format?

.avi? .mov? .mp4? other?

And if I'm working on a Mac, what's your best recommendation for a piece of software to convert the videos?
posted by latentflip to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe html with embedded Flash?
posted by box at 5:14 AM on August 11, 2009

Flash will require the Flash player.

MPEG format (.mpg) is generally one of the easiest to use on any platform - anything else requires a player.

You could include the player as well, so if you wanted to use mp4, you could include the latest Quicktime installers.

On the Mac, VisualHub or Handbrake should be able to convert them for you.
posted by GJSchaller at 5:39 AM on August 11, 2009

Yeah, mpg will play anywhere, on pretty much anything.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:41 AM on August 11, 2009

I haven't tried it, but Wimpy looks like a possibility if you need a cross-platform (Mac and PC) standalone player for .flv videos)
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:58 AM on August 11, 2009

An executable would be the best. It doesn't require any outside software.
posted by JJ86 at 6:02 AM on August 11, 2009

It seems like pretty much any computer will play either an .mpg or a .mov when you double-click on the file name, no?
posted by nosila at 6:49 AM on August 11, 2009

Mpeg-1, by far, play on any computer, any technology.

Everything else has headaches/platform specific.

VLC player (there's a portable app version, no install necessary) works - just put the portable app mac + PC version on the same flash drive. There may be a newer mac version, but that one should work for most uses.

Now, once armed with that, you can pretty much put anything you want - Avi (divx or xvid), WMV, flash, MOV, h264...

The only limit is the playback speed of the host system.

I think you mean conversion software that doesn't cost money - Visual Hub was a $35 app that did most of this - it's discontinued, but here's the open source project
posted by filmgeek at 7:19 AM on August 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Cheers, this is very helpful.
posted by latentflip at 7:26 AM on August 11, 2009

odinsdream said: JJ86: An executable is platform-specific.

An .exe is platform specific. I was being generic but it is always better to have a stand-alone executable file whether it for linux, chrome, the mac, or a windows box, that can play without needing additional software than flash, mpegs, etc in which a person of limited technical abilities may have problems with. Some people may not have the most recent flash, for example which will confound them when trying to view the file.
posted by JJ86 at 8:46 AM on August 11, 2009

either an .mpg or a .mov when you double-click on the file name, no?

MPG may well be close to universal, but MOV emphatically is not. There are a lot of PC users (like me) who have had a totally miserable experience with Quicktime and now refuse to have it on their computers.

I'd as soon install one of the Real packages than to install Quicktime, quite frankly.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:37 AM on August 11, 2009

filmgeek's got it - there's nothing that's guaranteed to play on every version of every common OS on every platform you're likely to encounter, but MPEG-1 video with MP2 or PCM audio in an .MPG container comes closest.

See also this related AskMe. Ignore the PDF-specific bits, the basic problem is the same.

Software? FfmpegX.
posted by Pinback at 5:44 PM on August 11, 2009

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