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What are MP4 Files – and What Do They Do?
MP4 is the abbreviation of “MPEG-4”. The official file extension for MPEG-4 is .mp4 – hence the short name MP4.
MPEG-4 technology was developed to deliver DVD quality sound and pictures in an extremely small file format – ideal for playback on portable MP4 players such as the iPod Video.
MP4 is here to stay. Apple itself describes MP4 as “the global multimedia standard, delivering professional-quality audio and video streams over a wide range of bandwidths, from cellphone to broadband and beyond.” You go on to say that “hundreds of researchers around the world have contributed to MPEG-4, which was finalized in 1998 and became an international standard in 2000”.
The BBC confirms that MPEG-4 is used to compress video and is the successor to MPEG-2. They also explain that the version that can turn large video files into a more convenient size has leaked onto the internet thanks to Microsoft. Microsoft developed software to compress and decompress video, which is called a codec. (A codec is a device or program capable of performing encoding and decoding on a digital data stream or signal. The word codec stands for compression/decompression algorithm)
The codec helps the Windows Media Player program handle moving images sent over the web. Other web-based media players like Real Player will also play MP4 file format as long as you download the latest version. You must download the latest MP4 codec to your own digital media player to ensure MP4 file playback compatibility.
However, an MP4 file does not only refer to video content – an MP4 file can also be an audio file. Many people believe that MP4 will be both the standard visual and audio file format of the future.
The iPod video is by far the most popular MP4 player on the market. But iPod doesn’t want us to call it an MP4 player even though it plays MP4 files. Why? Maybe it’s because you could then choose another MP4 player instead!
Another recent top tier MP4 player launch is Microsoft’s Zune player. Surprisingly though, ZDnet.com discovered that at launch, Zune devices only played protected Zune Marketplace files.
This is where Microsoft and Apple are arguably guilty. Both companies have dubious control of certain markets. However, it can give the advantage to the MP4 player consumer. If you take the time to convert your video files to MP4 (for which there is free software), you can play them on your cheaper MP4 player, which probably has more functions than the video iPod. Even if you choose to switch to iPod video in the future, you can still transfer your old MP4 files.
The MP4 file format will be an integral part of the future of web videos and portable media player videos. It is a global multimedia standard that is growing in popularity. It is the file format that best ensures mass acceptance of your own media files on various types of media players.
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