Using CODECs and Viewing Video Files

When audio or video is saved it generally is encoded in order to save space. There are a number of different encoding systems, even among the various standards that exist. If you obtain an audio or video stream you must have the proper instructions for your player in order to decode the compressed stream and get as close to the original as you can back to play. These instructions are generally called a CODEC and error messages involving them usually appear as a string of numbers often starting with the letter "C". If you don't know the CODEC you'll need a utility to analyze the stream and try to determine which CODEC will properly play it. That's where GSpot comes in.

GSpot is a utility that provides information about over 719 video and 245 audio compression formats including MPEG1 or MPEG2 video and/or MPEG1 or MPEG2 audio either as "elementary" streams or multiplexed into an MPEG1 "system stream" or an MPEG2 "program stream". This includes hybrid variations (e.g. "MPEG2 video multiplexed with MPEG1 audio using MPEG1 system stream"), as these are not uncommon.

Get GSpot from...

The folks at do not collect CODECs for download but once you know what you need you can use Google to search for the one you need. Copies of various CODECs are all over the Web.

Also, this site specializes in CODECs:

Note: In late 2006 some Web sites started to install keyboard loggers and ad-serving software into CODEC installer files so be careful when you download and install a CODEC. Scan it using anti-virus software before running the installer. If you don't have any submit the file to VirusTotal and see what it says about it.

Viewing Video Files

There are a number of specific video formats and solutions. Each of these works for the specific format(s) involved. But, is there a general viewer? Yes.

  • The open source program VideoLAN is a free viewer for various streaming video formats and has the benefit of being cross platform. Take a look at
  • Another program supported on multiple operating systems would potentially be MPlayer: However, if you are looking for a single program then the VideoLAN viewer would be your choice as it supports more formats and is more widely distributed and supported.

Viewing Movies on the Sony PSP

The PSP can play MPEG-4 movies if saved to special locations in a special MPEG-4 format. Here's a summary of how to proceed (you'll need a USB A to mini-B cable and a Memory Stick; 512MB should do for a 90-minute movie).

1) Obtain and install the program 3GP Converter as a free solution or purchase Sony's Image Converter 2 program if you feel more comfortable with that solution (the 3GP Converter link is a Japanese site; scroll down to the file).

2) Select for output from 3GP Converter "Customized: MP4 for PSP".

3) Drag and drop video files onto the 3GP Converter window and they will be saved on your PC. The files will have strange names -- do NOT rename the files.

4) Connect the PSP via USB. Navigate to USB Connection option under Settings and, once activated, you should see a folder representing the Memory Stick on your PC.

5) On the Memory Stick create a folder named MP_ROOT and under it another folder called 100MNV01. Copy the files from 3GP Converter (less the .THM files which you don't need) to that folder.

6) Your movies should now show up on the PSP when you navigate to Video and Memory Stick.

[Thanks to Peter Svensson from Associate Press in an article published in the Santa Maria Times 4/11/2005 for the instructions summarized above.]

Capturing Streaming Video

Normally you can't capture a streaming video file however if you use this site... may be able to capture the file.

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