[Theora] mpeg4/xvid/divx vs. theora

Pat Mahoney pat at polycrystal.org
Thu Jun 1 18:00:36 PDT 2006

On Thu, Jun 01, 2006 at 02:49:20PM +0200, Thomas Kuglitsch wrote:
> why is there no greater usage of [the Theora] codec?

I semi-participate in a community of young (12-16 I'd guess, with plenty
of adults as well) stop-motion animators.  It's not in the same class as
a big website with trailers, but my ramblings on Theora follow:

I recently compiled some data on what formats are used most by the
community. About 70% of films are released in either Real or WMV. DivX
and QuickTime split most of the remainder.  (many films are released in
multiple formats.)  Back in 2001, MPEG (I assume MPEG-1, but my source
data is not clear on this) claimed 20% (though data is sparse this far
in the past), but its use has since dropped to under 10%.


In my mentions of Theora, I'd get the feeling that most people just
don't care. The only feature Theora has that other codecs lack is its
free nature, and no one seems to care too much about that.  I find it
very difficult to explain, particularly in the face of open-but-patented
standards such as all things MPEG-4.  Those that do care about more than
convenience seem concerned about two things: file size and
cross-platform availability.  For file size, XviD seems well respected,
but the statistics show otherwise (it's lumped in with DivX by the way).
Real appears to be the current favorite. The new QuickTime supports
H.264 which people also seem to like; time will tell.  For
cross-platform availability, MPEG-1 is not popular, and Real is often
assumed to be cross-platform; RealPlayer is even available on Linux.  I
assume most of the WMV films are a decision based on convenience, but I
am just speculating.

Theora currently lacks wide software support; it takes a (smaller and
smaller thankfully) amount of work to get things going:

Playback of Theora on Windows is easily accomplished by a number of
means; the one I recommend is illi's DirectShow filters.  Playback is
not so easy on Macintosh; as I understand it VLC is the best option
(though I see Xiph's QuickTime Components has preliminary Theora
playback support).

Encoding Theora on Windows is currently a non-trivial task.  I recently
conducted a survey of Windows software that can do this:

GraphEdit + illi's DirectShow filters works well, but is not quite
user-friendly, and installing GraphEdit requires the Platform SDK, a
substantial download. FreeAnime is very simple and non-professional
looking frontend to ffmpeg2theora and my current recommendation.  I had
no luck with RealProducer with the Xiph Helix plugins; not sure if that
is supposed to work or not.

I know much less about Macs but don't know of any encoder off the top of
my head other than commandline ffmpeg2theora.

Pat Mahoney	<pat at polycrystal.org>

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