I've been using and mentioning GSpot
lately. The latest version 2.70a, released in
February, runs on Vista in addition to XP, started
to support WMV and MOV files, and extended its MP4 support
GSpot is the best general purpose tool to:
- see what codecs are on your computer
- tell you which of them are capable of making or
playing a media type
- check a multimedia file (video, audio, image) for properties, including
the codecs it was made with
The checking doesn't stop with providing properties or a list. The
utility includes a built-in mini player that shows the results of using the
On the other hand, it's bitten off a lot and needs to chew on things a bit
more before it's a comfortable and usable tool for most. I'm still
scratching my head trying to understand most of what it tells me.
I'm an experienced user and hacker, but not a programmer. I
understand the basic concepts of file compression and can move files
around from one software app to another to achieve something. But I have a
long way to go to understand such things as fourcc code, and now
there's the ftyp code for MP4 files.
... from the GSpot website...
is a four letter code (sometime including blanks) that is used to identify
the "type" of encoding used, the "compatibility", or the "intended usage"
of a media file. It only pertains to MP4 or newer QuickTime (.mov)
container file formats. It is somewhat analogous to the so-called
fourcc code, used for a similar purpose for media embedded in the
AVI container format.
The four letter code "ftyp" itself is the
atom type (in QuickTime terminology) or box type (in MP4
terminology). An atom/box with this label contains data comprised of
certain identifier(s). The table created for this website is an attempt to
compile a list of all such identifiers one might
are many sites with comprehensive lists of AVI fourcc codes, I have found
no satisfactory listing of ftyp codes. Because I needed such a list to
improve the MP4 support of my GSpot application, I compiled a list myself from websites,
specifications, samples, and helpful information from other contributors.
The original and main intent of compiling the data was (and still is) to
incorporate into GSpot's external database file. But while I was at it, I
decided to create this webpage as well, since there really does seem to be
a need for one.
Yes, the subject of codecs gets more complex as time goes
by, increasing the need for a tool such as GSpot. I appreciate very much
his pulling together all this info about codecs and filters, and providing GSpot
as a free to use utility.
For this newsletter, I'll skim over what GSpot provides.
Before getting into details, here's...
... a couple notes...
With over 100 videos on YouTube, my most viewed
one is a 2-1/2 minute Father-Daughter Dance at
a traditional wedding. It's not far out, not wild, not R-rated...
just a classic wedding dance which lately is being viewed about
18 times a day.
It has no star rating and no comments... just views. I
can only assume the clip is helpful to some movie
makers working on editing their wedding videos.
I mentioned my first 3 software reviews on VoxBuy.com last
week... this week the site moved into its official alpha stage with the URL
has a bit to pull together yet before it's ready for prime time, but it'll
.... back to the main
... is developing nicely. I'll go over
it's main features, starting with...
checking a multimedia file's (video, audio,
This feature is the one of most help to
me... checking a file to see if it will play OK on the computer being
used, and getting clues about why a source file isn't importing or
working in a project.
I selected 6 assorted video clips, opened them
in GSpot, took screen shots, and annotated them to point out some
of the things I look at when assessing a file.
WMV Photo Story 3 - standard
If I hadn't made it myself with Photo Story 3, I'd
have a hard time determining what the file was from this info. The WVP2
video codec isn't in the list of installed codecs and filters, and
it's codec status is undetermined to GSpot. As the opening paragraph says,
this version of GSpot has only begun to support WMV files.
I found WVP2 as a line item in
GSpot's list of media types found in the registry, a feature I only
use when writing a newsletter.
WMV movie from MM2.1 - widescreen
This one's a bit easier. The WMV3 file format is in
GSpot's list of all codecs and filters. The clues all point to it being a
Windows Media Video file.
As for the Photo Story, the codec status isn't
determined yet. But what info is provided is accurate.
MPEG2 file... this
one a SVCD (Super VCD) made by TMPGEnc... 480x480
Note the metadata telling
you the software app and version I used to make the file... and the
info at the lower right includes the SVCD label being bold... versus the
other choices of VCD or DVD labels.
Important to converting MPEG
files is understanding the audio stream. In this file, it's an MPEG-1 layer 2
AVI - Motion JPEG file from a
Canon Hard Drive TX-1 Camcorder- widescreen High Definition
This is an interesting one as it's an AVI file
compressed with a motion jpeg codec, and it's high definition. I got
into it to help someone wrestling with getting clips into Movie
Maker from a new Canon TX-1 camcorder. He didn't have the codec, and I did. What
was impossible for him was easy for me.
I used MM2.1 as the conversion utility, saving
it using a custom profile to preserve the 1280x720 size. He sent
an AVI file and I returned a WMV.
DV-AVI type I
standard aspect ratio... made by MM2.1
This file is a full hour tape from my
mini-DV camcorder, captured using MM2.1.
The audio codec info isn't shown, as
the type I DV file type doesn't have the second audio stream like the type
II DV-AVI has. You know the audio is there because you can hear it... it's just
wrapped up with the video track so the properties are not picked up by
DV-AVI type II... made by
VirtualDub compressing it with the Panasonic DV Codec
The audio info of GSpot is a good clue that
it's a type II DV-AVI file... the 2nd line of info in the Container area is an
even better clue.
The metadata includes the software and version
used to make the file.
the next major feature of GSpot is to...
check your computer to see what codecs it
My older HP laptop is a high end system with the Media
Center Edition of XP on it... it has collected lots of codecs as
software was added over time.
When GSpot opens, it routinely checks the codecs and says
'Ready' when it's time to start using it. It says my XP system has 447
new Toshiba laptop is a low end system with the Home Basic version of Vista on
it, not used long enough to have collected as many codecs. When
GSpot is ready, it says there are 169 video codecs loaded.
Many codecs come pre-loaded on a computer. Others come and go
with associated software... I don't try to keep tabs of them. I only dig into
them when I try to open a file and find I don't have a needed codec, or my
software or system is crashing because of codec issues....
The list of all codecs and filters is first sorted by 'Type'...
all of the codecs listed being first classified into one of five types.
I'll skip over the first 4 types and spend more time on the last one.
A handful of ACM line items all point to
ID's of msacm.xxxxx... in the quartz.dll file, the Microsoft Audio Compression
Manager. There are 15 of them on my XP and 8 on Vista.
DMO type... input uncompressed media
data and the DMO delivers compressed media data. 10 of them are on
my XP and Vista systems, and they all point to the qasf.dll library
Most of the listed items fall into the DSH
(Direct Show) type. They include the audio
codecs, the families of those for MPEG videos, Real
files, Divx and Xvid, Motion JPEG.
The REND type accounts for 33 on my
XP and 15 on Vista. They all have something to do with things
like rendering, outputting, muxing, or synthesizing... geekie
words for making things. Of note, the Midi output device and wave table
synthesizer are in this group.
The last type is VFW (Video for
Windows), with 23 on my XP system and 5 on Vista. Let's look at
the lists of items.
The list reminds me of what I see when using VirtualDub or
TMPGEnc to work on or do a conversion to an AVI file.
The list at the left shows the VFW types listed by GSpot
on my XP laptop.
The list at the right shows the video compression choices
in the picklist of VirtualDub. It's the same list.
The VFW files include AVI and WMV, files we are familiar
with and maybe most comfortable with when doing video editing.
The VFW type stands out as the one with the largest difference
in the number of items on my XP and Vista systems. The list above
was on the XP... the short list at the right is the five of them
on the Vista system.
I checked the five VFW codecs on the Vista laptop by
opening the high-def (1280x720) Motion JPEG AVI file from the
Canon TX1 hard drive camcorder, using VirtualDub. I rendered
it to new files using each of the codecs.
The Cinepak codec worked fine and took its usual long
time, as it has to do lots of compressing
Intel 1420 IYUV did it in a few seconds... and gave a big
Intel IYUV also did it in a few seconds... another big
The Microsoft RLE codec gave an error message about the source
image format not being acceptable
Microsoft Video 1 did it about as quickly as the Intel
codecs, and the file was about as large
To see why VirtualDub returned the error for the Microsoft RLE
codec, I did an online search and found a post that said...
.... the MS RLE codec will only accept 8-bit colormapped
images, and there is absolutely no way to create such a sequence with
Maybe not, so I added
VirtualDub's greyscale filter to rip the color from the clip, and
the codec worked fine. I ended up with a nice looking black and white
video. It also saved the new file very quickly.
I couldn't resist taking a look at the VFW filter type list
on my desktop Vista Ultimate system... it has a few more than the laptop
with Home Basic.
I usually add the Panasonic DV codec, and surprised I didn't
already put it on the new laptop. The others seem to be from installing the
Dazzle80 video capture device driver to test it under Vista.
On to another feature of GSpot...
what media types are listed in the
I'm not advanced enough in the subject of codecs to get much out
of this info. Maybe someday!!!
All I can say is that you get to this list via System > List
Maybe there's something more in the info you get by
right-clicking on one... let's check the WMV3 one.
The options to list all filters accepting or producing this
format are long, and still not of any practical value to me, but we'll take
a look at what's in such lists.
which of your codecs are capable of making
or playing a media type?
With that right click on the above list... using WMV3 as the
line item... you get a list of the filters that accept the item as an
input, or those that produce it as an output.
Good info for programmers, but beyond the needs of most
That finishes the run-though of the main features of
I didn't do was run any of the dynamic checks that GSpot offers as
it tests the Microsoft and non-Microsoft options to play a file,
viewing it in its little embedded media player.
Closing... and What's Next?
conclusion. More codecs will go into my system over the upcoming months and
years... and GSpot info will be more complete for lots of file
have the flood of new MP4 codecs and 'ftyp' type codecs and filters to
Have a great week and enjoy your summer fun
and video work...