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Movie Downloads Demystified And The Jargon Busted!

Aug 17, 2007
Haven't movies changed in 100 years? First silent films with a man playing music live, then the 'talkies' and then color movies. Movies have been delivered to us differently over time too, movie theaters, drive in movies, then Multiplexes and then home cinema arrived. Then it got complicated. From Betamax through VHS. From VHS onto DVD. And now digital and HDTV! We all know the story so far - but may find it confusing!

But are you up to date with the latest? Are you new to the Internet and totally bemused by all the jargon? Have you got an ipod or PSP and don't know what to do with it?

Do you know your P2P from your DVD? Do you confuse your MP3 and MPEG-4? Have you got your codecs and plug-ins set up correctly and not exceeded your download quota or bandwidth? What does it all mean and does it matter if all you want to do is watch some movies?

The terms get longer, the speed of change is faster, confusion increases. Whilst I watch a downloaded film on my laptop my uncle needs to help to program his old VHS recorder! This speed of change is opening up a huge gulf between different users and this gap seems to continue to grow.

You can now easily download movies and films to watch when you want, with perfect digital quality. You can even watch them where you want - perhaps download some movies to you ipod or burn films to DVD and watch on any laptop or on the TV as normal.

But to do so it helps to learn the new language and if you are interested in joining in the movie downloading revolution then some basic knowledge of the essential terminology will help.

So where to start? Let's start with something we think we know:

DVD: "Digital Versatile Disc" or "Digital Video Disc" - these discs look like CDs (compact discs) but hold more data and are now used for storing digital movies. A DVD can be used for storing your music and computer files if it is rewriteable. There is no space here to explain the difference between all these permutations - DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R and the rest - that would be a separate article in itself!

So when a movie is downloaded what do you actually download? It is quite simply a computer file - but of course they come in many types! Here are the main bits of movie file jargon that you may come across.

MPEG-4: this is a standard for a file for video and audio, compiled by the "Moving Picture Experts Group" (hence MPEG) and it is their 4th version of the standard. So you can now download movies in MPEG-4 format - but this can take time as the files are so large!

DivX: created by DivXNetworks, this is a file that enables fast movie downloads without losing any picture quality - and DivX is also based on the MPEG4 file standard that we mentioned above.

Codec: although it sounds mysterious, this is a piece of software that enables file COmpression and DECompression to transfer it across the internet.

MP3: short for "MPEG Audio Layer 3" - from MPEG again. This is for digital audio only, it uses a compression method that means smaller file sizes. You lose some information but most people can't hear the reduction in quality. So it's great for music downloading and playing audio on an MP3 player. But this is only for music, not for movies.

P2P: short for peer to peer. This is a method of sharing and downloading billions of movie and music files. Peer-to-peer is simply a form of computer network that does not rely on a server and client, but each computer is connected to several others - great for downloading and sharing home video and audio content between them. Even when files are compressed it can take time and sharing the load amongst several computers is a great way to harness the power of the internet.

So when you've downloaded movie files - how do you watch them?

On Windows PCs these files will usually play without a problem on the standard Windows Media Player, particularly if you have the latest version.

For Macs, QuickTime is both a file format and a player. QuickTime has been around a while. You can download the player from the Apple website and you can run it on a windows PC.

The next step is to get all these movies on your PSP, iPod or Zune - but that's for another article!
About the Author
Andrew Castlewood is content editor at http://www.WhatMovieDownload.com Andrew can provide you with more information about free movie download sites on his website.
(c) 2007 WhatMovieDownload.com
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