What's the deal with these different movie formats ?
 I think family movies on the internet are a great medium for communication. The concept is still pretty new so many folks are intimidated by loading the software to view them... the whole process can appear daunting (but isn't) so let's cover some basics that will hopefully provide some clarification.

I have created internet movies in 3 different formats. Let's say we made a movie called "Gini" (she's a family member who first asked about this - thanks Gini !). Let's say we made the same movie available in 3 different formats... you would be able to tell which format it was made in by the filename extension on the end. So let's talk about how to tell what format a movie is made in and let's talk about what's good and bad about each format. Here are the 3 formats that the movie "Gini" could be available in on my webpage:

1. Gini.mpg - The ".mpg" extension means that the movie "Gini" is available in what's called mpeg format. This is commonly referred to as an MPEG movie. It requires an mpeg viewer to see the movie. The good thing about this format is that usually your computer automatically comes with the software to view it. The bad thing is that mpeg movies are the worst picture quality and the biggest files (size-wise)of the 3 movie types. A big file means it will take longer to download from the web page. The first movies I made were all in mpeg format, they are all toward the top of of the webpage. I don't make movies in this format anymore because the files are too big and the picture quality is poorest. There are now better options... the next two formats.

2. Gini.mov - The ".mov" extension means that the movie "Gini" is available in what's called Quicktime format. This is commonly referred to as a Quicktime movie. They call it Quicktime because that's the name of the software that created the movie. You need to have a "Quicktime Viewer" (it's just software - not any hardware you have to buy) installed in order to view this .mov format. The software is free and is available via the MOV hypertext link at the bottom of my webpage. The good thing about this format is that the movie quality is excellent ! The compromise is that the movie file size is medium... it's about half the size of an mpeg movie, but is twice as big as the 3rd movie format, which we'll cover next. I'll continue to make movies in this format because I like the high quality.

3. Gini.wmv - The ".wmv" extension means that the movie "Gini" is available in what's commonly called WMV format. You need an upgraded version of Windows Media Player (software) in order to view this movie. Your computer came with Windows Media Player installed, but it's not the newest version so it won't play the movie. The newest version is free and is available via the WMV hypertext link at the bottom of my webpage. The good thing about this format is that the file size is very small. The compromise is that the picture quality is not as good as the MOV format, but is MUCH better than the MPEG format. This WMV format is very new and lots of folks and websites are creating movies in this format because the file size is so small and the quality is still pretty good. I'll continue to make movies in this format.

So which do you choose ? You might choose both the MOV and WMV formats. It's ok to have them both installed on your computer. Then you can decide whether it's more important to you to have excellent picture quality (MOV format) or the tiniest file size which will download quickly (WMV format).

If you forget in the future which format is the smallest filesize and which is the best movie quality, just refer to the top of the webpage where, in purple, I reference the differences.

Also note that the hyperlink that you click on to download a movie will say "1.8 megs" or "5.6 megs" or something like that.  The number refers to the size of the file you're downloading.  Smaller file sizes download in less time, while (as you probably guessed) larger sizes take longer to download.  If you have a slow internet connection the WMV format may be your best compromise... the smallest file size but still good picture quality.

Lastly, I'm always glad to get a chance to confuse you more, so feel free to email me with any questions at greg@porter-az.com.

Cheers !