Sometimes, when we try to play videos or songs on a computer or mobile device, the corresponding software informs us that we have a codec problem, usually consisting of the lack of the appropriate codec installed to play the content.
But what is this about codecs, which bothers us so much and causes us inconvenience? By definition, a codec is
a piece of software that can encode a certain signal and / or decode it
To put it in some way, it is an “interpreter” that allows us to understand a series of digital data encoded in a certain way.
And why are they so necessary? Because
digital audio and video information takes up a lot of space when it is treated “raw”, so compression mechanisms are needed to reduce the size of the files to be manipulated
Codecs are simple mathematical algorithms whose function is to save a part of the information, playing, for example, with areas of similar colors in the frames of a movie, or by cutting certain frequencies imperceptible to the human ear in an audio.
There are lossless codecs, although the file size they leave is quite large. We also find fairly balanced codecs, which reduce the size of the files sufficiently to be manageable, and whose loss of quality is virtually imperceptible.
In a movie, we can use a codec for video, and a different one for audio
And we both have to save them, along with some kind of signal or functionality that allows us to synchronize them, in the same file , with a file format of the so-called “containers”.
A codec is not a specific program, but the idea to handle them is that they are more like a driver that we install in the system and, from that moment, all programs may be able to work with the files encoded by that codec .
However, this is not always the case, and many times the support for codecs is embedded in the same programs that allow the reproduction of audiovisual content, without being shared through the rest of programs that perform the same task and are installed in the computer.
Photos: Fotolia - Avanne Troar / profit_