Apple Quicktime vs. Theora vs. Xvid

For all you super geeks I need pre-face this with “No this isn’t a benchmark shoot out!”. Sorry. Basically it’s just me expounding on a subject that I have some knowledge of and born of a conversation with a buddy who can’t give me a good reason why he thinks Quicktime sucks. He has his opinion and he is entitled to it. I’ve simply decided to lay my thinking on the subject out on the table.

I like Quicktime. It has a very sharp, even at low res and high compression, image quality. It streams nicely and the associate player/software is very well done. Simple to use and mostly non-invasive(ok some windows startup stuff). It’s free to use for playback and you gotta pay for encoding etc. Most of the non-free stuff is enforced just through the player and not via the codec so there is a free version called Quicktime Alternative that has stripped the codec out and paired it with Media Player Classic for windows as a player and the codec can be used by other players. I also own a Mac personally which comes with Quicktime kind of integrated and it works flawlessly. Quicktime Pro is not all that expensive at like $30 so if you just can’t deal on the free end it isn’t exactly going to break the bank to go Pro. For me this is the way to go. Multi-Platform, sharp, high quality, and free options if need be.

Xvid is the next most popular codec but only because it is free and has been picked up and fostered by the pirate community. It makes video look darn good and compress down small which is ideal for shuttleing around those free’d hollywood films. It doesn’t have a specific player packaged with it and is a stand alone codec. One thing that I’m sure some have managed to make it do but that is not done widely is to make it stream. There is no easy straight forward process to do that. This seems to be it’s biggest downfall. Well, that and it’s user base. Don’t get me wrong I love to catch a flick before it comes out but that isn’t going to make this the first place I go when I need to put some legal media on the internet. I guess the main up side to this is that there are open source implimentations which makes this better for the Linux community to impliment but that doesn’t help the rest of us a whole lot if some one doesnt figure out how to move it in to a more professional easier to use framework.

Last but not least Theora. Theora is the Ogg implimentation for video. To be honest I’m not sure why this doesn’t see more wide spread use. Ogg offers higher quality audio at lower bit rate/compressions and I’ve seen Theora make some small files come out looking great. So what’s the deal? The website has cross platform binaries available and the project is open source. So why is this stuck in a similar situation as Xvid? It suffers from the same short comings as Xvid in that it is not widely used despite being free. It came about shortly after Xvid and I think that has detracted a lot of attention from it. I think it comes down to marketing. They have to drop this in to a single drop and go player package for all platforms and then advertise the crap out of it by making version submission posts to slashdot etc.

So there it is. Lack of streaming along with a lack of a ‘just works’ sort of package from Xvid and Theora are the things that really make those two fall short for me. Xvid is good but I’m sure that Theora can best Xvid in quality. Now if only it were in more wide spread use.

9 comments so far

  1. Nickolav on

    Quicktime sucks it long and hard.

  2. tekchip on

    Again with no good reason! Please give me a reason other than just because.

  3. Josse on

    Quicktime is non-open. That means I need to install their software if I want to see some media released in the format. Even if I don’t like their software. Even if I just can’t on my platform. Now I can’t argue with the quality or the ease of use for people willing and able to install the player (and Mac os users who have the job done for them), but if I can’t see the video, then, in my point of view, it just sucks.

    An ironic stupidity/stubbornness on Apple’s part: I can’t see the ingenious mac commercials at because I’m not running one — and never will be because I can’t see the commercials ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. tekchip on


    Thanks for the comment. You make a good point. I much prefer your method of reasoning vs. say…Nikolav. I can give him a hard time I know him personally. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks also for reading the site!


  5. Nickolav on

    Josse is right on the money here. And a reason isn’t need, it’s the sux0r. All people of all faiths and walks of life know this. The shirt maker in Russia knows this, the rice farmer in china, the soccer player in Europe, the linux guy in Iowa, etc.

  6. Anda on

    You are confusing a file format with a compressor. Quicktime is a file format into wich you can put video compressed with compatible compressors (cinepack, sorenson, MP4…) whereas Xvid is an MPG4 compressor use to compress video generally contained in a avi file.

  7. tekchip on

    Correct me if I’m wrong but Apple has a Quicktime implementation of Mpeg4 correct? Which means it’s the quicktime codec or compressor. Check the first couple of words of the last paragraph.

  8. Joe Wilson on

    I go with xvid for my video’s because I can purchase dvd players for any room not requiring a computer to play them, plus they take up alot less space… I prefer the Theora format because of its size and quality, and with the use of h264 its quality is fantastic, but the downside there is i cant find a portable device that supports it..

  9. arnuld on

    I have tried ripping a DVD to Theora and IIRC, at the same resolution the file-size was half of AVI rip (First most widely format used warez d00dz, 2nd is Matroska). But no user cares for free formats. User care about the technology they are getting (like iPOD), they don’t care whether its mp3 or Ogg. They use what is being sold/marketed. I have even blogged about how to make Ogg popular but I don’t think it works that way.

    There are lots of GUI applications on Winodws that rip the DVDs to AVI format but I don’t think there is one which rips to Theora. On Linux, there is only one app, ffmpeg, which can convert from one format to many others, ffmpeg a brilliant video endocing/decoding tool.

    I still don’t understand why Ogg and Theora are not popular. The only reason I think of is they are not shared widely, even when they compress better than other formats, but then why they are not shared widely ? If I can get answer to this question, may be we can see lots of Ogg rips in near future.

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