Playing Anime

This guide will introduce you to the basic concepts of video distribution formats, and then some useful information for you to work with what you have learned. This guide only applies to videos you have stored on your local computer. It does not apply to any online anime services.

Diagram

Introduction

Wrappers (or Containers)

Many formats, such as files ending in extension of .avi, .mp4, .mkv or .ogm are only wrappers. They store other streams of information (i.e. video, audio, and subtitles) in themselves. They are not video formats themselves per se, but store other video formats, audio formats, and subtitles within them. The are four mainstream wrappers used by anime fansubbers: .avi, .mp4, .mkv, and .ogm. Most computers can read .avi and .mp4 wrappers out of the box with pre-installed software these days, while parsers for other wrappers must be downloaded. The wrapper for .mkv (Matroska) files can be individually downloaded from the Matroska homepage, while the .ogm (ogg media) format can be decoded by several filters (see the Wikipedia article for a list).

Audio/Video Codecs

These are stored in a data stream in wrappers. Uncompressed audio files are large. Uncompressed videos are huge. Since the appearence of audio and video on computers, codecs have been created to compress and decompress audio and video, reducing filesizes astronomically. Over time, newer and better codecs are released, which means now audio files and video files (though mostly video files) on computers vary a lot with what codec they use. Because you need the appropriate codec to view a video or listen to an audio file, you have to download many codecs (or get a pack; to be discussed later in this article). An example of an audio codec is MPEG-1 Layer 3 (MP3) and an example of a video codec is DivX.

Subtitles

Most anime files do not contain subtitle information in them. Subtitle text is drawn onto the video itself before it is exported and distributed, and it is not stored separately.

Playing the Video

Unless the type of the file is not a wrapper itself (they can only contain one type of codec), you will need first to have a filter to read the wrapper, and then after the codec to decode the compressed video, and the codec to decode the compressed audio. You can download the wrappers mentioned above and all the codecs you need as you come across them (Windows users can use GSpot to discover what codec a video or audio format contained in an .avi file uses), or you can download a codec pack that installs most of the wrappers and codecs used by Internet video and audio.

The Combined Community Codec Pack (CCCP) is a pack of filters and codecs created for anime fans, while alternatives include the K-Lite Codec Pack and Nimo's Codec Pack. Only install one, or you could do a lot of damage. Installing these packs should allow you to play most anime.

VLC Media Player screenshot with 5 CM playing

Alternative Methods

Okay, so you don't want to deal with having to install any wrapper filters or codecs. Although this method doesn't allow you to use your favorite media player to play a video, you can just download one player and have that work out of the box. If you are thinking about installing one of these players, try VLC Media Player. It is very easy to use, and contains about every codec and/or filter you will likely need.

Video Lags or Audio is Ahead

If your computer is older, your videos may run slower than the audio. If closing extraneous open programs doesn't help, you can try upgrading your computer's components. Or, as a cheaper alternative, try VLC Media Player which contains its own wrapper filters and codecs, and you can play videos without lag very well.