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DivX Releases Version 5.2

This week, DivXNetworks, Inc. announced the release of the version 5.2 of its codec, offering a built-in bitrate calculator, a new fast encoding mode, and support for French, German, and Japanese in addition to English—a move that points to the international nature of the company’s market.

"About 75% of our traffic and two-thirds of our revenue are from outside the United States," says Kevin Hell, DivX’s chief marketing officer and managing director. "The DivX brand is appealing to the European market, since (co-founder) Jerome 'Gej’ Rota is from France, and there’s a lot more anti-Microsoft sentiment over there." Worldwide, DivX claims 120 million downloads of the three versions of its codec: DivX, the free encoder, decoder, and player; DivX Pro, the $19.99 advanced encoding tool; and Dr. DivX 9 (now in version 1.0.5), a $49.99 consumer-targeted suite that includes DivX Pro.

Hell says that DivX’s internal testing shows that DivX 5.2 offers "33-38%" better encoding quality, defined by signal-to-noise ratio, and 300% faster encoding speed than Microsoft Windows Media Video 9, though no independent tests are yet available. But compression efficiency has always been the name of DivX’s game—it’s always touted the codec’s ability to deliver full-length DVD-quality movies within the 700MB storage limits of a CD—so it’s no surprise that it once again forms the core of 5.2’s marketing pitch.

Beyond the promises of improved image quality and encoding times, DivX 5.2 offers several improvements over 5.1:
- Adaptive single and multiple consecutive B-frames, which allow the encoder to save space by only encoding the differences between preceding and subsequent frames (i.e. "talking head" shots where the background stays constant).
- Multiple quantization metrics, which apply different bitrates to different types of video streams (i.e., animation vs. live-action). For the most part, DivX uses H.263 quantization, which is designed for a wide range of bitrates, but 5.2 adds MPEG-2 quantization, which is particularly efficient for high-bitrate encoding.
- Automatic update downloading

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