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From wikipedia:

A codec is a device or computer program capable of encoding and/or decoding a digital data stream or signal.

In general, codecs are utilized by multimedia applications to encode or decode audio or video streams. In order to play encoded streams, users must ensure an appropriate codec is installed.

This article deals only with codecs and application backends; see Common Applications for a list of media players (MPlayer and VLC are popular choices).


Playing multimedia content requires two components:

  • A capable media player
  • The appropriate codec

It is not always necessary to explicitly install codecs if you have installed a media player. For example, MPlayer pulls in a large number of codecs as dependencies, and also has codecs built in.

Common codecs

  • a52dec: liba52 is a free library for decoding ATSC A/52 streams
  • faac: FAAC is an AAC audio encoder
  • faad2: ISO AAC audio decoder
  • flac: Free Lossless Audio Codec
  • jasper: A software-based implementation of the codec specified in the emerging JPEG-2000 Part-1 standard
  • lame: An MP3 encoder and graphical frame analyzer
  • libdca: Free library for decoding DTS Coherent Acoustics streams
  • libdv: The Quasar DV codec (libdv) is a software codec for DV video
  • libmad: A high-quality MPEG audio decoder
  • libmpeg2: libmpeg2 is a library for decoding MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video streams
  • libtheora: An open video codec developed by the
  • libvorbis: Vorbis codec library
  • libxv: X11 Video extension library
  • wavpack: Audio compression format with lossless, lossy, and hybrid compression modes
  • x264: Free library for encoding H264/AVC video streams
  • xvidcore: XviD is an open source MPEG-4 video codec




GStreamer is a library for constructing graphs of media-handling components. The applications it supports range from simple Ogg/Vorbis playback, audio/video streaming to complex audio (mixing) and video (non-linear editing) processing.

Simply, GStreamer is a backend or framework utilized by many media players.

GStreamer uses a plugin architecture which makes the most of GStreamer's functionality implemented as shared libraries. Since version 0.10 the plugins come grouped into three sets (named after the film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly).[1]

For the most complete solution:

# pacman -S gstreamer0.10-plugins



xine is a free (gpl-licensed) high-performance, portable and reusable multimedia playback engine. xine itself is a shared library with an easy to use, yet powerful API which is used by many applications for smooth video playback and video processing purposes.

As an alternative to GStreamer, many media players can be configured to utilize the xine backend:

# pacman -S xine-lib

Note that the xine project itself provides a capable video player, xine-ui.


libavcodec is part of the FFmpeg project. It includes a large number of video and audio codecs. The libavcodec codecs are included with media players such as MPlayer and VLC, so you may not need to install the ffmpeg package itself.

Tips and tricks

Install MPlayer binary codecs

As an ultimate solution, you can try to install MPlayer binary codecs.

If you are not able to play some files go to, read the instructions and install the codec you need to play your files.

They can also be found in AUR with the name codecsAUR.