The DivX Story: From Downloading ‘The Matrix’ to Watching it on All Three Screens

DivX is a codec that packs large video files into a smaller size. It’s also the San Diego company that has commercialized the technology.

CEO Kevin Hell talks of DivX moving towards “any online content on any device” as the next step in the evolution of consumer media, and “video freedom”, which means you will be able to seamlessly move a video from one screen to another, and watch it from all “three screens in our lives.” That means the computer screen in the office, the TV screen and video consoles in the living room and on the screens of cell phones and mobile devices anywhere. DivX’s Korean partners, Samsung and LG, are already making this inter-operability between their consumer products an asset. “There’s a great future in being able to move video from one device to another,” Hell says.

It started a little differently—with Wachowski Brothers’ and Keanu Reeves’ Hollywood megahit “The Matrix” (1999). A hacker nicknamed Gej reverse-engineered Microsoft’s version of MPEG-4, a standard video packaging system, to compress video files to more manageable sizes. Gej made a breakthrough that made it possible to download a whole movie in a few hours. The hacker called his software codec “DivX;)” (distinguishing it from an earlier version of DivX) and made it available on the Internet for free.

In San Diego, executive Jordan Greenhall used DivX to download a copy of “The Matrix.” He was so inspired he made a concerted effort to contact Gej, who turned out to be Jérome Rota in France, now 36-year old former graphic designer. (Hell replaced Greenhall as DivX CEO in mid-2007, and Greenhall resigned from the company’s board later that year. Jerome Rota continues to serve on the company’s board of directors.)

With the extremely handy free codec software they formed DivX in San Diego.

For a moment, the movie industry thought they had arrived in the same untenable situation as the music industry with and MP3 file sharing—their products would be downloaded without permission and distributed freely throughout … Next Page »

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One response to “The DivX Story: From Downloading ‘The Matrix’ to Watching it on All Three Screens”

  1. Piracy is an easily defeated problem. If music and movie companies released their product with profit margins less than 500% a CD, DVD or Blue Ray disc would be affordable. In Australia a music CD at $30 and a DVD at $40 is too expensive. Companies could drop their price to $10 per item and “bang” three quarters of the pirate’s market will gladly buy the legitimate versions. Good on DivX. Perhaps online distribution will reduce the cost of entertainment to a tolerable level. Somehow I’m skeptical though!!