A quick look at PDQ2

So there’s this new service discmaster.textfiles.com for searching for files from some old disks and discs at archive.org and out of curiosity I took a look at what it offers.

While it’s physically impossible to check all hundreds of millions of files it indexes (even just videos), I took a look at one rather curious category called aviAudio. There are about six hundred files of such type found so I decided to check them to see what kind of beast that is.

Some files turned out to exactly AVI audio files—AVI files with single stream that turns out to be audio (I don’t know why but this happens). The rest of the files were AVIs with unrecognized video track (just what I was hoping for!). One set of the samples come from some game with IPMA codec, other sources mostly feature Motion Pixels video (which is horrible both to RE and to support so I’d rather not touch it), one sample was special “codec” for some russian erotic game (which means complete garbage even by russian game standards) that is really just obfuscated Indeo 5. And finally there was a single PDQ2 sample (from some Incredible Hulk game demo from 1997).

An interesting thing is that it’s a DOS game with built-in AVI demuxing and decoding of this codec. The codec turned out to be a lot like various lossless codecs (so its FOURCC probably stands for something like “pretty damn quick codec, version 2”). It splits video into 4×4 tiles and emits up to three streams stored one after another: tile opcode (copy previous tile, copy previous data with an arbitrary offset, skip tile, raw tile), variable offsets and tile pixels. Additionally frame data may be packed further with LZ77-based scheme. As I said, a rather familiar scheme for lossless video codecs and it makes me wonder whether it’s a codec developed specifically for the game(s) or it was borrowed from somewhere else.

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