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I have played other avi files on OpenELEC with success, but when I try playing certain ones, the video doesn't play - all I can hear is the sound playing in the background of the folder explorer.

I got some basic information about the video file using ffmpeg:

Input #0, avi, from 'myvideo.avi':
  Duration: 00:58:32.84, start: 0.000000, bitrate: 708 kb/s
    Stream #0:0: Video: msmpeg4v3 (DIV3 / 0x33564944), yuv420p, 720x576, 25 fps, 25 tbr, 25 tbn, 25 tbc
    Metadata:
      title           : Videostream
    Stream #0:1: Audio: mp3 (U[0][0][0] / 0x0055), 48000 Hz, stereo, s16p, 128 kb/s
    Metadata:
      title           : Audiostream 1

But I don't know much about video encoding, so perhaps someone could point me in the right direction as to how to troubleshoot this issue.

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this is very ancient MS video codec, that is most probably is not supported by newer generation of video players because of different issues (same codec was hacked and re-released as DIVX codec of some version, bringing confusion).

your best bet would be to re-encode your videos to the most contemporary codec.

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Divx3 (msmpeg4v3) isn't supported in the Raspberry's hardware decoder. http://kodi.wiki/view/Raspberry_Pi_FAQ#Video_and_audio_formats_the_Raspberry_Pi_can_playback

The Raspberry is capable of software-decoding "DivX3 SD" content and playing it, but as I don't use OpenELEC, I don't know if/how it's possible in that particular flavor of XBMC.

If you try this with HD content it will probably just stutter and skip.

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