Digital Video Formats

Once your video has been planned, shot and the post-production and audio engineering on it has been completed, it’s time to share it with your audience.

WHAT IS A VIDEO FORMAT?

A video format is the storage method of the information inside a video file. Often choosing a video format is left for the end of the video production process, however it is best to think about formats before you even shoot your video. For example, if you require the least amount of compression in your end video such as a High Definition TVC, then the format in which your video files are stored on your camera should contain the least amount of compression possible.

However, once you do get to the end of the production process, the first step is to export the ‘master’ from your video production software such as Final Cut or After Effects. This master file is a large file without or with hardly any compression which needs further video compression or video encoding in order to suit the end platform. Generally lossy compression is used so that file sizes become smaller and as such your video is optimised for playback on devices, laptops and computers.

The best way to get an overview of this process is to demystify some of the jargon, words like ‘video signal’, ‘codec’, ‘container’ and ‘H.264′ so we know we’re not talking about the new Terminator.

VIDEO SIGNAL

The video file referred to above is made up of information such as pixel dimensions. For example, a High Definition video will be 1920×1080 pixels or 1280x720pixels and a Standard Definition video is 1024×576 pixels if they are 16:9 in aspect ratio. Other information included is the frame rate which is the number of frames per second (a frame is a still image, so a 25 frames per second video is 25 still images played one after another within the one second) and various data rates which determine speed at which this information is transferred.

CODEC

Codecs are the method by which the video and audio data within the video files is encoded or compressed. There are many codecs in use and they have evolved dramatically since they appeared.

Choosing the right codec is a big part of ensuring that your video is playable by the device, laptop or computer that your end user will be using to watch your video or meeting upload requirements for say YouTube or Vimeo. H.264 is one of the most popular and commonly used codecs on both Windows and Mac operating systems. You can use an H.264 encoded video for your YouTube video, iPhone video and it’s even one of the accepted video formats for a TVC. It really is one of the most popular HD video formats around. Another excellent codec is Apple ProRes – it’s a codec with much less compression and as such the files are much larger, which simply means that that the data within the video file is of a much higher quality. ProRes is the recommended codec to shoot in and for despatching your TVC to broadcast.

CONTAINER

Often referred to as the format, a container is how the video file is wrapped up and the easiest way to identify this is by looking at the file’s extension. Some of the most common extensions are .MOV which is a native QuickTime container and .MP4 – probably the most versatile cross platform container. Other popular containers for video include MPEG-2 and .FLV which is a Flash video format.

HOW TO DECIDE WHICH VIDEO FORMAT TO USE

As with most things, begin with the end in mind. If you’re producing an online video for YouTube, then either a H.264 encoded .MP4 or .MOV would be suitable. If the video is to play in Flash on your website, then encoding it into .FLV might be recommended by your website’s developer. If you’re producing a television commercial, then we recommend shooting in ProRes and despatching the final in ProRes to the TV station, in HD. Choosing the right video format after working hard on producing your video is an important step. Your video needs to look vibrant and ‘full’ to impress your audience. Rocket Productions has a highly experienced team that will help you use the right format for your video content.

To find out how we can handle the formatting of your video content, get in touch with us today.