31st March 2023

With the rise in video content and the evolution of technology, we have found ourselves with an ever demanding need for files to be compressed, shared, edited and published. With this trend, a new era of files and formats have entered the industry. Navigating your way through the various complex formats can be confusing as there isn’t a universal file format for every filming need. There are many technical variables to be considered, such as resolution, bit rate, frame rate and frame compression as well as the type of equipment and applications used for filming, editing and storing.   

The DPP international standard 
In a bid to minimise confusion and expense for programme makers, the DPP have launched their own unique ‘Technical and Metadata Standards for File-Based Programme Delivery in the UK.’ Creating the organisation’s ‘AS-11,’ a new international file format for HD Files seeks to provide clarity around digital delivery that will become the expected standard in the future. 
Head to the DPP website for more information: DPP file based standard 

Codecs and containers  
Before exploring various file formats, it helps to understand the main components of a video file. Although there are many different elements, there are two main components:  

Codec: The software compressing video so it can be played back and stored. Digitising and compressing audio and video files converting for transmission. It needs to exist in the container by working alongside, enabling all the video data to interact with the various external platforms. 
Container (wrapper): The container is a storage unit, a file that holds a variety data like video, audio and subtitles compressing all the data together.   

Without producing an extensive list of all the various file formats, we have selected a few here to help guide.  

Formats for filming and storing 
MP4 is one of the most compatible file formats and considered the international standard for audio-visual coding. It offers high quality recording, keeping the file size manageable and not too large working well for streaming content on Social platforms like YouTube. It can have a lower definition compared to other formats using MPEG-4 encoding storing the video, audio and text elements as one. 

MOV is similar to MP4, supporting a variety of elements like video, audio and subtitles with a higher quality of recording increasing the file size. MOV was introduced by Apple specifically for it’s QuickTime application. Some say it is one of the best video formats on the market, working well for traditional broadcasting and viewing, including online for Social platforms. 

MKV is one of the more recent entries to the file format world. Steadily gaining traction as the preferred format for online High Definition content, it is great for playback on televisions and computers. 

AVCHD has superb video and audio quality enabling tiny details to be captured and compressed down to very small file sizes whilst keeping the original high quality. As a result, this file format works well for the video creator shooting their own footage allowing hours of video to be stored without compromising storage or quality. 

Next week we continue this series of blogs on the complex world of file formats. Part 2 delves in to the best formats for editing, sharing and archiving video content.  

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Originally published: 06/07/2022