Sony Digital Rapids Pixel Power calrec Sony

A Simple Guide to Formats and Codecs


ORLANDO, Fla.- All I need is a QuickTime file. How many times have you heard this from a client? Unfortunately, that's not enough information. Here are the reasons why.

Digital files consist of format wrappers, data, and metadata. A format wrapper defines the type of file it is, as identified by the file extension, like .mpeg, .mov, .mp4, .mxf, etc. Think of a wrapper like a videocassette tape. It earmarks which player application should be compatible with that file, just like a VHS cassette told you that a VHS player was required. The data is the audio/video content contained within that format wrapper. The metadata is information about that data, such as date/time stamps, color profiles, and more.


Audio and video signals are encoded into digital files using codecs-shorthand for compression/decompression. Most video files use data compression, whereas the audio signal in professional formats is typically uncompressed. On the other hand, consumer audio formats such as .mp3 and .m4a use a highly compressed codec. While we tend to associate certain codecs together with specific formats, like ProRes and .mov, they are not synonymous. For example, files can be encoded with the ProRes codec and stored in .mxf wrappers.

Video compression is defined as either lossy or visually lossless. This is determined by the codec type, data rate used to encode the file, frame rate, and frame size. File sizes will be smaller when a lossy method is used. But, they will display compression artifacts visible to the eye, because so much signal information is thrown away. Streaming services like Netflix and YouTube use lossy methods to get the signal to your home over the internet. Visually lossless codecs, like high bit-rate versions of the Avid DNx or the Apple ProRes family of codecs, are used in camera acquisition and post production. These codecs employ a high data rate for compression and will have significantly larger file sizes. However, compression artifacts are generally indiscernible to the eye compared to uncompressed video.

The vast majority of codecs used in production and post today are the proprietary intellectual property of companies or associations. They are not open source or open standard, even though their use may be ubiquitous. The use of a codec, especially to encode data to that codec, requires a licensing agreement. Typically, this is transparent and appears to be free to the user, but rest assured that an arrangement between companies has been made. As with all intellectual property, this can result in a codec no longer being available within an application if such an arrangement has ended between companies.

LIBRARY COMPONENTS AND THE 64-BIT TRANSITIONWhen a video file is played by an application, its data is decoded on-the-fly and displayed as RGB pixels to your screen or a viewer within the interface. This requires a set of installed library components that the application draws upon in order to read, decode, and display the video data. These components may be part of the computer's operating system or they are custom-installed components that only function for that one application.

Over time, Apple and Microsoft have dropped or deprecated support for older codecs within their own operating systems. For example, Apple's Catalina is a 64-bit operating system, with no support for 32-bit applications and library components. This means that certain codecs - including many still in active use, like DNxHD/HR-can no longer be decoded (played) through any application that depends on the 32-bit QuickTime framework used in previous versions of macOS. This is not an issue of the codec itself, but rather the library components used.

In order for such files to work within Catalina, Apple or the application developer has to write new 64-bit library components to play such files going forward. In the case of DNx, Avid and Adobe can read and write these files in the .mxf format, but Apple's own applications, like Final Cut Pro X or QuickTime Player, are not able to do the same. Expect that to be updated later this year.

WHY CAN'T I WRITE CAMERA RAW FILES IN POST?Digital video cameras convert raw sensor data into RGB pixel information and record that to a digital file using a defined codec and format. Processing is done in the camera to bake in the conversion of the Bayer pattern sensor data to RGB, along with its native ISO and a color profile. These files are then easily played by most professional editing and player applications.

Ever since the launch of RED Digital Cinema's RED One camera, compressed raw codecs have grown in popularity. When you record a camera raw signal, the conversion/processing step to RGB is skipped, thus enabling access to more latitude for color correction in post. It also generates higher quality images for an equivalent data rate and file size. The trade-off is that camera raw files tax the hardware systems used in post. That's because the conversions that would have been done in the camera are now performed in real-time by the computer.

Raw codecs store information generated by a camera's sensor and are only intended for image acquisition. You cannot write or re-encode camera raw files in post, because there is no sensor data available. Camera raw codecs are also proprietary to individual companies, including RED, ARRI, Apple, Blackmagic Design, and others. For now, there is no video equivalent to CinemaDNG, a photographic raw format developed by Adobe and then offered up as an open standard to the community. Although it could be argued that GoPro's CineForm RAW codec is a comparable solution for video.

The video from non-raw codecs can be adjusted through color correction, but you aren't actually altering the underlying color processing of the file itself. You are skewing the RGB information that
See more stories from tvtechnology

Most recent headlines


The Parliament of Tasmania Captures Important Governmental Proceedings With Telemetrics Robotic Camera Systems

The mission of the Parliament of Tasmania, where official proceedings are held a...


ICG Pays Tribute to Allen Daviau, ASC with Riding in the Car with Allen

ICG offers a remembrance of cinematic icon Allen Daviau, ASC in its May web exclusive here. Enjoy the May digital edition of ICG Magazine here!...


The Show Must Go On!

IABM and SMPTE are collaborating to put on a show for and with members! Be a part of The Show Must Go On! by submitting photos of your unglamorous workspace, ...


New Release of the Adobe Creative Cloud Video Apps

Adobe recently announced a new release for Creative Cloud video and audio applications, including Premiere Pro, After Effects, Audition, Character Animator and ...


Crafty Apes Transitions to Remote Work with Support from RFX and Teradici

Crafty Apes, a visual effects and production studio with a list of impressive credits that includes Jumanji: The Next Level, Watchmen, Hustlers, and Dolemite is...


Real-Time Remote Editing from ClearView Flex

Sohonet explores how best to recreate the over-the-shoulder, real-time editing experience with your teams and clients from home with ClearView Flex. Editors ca...


Scale Logic Hosts 2020 Media & Entertainment Virtual Conference

Scale Logic hosted its first M&E Virtual Conference on April 29, 2020, introducing attendees to the foremost in new solutions for evolving media workflows, incl...


Adobe Updates Promote Performance and Stability

Adobe is providing updates more frequently, allowing teams to iterate faster, and has introduced the public Beta program that expands Adobe's test base and ...


Expansion of Leadership Team Supports Accelerating Demand for Dynamic Media Orchestration Platform Services

Levels Beyond, Inc., builders of the industry-leading media orchestration platfo...


Trinity Broadcasting Network Upgrades Clustered Storage with

When the Trinity Broadcasting Networks (TBN), the world's largest Christian television broadcast group with 32 international networks reaching every major c...


Vidovation Launches Webinar Series

Vidovation's foremost experts in broadcast, sports, news, and video production discuss transmitters and encoders portfolio enhancements in a new webinar ser...


The Role of HPA In COVID Response and Recovery

1) As the COVID crisis hit the industry in March, how HPA was able to respond? As the COVID crisis transitioned all of us to work from home and eliminated the...


Storytelling and the Era of the Empath: Poppy Crum

By: Adrian Pennington I am passionate about creating technology that enables us to translate the creator's true intent, technologist and neuroscientist P...


How active streaming protection can ensure service security

As operators extend or migrate their service to an IP environment new challenges arise. Unlike traditional linear TV, the network and endpoint devices are not c...


Quibi Adds AirPlay Capability in Latest Update

LOS ANGELES-Quibi has added a new feature that provides additional viewing capabilities to what was at first supposed to be a mobile-only streaming service. Acc...


Intelsat Warns FCC of Video Quality Concerns Post C-Band Transition

WASHINGTON-Intelsat has told the FCC that due to current procedures for the C-band transition, it will likely be unable to prevent interference issues post-tran...


NAB Announces 2020 Service to America Award Finalists

WASHINGTON-The finalists for the 2020 Service to America Awards have been announced by the NAB Leadership Foundation, which recognize outstanding community serv...


ARRI Hires Ivo Ivanoski as Lighting Division GM

MUNICH-ARRI has announced the hiring of Ivo Ivanoski to the role of general manager for the company's lighting business unit. Ivanoski is expected to take o...


Haystack TV Launches Interactive News Ticker on Roku

SAN FRANCISCO & LOS GATOS, Calif.-OTT news source Haystack TV has upped its game as a provider of viewer-specific personalized news with the launch of Newsline,...


Net Insight announces changes to Executive Management team

Net Insight selected for new nationwide IP media network in the Middle East Stockholm, Sweden - Net Insight's partner Middle East Telecommunications Company...


Sky Sports will show 64 live Premier League games, and make 25 available free to air

64 live games on Sky Sports from the provisional re-start date of 17th June 25 ...


Sky News to debate how the world will change after COVID-19

Sky News has announced a new series of debate programmes titled After The Pandemic: Our New World, the first 'The World At Large' will air on Monday 1 ...


Industrial network market shares 2020 according to HMS Networks

Increased market share for Industrial Ethernet fieldbus decline continues and wireless stays stable Industrial network connectivity for devices and machines i...


AppDynamics Delivers New Research

San Francisco - May 27, 2020 - AppDynamics, a Cisco company and the world's largest and fastest growing APM vendor, today released a special edition of its ...


Cisco Live 2020-Here's everything you need to know

SAN JOSE, Calif., May 29, 2020 For the first time in its 30 years, Cisco Live 2020 is an all-digital event. The conference will bring attendees everything from ...


Inspiration from Home: AICP Launches Online Panels on Creativity and Collaboration

Inspiration from Home: AICP Launches Online Panels on Creativity and Collaborati...



Photo Credit: Netflix / Lilja Jonsdottir Amsterdam -- May 29, 2020 -- The filmi...



The collaboration will allow the American Cinematheque to expand the scope and d...


The second edition of the Shah Marai Award, launched by AFP, is won by Naim Nadir

Photographer Naim Nadir, from Kabul, has won the second edition of the Shah Mara...


ITV Racing to broadcast 21 races on first weekend as British racing resumes

Pictured: Ed Chamberlin ITV Racing to broadcast 21 races on first weekend as British racing resumes ITV Racing is planning to resume broadcasting with three d...


Berklee Alumni and Faculty Honored by the Jazz Journalists Association

The Jazz Journalists Association (JJA) recognized 11 Berklee alumni and faculty members with JJA Jazz Awards in a number of categories this year. Berklee'...


SVG Sit-Down: EditShare's Conrad Clemson Provides Update on Company's Evolution in His First Year as CEO

SVG Sit-Down: EditShare's Conrad Clemson Provides Update on Company's Ev...


Legends Behind the Lens: Mark McCormack

Legends Behind the Lens: Mark McCormack One of the industrys all-time businessmen painted a prosperous future for sports on television By Brandon Costa, Direct...


The Return of Live Sports Production Continues With MotoAmerica Championship

The Return of Live Sports Production Continues With MotoAmerica Championship LDM Worldwide rolls out production focused on safety, quality By Jason Dachman, C...


Sundance Institute's 2020 Directors & Screenwriters Lab Fellows

Newly Expanded Advisor Roster Spans Filmmaking Disciplines Los Angeles, CA -- 11 independent filmmakers developing 10 projects have been selected for the 2020...


Sundance Institute's 2020 Theatre Lab Fellows

15 Fellows & 7 Artists in Virtual Residence Develop New Work for the Stage New York, NY -- Eight genre- and format-spanning pieces are among the works being d...


Astro launches 3 Tamil HD channels on 1st June

Astro launches 3 Tamil HD channels on 1st June Date Released:28 May 2020 Share Tweet Top 70 Rajinikanth movies on Rajini70 HD (Ch 100) via Astro and on de...


Sound and Vision Entertainment and Freeman Provide Secure Remote Production Needs for Spring Draft

Clear-Com's Eclipse HX and Agent-IC Aid in Communications Solution Sound ...


SmarTone deploys 5G broadly across Hong Kong using Ericsson Spectrum Sharing

SmarTone has launched its 5G service in Hong Kong, offering high-speed 5G connectivity and broad network coverage both indoors and outdoors. SmarTone becomes th...


Join SGO to celebrate another great year of Mistika VR with outstanding VR projects and connect with the global VR community

View Larger Image To mark the third anniversary of industry-standard VR stitc...


COVID-19 Network Traffic Surge Isn't Impacting Environment Confirm Telecom Operators

More Energy Efficient Networks and Renewable Energy Usage are Negating Negative ...


GSMA and O-RAN Alliance Collaborate on Opening up 5G Networks

Collaboration Aims to Accelerate Industry-Wide Consensus on the Adoption of Open, Interoperable Interfaces and Radio Access Network Virtualisation London: The ...


Toshiba's New Subsidiary to Advance Process Reforms of Toshiba Next Plan

TOKYO Toshiba Corporation (TOKYO: 6502) today announced that it will establish a new wholly owned subsidiary dedicated to developing a next-generation core sys...


Reallusion Offers First Look at SkinGen Dynamic Skin Effect Editor

Reallusion has followed up the success of its Headshot, for rapid digital-double character creation AI, with a look at the forthcoming release of SkinGen. The D...


Jellyfish Pictures Expands Global Reach with New Operating Model

LONDON - Animation and VFX studio Jellyfish Pictures has expanded its operating model to access talent across the world. Having spearheaded the use of virtual a...


Stay-at-home deals: updated Friday 29th May

Software to keep you sane during self-isolation Staying sane during social isolation isn't easy, but a number of software companies have stepped up to t...


The De-Stresser FX Chain

Feeling a little bit stressed? I'm not surprised. Or do you ever have one of those days? Of course you do! Wouldn't it be great to go down to the beach,...