Video Formats: Take Your Creative Projects to the Next Level

Have you been watching the slow but steady evolution that's been going on on platforms like Facebook and Instagram? 

Sure, memes and GIFs are still bandied about. And photos still reign supreme. But the video format is making its presence felt in various functions on these social media platforms. From Instagram Stories and "IGTV" to Facebook's famous "Live stream" tool, the stage is set for video to have an impact on the way we consume content. 

What's most interesting is the way that video has managed to bring together an aspect of business - through info products or "how-to's" - and art - through creative projects that influencers on social media will create to engage their audiences with.

But with the advent of these new platforms and a renewed interest in video and film editing, across the board, even by non-filmmakers, the technical questions start to crop up. 

"Which video format should I use?"

"How do I make sure my users can download files without too much delay?"

"Which video format converts best? And which of these formats has the best quality for my use?

We will give you an overview about the most important things you should know about video formats.

Which Video Format Is Right For Your Project?

It's often not the editing process that stumps people. It's often the issue of choosing and converting video formats that seems to bring up the most question. But converting video formats and choosing the right one is not nearly as technical nor as complicated as it may first seem. 

Think about video files like a series of snapshots or photos. After all, that's what film or "motion picture" is, right? When you go digital, however, these images are essentially files. And the great thing about files is that there can be multiple types, based on what, exactly, you plan to do. 

The variety of video format has made it necessary to have video format converters. These come in the form of a website, an app, or even a software suite dedicated to editing as well as performing a video format convert. 

Basically, a video format saves the recorded material -- the actual image and audio being recorded. However, there's so much associated information that you don't see also being "written" or saved. And what gets saved, how it gets saved and what is displayed varies by video formats. 

Of course, the most basic requirement is that the image and audio should align and users should be able to view or "play" the file on various machines, using specific video players.

Good to know: What does a video format consist of?

Frame rate: This is sometimes known as "frame frequency" and it marks the number of "frames per second" in run-time

Color depth: These are digitally-encoded pieces of information about color, brightness, contrast, shadows and more

Film format: Image resolution and aspect ratios affect the file size and this is what the film "format" is all about

Audio track: The "audio track" is singular item but it's all the information about recorded sound running alongside the image

Why Do We Need to Rely On A Video Format Convert?

These four pieces of "information" about the video file can vary in detail. The greater the amount of detail, the higher the quality. However, the higher the quality, the larger the file size. 

There is a way to retain that depth of resolution and high quality, however, while also cutting down on file size! And this is why we rely on a video format convert to handle that compression and conversion. 

Converting video formats can help keep the same amount of information about the video file while still maintaining quality. When converting video formats, keep in mind that there are different types of compression. 

These difference affect the quality of the recording. So when you do a video format convert, choose the right format, which should be determined by where the file is going to be used (Which platform or software for playback?) and how (For transfer? For broadcast? For online use?)

You have a certain format to hand, but need a different one? You can use a software to convert your video to another format. For large videos that require a lot of storage space, the conversion should be done offline with a program like VEGAS Movie Studio.

Sorting Out The Whole Codecs and Containers Conundrum

Although the video files available on the open market are typically defined by their container type, a brief discussion of codecs is absolutely essential if we are going to identify the optimum video formats for particular tasks and purposes.

Codecs

Codecs are the little enablers and that allow video files to be compressed, decompressed and played back on your computer.

But why are files compressed? Well, the very nature of files is that they are transferable. But much depends on size. The problem with compression is that it means a trade-off.

You can transfer them easily enough – because of their reduced file sizes – but you end up losing a lot of the quality.

Codecs are the answer to that. They control how a file is compressed and then played back on your computer. Most come with codecs that are pre-installed but, often, you'll run into some that are outdated.

To make it easy for your users or audiences to initialize simple and successful playback, consider converting video formats into types that incorporate these codecs:

  • FFmpeg: Made for compressing DVDs and movies.
  • Xvid: Mostly used for bit-torrented films
  • x264: Good for use in playing back HD resolution, good for compressing H.264 video format converts

Containers

As a concept, containers are simple enough. As an actual, technical tool, they are highly useful. Let's take a look.

Containers are a group of media files. They're made up for a video codec and an audio codec, as well as any other additional data. They're also pretty flexible because, within these "containers" rest a mixture of video and audio codecs.

This means that you, the creator, have control over storage, distribution, and quality of your media.

Containers are also the nifty tools that allow creators to pop in other features like subtitles or DVD functionalities like "chapters". One more thing to note: There must be alignment between the codec chosen and the container.

So which is the best file container for your project? You get to choose! It really depends on your video's goals and intent of use.

Different Projects Call For Different Video Formats

So, let's say you have a video file and it's not playing back. You want to know which formats your video format converter should convert to. Or you'd like to known which of these file types are the most popular when converting video formats. 

It really depends on what you plan to do with that file, who the audience is, and, in some cases, what equipment or software you're working with in the video's creation process.

AVI and WMV

One of the most popular video containers, AVIs are still bumping around the Internet (especially on those "shared" movie sites).

It was a Microsoft invention, one that was eventually replaced by WMV. Both file formats offer improved video quality but, when converting video formats, create a relatively smaller file size.

In terms of compatibility, AVI and WMVs are highly flexible, able to be played back on both PCs and Mac's. A small sacrifice, however, is that you can't select aspect ratios manually.

Not such a big deal but some love it and some hate it.

Flash Formats: FLV & SWF

Remember those old animated videos bouncing around on the early Internet? They were most likely FLV or SWF files. These are very useful for fast and quick transfer, rapid, uncomplicated graphics, and the quick streaming of videos.

If you've ever had an Adobe pop-up asking you to "install or update your Flash Player", it's because there's still content -- YouTube videos, anyone? -- on the Internet that are FLV or SWF formats.

The only "downside" is that, despite their popularity, Apple users won't be able to directly download any of these files and play back (without an intermediary), such as watching a YouTube video.

MOV & QT (for Quicktime)

The class ".MOV" files are familiar to users of Apple, which comes equipped with its own playback media center, "QuickTime". Like anything Apple, the user is at the center, as it provides high quality while maintaining relatively smaller file sizes.

The trade-off, however, is that it will call for a lot of computer processing power. So juice up! Despite this, however, .MOV is still a very popular video format convert preference in professional film circles.

AVCHD - also known as MTS

If you're looking to do a video format convert that takes video files from digital cameras and squishes them down, the AVCHD is it. Short for "Advanced Video Codec High Definition", this video format harnesses the power of H.264/MPEG-4 video compression technology to take this video data, reduce the file size and maintain quality. In fact, the latest edition of AVCHD supports 3D video.

Who is it for? If you're shooting your own footage using "consumer" equipment (a Panasonic or Sony or even a DSLR like Nikon/Canon), AVCHD is perfect for you. You'll be able to store and edit hours of video without sacrificing visual quality but without the massive file sizes.

MPEG

MPEG or "Moving Pictures Experts Group" is a video format that allows high image quality with relatively lower file sizes. However, it requires that the file be unzipped by a third-party application before playback.

VEGAS Movie Studio 16 offers the most user-friendly approach ever to creating beautiful videos. You can work fast with interactive storyboards, confidently with automatic saves and smoothly with GPU and hardware acceleration. Powerful and intuitive – nothing helps you create like VEGAS Movie Studio 16

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