In the early days of digital video (1990s), there were a few but very few ways to store footage. Today, we have a lot of different formats to choose from. Be careful! An unwise choice in format can completely ruin what we have done.

Why formatting is problematic

There are many reasons why video format becomes very important. If you understand the format your camcorder uses, you can calculate the amount of storage space you need for your movie. To know if post-production or color editing software can handle the raw format or need to be transcoded, you need to know about the format of the scene. When you attend a film festival or television station that requests a video format, the better you understand the format, the better.

What exactly is the format?

By understanding a bit about codecs and containers used in popular formats, you will be able to make better choices for your work. When someone asks about the format of a video, they often want to know if the containers and codecs used in it - and maybe the coding standard - unless the video was black and white, of course. They often want to know what type of video they are doing and hope that they can find a way to show the video.

A codec is the sequence used to place the data of an audio file or image in a manner that can be used to play, edit or change other codecs. Codecs are used to organize multimedia data, but that data is stored in a container. There are many different audio or video codecs and they all have their own advantages.

A container or wrapper is what is used to store audio and video data in a file along with additional information. Containers have file extensions like .mov, .avi or .mp3. While some containers may only hold media in a specific codec, such as .mpg files that contain only MPEG codecs, some files such as .mov, may contain data in multiple audio and video codecs. Containers can indicate whether audio and video data are stored there, and play media software can play them at the same time.