Most people have very little real understanding of video formats and what they are, and few understand what they do. In fact there is an abiding misconception that the video format is the extension of the video file – which is really only part of a far bigger picture.
If you aren’t quite sure what video formats are, or are unsure what role they play, knowing a bit more about them could prove useful. The fact of the matter is that video formats are important, and by understanding them you will realize the impact that they can have.
“What is a Video Format?”
A video format is essentially a type of file format that is used to store the data of a digital video. It typically must consist of at least two parts:
- Containers are the part of the video format that hold together all the different types of data that the video consists of.
- Video codecs are used to arrange the video data more efficiently by compressing it to take up less space, and then decompress it in order for it to be played.
Aside from these two parts any given video can have a variety of other parts, including an audio codec that is used to store audio data, and components such as metadata, captions, chapters, menus, and more – all of which is stored within the container.
Understanding Video Compression
As you may have guessed the codec has an important part to play due to the fact that it compresses video data. Most of the video files that you encounter are compressed in some way or other.
Overall there are two types of compression that a video codec can use:
- Lossless compression involves compressing the video data in a manner that allows the original data to be restored identically without any data being lost.
- Lossy compression selectively discards data that is considered to be redundant in order to reduce the file size even further.
When you download videos, stream them off the internet, or even watch DVDs and Blu-ray discs, you are watching videos that have been compressed with lossy compression. Although lossless compression does reduce the video file size of raw uncompressed videos, it is still far too large to be viable for distribution.
In fact, unless you happen to be involved in video production in some way, you are likely to have never laid eyes on a lossless or uncompressed video.
Compatibility of Video Formats
One thing that you may have noticed about video formats is that not all devices are able to play all formats of videos. At times, you may have encountered videos that can’t play, and an error message may have appeared saying that it was unsupported.
The reason for this is simple: For the data stored in video formats to be decompressed and played, the device must be able to decode them. That can be done either via software or hardware decoding.
As their names suggest, software decoding uses software running on the device to decode the video. On the other hand, hardware decoding takes advantage of built-in support in the GPU to do the same.
Of the two, hardware decoding is less processor intensive. On powerful devices that distinction may not matter, but on less powerful devices it can make a world of difference.
On top of that it can have a big impact on mobile devices or any other devices running on battery power, as the power consumption required by software decoding is significant.
Knowing what video formats do is a good start, but to take advantage of that it helps if you can convert your videos to the formats that you may need. For example, if you convert AVCHD to MP4 using Online Video Converter you can ensure it is compatible with a wider range of devices.
To sum it up, the video format that your video files use, will affect the devices they can be played on as well as their file size. Being able to cater both to your requirements can be useful, and you should be able to do that far better now.