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List of video file formats


Comparison of video container formats





Formats and products[edit]

Video tape recorder technologies include:


Analog reel-to-reel

1″ Type A (Ampex)

1″ Type B (Bosch’s Fernseh – BTS Philips)

1″ Type C (Sony, Ampex, NEC and Hitachi)

2″ Quadruplex (Ampex, RCA and Bosch’s Fernseh)

Ampex 2 inch helical VTR

IVC 2 inch Helical scan (International Video Corporation’s IVC 9000 Format)



Sony Betacam-SP VTP BVW-65 VTR

Professional cassette and cartridge based systems

Betacam (Sony)

Betacam SP (Sony)

M-II (Panasonic)

U-matic (3/4″)

Standard definition digital videotape formats

D1 (Sony) and Broadcast Television Systems Inc.

D2 (Sony and Ampex)

D3 (Panasonic)

D5 (Panasonic)

D9 (Digital-S) (JVC)

Betacam IMX (Sony)

DCT (Ampex)

Digital Betacam (Sony)

DVCAM (Sony)

DVCPRO (Panasonic)


1995 Panasonic D5 Digital VTR, model AJ-HD3700H. The front control panel is hinged below the cassette slot, so that it may be tilted outward to a more comfortable viewing angle for the operator.

High definition digital video tape formats

D5 HD (Panasonic)

D6 HDTV VTR (BTS – Philips – Thomson SA – Grass Valley (company))

DVCPROHD (Panasonic)

D-VHS (JVC and Panasonic)


HDCAM (Sony)


Consumer format



Digital8 (Sony)

DV (miniDV is the cassette size)

EIAJ Half inch open reel and cassette[14]





Video 2000 (Philips)



VX (videocassette format)



A List of Video Tape Formats, Types of Video Tapes



Digital video cameras can shoot raw or compressed footage, although all but one DSLR cameras shoot in some kind of compressed format. This page outlines the distinctions between camera-original footage types.



Raw file formats

Camera rendered file formats



When working with video from a video camera, the process is similar to a photography workflow. You can choose to work with cameras that store their video data in a raw format. These cameras are much more expensive and involve several extra steps during the post-production stage. Just like raw photos, however, the latitude in exposure and color manipulation is much greater.


More common is a rendered file workflow, where the camera data is processed within the camera and written as a compressed digital file. This is the common practice for DSLR video cameras as well as most traditional cameras on the market.


As of February 2012, it’s also possible to shoot with a DSLR in a new way. The Nikon D4 and D800 both offer the capability to output an uncompressed 1080 video signal through the HDMI port. This method requires the use of an expensive external recording device, however. So, while these cameras can both shoot uncompressed video, neither one can, by itself, record uncompressed video.


Raw file formats

Raw files have some unique capabilities for digital video. They provide the highest quality as a capture format. They capture all the data the camera sensor can provide: the highest bit depth, the most color information and the highest dynamic range. In fact,many raw formats can even adjust the ISO after the footage has been shot.



REDCODE RAW (R3D) is a proprietary video file format owned by the RED Digital Cinema Camera Company. RED has created quite a stir in the high-end video and digital cinema circles for its extremely high image quality and flexibility through raw imagery.


This format is used as native recording format of the RED One 4K and is also used in the RED EPIC which can capture images at a 5K resolution (as well as high-dynamic range video). The format uses a slightly lossy compression for both audio and video contents.


The material is typically acquired to proprietary hard disk drives or high-speed CompactFlash cards. However, once it is transferred, it can be used on any computer with high-speed disk array. The files are often processed using software available from the company called REDCINE-X. However Adobe Premiere Pro can also use the files in their raw format. Other editing applications either do not support REDCODE RAW or rely on the user to convert to another file format first.



The ARRIRAW codec is used in digital cinema cameras produced by the ARRI Group. It is the native recording format of the ARRIFLEX D-21 and the ALEXA. The format is truly a digital negative that needs to be processed.


Third-party tools such as MetaFuze and Glue Tools allow some applications to work natively with the files. A more common workflow however is the ARRIRAW Converter or ARC. This application can view, process and convert ARRIRAW data in other post-production file formats.


Camera rendered file formats

Rendered file formats are defined as those formats that are created eitherin-camera or during the import stage. These files are typically ready-to-edit (although not every editing software package will support each format).


QuickTime (MOV)

The QuickTime container format from Apple is the most commonly used file format for video files. This versatile format can use several different editing codecs. Popular choices include Apple ProRes, Apple Intermediate Codec, and Uncompressed.


Both Nikon and Canon use Quicktime containers with H.264 codecs to create their camera-original files on the most current cameras.Other manufacturers also use the QuickTime formats but with different codecs. These include Panasonic, Cineform, Avid and Sony.


MPEG-4 (MP4/M4V)

The MPEG-4 format is a broad category of formats that are controlled by the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group. The format is used often for distribution of video content to web-enabled and portable media devices. It is also used by many consumer and prosumer based video cameras as a capture format. Often times, MPEG-4 files are wrapped in a QuickTime container (.mov) but they can also appear as .mp4 or .m4v files.


Material eXchange Format (MXF)

The MXF format is a popular wrapper format that supports several different codecs. The MXF format was designed for professional video cameras and has several technical benefits, including timecode and rich metadata support. It was designed to prevent future obsolescence by being broadly compatible. The idea behind MXF is to have a standard transport container for audio and video that is platform agnostic and essentially open source.


The MXF format is in use by Sony for their XDCAM cameras as well as Panasonic’s DVCPRO P2 formats. Other manufacturers have recently adopted the format, including iKegami and Canon. Both Avid and Adobe offer native support for most MXF-based formats. Apple’s Final Cut Pro X is also integrating native support for many MXF formats.


Audio Video Interleave (AVI)

The Audio Video Interleave format is most commonly referred to as an AVI file. The format, first introduced by Microsoft in November 1992, is similar to QuickTime in that it is really just a container format that can use several different video codecs. The format has lost popularity in recent years, but is still supported. Many first-generation DSLR cameras from Nikon wrote AVI files.





by “Gospel” John Hess


The term “professional camera” is very subjective term. As technology continually improves, the line in quality between consumer cameras and professional cameras gets increasingly thin. But as any serious filmmaker/videographer will tell you, the jump to a professional level camera comes with huge improvement in the amount of control over your image. To make things more confusing, the word “prosumer” has popped up as a halfway between the consumer and professional realm. For the purposes of this article, we will consider professional cameras as cameras with 1/4″ chips sizes and up (more on chip size later).


When considering a professional camera, skip the beauty reels that you’ve seen on YouTube and Vimeo. Yes we’ve all seen the beauty videos with the rolling tree tops and the steel jungles. They’re fun to watch but they say more about the producer than the camera. After all, you can point any half way decent camera at a beautiful flower and capture a beautiful image. Beyond that, the fact is, all video hosting sites heavily compress their videos. Judging the capabilities of a camera based on compressed and resized web video will not give an accurate comparison of the cameras. Instead, you want focus of the features that will work for your film or video business.




If you’re planning on investing in a professional camera, the camera must be at least capable of HD.


DO NOT INVEST A NEW Standard Def (SD) camera*


*(unless you are required by your workflow, i.e. to match other SD cameras in a studio or to fit with an established look of a show).


HD comes in a variety of flavors (HDV, XDCAM HD, P2, DVCPRO HD), which you must consider when you purchase a camera, but any HD camera, given the proper framing and lighting, will yield a better image than an similarly priced SD camera.


If you feel like you’re not ready to take the plunge into HD quite yet (for any reason), look around in the used market for a professional SD camera. There are plenty of them floating around as the market moves towards HD.


Keep in mind also, that many HDV cameras are also capable of recording in Standard Def DV or outputing an HD signal to SD. So even if the rest of your workflow isn’t ready for HD, you can still shoot HD and downconvert to SD as needed.


Getting Back to Basics

Building a Prosumer Camera Rig

Wikipedia Digital cinematography

Wikipedia Digital video

Wikipedia HD Video

Professional Video Glossary

HD Cemara Formats advantages and disadvantages (PDF)

Camcorder Info (HD Cameras)

Being that the camera is HD, you will be shooting in the 16×9 widescreen format. Make sure the camera shoots in the regional format that you want to deliver in (ie. NTSC and PAL).


Wikipedia: NTSC

Wikipedia: PAL

If you want to produce a more “film like” experience (another loaded term for a different article), make sure the camera has a 24p option. Be sure to research the 24p system that your camera uses – every brand seems to perform the 24p acrobatics in different ways. Consider the capabilities of you Editing software as well.


Aspect Ratios to Frame Rates

Wikipedia: 24p

Wikipedia: Frame rate

24 Questions about DV 24 Frame Progressive

24PA, 24F, 24P, 25F, 25P, 30F, 30P explained

All about framerates

Frame Rate Test Video Files



Almost all lower to medium end professional cameras have a 1/3″ imaging chip. Some of the smaller guerilla type cameras sport a smaller 1/4″ chip.


As you step up in chip size to 1/2″ to 2/3″ and even to the full 35mm styled chips (as in the RED), you will see an improvement in low light performance and substantially greater Depth of Field. The downside is these larger chips will be substantially more expensive. Generally speaking, the larger the chip, the better the image quality.


Making (some) sense out of sensor sizes

Shutter Speed



The professional camera industry is currently in a transitional state between CCD style imaging chips and CMOS style imaging chips although CCD cameras will be around for the foreseeable future. The difference between the two technologies is significant but goes way beyond the scope of this article. Both types are capable of producing great images but both have their drawbacks.


There is one major drawback to CMOS cameras that worth noting in this article. CMOS cameras use Rolling Shutters which can result in some unpleasant motion flaws in extreme situations – such as a whip pan. These flaws include: skew, wobble and partial exposure. These are problems in all CMOS cameras, but with the proper handling, can be avoided.


To CCD or to CMOS, That is the Question

CCD vs. CMOS technical comparison

The World of Canon CMOS Sensors

Wikipedia: Rolling Shutter

3 CCD / 3 CMOS


This is a term you’ll see thrown about a lot with these professional cameras. The concept involves splitting an image into its color components (Red, Green, and Blue) and recording them separately. Generally speaking in CCD cameras, having 3 chips is the prerequisite for a “professional” level camera. Because CMOS functions differently, many cameras (including the RED) only require 1 CMOS chip.


Wikipedia: 3CCD



For many professionals, this is the number one deciding factor when investing in a camera.


Cameras with interchangeable lenses allow you to swap out the lens for a different one. Although most cameras with an interchangeable lens come with a stock lens, there are a myriad of very high quality ENG (Electronic News Gathering) and Cine Lenses that you buy or rent to get achieve different focal lengths.


Wikipedia Focal length

Wikipedia Depth of field

Wikipedia Telephoto lens Focal Length

Canon USA EF Lenses 101 – Focal Length Comparison

Lens Calculator

Cameras with fixed lenses tend to be less expensive and lighter. Although you cannot change the lens on a fixed lens camera, there are wide angle and telephoto adapters that can be attached on the front of the camera.


Side by side – a Fixed lens Camera and an Interchangable Lens Camera


Example: Sony offers two versions of their popular XDCAM EX cameras, the EX1 and the EX3. Among some other minor differences, the EX1 (left) is a fixed lens camera while the EX3 (right) has an interchangeable lens.




If you plan on using your camera to shoot events where you can’t control the lighting, low light capability is something you’ll want to have. Similarly, if you want to use a DOF adapter (which we’ll discuss later), low light capability will be to your advantage.


The good news is most professional cameras these days have excellent low light capabilities. Generally speaking, the larger the chip size and optics, the better low light response ie. a camera that has 1/3″ chip will perform better than a 1/4″ chip..


The bad news is there is no industry standard for defining low light performance. Every manufacturer will define a camera’s minimum illumination differently and often times that minimum illumination is defined using a whole host of “light enhancing” electronic features like gain and frame accumulation which will ad noise and motion artifacting that is unwanted all but the most critical situations.


You may be able to use a manufacturer’s minimum illumination specs to compare the manufacturers cameras to each other. But for overall comparisons, search for independent comparisons (sites such as cover this extensively) and go with the general rule of thumb – the larger the chip size, the better the low light performance.


What is Lux: Shedding some Light on Low Light Cameras

Tape of Tapeless




More and more camera manufacturers are offering tapeless options and it is becoming something worth considering when purchasing a camera.


Tape offers the advantage of being a simple, inexpensive, and well defined format. Archiving is simple – just pull the record inhibit tab on the tape and store in a cool dry environment away from light. Also if you’re in a collaborative environment, it’s easy just to hand off a tape to someone else. But tape is limited to a set bit rate so you are stuck with the limitation of the format (currently HDV).


Tapeless acquisition allows for much higher bit rates and opens the door to much higher quality video recording. The freedom from set bit rates also allows interesting camera options such as over-cranking and time lapse recording. The two major drawbacks to tapeless are the high cost of recording media and the fact that you will have to actively back up and archive footage on a hard drive in order to reuse your recording media.


Wikipedia: Overcrank (Slow Mo)

Wikipedia: Time-lapse





Bar none, the best kind of audio connection for microphones is XLR. Most professional cameras have XLR connections, but there are a few out there that use RCA which means you’ll need an external converter for your XLR microphones.


Wikipedia: XLR connector



Keep in mind how you will be using your camera for your production. If you intend on using the camera for event/corporate work, you may want to consider cameras that have a shoulder mount design – something that will allow you to get steady shots even while handheld.


If you want to use a smaller camera stabilizer, you may want to opt for the smaller light weight camera. Similarly, if you intended to shoot a lot of guerrilla shots, you will want a smaller more inconspicuous camera.


If you happen to be used to a particular brand’s button layout, you will mostly likely want to stick with that brand as different manufactures all have their own layouts.


Big Rig


And of course, the “cool factor” does play into it as well. A big hulking camera with wires and blinking buttons looks great and can impress a client. But it’s also can be intimidating, requires a lot of set up time, addition people to operate (such as a focus puller) and is impossible to pull off a guerrilla shoot.




Not all viewfinders are born equal. Although a viewfinder does not affect the final output of a camera, they make for easier critical focus and a generally more pleasant shooting experience.


Unfortunately, manufacturers are not exactly upfront about the specs of their LCD/Viewfinders. Most manufacturers supply a size, some will even give you a pixel count. The more pixels in an LCD, the cleaner and sharper the image.


Ultimately, the best way to judge a viewfinder is to compare models first hand.




You can forgo the viewfinder if you are planning to send the video to a monitor through video out. All professional cameras have video out. The video out connections can include: SDI/HD-SDI (highest professional quality SD and HD), HDMI, Component (HD and SD), S-Video (SD only), and Composite (consumer grade SD).


Wikipedia: SDI/HD-SDI

Wikipedia: HDMI

Wikipedia: Component

Wikipedia: S Video

Wikipedia: Composite

Make sure the camera you are purchasing has the same format as the monitor you are intending to use.


Video Out can also be used to send the video to a Digital Disk Recorder such as the AJA KiPro. On some cameras, the SDI connections actually send the video image out before the signal is compressed to the recording format (generally HDV). Sending the signal before the camera’s recording compression allows for better quality which can make color correction and greenscreen compositing easier in post production. If you intend on using these devices, keep the video out options in mind when selecting a camera.




If you intend on using your camera in a multicam studio situation, you will need a camera with Timecode/Genlock sync capabilities.


Understanding TIME CODE

Wikipedia: SMPTE time code

Wikipedia: Genlock

Introduction to the Basic Principles of the SMPTE/EBU Time Code

Synchronisation and SMPTE TimeCodes

Audio Synchronization and Time Code explained



This may not be a concern if you are stepping up to your first professional camera. But if you are buying a second one, consider the type of battery the camera uses and how that will play into your budget.




Shooting with Power



One of the more exciting tools for the independent filmmaker of the last few years has been the advent and the improvement of the Depth of Field Adapter. Then adapters allow you to use 35mm lenses (still photo or film lenses) with your camera. When considering buying a camera, it’s worth considering if and how you will use it with a DOF Adapter.


A Depth of Field Adapter, also called a 35mm Adapter, works essentially like a projection screen. The image passes through the lens, and is projected on a translucent screen – the camera takes a picture of the screen. Since the area of the translucent screen is much larger than the image sensor, Depth of Field Adapters are capable of much shallower depth of field than the camera alone.


There are several limitations when using a depth of field adapter that you should consider in conjunction with your camera purchase. All Depth of Field Adapters project an upside down image on their translucent screen. Several DOF Adapter manufacturers offer image flipping devices, otherwise a camera with a viewfinder flip option would be useful. DOF adapters also eat of a lot of light, so cameras with low light capabilities fare best with DOF adapters.


Film, Video and 35mm Lens Adapters

Depth of Field Explained

How DOF Adapters work

DOF Adapter Manufacturers


Redrock Micro





P+S Technik



Here is a selection of professional level cameras. This is certainly by no means an exhaustive list of cameras that are available on the market. These listed below are NTSC cameras, if you are purchasing for use in a non-NTSC country, look for alternative versions of these models.






Popular Sony Cameras:







HVR 270U



PDW F355

PDW 700





Popular Canon Cameras:









Popular Panasonic Cameras:









Popular JVC Cameras:








When investing in a pro camera cost is certainly a issue. The interwebs are full of companies saying the offer “low prices.” But, is saving a couple dollars worth not having professional support for the huge number of questions you will have before AND after buying that camera? With a sales staff made up of working professional filmmakers and videographers with years of field experience, B&H is the only retailer we recomend (they also have some of the lowest prices). Yes, they are one of our sponsors, but the reason they are a sponsor is because they are the best. Don’t take our word for it, just ask around.


List of video editing software


Adobe After Effects (OS X, Windows)

Adobe Premiere Elements (OS X, Windows)

Adobe Premiere Pro (OS X, Windows)

Adobe Presenter Video Express (OS X, Windows) – Also screencast software

Autodesk Flame

Autodesk Smoke

Avid Media Composer (Windows, OS X)

AVS Video Editor (Windows)

Camtasia Studio (Windows, OS X) – Also screencast software

Corel VideoStudio (Windows)

Cyberlink PowerDirector (Windows)

Edius (Windows)

Final Cut Pro X (OS X)

FORscene (OS X, Windows, Linux)

Harris Broadcast Velocity (Windows)


Professional Video Cameras


10 Top Lights For Digital Video Production