Recorded Video File Formats

Understand MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, H.265, AVC, HEVC, AVI, MP4, MTS, M2TS, MOV...??
Don't worry! Here is what really matters.

While tape recording always had fixed resolutions and frame rates, like

  • PAL Video-8, Hi-8, VHS, S-VHS, VHS-C, SVHS-C, Mini-DV, Digital-8
    = 720x576 pixels, 50 interlaced fields at 25 frames per second
  • NTSC Video-8, Hi-8, VHS, S-VHS, VHS-C, SVHS-C, Mini-DV, Digital-8
    = 720x480 pixels, 60 interlaced fields at 30 frames per second
  • HDV 1440x1080 pixels, 50i / 60i at 25/30 frames per second

Video recording on memory cards was/is a complete mess of formats. The good thing... at least in the consumer video area, the real camcorders are doing better. There are some formats that have a given standard and usually this is written on the camcorder or its manual.

A major difference is whether interlaced or progressiv recording was used.

  • Interlaced (50i/60i) means that two half second movements have been captures on one video picture (frame). Wikipedia has more details.
  • Progressive (24p,25p,30p,50p,60p,100p,120p,..) means that one second of video has been captured with xxx (progressiv) pictures per second.

The important thing: No flat panel TV set or PC monitor can really display interlaced material today. So if old interlaced material has to be edited and stored today, the target media defines, whether the interlaced mode should be kept, or the interlaced fields should be converted to progressive material.

INTERLACE OR PROGRESSIV TARGET - COMING UP

The interlaced standard is quite dead for new camcorders. And all modern UHD Camcorders, Action-Cams, SmartPhones, Drones, DSLR (photo camera with video recording feature) no longer record in interlaced mode. But the first generation of AVCHD camcorders could produce both formats, found in "old" footage:

  • AVCHD(-1) camcorders of the first generation tended to record
    • 1280x720 with 50 or 60 progressive frames per second
    • 1440x1080 with 50 or 60 interlaced fields per second
    • 1920x1080 with 50 or 60 interlaced fields per second
  • AVCHD-2 camcorders of the second generation tended to record
    • 1920x1080 with 50 or 60 interlaced fields per second
    • 1920x1080 with 50 or 60 progressive frames per second

Still no word on MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, H.265, AVC, HEVC, AVI, MP4, MTS, M2TS, MOV...

Yes, because normally it is not of any interest what the recording was. Every current video editing software will be able to read/import any currently recorded - or in the past recorded video material from memory card or other USB or internal drives.

But if you ask a professional to convert older 8mm or 16mm film, make sure to have it produced in Full-HD 1920x1080 progressive. Some tend to scan the old 4:3 film footage with 1440x1080 and 4:3 aspect. This can lead to trouble because 1440x1080 is the HDV 16:9 standard format. Video editing software or playback hard-/software could have problems with a non-standard 1440x1080 4:3 format!

The different Audio+Video "container" formats and codecs are more interesting when the video export for storage takes place.

But first, the video scenes need to be cut. Nobody want's to watch hundreds of single scenes with shaking video and xxx minutes of length.

So the next step is the video editing part.

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