What's the best digital format for your video?

What makes one digital video format preferable to another?

  There’s no easy answer for this as different video formats are appropriate for different tasks. When it comes to video preservation and digitisation, experts from the broadcast industry, museums and archives have spent many years scrutinising different methods and formats, without coming to a conclusion that applies across the board. We have worked closely with museums and archives, including the National Archive at the British Film Institute, The British Library and The Imperial War Museum, to help them with projects that include preservation of film and video material. We have plenty of experience in this field and can call on some of the leading experts in the world for advice.Cultural heritage and broadcast companies have different opinions on video preservation, for example. While both sectors have the responsibility to preserve media and make it accessible, they handle different media quantities, types and formats. Therefore, such companies have different requirements, approaches and views on what preservation actually means and the best way to do it.

How long do I need to keep it?

If your needs aren’t quite so demanding as a world-class national archive or broadcaster, then your choice of video format becomes much easier. First of all, try to work out how long you might need to keep your video for. We find that most video collections will need video which is suitable for viewing over the internet, or on a mobile device. These days, H.264 can be used for standard or high definition streams that are usually between half and one Mbit/s. We find that as time goes by, the resolution and bit rates all go up as people get access to better Internet connections and mobile devices improve so in a few years’ time, you might want a higher definition or higher bit rate for your archive. This means that you will need to have kept an original video format copy in the best quality that you think might ever be needed. You can then create the versions that your viewers access from these files.

An original digital

If your material is ‘born digital’, in other words, it was created by a digital camera or production system, then there is a good argument for simply keeping these files. However, the camera's original video format files, will no doubt be very large, and they may use a production video format that is not easy to edit or to convert to another format without access to professional tools. A pragmatic approach, if you don’t have too much video, or you have sufficient storage space, is to consider making a high-quality version of your camera original files using a ubiquitous video format such as H.264. A full HD H.264 video at 15 Mbps can be used to create high-quality video files for Internet viewing for many years into the future.

Don't be afraid to ask

If you are finding it difficult to make a decision about encoding formats or how to make sure that your content will be accessible for many years to come, then get in touch to speak to one of our experienced technical advisers. We will help you to make practical and cost-effective choices to ensure the highest quality and to achieve long-term sustainability. For more information on encoding and managing your media assets, contact one of the Imagen team today.

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