Sometimes clients can get confused when we begin to explain what they will be receiving as a video deliverable. “What does that mean?”, they ask, with a frightened confused look on their face. Sometimes, as we explain further, that glazing over their eyes turns to panic and they interject, “just make it work, I don’t understand anything about techie stuff”.
When completing a video or film project for a client it’s important that they know what they will be receiving at the end. There are so many formats of codec, resolution and compression that it can boggle the mind. It’s no wonder folks are so easily confused. Here’s a very simple explanation of how video files work.
When a film company sets up their fancy cameras and big lights, there’s actually a great deal of digital innovation happening that the client doesn’t even realize. One big difference between shooting on a digital cine camera and a flip phone is image compression.
High-end production cameras are able to write huge amounts of data as they record, whereas consumer cameras simply can’t deal with that much information, so the consumer camera compresses the information as it writes data. But in reality, it’s just throwing it away. That data is unrecoverable, and hence the reason why it may look unprofessional. Most cine cameras record image files that can only be read by the camera or expensive production software, and these files are enormous!
After all of the filming is done, and post production, editing and color grading are complete, it’s time to deliver a file that anyone can view.
DVD vs Blu-Ray
There are so many ways to export video including DVD, BluRay, digital download, etc. Which one to use? In case you haven’t noticed, disks are very quickly being replaced, but since DVD was such a widely used technology most folks resist letting it go. The problem with the DVD format is that it only plays standard definition (720×480 pixels), and we’ve been producing HD video (1920×1080 pixels) for roughly 20 years. BluRay is a great HD deliverable, however, still many consumer have not purchased a player because their DVD is “good enough”, so that becomes a difficult obstacle.
“many consumers have not purchased a [BluRay] player because their DVD is “good enough”
In the past, when a client received a deliverable it was usually on a plain disk marked with a sharpie. It could have either been formatted for use on a DVD player, or just a simple computer file. The beauty of using a service like YouTube or Vimeo, is that your file remains accessible even when your computer that had the only file backup has crashed. And that plain disk you were handed? It was lost two years ago when you cleaned out your office and were careless about what was in your top desk drawer.
Most often, when completing a project, film companies try to make the deliverable process as simple as possible. The client is given a thumb drive (for smaller projects) with a video file called an MP4. That is a universally playable file format whether on Mac, PC, tablet, or phone. They have taken all of these gigantic camera files that were mentioned earlier, and compressed them to be able to play smoothly on any device, and yet still look beautiful. Most of the time, those videos will be viewed on web based platforms like Youtube etc., or social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
It is actually quite easy to upload content onto video and social media sites. Facebook and YouTube (Google) have many support pages dedicated to their use so anyone can learn the basics of how to upload video files with very little effort.
Broadcast and film standards, frame rates, and compression settings.