Production studios

A Guide to Codecs (for the non-technical user)

First things first:  What is a codec? A codec is a method of Compressing / Decompressing information.  CoDec.  The Compressor part takes large files and turns ’em into smaller ones, the Decompressor takes those small files, and makes ’em readable again by your computer.


Common Codecs

There are hundreds of codecs. The ones you’re likely to run across in the video world are H.264, ProRes, and DNxHD.


What about Quicktime?

A Quicktime movie (.mov) isn’t technically a codec – – it’s a container. A container (or wrapper) is like a bucket that you can drop lots of things into, and it bundles it all together into one nice little package. Other common containers are AVI files (.avi) Windows Media (.wmv), MPEG-2 files (.mpg) and MPEG-4 files (.mp4)

Quicktime (.mov) is a pretty versatile container that can store lots of different codecs. It’s possible to have an H264 .mov, a DNxHD .mov or a ProRes .mov.


Is that all?

In addition to which codec is used, there are settings within each individual codec that can be changed. The two most common settings are Frame Size and Bit Rate. Frame size is how large your video is. Bit rate is how much data per second the codec transmits. Frame size is measured in pixels (an HD video is 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall). Bit rates are measured in Megabits Per Second (Mbps).


This is too confusing. I just want a cheat sheet.

That’s cool. Here’s what we find works really well.


    1. I want a high quality video for Vimeo / Youtube
      Container: MP4
      Codec: H264
      Frame Rate: Native
      Frame Size: Native (commonly 1920×1080)
      Bit Rate: Around 20Mbps
      Audio Format: AAC
      Audio Bitrate: 320kbps
      total file size for a :30 commercial? 60 Megabytes


    1. I want a preview-size video that’s fast to download
      Container: MP4
      Codec: H264
      Frame Rate: Native
      Frame Size: Half (960×540)
      Bit Rate: Around 2.5 Mbps
      Audio Format: AAC
      Audio Bitrate: 120kbps
      total file size for a :30 commercial? 10 Megabytes


  1. I want the FULL RES MASTER FILE! I don’t care how long it takes
    Container: MOV
    Codec: ProRes 4444 / DNxHD 10-bit / Uncompressed 10-bit
    Frame Rate: Native
    Frame Size: Native
    Bit Rate: Native
    Audio Format: Uncompressed
    Audio Bitrate: Native
    total file size for a :30 commercial? 1.5 Gigabytes to 7 Gigabytes


This is still too confusing!

Also not a problem. Drop us a line and tell us where your video is going to play, and we will compress your file to in the optimal format!


CRASH+SUES provides strategic storytelling and video services to ad agencies, businesses and film companies seeking to create meaningful connections with their customers and employees.  We’re masters of ideation, design, live action video production, animation and color, delivering compelling content that engages, entertains and educates. Call us what you want – a hybrid agency, a creative boutique, a production studio, digital daredevils, or… just call us. We’ll help you cut through the noise. visit CRASH+SUES


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