Multimedia File Formats Glossary
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A multimedia container format defined by the 3GPP (Third Generation Partnership
Project) to be used on 3G mobile phones and certain mobile devices, such
as the Nintendo DSi. The 3GP file format stores video streams as H.263 or
H.264, and audio streams as AMR and AAC.
A multimedia container format defined by the 3GPP (Third Generation Partnership
Project) to be used for 3G mobile phones. The 3G2 has some slightly enhanced
storage and streaming features in comparison to the 3GP and can store
the same streams of audio/video formats with some minor additions.
An open source container format for compressed files archived using the
7zip open source software. It is a popular alternative to archiving tools
such as WinZip and can almost always achieve significantly better compression.
All major operating systems have versions of 7zip freely available.
AAC (Advanced Audio Coding)
A standardized audio codec that was developed to be the successor to MP3,
able to deliver better sound quality at similar bit rates. It has become
the default audio format in the iTunes store and on many devices, including
Apple's iPhone/iPod line, and several Sony and Nintendo products.
AMR (Adaptive Multi-Rate audio codec)
An audio codec specially optimized for live speech. As such, it is a popular
format for low-bitrate spoken-word recordings, and has become a standard
for 3G-enabled mobile devices such as smartphones.
ASF (Advanced Systems Format)
Formerly called Advanced Streaming Format, ASF is a proprietary digital
audio/video container format from Microsoft, created for streaming media
as part of the Windows Media framework. ASF commonly contains Microsoft
formats such as WMA and WMV. The format requires a license to be implemented
and isn't compatible with open source licenses.
ASX (Advanced Stream Redirector)
A type of XML metafile configured to store a database of Windows Media
files to be played during a multimedia presentation. It is usually used
to handle live streaming of multiple ASF files in succession. For other
Microsoft formats there are unique redirectors such as WVX for the popular
AVI (Audio Video Interleave)
A Microsoft multimedia container format able to contain both audio and
video files to allow seamless playback. While AVI's were not engineered
with compression techniques in mind, the often employ different types
of codec's, popular examples include MPEG-4, Xvid, and DivX.
A file which may contain virtually any type of data, it is encoded in
a base-2 number system (binary code) for archiving purposes on a computer.
It's use spreads across all computing and is not limited to video.
BUP (Back UP)
A backup file of the IFO file on a DVD, containing the information about
the track, organization, menus, chapters, and subtitles on the disk. It
is used as a redundant way to access information usually accessed by an
IFO, in the event the disk is scratched or otherwise damaged.
CCD (CloneCD Control file)
A file that is a text descriptor used by CloneCD to mark the properties
of a CD or DVD disk image. It is only useful when combined with an image
file. CCD files can also be used with other disk mounting software such
as Alcohol 120% and Daemon Tools.
Also, CISO. A compression method for the ISO image format used as an alternative
to the .DAX compression method. It generally has better compression ratios,
having 9 levels of compression available. It is primarily used as a way
to compress PlayStation Portable (PSP) UMD disks.
DiVX (Digital Video Express)
A video codec created by DivX, Inc. created to compress large video files
into small segments while maintaining good visual quality. It's popularly
has waned in recent years due to it's limitations of compressing HD quality
video, in favor of standards such as H.264.
The Adobe Flash animation source file that is used during development
before being saved typically as an .SWF file. Flash video however, usually
has the FLV of F4V extension and is considered it's own format separate
FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec)
An open-source lossless audio format. Has much higher file sizes than
the same file encoded with a lossy format such as MP3 but is guaranteed
to have the same quality as the source material. It still has compression
and can reduce file sizes to 50-60% of the original source.
FLV (Flash Video)
One of the leading ways to deliver way through the Adobe Flash Player.
The video content inside is the same as with video objects embedded within
SWF files. Due to Flash's wide adoption across most modern browsers and
operating systems, it has become a leading way to feature rich media such
as video on the Internet. Starting with Adobe Flash 9, an alternative
extension became available called F4V. This newer standard utilizes H.264
video and MP3 audio.
The file extension of the Gzip utility, an open-source data compression
software application created by the GNU Project. It's usage has waned
in favor of newer compression packages such as 7zip, althrough it still
sees use among the open-source community.
A video codec that has become extremely popular for HD video due to it's
great compression ratios. All Blu-Ray players can decode to this format,
as it is one of it's numerous codec standards. It has seen widespread
use on the web due to it's ease of encoding into Adobe's FLV video format,
which has resulted in a large number of YouTube, Vimeo, and iTunes video
A type of DVD-video file that stores the information about chapters, subtitles,
and audio tracks and basic navigational information. They work closely
with other formats on DVD-videos: VOB and BUP.
A CD or DVD image file, used for digital storage. It is usually a raw
dump of the contents of the disk, and often contains the exact same file
structure as an ISO, to the point that the extensions are interchangeable.
ISO (International Organization for Standardization)
An archive file of an optical disc, containing all data content of every
written sector. Often interchangeable with IMG files. Being a pure digital
copy, no compression methods are used on ISO files.
A file that may be compressed, but only if it can be reconstructed to
it's original state without any alteration to the source file. For this
reason lossless files command a large file size with the advantage of
preserving the source exactly. As such, lossless formats are not well
suited for streaming.
A file that may be compressed using an approximation of the source material.
This allows for file sizes many multitudes smaller than the source material
while still maintaining acceptable quality. Lossy compression makes it
possible to stream video over an Internet connection in real-time, as
well as simply be able to store much more media using less storage capacity.
A plain text computer file format that stores multimedia playlists, specifying
the locations of one or more media files. The format was originally written
for Winamp by Nullsoft, but has been used in many media programs including
iTunes. In addition to pointing to a local file, many M3U files point
to an online streaming location used for internet radio stations.
A binary file with a media descriptor that contains metadata about the
original file and CD or DVD image. This metadata includes information
on layer breaks and copy protection features. It is often used in disk
imaging applications such as Alcohol 120% and Daemon Tools.
MKV (Matroska Video)
An open source multimedia container format for holding audio and video
files, as well as pictures or subtitles. Intended as a universal format
for multimedia storage. It is unique as the container is completely open
in specification, allowing it to hold multiple audio, video, and subtitle
streams in the same file. This makes it a popular choice for content with
multiple audio and subtitle tracks. It had wide hardware support for many
commercial media players including HDTV's and Blu-Ray players.
The multimedia container file format for QuickTime, designed to hold audio,
video, and data files, usually comprised of subtitles and effects. Modern
MOV files use the MPEG-4 standard. The MOV container has been approved
as the basis for MPEG-4 by the International Organization for Standardization.
MP2 MPEG-1 Audio Layer II
Part of the MPEG-1 video encoding format, MP2 predates the MP3 format
and is used with older containers such as Video CDs. It generally has
much larger-filesizes than MP3 but requires less powerful audio decoders
to play back. This allows the file format to be played on legacy equipment.
MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer III)
Part of the MPEG-1 video encoding format, able to store good quality audio
into small files, by filtering out audio that most humans cannot hear.
MP3 has become one of the most popular formats for buying and sharing
digital music, despite proven advancements with other lossy formats, such
as AAC or OGG.
The official multimedia container format for MPEG-4 video and audio. It
is a more open and generic version of the QuickTime File Format, which
uses the MOV extension. A versatile container, is has support for multiple
audio and video streams and is capable of being streamed over the Internet.
MPEG (Moving Pictures Experts Group)
A working group of experts formed by the ISO/IEC to develop the standards
for audio and video compression and transmission. The group formed in
1988 and today has over 380 members. They are responsible for many popular
standards including MP3 and MPEG-4.
A standard format for lossy compression of video and audio, designed to
compress raw digital video and audio down to a 6:1 ratio without losing
much quality. Having it's first public release in 1993, it has since seen
huge adoption and effectively set the standard for lossy audio and video
NDS (Nintendo DS)
Nintendo's handheld gaming console, released originally in 2004. It features
two LCD screens, one a touchscreen, a built-in microphone, and wireless
An identification file with release and general information that is packed
with a software program. They contain an ASCII text file that can be read
using a generic text editor. NFO files were popular with Bulletin Board
Systems (BBS), which predates the World Wide Web.
A proprietary CD image file format used by Nero Burning ROM to create
and burn CD images. Despite its proprietary nature, various programs can
read it, including Alcohol 120%, Daemon Tools and Power ISO.
A free, open standard container format created and maintained by the Xiph.Org
Foundation, designed to provide efficient streaming and editing of high-quality
multimedia digital files. Influenced partly as an open-source alternative
to MO3, OGG generally can generate audio files smaller than an MP3 while
maintaining the same or higher level of quality. However, it isn't limited
to audio, it is a complete container unrestricted by software patents.
A file format for storing multimedia playlists that can also store information
about each particular song such as song title and length. It is generally
more descriptive than an M3U file, and is compatible with most major media
players, including iTunes, Winamp, and VLC.
RAR (Roshal Archive)
A proprietary archive file format created by Russian software engineer
Eugene Roshal, supporting data compression, error recovery, and spanning.
It was created for use with WinRAR, although many complression programs
support it, including Winzip and 7zip.
A proprietary multimedia container format designed by RealNetworks, usually
used in together with RealVideo and RealAudio for streaming content over
the Internet. It uses a constant bit-rate, unlike it's newer format which
supports a variable bitrate, titled RMVB.
SFV (Simple File Verification)
A file that typically arrives bundled with files downloaded off the Internet,
it is a means of checking that the files downloaded are complete by matching
the data with the SFV file. This is due to the possibility of file corruption
in the process of downloading or hard-drive failure.
A text-based subtitle format known also as SubRip. SRT subtitles are usually
found in DivX or XviD encoded AVI files. It is a plain-text file that
simply queues when to display a subtitle line sequentially, down to the
SWF (Small Web Format)
Previously standing as an abbreviation for Shockwave Flash, SWF is a file
format of a compiled FLA used by Adobe Flash. A SWF may contain vector
graphics and rich media including images, audio, and video. It is widely
adopted plugin for many desktop Internet browsers, although availability
is more limited on mobile devices. It is more common for modern Flash
video to have the FLV extension, however.
A torrent is a file that is transmitted via the BitTorrent protocol written
by Bram Cohen. The torrent can be anything, usually audio, video, an application,
or a game. Being completely peer-to-peer, without a central server, it
is one of the most efficient P2P solutions created, rising in popularity
dramatically since it's first release in 2001. As of 2009, it has been
reported to account for between ¼ and ½ of all Internet traffic.
The MPEG transport stream. A standard format for transmitting and storing
audio, video, and data files usually employed for use in digital television
streaming. It features error correction and stream synchronization across
various signal strengths.
A standard created and developed in the early '90s that made it possible
for a regular CD to contain 74 minutes of both video and audio encoded
in the MPEG-1 format. It is an evolution of the Laserdiscs created in
the '70s and was surpassed by the DVD in the late '90s.
VOB (Video Object)
One of the core files found on a DVD, it is a container format for all
the movie data layered together, containing audio, video, subtitle, menu,
and navigation data. VOB files can be up to 1GB in file size to maximize
compatibility, and for that reason, many DVDs are comprised of multiple
WMV (Windows Media Video)
A video compression format for several codecs by Microsoft, designed originally
for streaming applications on the Internet. It has also become adopted
as a video format compatible with Blu-Ray discs. It is often compared
to MPEG-4 and H.264 in terms of video quality.
Published - August 2011
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