Video Guide Part 3: Video Formats and Compression Methods


Part 2 of this series discussed applications for digital video on the Internet, professional editing systems and processing software. Part 3 covers popular video formats and their fields of application. We will also take a look at the basic function principles behind MPEG compression using practical examples.

Video Formats - From Postage Stamp Sizes To High Resolution Images

Avid PC users will almost certainly remember the first time they were able to view a video clip on their computer. The clips were about the size of a postage stamp and were generously referred to as "multimedia". Later, the first acceptable video clips were used in the opening scenes of computer games. In some cases, there were even digital 3D animations that couldn't be created in real-time with the hardware and software that was available in those days. As the video clips demanded extensive storage space (despite their short length), they were only available on CD-ROM drives that had recently become popular. Because of this, many PC's became multimedia-compatible, in a restricted sense, by the integration of a CD-ROM drive and a soundcard. However, their limitations soon became apparent: it wasn't possible to run the video clip smoothly in fullscreen mode even with the most powerful hardware available. With the development of high performance graphic chips, faster processors and corresponding software interfaces, today's users are now able to run video clips in all the usual formats (including fullscreen mode) without problems. We'll continue with a look at the most video formats and we'll then provide an overview of their specific applications.