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The Ultimate Guide to Video Compression for Filmmakers and Post Producers [28 Pages]

In this guide, we’ll talk about the definition of compression and its different modes & categories, codecs & containers, bit depth, chrominance subsampling and puzzle all of these elements together in order for you to optimise your workflow in the best possible way from prep to finish of your project’s production, and to get the best out of your digital video cameras.


Camera shooting specifications come in different flavours from one manufacturer to another, from a device model to another, and these specs may change over time to be replaced by new ones. Here are some examples which you may have seen before:

  • Apple ProRes 422: VBR, maximum bit rate 147Mbps, 4:2:2 10 bit
  • XAVC-I mode: QFHD 25P CBG, bit rate 250Mbps, MPEG-4 H.264/AVC
  • etc…

You don’t have the understand these to point and shoot, but what I’m saying is that if you don’t learn the scientific concept of your tool, well the decisions that you’re going to make on the job will be questionable and may eventually impact different stages of the master delivery (technical constraints, financial impact, TX date delays, team pressure).

That said, anyone involved with the technical intricacies of file compression (not just production people and especially post-production people) should have some form of understanding depending on how close you get to working with the media files.

This document should benefit you whether you’re working as a one woman/man band or as part of a larger team. The intention here is rather to clarify the function of each piece of the puzzle and to explain how these all work together for you to optimise your workflow in the best, most cost-effective possible way. Devoting time to educating yourself should have its benefits in the long run.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Stepping Stones: from Tapes to Codecs
  • The 3 Categories of Compression Algorithms
  • Why & What is Compression: The Scientific Methods behind Video Coding
  • Breaking Down the Video Compression Standards
  • Containers (or Wrappers) for AV Files: What Are They?
  • The Bit Rate Modes
  • The Bit Depth (8-Bit, 10-Bit, 12-Bit): from the Sensor’s Native Analog Data Supply to a Digital Signal
  • Chrominance Subsampling
  • Conclusion


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