It Does Not Matter What Video Format I Use When Editing or Does It?

The quick answer is yes, it does matter which video format You use.

The answer to the question you now have is there is not one single be all, end all format that meets everyone's needs.

There are a plethora of video formats used in the industry today and I think the best way to help others understand the differences is to separate them into three very broad categories.

1. Acquisition

2. Editing

3. Delivery


  1. Acquisition formats are determined by the hardware (camera) that was used to capture the footage. These formats can be specific to brands of products like ARRI or Red or generic like raw or quicktime movie. These formats are usually the highest quality possible that can be obtained by the camera or recorder unless set to some lower level to reduce file size.
  2. Editing formats are considered an intermediate format because it is a lesser quality than the Acquisition formats but better quality than the Delivery formats.
    1. Some editing software will edit footage in the native acquisition format so no quality is lost. Other editing software must have the video clips transcoded before or during import into the project.
    2. In some arenas of production an editing format is used because the Acquisition format makes extremely large files which are hard and unweilding for the editing software and hardware to handle. After editing the original acquisition footage is used to replace the editing formatted footage to yield the highest quality imagery for a master.
    3. When you have completed a project you should always keep a copy of the project in the editing format or the master format to always have a quality product for redistribution to other formats.
  3. Delivery formats are the down and dirty of the industry when it comes to quality. This is the format used to make the video playable on computers, cell phones, televisions and at the theaters. While nowadays they look pretty good they are still not the quality of the Editing and Acquisition formats. And if you use a video encoded in a delivery format to transcode, or convert, into another delivery format image quality will suffer. The proper way to distribute video is to use the Editing or Master formatted maternal and then transcode to the format of choice in order to achieve the best quality possible.

All of this is the reason you cannot just take a clip from that looks great on YouTube, Vimeo or other service and expect it to look as good on a TV broadcast or in theaters. All video material must be exported in a delivery format that meets its intended use.

"For best results when choosing an editing format, chose one that matches the dimensions and frame rate of your Acquisition format if you cannot edit the Acquisition format directly."

This article has skirted around a lot of technical jargon in the hopes that it is easier to digest by the entry level video professional.

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