Subsections


Video FFmpeg Formats

FFmpeg supports hundreds of codecs and formats. Some are proprietary and cannot be implemented in FFmpeg or can be voluntarily compiled as non-free; others are proprietary but their use is free; finally there are the Open formats/codecs, fully supported and well documented. We are only describing here a selection of the most well-known and most frequently used ones.


High Quality

High quality formats are also called Mezzanine codecs, Digital Intermediate, Preservation codecs or Editing codecs. These have no compression or intraframe lossless or near-lossless compression and are suitable for editing, post-processing, mastering and archiving. They are also used for the interchange of files between different programs. They take up a lot of disk space and require a powerful system.

MKV
Open, highly configurable and extensively documented. Can have seeking problems. Belongs to the Matroska family.
Presets: ffv1, ffvyuv
MXF
Created by Avid. It is probably the best and most advanced container for editing.
Presets: DNxHR, ffv1, AVC_Intra_100
MOV
Created by Apple. It is a suitable format for editing because it organizes the files within the container into hierarchically structured atoms described in a header. This brings simplicity and compatibility with various software and does not require continuous encoding/decoding in the timeline.
Presets: DNxHR, ffv1, CineformHD, huffyuv
PRO
Different extension, but it is still mov. Prores is proprietary and there are no official encoders except the original Adobe one. The engine used by ffmpeg is the result of reverse engineering and, according to Adobe, does not guarantee the same quality and performance of the original1.
Presets: ProRes
QT
Different extension, but it is always mov.
Presets: DNxHD, magicyuv, raw, utvideo
MP4
mostly used for General Purpose. It belongs to the large MPEG family.
Presets: AVC_Intra_100
RGB
Raw format.
Presets: raw
YUV
Raw format.
Presets: raw
AVI
Old and limited format (no multi streams, no subtitles, limited metadata) but with high compatibility.
Presets: ffv1


General Purpose

These are also called Delivery codecs. They are the most used and widespread being suitable for streaming, video sharing, watching TV, smartphones, plus more. Because of lossy compression type Interframe, they produce smaller files with variable quality. They are not suitable for editing, compositing and color correction. Further rendering of these formats worsens the quality exponentially. The most used codecs have hardware support (vaapi, vdpau, nvenc) that make them more efficient.

MOV
Created by Apple. It is a suitable format for editing because it organizes the files within the container into hierarchically structured "atoms" described in a header. This brings simplicity and compatibility with various software and does not require continuous encoding/decoding in the timeline.
Presets: Presets: mov
QT
Different exstension, but it is always mov.
Presets: mjpeg, DV, Div, CinePack
MP4
The most popular. Many other formats belong to this family (MPEG);
h264 is actually x264, open, highly configurable and documented; h265/HEVC is actually x265, open, highly configurable and documented. x264-5 is for encoding only.
Presets: h265, h265, mjpeg, mpeg2, obs2youtube
WEBM
Open; similar to mp4 but not as widespread (it is used by YouTube). It belongs to the Matroska family. In CINELERRA-GG there are specific Presets with .youtube extension, but they are still webm.
Presets: VP8, VP9, AV1
MKV
Open, highly configurable and widely documented. It might have seeking problems. It belongs to the Matroska family.
Presets: Theora, VP8, VP9
AVI
Old and limited format (no multistreams, no subtitles, limited metadata) but with high compatibility.
Presets: asv, DV, mjpeg, xvid
MPG
Parent of the MPEG family, to which MP4 also belongs. Mpeg is used by CINELERRA-GG as default for proxies and mpeg-2 is the standard for Video DVDs.
Presets: mpeg, mpeg2


Image Sequences

The image sequences can be uncompressed, with lossy or lossless compression but always Intraframe. They are suitable for post-processing that is compositing (VFX) and color correction.

DPX
Film standard; uncompressed; high quality. Log type.
PNG
Uncompressed or lossless compression. Supports alpha channel.
WEBP, TIFF, GIF, JPEG, ...
Variable compression, size and quality.


Old Pro Formats

Some formats, though used in the past in the pro field, are disappearing with the evolution of technologies. DVD is becoming more and more niche, while Bluray is still widespread (also as a backup); DV/HDV remains only as a support for old Camcorders with magnetic tapes. DV is still a quality format, with intraframe compression; HDV is mpeg-2 compressed.

AVI
old and limited format but with high compatibility.
Presets: DV_pal, DV_ntsc, mjpeg
QT
belongs to the Apple mov family.
Presets: DV, mjpeg
M2TS
format for Bluray (mpeg4). Bluray player devices need a standard Bluray disc structure (bdwrite) for playback2.
Presets: AVC422, Lossless, Bluray, hevc
MP4
Belongs to the MPEG family. Motionjpeg has jpeg compression, then Intraframe, so it maintains good quality and fluidity in editing. It is now an old and limited codec.
Presets: mjpeg



Footnotes

... original1
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT200321
... playback2
CINELERRA-GG offers specific functionality for creating DVDs/Blurays
The CINELERRA-GG Community, 2021
https://www.cinelerra-gg.org