What is best format (codec) to save/archive digital video

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by sonyhock, Feb 28, 2011.

  1. sonyhock macrumors newbie

    Feb 28, 2011
    Hello all,
    I've been digging around trying to find this specific answer and I think I've figured it out, but I want to be sure before continuing to convert my hours and hours of home VHS video to digital. Your help is greatly appreciated. (Sorry this is long...I want you to have all the info you need for answer.)

    Here's what I want to do:

    1- I want to both save my tapes in digital format and copy onto an external HD for archiving/future use (and to save computer HD space so I can drag them later into imovie)

    2- AND to use now for editing in imovie.

    To save for future use (ie: archiving), I want to save in a digital format that can best be read/burned to DVD (or other future format) years later, if say, I have a new computer or new program, or whatever. And that, if copied onto an external HD, I can easily drag into imovie 9 later.

    For that purpose, does it work best to save them them in an mpeg4 format? Or will .mov work? I think I can save them in either. (If I see a file with .mp4, is that the mpeg4?)
    What extactly IS the .mov format (seems that what imovie converts it to)

    Or should I take the time/trouble to get a converter (like mpeg streamclip) and save them instead (or also) in a .dv file? (follow up question at end to this one)

    Or what else would you suggest?

    To give full info, here's the background of what I'm doing:

    I have an imac with imovie 9. I'm using a newly purchased Roxio Easy VHS to DVD program to convert. (It is easy, though missing a few key things like being able to save directly to external HD, but I can work around that.)

    Once uploaded it gives three options: burn to DVD using a simple version of Toast, save to imovie for editing, convert for quicktime. I have tried all three.

    I think when I click to edit in imovie, it's saving them in .mov
    Somehow, when I was playing around with the roxio, I got one version of a video into a version that ends .mp4 (is that mpeg4?). I think that was when I clicked the quicktime option.

    I can't seem to open imovie and 'drag' an event onto my external HD to save. It appears I must open the movie folder and drag one of THOSE files over. But I'm getting different versions, depending on what I click after roxio conversion.

    So again, I want to copy one version of my raw footage (as shot) into an external hard drive for saving for far future and/or dragging back into imovie in the near future.

    If I should be saving them in various codecs, I think I can do that if I upgrade my basic toast to buying the titanium toast.

    or if I download mpeg streamclip to convert. (Here's my bonus question: If I have a one-year-old imac, do I need to buy that $20 quicktime player I've seen mentioned to go with the mpeg streamclip, or will what came with this computer work?)

    Hope this isn't too confusing. I'm trying to make sure I save these movies the right way first time out so I don't have to do them a second time.

    Thanks so much.
  2. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020


    Apr 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ

    If you intend on editing later on, you want to avoid compressed codecs like MPEG-4, H.264, etc. These are delivery codecs and don't edit well due to their aggressive compression.

    MOV is a file container for Quicktime movies, not a format. Just about any codec can be wrapped into an MOV file.

    For VHS material, I would recommend saving in the DV NTSC codec (DV25), if the capture device allows for it. DV codec material should import fine into iMovie without any conversion. If the device won't capture to DV, you can use MPEG Streamclip to do the conversion. Just have it make a Quicktime movie using the DV NTSC 4:3 setting.

    You're probably thinking of the Apple MPEG-2 Quicktime playback component. No Mac comes with it - you either buy it for $20 from Apple or it comes free with Final Cut Studio. You actually don't need this unless you're importing/converting MPEG-2 transport streams (like the .vob files from DVDs).

    But anyway, using MPEG Streamclip may be an unnecessary step, depending on what your Roxio converter is capable of. If it can capture to a suitable format for editing in iMovie from the get-go, you probably wouldn't need to touch any other software.
  3. Dave Braine macrumors 68040

    Dave Braine

    Mar 19, 2008
    Warrington, UK
    If you want to save a bit of HDD space, compared to DV, export from MPEGstreamclip to Quicktime using the Apple Intermediate Codec option. This is also a suitable format for editing with the likes of iMovie.
  4. martinX macrumors 6502a


    Aug 11, 2009
    The only references I can find quote bitrates for AIC for 720p and above, but it's twice the bitrate of DV
  5. sonyhock thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 28, 2011
    Thanks for the help. I'm really not sure what format roxio is saving in...just that it can send it to imovie. But I did figure out that I can open my computer movies folder and drag that format to my external HD. When I click on 'info' there, it just calls it a "quick time movie."

    Also, after posting, I downloaded Streamclip and experimented with converting the files saved by roxio into Mpeg4 movies and into DV which does take more space. Then I burned several versions (quicktime, mpeg4 and DV) of the same small clip onto a DVD. I can't tell a difference in quality (analog!) but I feel like it's in my best interest to save one copy of my videos in DV on my external HD for future use (though I will probably have to get a second external HD) while using the versions saved to imovie (smaller files) for editing now.

    Also, thanks for the explanation of codec vs. container. That clears up a few things.

    I appreciate all the responses.
  6. martinX macrumors 6502a


    Aug 11, 2009
    I'd take a different approach for home movies. I'd transfer to archival DVDs using low compression of, say, 2 hours per single layer disc.

    • quick
    • cheap
    • archival DVDs last decades
    • stick them on a shelf
    • play them in any DVD player instantly
    • compressed format
    • will need to transcode for editing in iMovie

    If that's the only cons and we're not talking about footage for broadcast, I'd go for DVDs. But you would have to have the MPEG2 playback component when it came to transcoding.

    Remember, if you have these as DV format, that's ~13 GB/hour, and you'll need a backup as well. That all adds up.
  7. Dave Braine macrumors 68040

    Dave Braine

    Mar 19, 2008
    Warrington, UK
    Hmm...all I know is that the AIC Quicktime file is about 60% of the same DV file that I compared.

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