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Encyclopedia > Container format (digital)

A container format is a computer file format that can contain various types of data, compressed by means of standardized codecs. The container file is used to identify and interleave the different data types. Simpler container formats can contain different types of audio codecs, while more advanced container formats can support audio, video, subtitles, chapters, and meta-data (tags) - along with the synchronization information needed to play back the various streams together. A file format is a particular way to encode information for storage in a computer file. ... Codec is a portmanteau of coder/decoder, which describes a device or program capable of performing transformations on a data stream or signal. ... An audio codec is a computer program that compresses/decompresses digital audio data according to a given audio file format or streaming audio format. ... In printed material In printed material, a subtitle is an explanatory or alternate title. ... Tagging is a term used in a number of contexts for different purposes, mostly referring to adding a tag of some form. ...

Some containers are exclusive to audio:

Other flexible containers can hold many types of audio and video, as well as other media. The most popular multi-media containers are: WAV (or WAVE), short for Waveform audio format, is a Microsoft and IBM audio file format standard for storing audio on PCs. ... The Resource Interchange File Format (RIFF) is a generic meta-format for storing data in tagged chunks. ... Microsoft Windows is the name of several families of operating systems by Microsoft. ... Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF) is an audio file format standard used for storing sound data on personal computers. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...

  • IFF (first platform independent container format)
  • AVI (the standard Microsoft Windows container, also based on RIFF)
  • MOV (standard QuickTime container)
  • MPEG-2 transport stream (TS) (standard container for digital broadcasting; typically contains multiple video and audio streams, and an electronic program guide) and program stream (PS)
  • MP4 (standard container for the MPEG-4 multimedia portfolio)
  • Ogg (standard container for Xiph.org codecs)
  • ASF (standard container for Microsoft WMA and WMV)
  • RealMedia (standard container for RealVideo and RealAudio)
  • Matroska (not standard for any codec or system, but it is an open standard).
  • 3gp (used by many mobile phones)

There are many other container formats, such as NUT, MPEG, MXF, ratDVD, SVI, DivX Media Format, and VOB. Interchange File Format (IFF), is a generic file format originally introduced by the Electronic Arts company in 1985 (in cooperation with Commodore-Amiga) in order to ease transfer of data between software products produced by different companies. ... AVI, an acronym for Audio Video Interleave, is a multimedia container format introduced by Microsoft in November 1992, as part of the Video for Windows technology. ... QuickTime is a multimedia framework developed by Apple Computer, capable of handling various formats of digital video, media clips, sound, text, animation, music, and several types of interactive panoramic images. ... MPEG-2 is a standard for the generic coding of moving pictures and associated audio information [1]. It is widely used around the world to specify the format of the digital television signals that are broadcast by terrestrial (over-the-air), cable, and direct broadcast satellite TV systems. ... Streaming media are media that are consumed (read, heard, viewed) while it is being delivered. ... Program stream (PS or MPEG-PS) is a name for the formats specified in MPEG-1 Systems and MPEG-2 Part 1, Systems (ISO/IEC standard 13818-1). ... MPEG-4 Part 14, formally, ISO/IEC 14496-14:2003, is a multimedia container format standard specified as a part of MPEG-4. ... MPEG-4 is a standard used primarily to compress audio and video (AV) digital data. ... OGG can refer to several items: Ogg is a multimedia bitstream container, used for audio and video files, especially Vorbis audio files. ... The Xiph. ... A Codec is a device or program capable of performing encoding and decoding on a digital data stream or signal. ... Advanced Systems Format (formerly Advanced Streaming Format) is Microsofts proprietary digital audio/digital video container format, especially meant for streaming media. ... Windows Media Audio (WMA) is a proprietary compressed audio file format developed by Microsoft. ... Windows Media Video (WMV) is a generic name for the set of streaming video technologies developed by Microsoft. ... RealMedia is a multimedia container format created by RealNetworks. ... RealVideo is a proprietary video format developed by RealNetworks. ... RealAudio is a proprietary audio format developed by RealNetworks. ... Matroska (common file extensions being . ... Open Standards are publicly available and implementable standards. ... 3GP is a multimedia container format defined by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) for use on 3G mobile phones. ... NUT is a patent-free, multimedia container format originally conceived by a few MPlayer and FFmpeg developers that were dissatisfied with the limitations of all currently available multimedia container formats such as AVI or Matroska. ... MPEG-1 defines a group of Audio and Video (AV) coding and compression standards agreed upon by MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group). ... Material eXchange Format (MXF) is a container format for professional digital video and audio media defined by a set of SMPTE standards. ... The ratDVD logo ratDVD is a highly compressed file type, containing all the contents of a Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) movie. ... A switch virtual interface (SVI) represents a VLAN of switch ports as one interface to a routing or bridging function of a network switch. ... DivX is a video codec created by DivX, Inc. ... A VOB file (DVD-Video Object) is a container format contained in DVD-Video media. ...

Other containers are exclusive to still images:

See the Comparison of container formats for details regarding these formats. Tagged Image File Format (abbreviated TIFF) is a file format for mainly storing images, including photographs and line art. ... FITS or Flexible Image Transport System is the most commonly used file format in astronomy. ... This table compares features of container formats. ...


The differences between various container formats arise from five main issues:

  1. Popularity; how widely supported a container is.
  2. Overhead. This is the difference in file-size between two files with the same content in a different container. For a two-hour film, when in AVI, the file may be up to 3GB larger than when in Matroska.
  3. Support for advanced codec functionality. Older formats such as AVI do not support new codec features like B-frames, VBR audio, VFR natively, although the format may be "hacked" to add support, creating compatibility problems.
  4. Support for advanced content, such as chapters, subtitles, meta-tags, user-data.
  5. Support of streaming media

B pictures (often called B frames) are one of the three major picture types found in typical video compression designs. ... The term variable bit rate (VBR) is a term in telecommunications Quality of Service. ... Variable frame rate is a term in video compression for a feature supported by some container formats which allows for the frame rate to change in the middle of a film. ... Streaming media is media that is consumed (heard or viewed) (mostly in the form of clips) while it is being delivered. ...

See also

This table compares features of container formats. ... This is a listing of open source multimedia codecs and containers. ...

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