When your camera has multiple shooting options like mp4 or AVCHD, which one do you choose? We cover many common format options, and give you the tools you need to make the right choices.
A file format is the packaging in which your video and audio are stored. While some cameras may shoot in a single format, other cameras may have multiple options to choose from. One common choice you may see is AVCHD or MP4. In truth, both AVCHD and MP4 formats use the h.264 encoder, and while the quality may vary, many times the only difference is how the data is stored. mp4 files are easier to work with if you’re transferring files, but it also may be a mystery as to exactly what settings that mp4 option is using to encode your video. AVCHD does have some limitations in order to meet the standard, but some NLE’s are designed specifically to optimize AVCHD footage. The truth is, you should shoot some sample footage of each, and test it out on your system, and decide which you prefer. If you have multiple bit rate options in a given format, you should always choose a higher bitrate, unless you’re concerned about the amount of space on your memory card or hard drive. Within any given format, a higher bit rate will yield better quality footage. If your camera offers different quality options like LP or SP, it’s best to choose the setting that offers the least amount of recording time. Basically, to get longer recording times, your footage will be more compressed, which isn’t good. The longer record times should be reserved for those extremely concerned about memory card or hard drive space. Finally, if your camera offers a choice between all-i or ipb, use all-i if possible. While all-i files may be larger, they are easier for your computer to process in post-production. It’s easy to get lost in the settings options for your camera, but taking the time to get them right, will help you get the best quality footage you can with your particular workflow.