Technology Technology & Computers

Update on Multimedia File Formats

Update on Multimedia File Formats



Getting started: a glossary of terms

Office file formats 

Photo file formats

Sound file formats

Video file formats

MP3, WMA, MOV… there is no end to the abbreviations referring to digital formats. There are those we know to use daily and those we didn’t know existed.

Here is a small list to help you find your way around.

To begin with: glossary of terms

To better understand this tip, there are some terms you should know: an operating system is a software that allows the user to access different applications (word processing, Internet, etc.) :

The operating system manages the communication between the computer hardware and the programs that use it.  

It also allows you to open and close an application.

It also manages the computer’s RAM, i.e., the amount of memory given to each application.

It provides the user with information about the proper functioning of the machine.

Today’s three central operating systems are Windows, Mac OS (on Apple), and Linux.

Compression reduces the volume of a file so that it takes less space on a device: one compresses using a codec (abbreviation of coding-decoding), software thus making it possible to compress or decompress digital data.

Office file formats 

There are three main types of format for office files:

Doc and Docx are the formats designed by Microsoft for Word:

They correspond to word processing files.

This means that you can add text, modify it and format it.

PDF (Portable Document Format), developed by Adobe:

It allows documents to be shared while maintaining their original formatting.

Thus, it is not possible to modify a PDF document.

This file type is beneficial for e-mail exchanges, provided the document does not need to be modified.

Xls and Xlsx are the famous spreadsheets designed by Microsoft:

They allow you to arrange information in a table format.

You can create calculation formulas to perform operations between the different cells.

They are therefore handy for creating accounting tables.

Good to know: odt and ods correspond respectively to the word processing and spreadsheet formats of LibreOffice, the equivalent of Office but in open-source (i.e., free and with open code, therefore customizable).

Photo file formats

Photo file formats generally depend on their weight: there are different photo file formats, distinguished in particular by their volume in megabytes:

JPEG and JPG formats typically found on the Internet:

JPEG or JPG (Joint Photographic Expert Group) is a compressed image format.

This means that its weight has been reduced to allow it to be transmitted more quickly by e-mail or uploaded to a website.

Images in JPEG format contain fewer pixels than the original, so their quality is somewhat lower. It is not recommended to rework them.

PNG allows to compress files without loss of data:

However, the file size is still much more extensive than JPEG photos.

PNG also allows you to place objects (logos, icons, etc.) on a transparent background. Thus, we can replace objects on other backgrounds without ” cutting” them from their original background.

GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) are very light images:

They were initially designed to perform small photographic animations.

Very light, they are quick to download.

RAW is the format obtained with advanced cameras:

These files are hefty because they contain a lot of information.

In particular, RAW photographs contain many pixels, making them ideal for retouching on a computer.

They cannot be opened on a viewer; a specific software is required. 

Sound file formats

Update on Multimedia File Formats

The formats of sound files depend on their weight, the type of compressor used, and the operating system:

MP3 (MPEG-1/2 audio layer 3) is one of the most widespread formats:

It allows compression without too much loss of quality.

Lightweight, it makes file exchange easier.

WMA (Windows Media Audio) is a competitor of MP3:

It also allows to compress audio files but is slightly better quality than MP3.

However, it is only readable on Windows, unlike MP3, which is accessible on most operating systems.

ALAC and FLAC are little known formats reserved for professionals or sound lovers:

ALAC means Apple Lossless Audio Codec and FLAC Free Lossless Audio Codec.

As its name indicates, the first is an Apple file; the second can also be opened on other operating systems.

These formats allow for maximum compression without altering the quality.

However, they result in too large files to be used on small devices (laptops, portable players).

AC3 (Audio Coding 3) may not sound familiar, but you hear it every time you go to the movies. It is the Dolby digital audio compression format, the one that gives a “spatial” sound.

Video file format

There are three main types of video files:

AVI (Audio Video Interleave) is the format straight out of camcorders:

It allows the simultaneous playback of the image and the sound.

It may be necessary to convert the file into a codec (DivX, Xvid, etc.) to be able to play it on a computer or television.

WMV (Windows Media Video) and MOV (Quicktime Movie) are the Microsoft and Apple formats, respectively:

The data is already compressed in these files and can be played directly with a player.

This format is also used to upload videos to the Internet for streaming.

DivX is the most widely used format for compressing video files without altering the quality.

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