USEFUL INFORMATION/ FAQs

Many of our clients have questions about video and other communications topics. Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Is videotape still being used?

For most clients and video producers, the answer is no. Virtually no one is shooting on videotape these days, and no new cameras are being made to record on videotape. Some very high end films and TV programs are archived on Sony’s HDCAM/HDCAM SR formats, but even this use of tape is declining. Video is now recorded on various types of camera cards (P-2, SxS, CF, SD, to name only a few) or on internal camera memory. Footage is transferred from the cards or the camera onto a hard drive for video editing.

Can I still buy videotapes for my camera?

Generally, yes, you can still buy videotape for most types of cameras, pro and consumer, but continued availability of tapes is uncertain, so you may want to look into a new camera in the near future. If you really want a camera that records on tape, eBay and similar sites are the places to look.

What do I do with my old videotapes?

Hundreds of millions of videotapes are out there, in company archives and in people’s attics and basements, from consumer VHS tapes to original and master tapes made by pros. Many of these tapes will play just fine, but it’s increasingly hard to find the machines to play them. Tapes deteriorate over time, so we suggest that important tapes be transferred as soon as possible to an archival format, and stored on local hard drives and / or in the cloud.
Doing this lets you use this footage when editing, and personal video files can easily be shared on Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook and a great many other sites.
We can help you evaluate and transfer almost any type of videotape (audiotape too) to digital files and DVDs.
Important footage for companies and non-profits, cherished family memories and other personal tapes are certainly worth saving. Old recorded TV shows, probably not! If you can’t play the tape, find a facility that can play it for you and recondition it if necessary. Craven Films can examine and transfer almost any format of videotape to digital files.

How can I send large video files?

For e-mailing large files, many e-mail programs, including Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and many others, allow attachments as large as 10GB, which covers a lot of video files. Some corporate e-mail systems also allow large attachments, but most do not, so if you need to send a large video file and can’t do it on your company’s system, use another account that allows it.
For very large files, greater than 10GB, upload them to an online (cloud) storage site like Dropbox, Box or Hightail (formerly YouSendIt). There are many other sites like these. Generally, they offer free accounts and various levels of paid accounts. For example, Box’s free account lets you have 10GB of storage, with a maximum file size of 250MB. That’s definitely not enough for huge pro video files, but for many people it should be fine. Check out a few of these services and see what will work for you.
Once you have a file uploaded on one of these sites, you can e-mail the links tot he files, from within the programs or in your own e-mail account.
If you’re at a company or organization that has a really large amount of video footage – say the files from a high def shoot of a couple of days or more -
forget about uploading them! The only practical way to get these large files to your video editor, or someone else, is to put them on a hard drive (or high capacity video cards) and send that.

What are the capacities and common uses of various types of storage media?

There are some variations in the capacities listed below, and you generally cannot use 100% of the capacity of most types of media, but these numbers are a good general guide.

CD-ROMs and audio CDs: Up to 700MB of data, or up to 80 minutes of music.

DVDs: The most familiar DVD, also known as DVD-5, is a single-sided, single-layer disc, holding up to 4.37GB of data. Typically this is up to 120 minutes of video at a decent quality. Higher-capacity DVDs, known as DVD-9s, are single-sided, double layer discs, so they hold up to 7.95GB of data. There are many other types of DVDs, but these two are by far the most common.
For video, DVDs are a standard-definition medium. They cannot hold high-def movies in the video DVD format. A successor product, the HD-DVD, promoted mostly by Toshiba, has been discontinued. A high-quality audio format known as DVD-Audio continues to exist, but it’s a tiny niche player in the audio world.

Blu-Ray discs: These discs, known as BD discs, provide a much higher storage capacity of 25GB for single-layer discs, and 50GB for dual-layer discs. This is sufficient to support between 3 and 7 hours of high-def video, depending on the compression / authoring software used. As you’ve probably noticed, Blu-Ray discs have not gained widespread acceptance, and remain more-or-less a niche product.

USB Flash Drives: These familiar devices, which come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, typically hold between 64MB and 128GB of data, although larger drives do exist. Remember that they basically function like any other drive plugged into your system, so they are formatted with a particular file storage system (operating system) and not all of these systems allow you to read and write files to/from any computer, e.g. on both Macs and Windows computers. Also, some storage systems (formats) will not let you write large files (4GB or greater) to the drive, so if you’re formatting one of these drives, check first on how best to do this to meet your specific needs. If you need help with this, give us a call.

Hard drives: A portable hard drive is definitely the way to go for transfer of large quantities of video footage. They come with various interfaces (USB2, USB3, Firewire 400 and 800, Thunderbolt and some others), so make sure you buy one that you can connect to your computer(s). Capacities typically range from 320GB to 12TB, and more.

SD cards: SD (Secure Digital) cards are used in cameras and some other devices. There are a wide variety of these available, and one of the biggest differences is data transfer speed. Naturally, the faster they will transfer data, the higher the cost. Capacities range from 64MB to 64GB although not all capacities are available in all types of these cards.

Mini and Micro SD cards: Familiar to users of mobile phones and a few other devices, these smaller versions of SD cards can also hold up to 64GB of data, making them extremely useful for storage, as long as you don’t lose them!

What do Audio and Video Bitrates mean?

For both audio and video media, bitrates refer to how often the data is sampled. In this case, higher data rates mean higher quality. For example, the sampling rate for a CD audio file is 4 – 40 times higher than that of an mp3 audio file. You may not hear a big quality difference when using earbuds and the audio player on your telephone, but rest assured that CD audio is significantly better than heavily-compressed mp3 files.
For video, a rate as low as 128kbps (kilobits per second) might be used for videoconferencing, while high definition streaming video typically ranges from 2.5 – 5mbps (megabits per second). When shooting high-def video, data rates of 100mbps and higher are typical.

What do high definition video modes and frame rates mean?

The most common high def modes are familiar to anyone who’s a bought a television in recent years: 720p, 1080i and 1080p. These numbers and letters refer to the number of lines in the vertical display resolution, to the video image frame size in pixels, and to whether the video is scanned by a progressive or interlaced method. High definition television has a resolution of either 1080 or 720 lines.
720p video has a frame size of 1280 x 720 pixels, and the two 1080 modes have a frame size of 1920 x 1080 pixels. These sizes are much bigger than the various standard definition modes, typically no bigger than 720 x 480 pixels, accounting for the much better quality of high definition television (HDTV) as opposed to the older standard def TV.
Progressive and interlaced scanning are the two methods of refreshing the video images as a program is seen, and each has advantages. For example, interlaced scanning can provide a higher resolution and better picture quality on still subjects, but it often has serious problems with moving objects.
Video frame rates are the rate at which consecutive video images are formed and seen. There are
a great many video frame rates, with more to come, but the three main ones are 24P, 25P and 30P. In video production, decisions on which frame rate to use are made based on the capabilities of the camera and storage medium as well as the desired “look” of the footage. Video with different frame rates can be edited together, but some footage might have to be converted before editing, which could reduce the quality in some cases.

What do PAL 625/50 and NTSC 525/29.97 mean?

The PAL and NTSC video standards go back to the beginnings of television, and have their origins in differences between electrical power systems in different countries. In North America and some other counties, electrical power is generated at 60hz, so the NTSC signal is also provided at 60 fields per second. In many other countries, where the electrical systems provide 50hz power, the PAL signal is provided at 50 fields per second. Thus NTSC video plays at 30 frames per second, while PAL plays at 25 frames per second.
Back in the era of VHS videotapes, this difference meant that the recorded signal of one system could not be played back on VCRs and televisions of the other system. This difference also applied to DVDs, although many DVD players can play both PAL and NTSC standard discs.
Today however, with high definition TV and much video being watched on computer monitors, almost no one other than broadcasters or video producers has to worry about PAL vs. NTSC signals. Professional video editors can edit just about any footage together, although sometimes a conversion process may be needed to make different types of video compatible for editing.

What kind of files do I need for my website or on YouTube, Vimeo and most sites that let you upload video?


The H264 CODEC is probably the most widely accepted one, and MPEG-4 (.mp4) or Quicktime (.mov) file formats work almost anywhere. Windows Media files (.wmv) will usually work too. That said, some websites require that videos be in certain file formats to look best (or work at all) and special video file formats work best for many mobile phones.

What are video (CODECs) and why are there so many?

The word
CODEC is formed from the first letters of the words COmpression DECompression.

As most video files are very large, they must be compressed for the making of files that will play back on various devices, and those files must then be decompressed to be played properly by software on computers, tablets, telephones, and other devices. A video CODEC is the software that allows this compression and decompression.

There are indeed many different types of CODECs, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. H264 is very widely used today, as are MPEG-4, Windows Media Video (wmv), On2, and others. While many video CODECS provide very good quality, most are “lossy," meaning that they reduce the video quality from the original. There are also a number of “lossless” CODECs, which compress the video very slightly, or not at all. While these CODECs offer great video quality, the downside is that they universally produce huge files, which need a lot of storage space and can be difficult to transfer or work with. Lossless or uncompressed video files are used for editing, not for playing of finished programs.

We know it’s tough keeping up with the rapid changes in video today, so if you need more information on any of these topics, or have another questions, we’re glad to assist! Give us a call at 212 463-7190, or e-mail us at info@cravenfilms.com, and we will help you with the information you need.