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Video formats for DJs Explained

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A few days ago we posted about audio formats for DJs that DEX 3 and RED Mobile 2 currently support, today we’ll do a quick roundup of the various video formats supported in DEX 3 — our DJ and VJ software that allows DJs to mix all types of media.

DEX 3 - 2 Deck Skin

DEX 3 let’s you mix music videos just like mixing audio, with all the same supported features:  Beat Sync, Looping, scratching, triggering hot cues, applying effects and also the additional bonus of video effects and transitions.  All video formats DEX 3 support allow for the same functionality, but there is a clear front-runner when it comes to compatibility and video compression which we’ll get to momentarily. The complete list of supported video file types are:  MPEG (including MP4), AVI, MOV, FLV and MKV.

Let’s touch on each one…

AVI – Audio Video Interleaved is a multimedia container format introduced by Microsoft.   Because it’s a container format, there can be vast differences in quality and file size too.  There isn’t one adopted standard, and while AVI’s do support meta-data (tag information), since it’s a fairly old format created in the 90’s AVI does not provide a standardized way to encode aspect ratio, with the result that players cannot select the right aspect ratio automatically.   This is a popular format non-the-less, only because of it’s longevity and popularity among torrent sites. 

MOV – MOV files are natively used by Quicktime, so they are a product of Apple although cross-platform support isn’t a problem. Because both the QuickTime and MP4 container formats can use the same MPEG-4 formats, they are mostly interchangeable.  MP4 we will get to, but it’s essentially the DJ standard – so quality wise .MOV files perform well.  They do offer Metadata support, but not in the full-featured sense of more standardized formats.   Due to DJ software popularity on MAC’s, DJ’s using them that got into video mixing early still utilize .MOV quite a bit.

FLV – Flash Video is a container file format used to deliver video over the Internet, they are the de facto standard when it comes to internet streaming services such as YouTube. or Vevo.  A product of Adobe, Flash has progressively gotten better over time, and more recently has support for H.264 encoding — what I would consider the standard encoding with very little file data lost even though it’s Lossy Compression.  However, most “sources” (I put that in quotes because most of the DJs I’ve talked to using Flash have sourced their content from YouTube with a download tool of sorts) rarely offer good enough quality for live video mixing, especially when outputting to a high-resolution screen/display.

MKV – The Matroska Multimedia Container is an open standard free container format.  Usually MKV files have very high frame rates, so quality can indeed be fantastic.  However, due to the higher frame rates they can be more intensive to play in video mixing software like DEX 3, so you’d want to be sure to use a graphics card with dedicated video memory (not shared graphics memory like the Intel HD4000 series cards).  Because of the high frame rates that don’t provide much to DJs while performing, MKV hasn’t been adopted much by DJs incorporating video mixing into their sets.

MPEG 2 – One of the first adopted standards among video mixing DJs, MPEG-2 (aka H.222/H.262) includes a combination of lossy video compression and lossy audio data compression methods.   In a sense, they could be compared to MP3 audio files.  While MPEG-2 once reined king, it is not as efficient as newer standards such as H.264.   Many of the original online video pool services delivered files in MPEG-2 before our next file format below launched – so many Djs do use them. I however find their file size to be on the larger side and the quality is just OK.

MP4 –  Part 14 or MP4 is a digital multimedia format most commonly used by DJs and video record pools alike. They allow for superior meta data (tag support is comparable to MP3) and when the H.264 compression is used the quality is fantastic.  The file is automatically scale-able to0, so formatting issues on secondary displays are non-existent.   This is a Lossy Format, but negligible much like FLAC in the audio world.  They are widely supported by all video mixing software and the undisputed standard for VJs and DJs.   MP4 is what is now available through iTunes, and our partners at The Video Pool provide HD quality MP4 downloads for pro DJs.    If you’re just getting into video mixing with DEX 3, this is the format to go with.

I hope that helps you better understand the video file formats DEX 3 supports.  We’ll post soon regarding karaoke formats!