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August 4, 2021

Capture Codecs Made Simple: 5 Steps to Consider When choosing a Codec


The filming process begins long before the cameras start to move, but that is where our journey begins, as we outline the features and decisions you will need to make during the post-production process.

One of the first decisions to be made is which codec to use as most cameras offer many different options for how to record your film.

It is important to consider your full workflow at this stage because the camera and codec you choose now will have a huge impact on your overall workflow. To make your final decision about the camera and codec, you will need to go back to this section after reading this whole guide, but we will give you a good look here.

Generally, you should aim to get the highest quality codec that your camera (or your budget) can capture. When we say “high quality”, we mean that you want to capture as much information as possible — so you want to squeeze in as little, high bit rate, bit depth, and a little chroma sampling (click on the box above for more details). The more information you have when you shoot, the more flexible you will be over time, especially in color correction and VFX. 


For many, the cost is the first consideration. Generally, if the camera is more expensive, the codecs available are better, but there are exceptions. There are “fun” cameras that offer excellent codecs at a reasonable price.


Storage space needs to be considered as high-quality codecs tend to have a larger bit rate, which means the files are bigger. Be prepared to save and backup all those files as you’re filming. You may need to upgrade your memory card[s] in order to record high bitrate data.


Another thing to consider is how much color correction and VFX (called finishing) you plan to do. If you are going to do a very small color correction and do not have VFX, then you may be able to get away with lower bit-depth, chroma subsampling, macro blocking that comes with low-quality codecs.


Editing Hardware

The last thing to consider is your editing hardware because most capture codecs are not well-suited for editing without a highly efficient computer. H.264 and other raw file formats require a powerful CPU and/or GPU to cut smoothly. Codecs with very high bitrate may require high-speed hard drives or shared storage. Unless you are filming with a ready-to-edit codec, you may need to transcode your files to another codec for a smooth editing process, and that may take some time.

If you are working on a very short deadline, you may elect to use a codec that will allow you to start editing immediately after the shot, even if that means higher costs or sacrifice for image quality.

It’s All Coming Together

When it comes time to edit your film. The Film Cut is here to effortlessly manage your post-production needs, all in one place. So what are you waiting for? Contact Us today. 

Posted in Codecs, post production